Doctor Faustus: The Life of the German Composer Adrian Leverkuhn as Told by a Friend (The New John Woods Translation) (Vintage International) Paperback – 1 Feb 2000
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From the Inside Flap
"John E. Woods is revising our impression of Thomas Mann, masterpiece by masterpiece." --The New Yorker
"Doctor Faustus is Mann's deepest artistic gesture. . . . Finely translated by John E. Woods." --The New Republic
Thomas Mann's last great novel, first published in 1947 and now newly rendered into English by acclaimed translator John E. Woods, is a modern reworking of the Faust legend, in which Germany sells its soul to the Devil. Mann's protagonist, the composer Adrian Leverkuhn, is the flower of German culture, a brilliant, isolated, overreaching figure, his radical new music a breakneck game played by art at the very edge of impossibility. In return for twenty-four years of unparalleled musical accomplishment, he bargains away his soul--and the ability to love his fellow man.
Leverkuhn's life story is a brilliant allegory of the rise of the Third Reich, of Germany's renunciation of its own humanity and its embrace of ambition and nihilism. It is also Mann's most profound meditation on the German genius--both national and individual--and the terrible responsibilities of the truly great artist.
About the Author
Thomas Mann was born in 1875 in Germany. He was only twenty-five when his first novel, Buddenbrooks, was published. In 1924 The Magic Mountain was published, and, five years later, Mann was awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature. Following the rise of the Nazis to power, he left Germany for good in 1933 to live in Switzerland and then in California, where he wrote Doctor Faustus (first published in the United States in 1948). Thomas Mann died in 1955.
"From the Hardcover edition."
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Top Customer Reviews
This novel is said to an "allegory of the rise and fall of the Third Reich", but what does that actually mean? The way I understand it is that Mann asks himself the question, how is it that the nation which produced the sublime music of Bach, Mozart, and Beethoven also produced Hitler and the horrors of the Holocaust? His novel is an artistic attempt at finding an answer to this question. For this purpose, Mann makes use of the legend and myth of Faustus, the man who is said to have sold his soul to the Devil -Precarious territory to negotiate in an age when those of intellectual standing don't believe in the Devil. In Mann's balancing act he makes use of his narrator, Serenus Zeitblom, a close friend of Adrian. Zeitblom was born a Roman Catholic, but now considers himself a Humanist, whereas Adrian is born to a Lutheran family.
According to Zeitblom's account, Adrian firmly believes that he has sold his soul to the Devil in exchange for the ability to compose great music. It is worth quoting Adrian's own words here: "It is an age when no work is to be done in pious sober fashion and by proper means, and art has grown impossible sans the Devil's aid and hellish fire beneath the kettle......art is stuck fast and grown too difficult and mocks its very self, that all has grown too difficult...Read more ›
Dr Faustus is on the face of it, a fictional biography of Adrian Leverkuhn, a brilliant composer who came to fame in the 1920s and 30s. The biography is recorded by his life-long friend Dr Serenus Leitblom, who happens to have possession of Leverkuhn's journals including a secret manuscript, which comes to light about half way through the book, which gives an account of the terrible evening when Leverkuhn entered into a pact with the devil, to exchange his soul for 24 years of brilliant musical composition.
Dr Leitblom has a hard time of it with Adrian Leverkuhn, the friendship never achieving an easy intimacy, and several times there are references to Leverkuhn's refusal to use the personal pronoun with even his closest associates. He is unapproachable and isolated, and takes private rooms in a farmhouse, some distance from Munich. His almost hermit-like existence is relieved by train journeys into the city where he takes part in musical and philosophical soirees, described in some detail by Mann and showing his command of the most complex musical ideas.
Leverkuhn's music is rarely well-received, being appreciated by only a select band of critics, the message being that it is too rarified for the common concert-goer, but will eventually be vindicated by generations to come.Read more ›
I think the beauty of the writing lies in the way in which Thomas Mann chooses to convey deep psychological truth not through long impenetrable sentences filled with complex vocabulary but with telling descriptions of the nuances in his characters' appearance and physical mannerisms. I find this more 'everyday' language far more enjoyable to read and, for the most part, more effective in conveying meaning.
I would recommend this book to anyone who wants to learn more about German history, German music or anyone who simply wants to be told a good story in sophisticated but not stifling language.
Most Recent Customer Reviews
Musical genius and cultural construction and identity, this is a superbly crafted book that opens thinking and makes one feel one has just been in interesting companyPublished on 7 Oct. 2013 by L. Andre
I have to give this five stars because its neutronium solid literary credentials are so space-warpingly gravid as to make what I actually think of it hardly relevant, seeing as it... Read morePublished on 11 Jan. 2010 by John Ferngrove