This is a meandering novella in which a world famous but waning writing wonders around Venice looking for something to inspire him and revitalize him or failing that, to kill him.
Aschenbach was shot to fame in his youth for a novel about Frederick the Great and sort of set upon the path of literary prowess and literary greatness, but as he aged, it turned out that his burnt up too much of his vigor and talent in his youth, and now, only 50, he’s ready to turn in.
Venice becomes a useful destination in part because of his desire to look toward European civilization’s starting places as a way to feel inspired again. So in one long section in the middle of this novella, it seems fitting that he feels connected to the mythopoeaic roots of Rome and Roman culture as he circulates the city. He still feels connected to earthly trappings throughout, but this is an almost whimsical, but not delightful sense of invigoration in his otherwise languorous journey.
This desire for passion and maybe a little too much of the When In Rome attitude….or more so When in Venice, do as Greek philosophers do…and he falls in love with a Polish boy. Not as disturbing as the explicitness of Nabokov’s Humber Humbert rationalizing his lust for small girls, Aschenbach doesn’t fare much better. He lingers in the city trying to spend more time in the bare presence of the boy and does not heed the advice to leave the city as a cholera epidemic takes over. He dies, having spent too much time trying to recapture….something he felt he had lost.
This novella feels very novellaish….as in like its subject its goal is to speak on weighty things. It’s interesting, but I was a little blah about it.