A direct quotation from the odyssey significantly a

This preview shows page 4 - 5 out of 8 pages.

a direct quotation from the Odyssey, significantly a description of existence after death in Elysium where “easy life is the lot of man, where there is neither snow, nor winter, nor storm or streaming rain, but Ocean ever sends a softly cooling breath and in blessed leisure the days run on.” Another time it is seen as Homeric Phaeacia, the nautical land of artful luxury, and Tadzio, in his sailor suit, is a Phaeacian youth living in indulgent elegance. Once the boy Jashu, who plays the role of Tadzio’s slave, is given advice which is a direct quotation from Xenophon’s Memorabilia , from a passage dealing with the ability of the mere sight of beauty to induce madness: “But my advice to you, Critoboulus, is to go and travel for a year, for that much time at least will you need for recovery.”In fact, most of the classical references are descriptions of Tadzio. Aschenbach thinks of him variously as Hyacinth, the boy killed by Zephyr out of jealousy of Apollo; as Ganymede, the boy carried off by Zeus to be his cupbearer; as Narcissus, the boy hopelessly in love with himself; as Cleitus and Kephalus, two boys carried off by Dawn. He is a sunlit statue of the noblest period, described in words borrowed from the art history of Winckelmann, the contemporary of Goethe, who introduced the notion and appreciation of antique sculpture into Germany. Once he is described in terms of the famous Hellenistic statue of a “boy pulling a thorn from his foot.” Another time he is a divinity, Eros, particularly “Eros self-wounded”—he often wears a blouse with a red bow, simulating a wound over his breast, a blouse on the collar of which “rested the bloom of the head with a charm that was matchless.” (In fact the chapter is full of hexameter tags, such as “the flickering blue of the aether,” and “lobsters running off sideways.”) Tadzio also appears as Eros in another, more significant, form. The Greeks, conveniently to Mann’s theme, had the same representation for Love and Death, a winged boy of about Tadzio’s age, sometimes recognized as a single deity—Eros Thanatos, the Death Eros. There is an essay by Lessing called “How the Ancients Represented Death,” which deals at length with the invariable attribute of this Death in ancient representations: that he stands in a graceful pose with his legs crossed—precisely the description of Tadzio as he stands near Aschenbach, who is listening to the outcast balladeer, while drinking pomegranate juice and inhaling the smell of the plague. And finally, the boy appears as Hermes Psychagogus—Hermes, the Leader of Souls, who conducts the poet, with a beckoning gesture familiar from ancient representations, out into the void of the sea and into nothingness. It is necessary for a moment to consider how antiquity comes both to Aschenbach and to Mann himself. For the former it is a tradition imparted in youth, that is to say, a part of the upbringing. Similarly Mann’s familiarity with Greek myths came from his childhood reading—in fact he had preserved, and used while writing Death in Venice,

  • Left Quote Icon

    Student Picture

  • Left Quote Icon

    Student Picture

  • Left Quote Icon

    Student Picture