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Buddenbrooks (1901)

by Thomas Mann

Other authors: See the other authors section.

MembersReviewsPopularityAverage ratingMentions
5,098931,699 (4.19)365
A Major Literary Event: a brilliant new translation of Thomas Mann's first great novel, one of the two for which he was awarded the Nobel Prize in literature in 1929. Buddenbrooks, first published in Germany in 1900, when Mann was only twenty-five, has become a classic of modem literature -- the story of four generations of a wealthy bourgeois family in northern Germany. With consummate skill, Mann draws a rounded picture of middle-class life: births and christenings; marriages, divorces, and deaths; successes and failures. These commonplace occurrences, intrinsically the same, vary slightly as they recur in each succeeding generation. Yet as the Buddenbrooks family eventually succumbs to the seductions of modernity -- seductions that are at variance with its own traditions -- its downfall becomes certain. In immensity of scope, richness of detail, and fullness of humanity, Buddenbrooks surpasses all other modem family chronicles; it has, indeed, proved a model for most of them. Judged as the greatest of Mann's novels by some critics, it is ranked as among the greatest by all. Thomas Mann was awarded the Nobel Prize for literature in 1929.… (more)
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» See also 365 mentions

English (64)  German (7)  Dutch (5)  Spanish (4)  French (3)  Italian (3)  Danish (2)  Swedish (2)  Hebrew (2)  Norwegian (1)  All languages (93)
Showing 1-5 of 64 (next | show all)
As in The Magic Mountain, Mann writes a lot about how the characters speak, which creates much awkwardness in translation. For example, when a character visits from Bavaria, the maid who answers the door thinks he is speaking a foreign language, and even Elizabeth Buddenbrook can barely understand him. In English, this character's speech is rendered as a kind of folksy Southern (United States) twang.

The novel has one of those annoying endings where, as the reader holding the book, you can see that it's almost over, but suddenly the author begins introducing new characters, new settings, and new plots, even though you know perfectly well they cannot possibly amount to anything because the author only has about twenty pages to wrap everything up. I hate it when novelists do that. It always reminds me of Huckleberry Finn, where the book just keeps going after it's obviously all over, but in this case one has already given the author over 700 pages, so it's especially irritating. ( )
  gtross | Jun 6, 2022 |
It started slow and ended slow but the mid-60% was excellent. There were some brilliant scenes like the quarrel between the two brothers. Thomas Mann was also great in characterization, in depicting motivations and what drives people. Still, it was a surprise that Thomas chose to dissolve the firm upon his death, rather than leave it to his son. He knew that Johann wouldn't be able to handle the firm and it would be torturous to him. That's a father's love but I am not sure if Johann appreciated it. Johann's death came as a shock to me but I guess I shouldn't be. He already said that he would rather die. It was probably his lack of motivation to live that expedited his death. ( )
  siok | Apr 2, 2022 |
Definitely one of the best books I've ever read. Thomas Mann has been my favorite author for years. I've read virtually everything that's been published in English. For some totally unexplainable reason I had never read Buddenbrooks. Somehow it mistakenly got on to my list of books I had already read. Fortunately I realized my error and found a copy. My search had been motivated by my reading Colm Toibin's "novel" The Magician. I put quotes around novel because it reads very much like a biography of Mann.

Buddenbrooks is the story of a rich mercantile family in northern Germany. Mann has drawn on his own family history. He had been raised in a rich mercantile family in northern Germany and his father, also decided in his will, to have the storied family firm sold off and not to leave it to his son. His mother also had a musical background. Some people see the last of the Buddenbrooks line being the most like Mann but in Buddenbrooks the last heir Hanno, spoiler alert, dies as a youth while Mann lived a full life.

Mann's ability to create rich characters is on full display. His attention to physical details is beyond any other writer I've read. He is constantly bringing our attention to how they looked both physically and how they dressed. He was always describing their surroundings in fine detail. The result is thoroughly engaging. The rise of the family takes some four hundred pages. The decline is swifter, two hundred pages but the seeds of the decline are also sprinkled throughout the rise, we just don't realize it's what will bring the family down.

Two characters occupy most of the story, Thomas, and his sister Antonie. Thomas has been groomed to take over the firm established by his grandfather and his father. He does so with gusto and expands upon what the family had given him. He rejects his brother Christian as a dandy. He marries a wealthy stand offish woman who plays a Stradivarius violin and has little interest in anything else including Hanno the final heir who is only interested in developing his music. Thomas guides the family firm and has a major role in community service becoming a Senator, He is excessively interested in appearance buying expensive clothes and constantly changing into fresher clothes. Eventually he gives up but maintains his outward appearances . He lacks the religious grounding that gave his father the ability to go on. Without telling his family he writes a will dissolving the family's firm.

Antonie, or Tony is also committed to the family. As a young, rich, headstrong girl she is somewhat rebellious. While initially rejecting the pious suitor her parents have selected for her she eventually sees her role in the family is to marry well so that she contributes to building the family's wealth. If only she had followed her initial reaction. She marries the chosen suitor only to find out he along with an unscrupulous banker has falsified his financial records so he can get a hold of the rich girl's money. That ends in divorce much to her shame. She eventually marries again only to have that end in divorce as well. And eventually she marries off her daughter to someone who ends up in prison and when he emerges he quickly abandons his family. Notice the trajectory. Throughout all this she maintains a stiff upper lip even to the point of holding grudges based on slights she received as a child. She realizes she has only limited capacity to help the family and is tied closely to Thomas who she depends on. Perhaps her most endearing quality is knowing her own limitations. She often tells her brother, "I'm such a goose".

Beyond the main actors Mann's story has many others who are fully described, especially physically. Mann brings them along throughout the fifty or so year span the novel covers. This heightens the effect of living in a town and a time where everyone knew everyone. It is no wonder that this novel became essential reading in Germany. Glad I uncovered my error. ( )
  Ed_Schneider | Feb 16, 2022 |
This story is the debut novel of Thomas Mann, which he wrote when he was in his twenties and it won him the Nobel Prize. The story is about the Buddenbrook family and shows the decline of family, home, and business over the generations. It was semi autobiographical though it is fiction it does have many similarities with his own family and home town. It is long but a good read and one that was not hard to finish. I would rate it 5 stars. ( )
  Kristelh | Sep 1, 2021 |
This edition is the Richard and Clara Winston translation, first published in 1924. ( )
  HenrySt123 | Jul 19, 2021 |
Showing 1-5 of 64 (next | show all)

» Add other authors (140 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!"
Quotations
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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A Major Literary Event: a brilliant new translation of Thomas Mann's first great novel, one of the two for which he was awarded the Nobel Prize in literature in 1929. Buddenbrooks, first published in Germany in 1900, when Mann was only twenty-five, has become a classic of modem literature -- the story of four generations of a wealthy bourgeois family in northern Germany. With consummate skill, Mann draws a rounded picture of middle-class life: births and christenings; marriages, divorces, and deaths; successes and failures. These commonplace occurrences, intrinsically the same, vary slightly as they recur in each succeeding generation. Yet as the Buddenbrooks family eventually succumbs to the seductions of modernity -- seductions that are at variance with its own traditions -- its downfall becomes certain. In immensity of scope, richness of detail, and fullness of humanity, Buddenbrooks surpasses all other modem family chronicles; it has, indeed, proved a model for most of them. Judged as the greatest of Mann's novels by some critics, it is ranked as among the greatest by all. Thomas Mann was awarded the Nobel Prize for literature in 1929.

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