week 2 – critical reading: Death in Venice, Family Happiness

Critical Reading  week 2 : Rachel Cusk


Does anyone have any thoughts they might like to share while reading these books?



Death in Venice, Thomas Mann



A sneak preview of Luchino Visconti’s 1971 film version –




Family Happiness, Leo Tolstoy




2 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Stuart Bird
    Oct 04, 2011 @ 23:11:09

    Mann on writing:

    ‘Aschenbach felt, as so often already, the painful awareness that language can only praise sensuous beauty, but not reproduce it.’1

    ‘The writer’s joy is the thought that can become emotion, the emotion that can wholly become a thought.’2

    [us writers]..’ we are not capable of self-exaltation, we are merely capable of self-debauchery.’3

    ‘It is as well that the world knows only a fine piece of work and not only its origins, the conditions under which it came into being; for knowledge of the sources of an artist’s inspiration would often confuse readers and shock them, and the excellence of the writing would be of no avail.’4

    1. Mann, Thomas, Death In Venice and Other Stories, Translated by David Luke, London: Vintage, 1998. p.244
    2. Ibid. p.239
    3.Ibid. p.265
    4. Ibid. p.239


  2. Stuart Bird
    Oct 05, 2011 @ 11:41:59

    Death In Venice

    Any thoughts on Mann’s willingness to readily plunge into long, dark passages full of the gagged insinuations of his repressed sexuality?

    “a tropical swampland under a cloud-swollen sky, moist and lush and monstrous, a kind of primeval wilderness of islands, morasses and muddy alluvial channels; … he saw hairy palm-trunks. thrusting upwards from rank jungles of fern among thick fleshy plants in exuberant flower;”1

    What if we fast-forwarded from 1912 to, say, 1975 and asked Kenneth Williams to read them?

    Carry On Up the Canal, anyone?

    ‘ “I can row you well”. True enough, thought Aschenbach, relaxing. True enough, you will row me well. Even if you are after my cash and dispatch me to the house of Hades with a blow of your oar from behind, you will have rowed me well.’ 2

    Ooh, Gondolier!

    1. Mann, Thomas, Death In Venice and Other Stories, Translated by David Luke, London: Vintage, 1998. p.199
    2. Ibid. p.217


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