Death in Venice: the Boons of Chaos

  • Patrick Reilly


Conrad’s fallen hero had been an artist, but there is nothing in the text that would entitle us to ascribe his fall to his artistic gifts. The most we can say is that his art was in the end no guard against the darkness, but not that it was its accomplice; he falls despite being an artist, not because he is one. The hero of Death in Venice is in very different case, for his destruction is inseparably linked to his vocation, and we are to see in this particular catastrophe a demonstration, however extreme, of the hazards of art and the perils of its practitioners. Art and darkness as insidiously allied, art as disease or crime, the artist as carrier or criminal, the foe of morality: these are the Nietzschean theses which Mann’s tale is designed to uphold.


Irish Artist Strenuous Exertion Beloved Object Poetic Inspiration Tragic Irony 
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  1. 1.
    Thomas Mann, Tonio Kröger, in Death in Venice, trans. H. T. Lowe-Porter (Harmondsworth, Middx: Penguin, 1957) p.156.Google Scholar
  2. 3.
    Thomas Mann, The Magic Mountain, trans. H. T. Lowe-Porter (Harmondsworth, Middx: Penguin, 1969) pp.491–4.Google Scholar
  3. 4.
    Friedrich Nietzsche, The Birth of Tragedy and the Genealogy of Morals, trans. Francis Golffing (New York: Doubleday, 1956) p.26.Google Scholar
  4. 14.
    Ibid., p.48. See Homer, The Odyssey, trans. E. V. Rieu (Harmondsworth, Middx: Penguin, 1954) p.79.Google Scholar
  5. 55.
    André Gide, The Immoralist, trans. Dorothy Bussy (Harmondsworth, Middx: Penguin, 1960) p. 137.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Patrick Reilly 1988

Authors and Affiliations

  • Patrick Reilly
    • 1
  1. 1.University of GlasgowScotland

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