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De dood van Vergilius by Hermann Broch

De dood van Vergilius (original 1945; edition 1945)

by Hermann Broch

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744812,508 (4.06)42
Title:De dood van Vergilius
Authors:Hermann Broch
Info:Baarn Ambo 1989
Collections:Read but unowned
Tags:Duitse literatuur, Romeinse beschaving, Vergilius, Augustus

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The Death of Virgil by Hermann Broch (1945)


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Showing 1-5 of 7 (next | show all)
The Roman poet, frustrated from abstruseness and corruption of political and social life, decides in the last hours before his death to burn his masterpiece “Aneid”. Broch wrote this novel, undoubtedly being frustrated from personal situation and political circumstances and tired to death like his protagonist.
  hbergander | Feb 18, 2014 |
So why is Virgil upset with his art?

...and this was the very reason why he had never succeeded in depicting real human beings, people who ate and drank, who loved and could be loved, and this was why he was so little able to depict those who went limping and cursing through the streets, unable to picture them in their bestiality and their great need of help, least able to show forth the miracle of humanity with which such bestiality is graced; people meant nothing to him, he considered them as fabulous beings, mimes of beauty in the garments of beauty, and as such he had depicted them, as kings and heroes of fables, as fable-shepherds...
from pp.152-3

Close to the bone and not hard to understand. Among other people, I recommend this book for writers with angst. His work has been insincere, his eye for beauty has led him astray, he has been no help to the real human world. He wants to start again but it's too late for that...

I've learnt that the German and this English translation were published simultaneously, and Broch worked closely with Untermeyer. I found the English words amazingly chosen for sound and sense. Or where sense escapes us, yet for sound: there is great artistry in the translation.

For the rest, see my updates. They were spontaneous (that’s the use of these status updates).

Believe me or not, although I’ve read this book in bits and pieces over a year, I can’t wait to start on the second read. Maybe I got about a half of it the first time.

Note to self: I don’t expect I’ll have the brains to peruse this book in the week of my death. But read the last part. It’s only forty pages, it’s less difficult than part two can be; and it talks of death in a way an atheist like me who yet is an optimist by temperament, finds meaningful. It’s Virgil’s inside experience – of a voyage, that cannot help but remind me of the Grey Havens and Frodo’s departure by ship. In mood, moreover – except that we’re not the ones left on the shore (because of course I cry at the Grey Havens. But not here). The farewell voyage goes on into an experience of the animism of the cosmos. Schooled by this I think I can face the extinguishment of self, which I’ve never been known to say before, self-centred as I am. He understands: Where, however, was his own face in this universe?

Is there a Christian presence? Yes, because such is a part of Virgil’s legend. As a non-Christian, I can read those allusions as historical, and ‘the word’ as an answer to, or last thoughts on, his poet’s obsessions and dissatisfactions. Virgil felt on the verge of – what? A new artistic expression, or a salvation through human service? The medievals took him for a herald of Christianity, I believe on the strength of a prophecy of Augustus. There’s enough irony there for this politically-aware novel to use: the writing was begun in a concentration camp and the Nazis were a shadowy presence in part one. Still in this novel, perhaps, if you’re Christian you can see Christianity and if you don’t want to you don’t have to.

Negatives: the conversations on aesthetics, though to be fair Virgil, at his last gasp, finds these fatuous too; and the philosophical poems, which I skimmed or skipped since I cannot do poetry about abstractions.

If you’re curious about this book but daunted, I think you can try out the fourth part on its own, or ahead. It’s of great beauty (look, that’s an understatement, and the translation must be a miracle) and there are no spoilers. You know he’s dead at the end, right? ( )
2 vote Jakujin | Sep 13, 2013 |
Gorgeous prose -- I could see everything before me, both real and surreal. I didn't understnd the stream of consciousness, but the narrative concerned Virgil's wanting to burn his ms. of Aeneid and Augustus arguing against it. The last part was Virgil crossing the Styx. ( )
1 vote janerawoof | Aug 27, 2013 |
kind of slow, but at times beautiful
  pjpjx | Oct 25, 2010 |
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» Add other authors (19 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Broch, Hermannprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Arendt, HannahIntroductionsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Brassinga, AnnekeTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Fontcuberta i Gel, JoanTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Izquierdo, LluísIntroductionsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Preisner, RioTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Untermeyer, Jean StarrTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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Book description
Haiku summary
On the verge of death,
Virgil’s lyric deliria
Make for a tough read.

Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0679755489, Paperback)

It is the reign of the Emperor Augustus, and Publius Vergilius Maro, the poet of the Aeneid and Caesar's enchanter, has been summoned to the palace, where he will shortly die. Out of the last hours of Virgil's life and the final stirrings of his consciousness, the Austrian writer Hermann Broch fashioned one of the great works of twentieth-century modernism, a book that embraces an entire world and renders it with an immediacy that is at once sensual and profound. Begun while Broch was imprisoned in a German concentration camp, The Death of Virgil is part historical novel and part prose poem -- and always an intensely musical and immensely evocative meditation on the relation between life and death, the ancient and the modern.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:24:44 -0400)

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