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El doctor Faustus (1947)

de Thomas Mann

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A new translation of a 1948 novel based on the Faust legend. The protagonist is Adrian Leverkuhn, a musical genius who trades his body and soul to the devil in exchange for 24 years of triumph as the world's greatest composer.
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Anglès (34)  Alemany (4)  Suec (2)  Neerlandès (2)  Castellà (2)  Francès (1)  Totes les llengües (45)
Es mostren 1-5 de 45 (següent | mostra-les totes)
  archivomorero | May 21, 2023 |
The sad thing about this book is that if you don't know about music theory, there's a lot you're going to miss in the reading.
The author is magnificently talented with words, with descriptions, with details, with insight into the human heart and mind.
The story of a character who was brilliantly talented, but really stuck on himself, and an introvert. He was so intent on excelling as a composer far above any other human on earth, that he was willing to sell his soul to the devil to be the exclusive talent.

The biographer of the protagonist, Dr Serenus Zeitblom, PhD, is reporting on Wendell KretzschMar's lectures that he, his family and Adrian and his family attended in their youth. They were many and they were very complicated: about music; and he played music and sang with it to demonstrate it. How could he remember these in such detail, if he's reporting from his adult later years (60 years)?

Update: the author has the biographer answer my question on page 140 of the edition I've read:
"my citations are almost verbatim, where they are not entirely so. I can indeed depend on my good memory; moreover, right after reading the draft I put several things to paper for myself, in particular the passage about apostasy."

This book, this edition, is more than 500 pages of small closely-leaded print. It's hard to know what parts to share, I only set down a few that's stuck out to me.

The protagonist, Adrian levertune's father is uninteresting character. He's a farmer, but he also likes to explore science, and teach it to his young son and his friend, Adrian's biographer. Here's one experiment that I really liked: the devouring drop swimming in a glass of water:
"with a pair of pincers he picked up a tiny glass rod, actually a thread of glass coated with shellac, and placed it in the vicinity of the drop [of chloroform]. That was all that he did, the drop did the rest. It formed a little convexity on its surface, a sort of mount of conception, through which it then ingested the rod lengthwise. Meanwhile it extended itself, took on a pair of shape so as to encompass its prey and tirely and not leave either end sticking out semicolon and as it gradually reassumed it's spherical shape, more avoid at first, it began, I give you my word, to dine on the shellac that coated the glass rod and to distribute it throughout its own body. When it had finished and had resumed its globular form, it push the utensil now neatly licked clean, back across to the periphery and out into the surrounding water."

One of teacher coach Mars lectures is on the sonata Opus 111. I loved man's description of this:
"... Then he sat down at the upright and played the whole composition from memory, both the first and the stupendous second movement, but in such a manner that he shouted out his commentary, while he played, and to call our attention to a lead theme he would enthusiastically sing along by way of demonstration - all of which, Taken together, resulted in a partly enthralling, partly comical spectacle, repeatedly greeted with amusement by the little audience. Since he had a very heavy touch and served up a powerful forte, he had to yell extra loudly just to make himself halfway understood and to sing at the top of his voice whenever he vocally underscored what he was playing. His mouth imitated what his hands were doing. Boom, boom - voom, voom - throom, throom - He struck the grimly vehement opening accents of the first movement, and in a high falsetto he sang along with passages of melodic sweetness, which, like delicate glimpses of light, now and then illuminate the storm-tossed skies of the piece. Finally he laid his hands in his lap, rested for a moment and said, 'here it comes.' he began the variations movement, the Adagio molto semplice e cantabile."

I suppose because the theme of this book has to do with the devil possessing Adrian's soul, and because he studied theology before he switched back to music theory, there is a lot of discussion in the book about god, by the characters. There's a ridiculous story that the character Schleppfuss told, about something that happened during the Inquisition.
" . . He told about a woman who had been imprisoned during that classical period, tried, and burned to ashes for having had intercourse with an incubus for six whole years, three times a week, and particularly on holy days - even when lying beside her sleeping husband. How she had pledged to the devil that she would become his property, body and soul, after 7 years. But good fortune had shown upon her, for just before her time was up, God in his love had allowed her to fall into the hands of the inquisition; and placed under only the lightest form of interrogation, she had provided a full and touchingly contrite confession, so that she most probably had obtained a pardon from god. indeed she had willingly gone to her death expressly declaring that, even if she could escape, she would most definitely prefer the stake if only to evade the power of the demon. Her enslavement to filthy sins had made life itself that repulsive to her. And what beautiful integration of an entire culture was expressed in the harmonious understanding between judge and wrongdoor, what warm humility and the satisfaction of having employed fire to snatch this soul from the devil at the last moment, thereby obtaining for her God's forgiveness." ( )
  burritapal | Oct 23, 2022 |
Read for June-July 2022; discussed in Polling (Doktor-Faustus-Weg) and Weilheim (Eiscafé) ( )
  MunichBookGroup | Aug 15, 2022 |
It is said (in Framing Faust, perhaps? Or maybe Lives of Faust) that Goethe's Faust was an attempt to recapture the Faust legend (after the English stole it, presumably) and make it German again, that the Nazis appropriated the Faust (along with the Parsifal) legend for their own agenda, and that this novel is Thomas Mann's attempt to recapture the Faust legend from the Nazis and make it German -- proper German, not that racist nutjob Nazi stuff -- again.

In this, Thomas Mann spectacularly succeeds.

This is the tale of a composer who may or may not have sold his soul to the devil, but who definitely caught syphilis and as driven insane by it. The composer's obsession with Faust causes him to draw parallels between his life and the legend (both started off as theologians, both had a successful career of 24 years before they were struck down, etc).

The story is told by his lifelong friend, a schoolteacher who presumably bored his charges with History in the same manner as he bores us with the tragic tale of his friend's delusional life. The narrator is recounting the events as World War II is reaching its end. There is a note of despair at the fact that Germany was deluded by the Nazis -- much as his friend was deluded by syphilis --
and led to its downfall and the inevitable destruction of its culture and national character. Nobody, Mann is saying, can be proud to be German after the Third Reich.

There is an attempt to relate the fall of Germany to the Faust legend, and it is in doing so that Mann recaptures the legend and restores it to Germany. Hitler is the devil; he promises greatness, but it is illusory, and all of the intoxicating early gains soon vanish, replaced by metaphorical bales of hay (read: slaughter and imprisonment). The nation is rent asunder, as the body of Faust was torn apart by demons.

It works; it's just a shame that it takes Mann 500 pages to convey the contents of what in other hands would be a novella.

What is it with German writing? There seems to be a misapprehension among German authors that talking more about a subject unquestionably makes it more clear and more interesting, when usually the opposite is the case.

The entire Doctor Faustus novel -- and many a German novel -- reads like this:

In August of that year, Adrian made a lamentable fool of himself at a party. The party was hosted by X, the son of the late industrialist W. Over the years, W had become a prominent member of society at Pfeiring, and was well-known and well-liked for hosting seasonal societal events. Unbounded increasing girth and an affinity for preserved meats led to a vascular condition and a bed-ridden W, who succumbed finally to excess and gastronomy in 1909, leaving the estate of Pfeiringgald to his eldest son, X, much to the consternation of X2, who sent legal representation from his Monte Carlo den in protest of the inheritance. The attorneys of X settled the matter by providing X2 with a substantial monthly stipend, the upkeep of which greatly curtailed the frequency of the newly-resumed societal gatherings.

These gatherings were known for the fineness of their offerings, and this one was no exception. The caviar, send by an admiring Russian diplomat, and the sauce and the goose and okay a whole page or two on the , shall we say, infrastructure of the party.

Shortly after my arrival, I was cornered by Y, along with her niece Z, recently released from the convent of St Agnes due to her somnambulatory rhythmic gymnastics. Z was the unfortunate child of, crap, out of letters, P and Q, that actress and patron-of-the-arts couple whose marriage was the scandal of Berlin. And more and more on the history of Z, then retreating back to Y for a full background check of her as well, and then on to the other guests in the part, often at a rate of a paragraph or four per guest, depending on whether or not they will encountered later in the novel.

I'm sure that when Adrian said what he did at that party, he did not intend to establish a reputation of infamy and degeneracy ...

Now imagine about 500 pages of that, without any of the actual (and likely ineffectual) jokes I couldn't refrain from including. We've all encountered people like this (often at parties!): in retelling an amusing or at least relevant anecdote, they are sidetracked into giving some background on each individual or object as it appears in their story, often oblivious to the wandering-attention or wandering-off of their audience. They're called bores and yes, I'll say it, Thomas Mann is a bore.

The novel isn't helped by the copious amounts of musical theory and, early on, theology that read like the product of a frustrated lecturer (if a journalist can be a frustrated novelist, surely a novelist can be a frustrated lecturer).

The final vote: a good but not great novel, which demands far more work from that reader than is justified by the message or the story. ( )
  mkfs | Aug 13, 2022 |
This is not an easy review for me. I previously posted excellent reviews for Mann's Buddenbrooks and The Magic Mountain. Both books were evidence of Mann's gift for literature. I still have no doubts regarding Mann's well deserved status as a great writer. However (you knew that was coming), I was not so enamored with Doctor Faustus.

I need to preface my remarks by saying that I have no formal musical training. [Why, you ask, am I reading a fictional biography of a composer? Excellent question.] Thus, some of my struggles with the book can be attributed to my musical ignorance. I grant that.

Yet, ill-advisedly, I proceed. Mann spends an inordinate amount of time (pages) on musical theory that only tangentially relates to our central character. One feels more like one is reading a long and dry textbook on music theory. It seemed those lengthy sections begged for an editor.

Less annoying but still questionable is Mann's exposition on the cultural and philosophical milieu of the late nineteenth and early twentieth-century. The discussion is interesting but again, it often feels separate from the flow of the story.

For some strange reason, even the composer's pact with the devil seems artificial and not an integral part of the story. The way the story is written the pact with the devil seems almost superfluous.

A perhaps too critical additional concern, Germany and WWII. Mann periodically includes short observations about the war which, we are told, was taking place as he wrote. His brief observations seem to portray Germany and its culture as the real victims of the war. Although it is true Germany did suffer, the scant attention paid to the horrific treatment of Jews and others is inexcusable. One gets the sense that, for Mann, the tragedy of WWII was that Germany lost.

Finally, I don't feel I came away with any sense of who this composer really was and how his sad fate came to be. The work seems to function better as a music primer and/or German philosophical text than the story of a man. ( )
  colligan | Mar 30, 2022 |
Es mostren 1-5 de 45 (següent | mostra-les totes)
The career of Thomas Mann's modern Faust is intended to illustrate the political, artistic, and religious dilemmas of the author's time. Yet paradoxically, the story of a former divinity student who bargains his soul and body to become a "musician of genius" is set in the wrong historical era. And the book's major flaw as fiction— counting as minor blemishes the discursiveness, and the imbalance between theory in the first half, story development and human variety in the second—may be attributed to conflicts between Mann's symbolic and realistic intentions.

To compare Dr. Faustus and the realistic novels of, for example, Solzhenitsyn, is to recognize how much more limited in scope is the newer genre. In the sense of embracing the spectrum of humanistic, religious, and artistic themes, Dr. Faustus may be the last of its kind.
afegit per SnootyBaronet | editaNew York Review of Books, Robert Craft

» Afegeix-hi altres autors (122 possibles)

Nom de l'autorCàrrecTipus d'autorObra?Estat
Mann, ThomasAutorautor primaritotes les edicionsconfirmat
Ekman, KerstinPròlegautor secundarialgunes edicionsconfirmat
Fontcuberta i Gel, JoanTraductorautor secundarialgunes edicionsconfirmat
Kallio, SinikkaTraductorautor secundarialgunes edicionsconfirmat
Kross, HelgaTraductorautor secundarialgunes edicionsconfirmat
Kurecka, MariaTraductorautor secundarialgunes edicionsconfirmat
Laeis, ChristophDissenyador de la cobertaautor secundarialgunes edicionsconfirmat
Leverkühn, AdrianEditorautor secundarialgunes edicionsconfirmat
Lowe-Porter, H. T.Traductorautor secundarialgunes edicionsconfirmat
Palmen, ConnieEpílegautor secundarialgunes edicionsconfirmat
Pocar, ErvinoTraductorautor secundarialgunes edicionsconfirmat
Sato, KoichiTraductorautor secundarialgunes edicionsconfirmat
Seki, KusoTraductorautor secundarialgunes edicionsconfirmat
Servicen, LouiseTraductorautor secundarialgunes edicionsconfirmat
Wallenström, UlrikaTraductorautor secundarialgunes edicionsconfirmat
Wessel, ElsbethTraductorautor secundarialgunes edicionsconfirmat
Westphal, GertSprecherautor secundarialgunes edicionsconfirmat
Woods, John E.Traductorautor secundarialgunes edicionsconfirmat
Апт, С.Traductorautor secundarialgunes edicionsconfirmat
Ман, Н.Traductorautor secundarialgunes edicionsconfirmat
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Lo giorno se n’andava, e l’aer bruno
toglieva gli animai che sono in terra
dalle fatiche loro, ed ito sol uno
m’apparecchiava a sostener la guerra
si del cammino e si della pietate,
che ritrarrà la mente che non erra.
O Muse, o alto ingegno, or m’aiutate;
o mente che scrivesti ciò ch’io vidi,
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I wish to state quite definitely that it is by no means out of any wish to bring my own personality into the foreground that I preface with a few words about myself and my own affairs this report on the life of the departed Adrian Leverkuhn.
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… talora in una materia semplice come il tema dell'Arietta, svolto in quelle formidabili variazioni che formano il secondo tempo della sonata. E come il tema di qusto tempo, attraverso cento destini, cento mondi di contrasti ritmici, finisce col perdersi in altitudini vertiginose che si potrebbero chiamare trascendenti o astratte – così l'arte di Beethoven aveva superato sé stessa: dalle regioni tradizionali e abitabili si era sollevata, davanti agli occhi sbigottiti degli uomini, nelle sfere della pura personalità – a un io dolorosamente isolato nell'assoluto, escluso anche, causa la sordità, dal mondo sensibile: sovrano solitario d'un regno spirituale dal quale erano partiti brividi rimasti oscuri persino ai più devoti del suo tempo, e nei cui terrificanti messaggi i contemporanei avevano saputo raccapezzarsi solo per istanti, solo per eccezione.
Dopo un do iniziale accoglie, prima del re, un do diesis, … e questo do diesis aggiunto è l'atto più commovente, più malinconico e conciliante che si possa dare. È come una carezza dolorosamente amorosa sui capelli, su una guancia, un ultimo sguardo negli occhi, quieto e profondo. È la benedizione dell'oggetto, è la frase terribilmente inseguita e umanizzata in modo che travolge e scende nel cuore di chi ascolta come un addio, un addio per sempre, così dolce che gli occhi si empiono di lacrime. … Dopo di che Kretzschmar non ritornò dal pianino alla cattedra. Volto verso di noi, rimase seduto sullo sgabello girevole, nello stesso nostro atteggiamento, chino in avanti, le mani fra le ginocchia, e conchiuse con poche parole la conferenza sul quesito: perché Beethoven non abbia aggiunto un terzo tempo all'op. 111. Dopo aver udito, disse, tutta la sonata potevamo rispondere da soli a questa domanda. – Un terzo tempo? Una nuova ripresa… dopo questo addio? Un ritorno… dopo questo commiato? – Impossibile. Tutto era fatto: nel secondo tempo, in questo tempo enorme la sonata aveva raggiunto la fine, la fine senza ritorno. E se diceva «la sonata» non alludeva soltanto a questa, alla sonata in do minore, ma intendeva la sonata in genere come forma artistica tradizionale: qui terminava la sonata, qui essa aveva compiuto la sua missione, toccato la meta oltre la quale non era possibile andare, qui annullava sé stessa e prendeva commiato – quel cenno d'addio del motivo re-sol sol, confortato melodicamente dal do diesis, era un addio anche in questo senso, un addio grande come l'intera composizione, il commiato dalla Sonata.
Il pianoforte, chi ben guardi, è il diretto e sovrano rappresentante della musica, persino nella sua spiritualità, e per questo lo si deve imparare.
Con la intelligenza si può fare molta strada nella Chiesa, ma non nella religiosità.
– … L'organizzazione è tutto. Senza di essa nulla esiste, e men che meno l'arte. Ed ecco che la soggettività estetica si prese questo compito e si assunse di organizzare l'opera, per proprio impulso, in libertà. – Tu pensi a Beethoven. – Sì, a lui e al principio tecnico col quale la soggettività dominante s'impadronì dell'organizzazione musicale, cioè dello svolgimento. Questo era stato una piccola parte della sonata, un modesto campo di illuminazione e di dinamismo soggettivi. Con Beethoven essa diventa universale, diventa il centro della forma totale che, anche quando è premessa come convenzione, viene assorbita dal lato soggettivo e ricreata in libertà. La variazione dunque, una cosa arcaica, un residuo, diventa il mezzo della spontanea nuova creazione della forma.
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A new translation of a 1948 novel based on the Faust legend. The protagonist is Adrian Leverkuhn, a musical genius who trades his body and soul to the devil in exchange for 24 years of triumph as the world's greatest composer.

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