Author: Thomas Mann

Translation: Thomas S. Hansen and Abby Hansen

eNotator: Thomas S. Hansen



The eNotated Death in Venice
Based on the Centennial translation of the novella by Thomas S. Hansen and Abby J. Hansen published in 2012, this volume includes more than 200 eNotations and 100 Mann and Venice related images that extend Mann’s writing by providing a new layer of information behind the text the reader can access before, during, and after reading “Death in Venice.”

An introductory essay, "Thomas Mann on the Lido," describes the background, genesis, and reception of the novella as well as Mann's major themes. An extensive bibliography offers the interested reader a path to Mann and his other works and a chronology puts Mann's life and writing into the context of his times.

"When the work appeared in book form in 1913, some members of the public were disturbed by the theme of an august writer’s homoerotic fantasies. These, however, are not the core of the work, in which the literary merits of the tale overshadow such controversy. Death in Venice was generally recognized as a compelling masterpiece and adopted into the canon of modern German literature. There it has remained, generally read as a parable of Platonic aesthetics involving an intellectualized Greek vision of eros united with a Nietzschean conflict of sensibilities. Indeed, the intellectual apparatus of the story is much denser and more complex than any mere plot line or simple moral can suggest, for Mann intended a philosophical message about the necessity of balance in life and art, a message he conveys through myth­ological parallels, classical allusions, and aesthetics. Yet the centrality of Mann's complex intellectual content cannot overshadow the erotic tension for which the work is popularly known." (From the introductory essay)

In this eNotated version of “Death in Venice," Hansen shares with the reader what he has learned during three decades studying and teaching Mann and German literature, acting as a guide to the philosophic, artistic, and literary themes that permeate Mann's influential and engaging narrative.

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About Thomas Mann

In a letter written to a friend in July 1911, Thomas Mann gave a succinct description of the work he had just begun to write: “I am at work; it is a strange sub­ject that I brought back from Venice, a novella, earnest and pure in tone that treats a case of pedophilia in an aging artist. You are saying ‘Uh oh!’ but it is very decorous..”

He had returned to Munich that month from a holiday in Venice where he had spent time on the Lido with his wife, Katia, and older brother, the writer Heinrich Mann. There a new writing project that he had been contemplating for years but never fleshed out, crystallized in his mind. It was a tale depicting dignity debased by illicit desire. The sojourn on the Lido had finally given him a fit setting and characters to embody this theme. With characters and the Venetian milieu established, he looked forward to completing the project quickly but was dismayed to find it far more difficult than he had envisioned.

Once Death in Venice was published fifteen months later, it stirred up controversy. This probably came as no surprise to the author, who had read excerpts aloud and listened to reac­tions from sympa­thetic friends, who had found it deeply moving.

When the work appeared in book form in 1913, some members of the public were disturbed by the theme of an august writer’s homoerotic fantasies. These, however, are not the core of the work, in which the literary merits of the tale overshadow such controversy. Death in Venice was generally recognized as a com­pelling masterpiece and adopted into the canon of modern German liter­ature. There it has remained, generally read as a parable of Platonic aesthetics involving an intellectualized Greek vision of eros united with a Nietzschean conflict of sensibilities. Indeed, the intellectual apparatus of the story is much denser and more complex than any mere plot line or simple moral can suggest, for Mann intended a philosophical message about the necessity of balance in life and art, a message he conveys through myth­ological parallels, classical allusions, and aesthetics. Yet the centrality of Mann's complex intellectual content cannot overshadow the erotic tension for which the work is popularly known.

Thomas S. Hansen 


About eNotator Thomas S. Hansen

Thomas S. Hansen received his A. B. and A. M. from Tufts University. He studied at the University of Tübingen (Germany) for six semesters and received his Ph.D. from Harvard University. His dissertation research on German Exile Literature (1933-1945) led him to publish several studies in that area. A subsequent project focused on the post-war German writer Arno Schmidt (1914-1979) with an interest in explicating Schmidt's life-long obsession with Edgar Allan Poe. Tracking this relationship led to researching Poe's own knowledge of German language and culture. The results of this appeared as a book (with Burton R. Pollin): The German Face of Edgar Allan Poe (Columbia, S. C.: Camden House, 1995). He later published an illustrated monograph on the German exile book designer, George Salter (1897-1967): Classic Book Jackets. The Legacy of George Salter (NY: Princeton Architectural Press, 2005). Salter, after a brilliant beginning in Berlin between the wars, came to the US in 1934 to change the face of American book design. The volume provides both biography and analysis of Salter's book jackets and depicts over 200 German and American designs. Much of this material is presented on the George Salter website (http://www.wellesley.edu/German/GeorgeSalter/). Prof. Hansen has translated (often in collaboration with his wife, Abby J. Hansen, Ph.D.) works of German and Austrian literature into English (including the writers Wilhelm Hauff, Robert Menasse, Josef Haslinger, Wolf Haas).

Teaching interests:

In the course of his teaching career he has taught elementary and intermediate language courses; advanced grammar and writing skills; a survey of literature from the Old High German period through Storm and Stress; Modern Drama (1880-1960); Hugo von Hofmannsthal; Thomas Mann; Social Forces in German Literature: the 19th Century; German Exile Literature (1933-1945); Clashing Myths in German Culture; Postwar German Culture; Masterpieces of German Literature; Richard Wagner's Ring of the Nibelung; The Fantastic in Literature (Comparative Literature Seminar); Love in German Literature; The Culture of Turn-of-the-century Vienna and the Birth of Modernism. 


Reviews

(From Amazon)

5 Stars

Informative notes enhance an excellent translation

By Stephanie on July 22, 2013

This excellent translation of Death in Venice is faithful to the original. Clear, evocative and nuanced language conveys the mood and atmosphere of the German text, and the result is a translation that is as vivid and immediate as it is accessible.

While I often read on a Kindle, this was my first experience with an eNotated book. I love the format. Far from pulling me out of the reading experience, the embedded links offered an opportunity for greater engagement with the text. The notes put at the reader's fingertips scholarly interpretation, biographical details of the author, and insight into the powerful symbolism in this highly intertextual work. An eNotated book is an ideal format for reading a translation, and the translators make good use of the opportunity to share thoughts on their choices and on the original language.

The information in the notes enriched my understanding of the book and placed it in literary and historical context, and the many color photographs and illustrations facilitated entry into the visual world of the story.

A complex and satisfying read. Highly recommend.

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5 Stars

Brilliant new way to read one of German literature's greatest masterpieces

By Dietrich on June 21, 2013

First of all, the new translation is not just very competent - correcting several mistakes of earlier translators - but highly sensible in approaching as closely as possible the particular lyrical sobriety that makes Thomas Mann's prose so compelling and contemporary. Perhaps the greatest accomplishment are the extensive notes and illustrations that numerous (hundreds...) links provide throughout. Illustrated footnotes! The text is thus embedded in a wealth of additional facts and details, revealing the enormous degree to which Death in Venice was, indeed, autobiographical. Thomas Mann's own trip to Venice in 1911, his observations there, his writing projects and habits, his latent homosexuality, all become vivid facts enriching the original text. Any reference in Mann's text is carefully and succinctly explained. Some of the images are roughly contemporary (postcards, stereocards, photographs) and give us a good sense of the sensual and visual texture of this great city at the turn of the last century, others were taken today, others again illustrate explanations or cross references through art work, portrait photography etc. The layout is clear and intuitive, it is easy to jump from the text to the notes and back, or to peruse the notes by themselves. There is a function for colored highlighting and your own written annotations. Brilliant.

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5 Stars

New Reader

By Rachel Ayn on June 11, 2013

This was my first exposure to Thomas Mann, and I can certainly say that this translation has prompted me to delve further into his works and explore more of his writing. The annotations also provide a much richer view of the story, and add a greater dimension.

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5 Stars

Seamless Translation of Mann's Classic

By Melinda Kaiden on June 3, 2013

The Hansens' exceptional translation of Thomas Mann's "Der Tod in Venedig" distinguishes itself in both its stylistic exuberance and unswerving loyalty to the original text. Doctor Thomas Hansen's introduction to the book and extensive, yet carefully chosen notes throughout, are invaluable in making this symbolically complex, thematically involved novella readily discernible to the modern reader. The translators have masterfully hidden the hundreds of careful choices they must have made in order to create such a successful outcome, weaving an invisible linguistic web which ultimately leaves today's reader just as ensnared and enthralled by the book's fateful conclusion as Mann's original public one hundred years ago. The increasing pace and tension, the thematic expansion from the specific into the realm of universal truth, have all been perfectly conveyed and explained. As both remarkable literary achievement and indispensable teaching tool, this work deserves to be read again and again, as well as to earn its rightful place as one of those rare translations which truly captures the timelessness of its author's voice and spirit.

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5 Stars

Wonderful translation and insightful commentary

By Professor Ochs on May 28, 2013

As a Germanist, I can say with certainty that the Hansens have produced the best translation of Mann's important novella thus far. It is not only a stylistic step forward--in terms of a lucidity that remains true to Mann's style--but it corrects mistakes found in earlier versions. I should add that Hansen's essay on Mann and sexuality is one of the best on the subject: multi-layered and highly contextualized, a real nuanced piece of work. For those of you who love Thomas Mann this is a must read. My daughter left this morning for Italy (Rome, Florence, and, yes, Venice). She has it on her Kindle.

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5 Stars

GREAT RESEARCH AND TEACHING TOOL

By AvidReader on May 27, 2013

As a teacher and former master's student of literature, I value texts that save me time by consolidating everything I need in one place. Thomas Mann's 1912 classic Death in Venice is jam-packed with mythological parallels, classical allusions, aesthetics, symbolism, and history --- references and faint echoes of complex ideas ranging from Nietzsche's versions of Apollonian and Dionysian, to Socrates, Plato's Symposium, and even the biography of the composer Mahler. This eNotated version does a great job of offering everything I need at a mere click away. As I read the text, highlighted words led to more information, so I could easily see which part of the translation has inspired scholarship and get a summary of experts' critical interpretations tied to specific words and passages. With the click system, I could choose if I wanted to explore more deeply or skip the notes. If any novella needs easily accessible notes, but also risks drowning in notes, it's Death in Venice. The eNotation is the perfect format to seamlessly tie a bounty of scholarly research to a short novel without disrupting the flow of the plot. The translation is good --- elegant English that doesn't seem old-fashioned yet has a high-brow, intellectual feel true to the original --- but the best part of this version for me was the clickable links to rich layers of meaning embedded throughout the text. I recommend this version to anyone interested in getting the full story as quickly as possible --- whether for teaching, research, or personal interest.

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5 Stars

A terrific enhancement to a great translation of "Death in Venice"

By ProfessorCRT on May 24, 2013

I read this translation as soon as it came out last year, and I have already recommended it unhesitatingly to many friends and colleagues. The Hansens have done a superb job of telling Mann's story while sensitively and intelligently handling its many allusions and subtexts. In this eNotated version. author Thomas Hansen shows how deeply he has steeped himself in Mann's life and in the Venice of his time to bring clarity, depth, and a wealth of contextual information to the story. Replete with images and lucid and nimble explanations, this is a real feast for the experienced Mann-fan as well as a useful guide for the first-timer or for anyone who has found prior translations tough going. Although Amazon does include a "How-to" guide with this version, I found it difficult to bounce back and forth between the story and the notes. I recommend (re)reading the story first and then go through the notes. They alone make a fascinating and worthwhile read. In fact, this experience has put me on my way to becoming a convert to the e-format.