Travel and Disease in Thomas Mann’s Death in Venice

  • Ryszard W. Wolny Institute of English and American Studies, University of Opole, Poland


Thomas Mann’s novella, Death in Venice (Der Tod in Venedig, 1912), presents a story of an artist, Gustav von Aschenbach, suffering from the writer’s block who travels to Venice to look for inspiration and where he eventually finds his death. In the meantime, he suffers from depression strengthened by feats of febrile listlessness, pressure in the temples, heaviness of the eyelids that make discontent befall him. The putrid smell of the lagoon hastens his departure, but a strange coincidence makes him change his mind. He returns to the hotel drawn by the enthrallment for the young lad, Tadzio, he had spotted there. Wandering through the streets of Venice, he ignores the health notices in the city, only later learning that there is a serious cholera epidemic in Venice. But he does not escape, nor does he warn the boy’s family of the fatal danger. He dies in his beach chair, looking at the boy on the beach. The aim of this paper is, therefore, to explore the relationship between travel and disease as juxtaposed with a growing passion for a youth, unmistakably, a sign of life affirmation in a sickly body and burnt-out mind.Thomas Mann’s novella has been a subject of extensive commentaries and criticisms for over a century since it was published in Germany, first, in serial form in 1912 and 1913 and, then when it was translated into the French and English in the 1920s, thus introducing it to the rest of the world. The peak of critical interest in Mann’s oeuvre may be pinpointed to the 1970s when Luchino Visconti’s film, Morte a Venezia (1971), was released and Benjamin Britten’s opera composed and first staged (1973).
May 31, 2019
How to Cite
WOLNY, Ryszard W.. Travel and Disease in Thomas Mann’s Death in Venice. European Journal of Language and Literature, [S.l.], v. 5, n. 2, p. 13-18, may 2019. ISSN 2411-4103. Available at: <>. Date accessed: 27 sep. 2020. doi: