Doctor Faustus: The Life of the German Composer Adrian Leverkuhn As Told by a Friend

Doctor Faustus: The Life of the German Composer Adrian Leverkuhn As Told by a Friend

Language: English

Pages: 544

ISBN: 0375701168

Format: PDF / Kindle (mobi) / ePub


"John E. Woods is revising our impression of Thomas Mann, masterpiece by masterpiece."  --The New Yorker

"Doctor Faustus is Mann's deepest artistic gesture. . . . Finely translated by John E. Woods." --The New Republic

Thomas Mann's last great novel, first published in 1947 and now newly rendered into English by acclaimed translator John E. Woods, is a modern reworking of the Faust legend, in which Germany sells its soul to the Devil. Mann's protagonist, the composer Adrian Leverkühn, is the flower of German culture, a brilliant, isolated, overreaching figure, his radical new music a breakneck game played by art at the very edge of impossibility. In return for twenty-four years of unparalleled musical accomplishment, he bargains away his soul--and the ability to love his fellow man.

Leverkühn's life story is a brilliant allegory of the rise of the Third Reich, of Germany's renunciation of its own humanity and its embrace of ambition and nihilism. It is also Mann's most profound meditation on the German genius--both national and individual--and the terrible responsibilities of the truly great artist.

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that on the whole moved at a higher level of technical competence than his own. All in all, it had something of the education of a princeling about it, and I recall that I used that very term when teasing my friend, and also recall how he gave his peculiar curt laugh and turned his head aside, as if he would have preferred not to hear it. Without doubt he was grate­ ful to his teacher for a style of instruction that took into account that his student, given his general state of intellectual

friendship ? I would do better to say: mine; for he did not insist that I be beside him while he listened to Kumpf or Schleppfuss, or in­ deed realize I was missing lectures in my courses to do so. I did it com- D O C T O R F A U S T U S I2 I pletely on my own, solely out of an undeniable desire to hear what he heard, to know what he was learning-in short, to look after him, for that seemed to me absolutely imperative, if futile. What an oddly, painfully mixed awareness I am describing:

out-much too late, in which one could clearly see a lack of any instinctual drive in that direction. He had found his way to the keyboard not out of any desire to set him­ self up as its master, but rather out of a secret curiosity about music itself; and, besides, he completely lacked the gypsy blood of the concertizing artist, who presents himself to the public through music, D O C T O R F A U S T U S using the occasion of music. For there were certain psychological pre­ conditions, he

it, was uniquely stamped with destiny and which in some sense both annulled the re­ cent past and reconnected with our common life from long ago, with moments whose memory I bore in my heart: with the time when I had found the lad experimenting on his uncle's harmonium, and, still far­ ther back, with our singing canons with barnyard Hanne under the lin­ den tree. It was a decision that raised my heart high with joy-and at the same time compressed it with fear. I can compare the feeling only with

necessary advan­ tage over the restraints of mockery, of arrogance, of intellectual self­ consciousness-that instinctive striving surely begins to stir and become determinative at the moment when the purely mechanical studies pre­ paratory to creating art first begin to mingle with one's own efforts (even if still quite preliminary and preparatory) at giving shape to one's art. XIX I without a shiver, not without a faltering of the heart-of the fateful M E N T I O N T H AT M O M E N T because

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