Friday, January 28, 2011

Tourism as hygienic precaution

From Mann's Death In Venice, translated by Michael Henry Heim:
The soothing regularity of this existence quickly cast a spell over him: he was charmed by the soft, resplendent benignancy of it all. What a place indeed, combining as it did the appeal of a refined southern seaside resort with a strange, wondrous city in intimate proximity! Aschenbach did not care for pleasure. Whenever and wherever he was called upon to let his hair down, take things easy, enjoy himself, he soon--especially in his younger years--felt restless and ill at ease and could not wait to return to his noble travail, the sober sanctuary of his daily routine. It was the only place that could enchant him, relax his will, make him happy.
(It is obnoxious, but I feel compelled to note that Michael Cunningham's introduction to this edition is exceptionally weak.)


  1. jenny, care to elaborate how/why the intro is weak? I don't think it's obnoxious to make the observation but I'd love to hear why you think so, having not read it myself.

  2. Really you will have to look at it to see! Simply vacuous - he opens by saying that in a way all novels are translations, but this seems in context nothing much more than a truism to cover up the fact that he doesn't read German!

  3. oy... thanks--enjoying the blog as always!

  4. I think in general introductions that are written by fiction authors selected for their name value, rather than by scholars who have taught and studied the work they're introducing, tend to be weak. I teach a lot of 20th-C. Russian literature in translation and some of the introductions are the most ill-informed dreck imaginable, apparently written by people who have little sense of what life was actually like in the Soviet Union, much less what the original Russian text is like (and what is up with getting someone to write an intro. to Thomas Mann who doesn't even read German???).