After the pedophilia in "Death in Venice," I really wasn't too surprised by the incest in "The Blood of the Walsungs." Oh that Thomas Mann. . .
"The Blood of the Walsungs" centers on a pair of twins from a wealthy German family named Sieglinde and Siegmund. The twins are incapable of appreciating anything other than their own outward perfection. They claim to appreciate artistic effort but fail to be impressed by the finished product. Their days are filled with laziness and self-indulgence. The outside world holds no interest for them, however, as it often fails to meet their standards of order and cleanliness. This is exemplified by the image of the twins gliding through a busy, bustling city, on their way to the opera, shut away in a silk-lined carriage.
This self-imposed isolation has darker implications: there is an underlying theme of persecution, one which I initially saw as imaginary - like, "they only hate us because we're so much better than them." But no, apparently the twins and their family are supposed to be Jewish. I didn't figure that out until I looked "The Blood of the Walsungs" up on the Internet several minutes ago. Now I'm just confused. Thomas Mann was not an anti-Semite. His wife was Jewish and he vehemently opposed the Third Reich. So . . . WTF???
Actually, it seems that "The Blood of the Walsungs" was meant to be a parody. My online research was pretty brief, but apparently Jews and incest (and not to mention money) were often linked in the early 20th-century German imagination. The strained interaction between Sieglinde's fiance and her overly-refined (to a ridiculous extent) family represents failed assimilation, while the relationship between Sieglinde and her brother represents some statement on endogamy. So . . . I guess the outside world hates them because they're Jewish and links them to incest, and so they isolate themselves from the world, become suspicious of it and hostile to it, and subsequently turn to . . . incest. Okayyyy. . .
Oh that Thomas Mannn. . .
(I'll be reading "Tristan" next.)