An old man, he has lived an austere, disciplined life dedicated to his writing. He rarely indulges in any leisure or pleasure, and is a highly repressed individual, denying most desires in order to dedicate himself fully to his work.
Besides dealing with homoeroticism in and approaching complex questions of ethics, psychology, and aesthetics, the novella also manages to reference Nietzsche and Plato while making us empathize with someone who some might crudely just call a pedophile.
Gustave Von Aschenbach, the protagonist, is an aging, famous writer who slowly becomes infatuated with a year-old boy named Tadzio. His passion unfolds against the background of a cholera outbreak in Venice, and although Aschenbach is aware of the danger, he cannot leave Tadzio; this decision eventually leads to his death.
We have started exploring Phaedrus here on PEL this week. Aschenbach is a reputable writer, but his art is more mechanical than creative, more meticulous than spontaneous. A man who is not "pleasure-loving" and somewhat unable to relax, Aschenbach has sacrificed his entire life on the altar of his career.
Although this has brought him widespread recognition, he now feels that his work is a burden and the result is dull, lacking in spark and enthusiasm, so he decides to go on a trip in an attempt to refresh his creativity.
In his travels he meets Tadzio, a year-old Polish boy of exceptional beauty. He refers to him as godlike and compares him to a Greek statue, while conflating these descriptions with his own ideas about art and beauty: In almost every artist nature is inborn a wanton and treacherous proneness to side with the beauty that breaks hearts, to single out aristocratic pretensions and pay them homage.
The first time our protagonist quotes from Phaedrus is quite late in the book, in a moment of euphoric "drunk-in-loveness.
Socrates adds—and stresses—how important it is to understand that beauty is noble only as a means toward the intellect. After this brief but powerful moment of erotic infatuation, Aschenbach feels shattered and exhausted as if hungover or otherwise suffering the consequences of a kind of excess.
The divine madness of love can be good for us if it helps us recognize the eternal forms of beauty, the forms we have once seen in heaven before inhabiting our bodies here on earth.
Purely physical beauty plays a key role in this, as without it it might be impossible for the philosopher to recollect eternal forms. But sexual abstinence is crucial. Not many manage to show such erotic restraint, but those who can truly lead a philosophical life. He still thinks that he can resist and transcend the physical for the sake of the ennobling abstract.
This is all aligned with his self-perception - after all, he has been a man of restraint his whole life someone had even said that he lived like a tight fist but, as some critics have pointed out, Aschenbach is lying to himself here, and had probably done so his entire life.
The next time Phaedrus is mentioned is toward the very end chapter 5after Aschenbach eats the poisonous strawberries. Giving in to the heat, in a state of feverish half-slumber, Aschenbach continues to quote Phaedrus, this time in a mixture of harsh self-criticism, a lot of it imagined to come directly from Plato, through the voice of Socrates.
Poets, Socrates whispers to Aschenbach, cannot reach knowledge without taking a sensual path, where they get fatally distracted by Eros. Attaining knowledge does not bring with it dignity, for knowledge not only "has compassion for the abyss—it is the abyss.
Aschenbach, the poet, might have tried to disguise his yearning under an austere style, but that was just deceitful illusion, and the recognition he received is in turn illusory and ridiculous. Beauty is also a pit of decay where the poet is bound to fall because he has no other choice.
The destiny of the artist seems to be doomed, and so the reverence we give him is absurd, and entrusting artists with educating the young is also pure madness. Artists do not seem able to pull themselves together, they can only fall apart.
Aschenbach dies only a few days later. You can listen to the guys disentangle it in our latest podcast here or become a PEL citizen to listen to the entire thing at once. She also writes on her personal blog, On a Saturday Morning.In Mann's story, the author Gustav von Aschenbach becomes captivated by an adolescent boy, first seen on the lido in Venice, the eventual site of Aschenbach's own death.
Mann works through central concerns about how to live, explored with equal intensity by . Gustave Aschenbach, the protagonist of Thomas Mann's tragic novella, Death in Venice, is a middle-aged acclaimed writer, who seemingly has been leading a rather conventional life.
Upon noticing an. Death in Venice – Death in Venice is a novella written by the German author Thomas Mann, first published in as Der Tod in Venedig.
The work presents a writer suffering writers block who visits Venice and is liberated, uplifted. A. Written Mann traveled to Venice from 26 May to 2 June , accompanied by his wife Katia and his brother Heinrich. Just prior to leaving for Venice he got news of the death of the great Austrian composer Gustav Mahler on 18 May Many of the elements of the novella, including the bad.
Gustav von Aschenbach's Death in Venice Exploring Death in Death in Venice Death in Venice by Thomas Mann, is a story that deals with mortality on many different levels. There is the obvious physical death by cholera, and the cyclical death in nature: in the beginning it is spring and in the end, autumn.
namely Gustave von Aschenbach. Mann’s Working Notes Like Mann’s letters, his working notes for Death in Venice reveal much about the genesis of his story. Those notes include his own preliminary ideas and words, a letter from an acquaintance in Paris, articles clipped from newspapers, and a photograph of Mahler.