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Magnificent Houses in Twentieth Century European Literature


Hugo G. Walter

Magnificent Houses in Twentieth Century European Literature is a collection of great and imaginative essays that explore the theme of magnificent and aesthetically interesting houses in twentieth century European literature. It focuses especially on important works by Thomas Mann, Evelyn Waugh, J.R.R. Tolkien, and Siegfried Lenz, while also discussing other significant houses in modern European literature.


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Chapter 1 Thomas Mann 45


C h a p t e r 1 Thomas Mann Buddenbrooks—The Rise and Fall of a Prominent Family and Its Aura of Sanctuary Buddenbrooks (1901), one of the greatest novels of the twentieth century, is a narra- tive by Thomas Mann which focuses on a patrician family and on its fortunes, mis- fortunes, motivations, and inclinations. While concentrating on the lives of four generations of the Buddenbrooks, the novel focuses especially on the third genera- tion of the family, that of Thomas and Tony Buddenbrook. Even though the subtitle of the novel is “Verfall einer Familie,” the narrative presents much more than just a precipitous decline, offering instead a rich tapestry of characters and themes in the presentation of the apparent rise and fall of the family fortunes, as Inge Diersen effec- tively points out in Thomas Mann: Episches Werk, Weltanschauung, Leben: “Doch die Verfallsgeschichte entpuppt sich als ein kompliziertes Ineinander von Verlust und Gewinn, das keine einfachen Wertungen, keine einfachen Ursache-Wirkung- Beziehungen herzustellen erlaubt” (23). Helmut Koopmann writes effectively in “Buddenbrooks: Die Ambivalenz im Problem des Verfalls” that the notion of “Verfall” represents and encompasses both a sense of biological decline and a sense of intellectual and spiritual heightening: “Die wachsende biologische Dekadenz der Familie Buddenbrook wird zugleich eine geis- tige Verfeinerung und eine Sublimation des Seelischen zeitigen, die ihren Zenit am interior_walter.indd 45 5/24/12 10:41 AM 46 magnifiCent houses in twentieth Century european literature Ende des Romans haben wird” (41). Koopmann also suggests insightfully that...

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