The Black Swan, by Thomas Mann
This latest novella will scarcely add anything substantial to its author’s fame. Its theme of the fatal attraction of age to youth reminds us, though far from irresistibly, of Death in Venice. Actually it reads like a feeble parody of that early work of genius, with Frau Rosalie von Tümmler, a middle-aged Düsseldorf widow, put in as a ringer for the truly formidable Aschenbach, and with Ken Keaton, the young American, who has nothing in common with Tadzio but sheer youthfulness, somewhat casually enacting the role of that splendid and richly meaningful figure. Missing are the ardors and rigors of the Venetian tale: the closed form and classical discipline of style and craft triumphantly containing a thoroughly modern fiction of ambiguous desire, dissolution of personality, and death conceived of both as the secretly longed for consummation and inevitable issue of the collapse into guilty love—the Liebestod, in other words, fully brought up to date.
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