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Buddenbrooks by Thomas Mann

Buddenbrooks (1901)

by Thomas Mann

Other authors: See the other authors section.

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4,276791,667 (4.17)332
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» See also 332 mentions

English (52)  German (6)  Dutch (4)  Italian (4)  French (3)  Spanish (3)  Danish (2)  Hebrew (2)  Swedish (2)  Norwegian (1)  All languages (79)
Showing 1-5 of 52 (next | show all)
At the risk of sounding like Frau Permaneder, it's amazing how much more I get from this book after an absence of a decade or so. I first read Buddenbrooks in my late teens/early twenties, and at that time I recall feeling a good deal of childish contempt for many of the characters. But on later readings I find myself understanding them on a deeper level, and feeling sympathy for them even when I want to whup them upside the head and say, "Just stop!"

I read a review of this book by someone who kept looking for the protagonist, and not finding one, dismissed the story. But the family is the protagonist, a kind of individual body politic. We see it risen from a merchant "who did very well," to a firm that is thriving. And in spite of their humble beginnings, it's clear that the family, as a whole, senses that it is part of an aristocracy of trade. What one member does, affects the others, and their standing in society.

But as societies grow, change, and fall, so does the Buddenbrook family, illustrated by the lives of the three children of Johann (Jean) and Elizabeth, Thomas, Christian, and Antonie (Tony). Tony is virtually sold in marriage to Bendix Grünlich, and when his fortunes fail, she returns home with their daughter, determined not to allow her misfortune to affect the family's fortunes, though she is alive to slights from society, and we're never entirely certain if they're real or imagined. Christian is the ne'er-do-well son, tortured by nervous complaints, and an inability to concentrate on anything but his pleasures.

But it's Tom who is the family in small. He grows up knowing that he will become the head of the firm, and gives up the hope of higher education to join his father there. He's a voracious reader, and fancies himself a free thinker, rejecting what he sees as the syrupy piety of his parents. He marries an "artistic" woman and they produce one sickly, artistic child. And as the story progresses and we come to know Tom through his responses to all that happens in his family, we feel he is well adjusted and happy.

And then we get a glimpse of his internal life and it's devastating. Tom is a mess. He is torn between the good, solid virtues of the merchant class, and the demands of his social position, and his longing for a life of the mind, and a true understanding of his wife and son, something he will never have, maybe because he's incapable, or maybe just because he can't allow himself to unbend enough to meet them on their terms.

There is so very much to discuss about this book, the irony, the symbolic content of things like the condition of people's teeth (For Mann, this is telling. Good teeth signify strength, bad ones signal a kind of decadence.) The painstaking descriptions of rooms and their furnishings forcibly underscores the importance of material goods to this family. The repetition of conversation, and even phrases, seem to highlight how little of importance is ever dealt with in their intellectual lives. The prices of things are quoted repeatedly, emphasizing that for the Buddenbrook family, it is all about money.

What I found fascinating this time around were the long descriptions of the dying of family members, painful to read, and yet upon the occasion of the final death in the book, the author steps back and describes what happens during a bout of typhoid without ever telling the reader who it is who is dying. (We find out in the last chapter.) It's a strange choice, and I haven't entirely decided what to make of it.

This time around, I listened to the audiobook, read by David Rintoul, and found it enthralling. I know the book well, and yet Rintoul made it so vivid that I often felt I was hearing it for the first time. (That may also have something to do with the new translation, since I've always read the Porter translation prior to this reread.) I really recommend it if you're a fan of audiobooks.

Mann, who had previously written only short stories -- yes, this was his first novel -- went on to win a Nobel prize for literature, with the committee citing Buddenbrooks as a primary reason for the award in spite of the prizes normally being awarded for a body of work. It's an astounding achievement, and one that I never tire of revisiting. ( )
1 vote Tracy_Rowan | May 13, 2018 |
This book depicts the life of a merchant family in Germany, from its early days of glory to its quite heartbreaking if inevitable decline over the course of four generations.

Frankly, I hadn't even heard of this book before. I had to read it for class, which is probably the only reason why I did it.

I definitely did not mean to get enraptured in it: To be engaged in the story, to care for the characters and to feel crushed by the ending. It all came as a side bonus. ( )
  UDT | May 1, 2018 |
- The story about the girl and the jellyfish.
- The "death because of a tooth"
- The nerves, which are shorter on the left side of the body.
- The gluttony.
- The "dumme Gans" and Permaneder. ( )
  alik-fuchs | Apr 27, 2018 |
I liked this very much. Tony aggravated me throughout but she was very real as all the characters were, I thought, even when they were eccentric (such as Christian). Thomas was the character for whom I felt the most empathy, I think.

While some aspects of the book were clearly grounded in their time, I couldn't help drawing parallels to modern times and in that, I feel, is the true power of the book. The situation of a family which has risen in wealth and status due to the hard work & intelligence of a past generation and the differing character of the descendants who are raised in different (wealthier but not necessarily better) circumstances seems like a timeless dilemma to me. ( )
  leslie.98 | Apr 25, 2018 |
Match found in the German National Library.
  glsottawa | Apr 4, 2018 |
Showing 1-5 of 52 (next | show all)
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» Add other authors (183 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Mann, ThomasAuthorprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Fontcuberta i Gel, JoanTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Graftdijk, ThomasTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Lowe-Porter, H. T.Translatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Molenaar, Johan deTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Parker, DerekIntroductionsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Quanjer, Th. A.Translatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Reed, T.J.Introductionsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Rho, AnitaTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Rosoman, LeonardIllustratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Wallenström, UlrikaTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Woods, John E.Translatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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"Was ist das. - Was - ist das..."
"Je, den Düwel ook, c'est la question, ma très chère demoiselle!"
"And - and - what comes next?"                                                                                                                                            "Oh, yes, yes, what the dickens does come next? C'est la question, ma tres chere demoiselle!"
p. 262: "A businessman cannot be a bureaucrat," he told his former schoolchum Stephen Kistenmaker--of Kistenmaker & Sons--who was still Tom's friend, though hardly his match intellectually, and listened to his every work in order to pass it on as his own opinon.
"Ah, I almost fear that as time goes on the businessman's life will become more and more banal."
p 506: What was Death? The answer came, not in poor, large-sounding words: he felt it within him, he possessed it. Death was a joy, so great, so deep that it could be dreamed of only in moments of revelation like the present. It was the return from an unspeakably painful wandering, the correction of a grave mistake, the loosening of chains, the opening of doors - it put right again a lamentable mischance.
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0679417370, Hardcover)

(Book Jacket Status: Jacketed)

Introduction by T. J. Reed; Translation by John E. Woods

Buddenbrooks, first published in Germany in 1901, when Mann was only twenty-six, has become a classic of modern literature.

It is the story of four generations of a wealthy bourgeois family in northern Germany facing the advent of modernity; in an uncertain new world, the family’s bonds and traditions begin to disintegrate. As Mann charts the Buddenbrooks’ decline from prosperity to bankruptcy, from moral and psychic soundness to sickly piety, artistic decadence, and madness, he ushers the reader into a world of stunning vitality, pieced together from births and funerals, weddings and divorces, recipes, gossip, and earthy humor.

In its immensity of scope, richness of detail, and fullness of humanity, buddenbrooks surpasses all other modern family chronicles. With remarkable fidelity to the original German text, this superb translation emphasizes the magnificent scale of Mann’s achievement in this riveting, tragic novel.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:24:47 -0400)

(see all 3 descriptions)

The story of four generations of a wealthy bourgeois family in northern Germany captures the triumphs and tragedies, successes and failures, relationships, loves, and ordinary events of everyday middle-class life.

» see all 3 descriptions

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