Saturday, October 24, 2009

24-Hour Read-a-Thon: 9:00 p.m. (Updated #5)

I just finished Thomas Mann's "Tristan." After the incest of "The Blood of the Walsungs" it was quite the welcome relief. My reading was interrupted by a quick run to the grocery store. I was out of coffee.

Despite their differences, however, both "Tristan and "The Blood of the Walsungs" had echoes of "Death in Venice" (although the latter was written decades later). "Walsungs" had the twisted sexuality, but "Tristan," though quite chaste, centered on a relationship with philosophical overtones similar to those of the one-sided relationship between Aschenbach and Tadzio. To Herr Spinelli, "Herr Klöterjahn's wife" (whose name is not revealed until the end) represents a Platonic ideal of art and beauty. She is a Gothic vision of deathly loveliness too fragile for the debasement of ordinary life. She is Ophelia floating down the creek surrounded by flowers. The "love" between her and Spinelli is consummated through the music of the piano, which she plays with unearthly grace.

If it all sounds contrived and artificial, that's because it is. Spinelli hates Herr Klöterjahn because he is a businessman, "a peasant with gourmand tastes," and he hates the Klöterjahn infant son for being lusty and healthy like his father. To Spinelli, the death of Herr Klöterjahn's wife is a tragedy, yes, but a highly stylized one. He imagines her family as ancient nobility, doomed to decay into ethereal art before softly passing away.

In other words, Spinelli, like Aschenbach, is one nutty writer.

The parody of "Tristan" was far more evident to me than the supposed parody of "The Blood of the Walsungs." Some things only exist in fiction. Unfortunately, Spinelli just doesn't understand that.


rhapsodyinbooks said...

You wrote:

"If it all sounds contrived and artificial, that's because it is."

Totally best line of any review I've seen today!

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