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Buddenbrooks: The Decline of a Family…

Buddenbrooks: The Decline of a Family (Everyman's Library) (original 1901; edition 1994)

by Thomas Mann

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Title:Buddenbrooks: The Decline of a Family (Everyman's Library)
Authors:Thomas Mann
Info:Everyman's Library (1994), Hardcover, 784 pages
Collections:Read but unowned

Work details

Buddenbrooks by Thomas Mann (1901)

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English (40)  German (6)  Dutch (3)  French (2)  Danish (2)  Hebrew (2)  Spanish (2)  Norwegian (1)  Italian (1)  All languages (59)
Showing 1-5 of 40 (next | show all)
you probably have to be from north germany to understand the characters because when Tony meets people in Bavaria you can tell the difference. excellent insight of life of the nobility. reminds me of Anna Karenina. ( )
  kakadoo202 | Feb 7, 2014 |
Not much to say- it is that good. The fact that Mann went on to write Magic Mountain and Dr Faustus, among others, is staggering. Here he created a range of characters, generally unsympathetic, and as boring as people usually are. But just as in real life, you come to care about them and wish them well. As the subtitle of the novel suggests, it doesn't really work out for anyone. The translation is wonderful- transparent but also just a tiny bit lyrical. My only complaint is that the women in the book aren't anywhere near as well fleshed out as the men; but that makes a certain amount of sense, given that women in a nineteenth century family of this kind did mainly play a supporting role. There's no sense that Mann or the narrator approves of the shallowness of most of the women, or approves of the social structures that force them to be shallow. But I really wanted to hear more about Gerda. More Gerda! Otherwise, though, just a beautifully executed, reader-friendly novel full of gentle irony, vicious irony, and sympathy for the unsympathetic. ( )
  stillatim | Dec 29, 2013 |
As the (sub-)title implies, this is the story of the decadence of a family. Thomas Mann is one of the greatest German writers of the XXth century. The characters description is flawless and there is probably no better novel on the city of Lübeck. The book is full of northern German, hanseatic, Prussian rational mentality and, yet, it is equally sad and moving. ( )
1 vote Miguelnunonave | Sep 9, 2013 |
Buddenbrooks is not a book I would've likely noticed or picked up had it not been for an invitation from the Thomas Mann group. German literature has never attracted me and Thomas Mann was among that class of authors whose work, I felt, was probably more effort that it was enjoyable. (He had that look about him, okay?) So I made some assumptions based on nothing, so what? Had it not been for the subtitle of the book, “The Decline of a Family,” I probably still would be ignorant of Mann's abilities; but that subtitle pulled me in—I wanted to know more about this family tragedy. I'm glad Mann included it as part of his title.

What I most appreciated about Mann's writing was his use of description. I'm not a big fan of descriptive passages, authors that drone on and on about the shape of the table and how the hands of a grandfather clock move. Normally, I find it irrelevant, tiring, and detrimental to the forward movement of the plot. But Mann succeeds in this regard. His descriptions give life to the story. It paints the background and sets the stage for the scene. Colors and props become meaningful to the theme. In fact, I think it would be easy to say that his scenery is a character of its own.

Aside from scenery, excellent characters were also found in Toni and Hanno. Both were developed wonderfully, and I looked forward to their every scene. I think I could've like Christian had he been similarly developed, but he was more of a plot device than a character. Unfortunately for me, a large part of the novel focused on Thomas and I was never able to connect with him. By the novel's conclusion, I was completely ambivalent toward his character.

In the end, I enjoyed Buddenbrooks greatly. There were moments I lost interest, particularly when Thomas was at the center, but this did not take away from the grand setting and story that made this novel fabulous. Thank you, Thomas Mann, for reminding me not to make assumptions. ( )
  chrisblocker | Jul 8, 2013 |
Given the subtitle (Verfall einer Familie/Decline of a Family), reviewers don't need to worry about spoilers. The real surprise is that a book with this gloomy subtitle and written by someone in his early twenties has engaged so many readers for so many decades, even readers who don't much care for German literature in general. Why do so many readers get wrapped up in the problems of Tony and Tom when you know in advance it will not end well? Some reviewers called it a soap opera, and there is a certain soap quality to it. You want to shake Tony and say "don't marry that guy" not once, but twice..actually with her daughter's husband, three times....There is also a fairy tale quality to it. Gerda, Tom's beautiful distant wife, is an ice queen who watches with benign indifference as things fall apart one step at a time. There is even the hint of a fairy tale curse. Tom abandons his sweet florist shop girl Anna to marry aristocratic Gerda for practical financial and class reasons. When Tom constructs an ostentatious house for his family, he compliments Iwersen the florist for the magnificent decoration at the party for the construction workers. Iwersen explains that his wife Anna made the floral decorations for the new house. In parts of norther Europe construction parties have a sense of blessing the house and warding off evil by making the workers happy. You get the feeling Tom doing Anna wrong does not placate bad spirits...The earnest med student Morten from a working class family is the only man Tony ever loved. At the seashore he has to wait for her sitting "on the rocks" while she talks to her fancy friends in the pavilion. Then her father forces her to give Morten up for an oily repulsive business associate, who it turns out is colluding others to drain the Buddenbrook wealth. The most horrific scene, Tony in the arms of the disgusting Bendix Gruenlich, is left completely off stage. When it comes to the inevitable end, Tony says to Tom that she's sitting "on the rocks". The story comes to its conclusion at a crucial time in German history. Mann provides precise dates, some before unification in 1870, at the end just afterwards. He only obliquely alludes to unification and only mentions Bismarck once, but I suspect a German reader would be more attuned to the momentous events taking place off stage. Business practices change with economic integration, and the Buddenbrooks are easily swindled because of their old fashioned way with transactions. There are very subtle references to technological change as oil lamps on chains across the street are replaced by gas lights, and at the end the servants' bell pulls are replaced by electric buzzers. Long rides in horse drawn carriages are described in loving detail, and at the end Gerda goes home to her father in Amsterdam on a train. The horrific final scene of Hanno's agony at school takes place under the rule of a new Prussian school director. The old gentler director who governed the school when his father and grandfather were children has died and been replaced. There is just one paragraph in the school scene that explicitly mentions how unification and military success have ushered in an era of harsh manners and bravado, an era Hanno just does not want to live in. His soul mate Kai is a writer and so we can hope Kai will tell Hanno's story...and Anna prepares the floral arrangements for Tom's funeral. She has children, the oldest is old enough to be Tom's child. ( )
1 vote ElenaDanielson | May 31, 2013 |
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» Add other authors (121 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Mann, Thomasprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Fontcuberta i Gel, JoanTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Lowe-Porter, H. T.Translatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Rho, AnitaTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Rho, AnitaTranslatorsecondary 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 Mon, 30 Sep 2013 14:03:50 -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.

(summary from another edition)

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