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Having done German to English and English to German translations myself, I particularly appreciated the late Joachim Neugroschel's brief explanation of the challenges he faced in translating Mann. As he said, "Each author has his melodies, and each style, each language, its own music." (Those who are not interested in this can easily chapter-skip to the first story!)
The collection includes: The Will for Happiness, Tristan, Little Herr Friedemann, Tobias Mindernickel, Little Lizzie, Gladius Dei, The Starvelings, The Wunderkind, The Harsh Hour, Tonio Kroeger, The Blood of the Walsungs, and Death in Venice.
Mann is not an easy author to read, and these stories and two novellas are not the light entertainment provided by some collections of short pieces. However, whether or not one likes what he has to say, he is a thought-provoking writer and rarely leaves one unmoved.
His characters are unlikely to be forgotten. Since I first read the stories many years ago, I have never forgotten the tragic figure of Friedemann , the incestuous twins Sieglinde and Siegmund Aarenhold, the religious zealot Hieronymous, or Kroeger, the "artist who must die to everyday life."
Paul Hecht's narration is wonderful, both in his characterizations and pronunciation of German. He was a joy to listen to from start to finish.
Mann in translation on audio is not easy to find, so if you've been curious about his writing, make this collection your introduction. Don't be put off by the reams of literary interpretations and speculations out there. Listen to the stories for yourself. You may be surprised at what you find.
17 of 17 people found this review helpful
I'll spare the Comparative Literature review by saying this is a complex read, which I enjoyed very much most of the time, but I would not recommend to everyone.
Mann wasn't awarded the Nobel Prize for literature because he was a bad writer; you can rightly assume this is masterful writing, that the prose is absolutely beautiful--and at the same time often threatens to take over parts of the already elaborate stories, especially some of the soul-tortured characters' philosophical reflections/rantings. The stories themselves are bitingly haunting, full of symbolism, and read like decadent, excessive operas.
I don't mean to drop the name...but a basic knowledge of Nietzche, his philosophies, especially some familiarity with his The Birth of a Tragedy, would be very helpful in understanding the most often misunderstood, and controversial, elements of some of the stories in this small Thomas Mann collection (as would a brief acquaintance [Hello-Wikipedia] with the author's own life history). Enough said... I leave you, the reader and listener, to grapple with the decision of whether or not this might be up your alley.
16 of 19 people found this review helpful