In 1835, the family of Buddenbrokes, highly revered in the small German merchant city of Marienkirche, moved to a new house on Mengstraße, recently acquired by the head of the firm “Johann Buddenbroke”. The family consists of the old Johann Buddenbrock, his wife, their son Johann, daughter-in-law Elizabeth and grandchildren: ten-year-old Thomas, eight-year-old Antony – Tony – and seven-year-old Christian. With them live still contemporaries Toni Klotilda, the offspring of the poor family line, and governess Ida Yungman, who served with them for so long that it is considered almost a member of the family.
But about the firstborn of Johann Buddenbrock, Sr., Gortholde, who lives on the Breitenstrasse, the family is trying not to mention: he committed a misalliance,
Two and a half years later, the house of Buddenbrokers comes to joy: Elizabeth is born the daughter of Clara. The happy father solemnly records this event in a notebook with a gold edge, begun by his grandfather and containing a long genealogy of the Buddenbrock family and personal records of the next head of the family.
And three and a half years later, the old Madame Buddenbroke dies. After that, her husband retires from business, passing the management of the company to his son. And soon he also dies… Having met Gortholm at the grave of his father, Johann firmly refuses to him in the inheritance: in front of the debt that imposes the title of head of the firm on him, all other feelings must be hushed up. But when Gorthold liquidates his shop and retires to rest, he and his three daughters are happily taken to the bosom of the family.
In the same year, Tom enters into his father’s business. Tony, confident in the power of the Buddenbrokes and accordingly in their own impunity, often upsets her parents with her pranks, and therefore she is sent to the boarding house of Zazemi Weichbrodt.
Tony is already eighteen years old, when Mr. Grünlich, a businessman from Hamburg, completely captivating her parents, makes her an offer. He does not like Tony, but neither his parents nor he himself accepts her refusal and insist on marriage. In the end, the girl is sent to Travemunde, to the sea: let her come to her senses, reflect and make the best decision. Settle it decided in the house of the old pilot Schwarzkopf.
The son of the pilot, Morgen, often spends time with Tony. Confident intimacy arises between them, and young people soon confess to each other in love. However, after returning home, Tony accidentally stumbles on a family notebook with a gold edge, reads… and suddenly realizes that she, Antonia Buddenbroke, – the link of a single chain and from birth is called to promote the exaltation of a kind. He grabbed the pen violently, and Tony wrote another line into the notebook – about his own engagement with Mr. Grünlich.
Tony is not the only one who goes against the dictates of the heart: Tom also has to leave his beloved, the saleswoman of the flower shop.
Family life Grunlichov does not work out very well: Grünlich does not pay much attention to his wife, tries to limit her expenses… And four years later it turns out that he is bankrupt: it could have happened before, not by chance he gets Tony with her dowry and create the impression that he is working with the firm of his father-in-law. Johann Buddenbrock refuses to help his son-in-law; he dissolves Tony’s marriage and takes her along with her daughter Erica to herself.
In 1855 Johann Buddenbrock dies. Supremacy in the firm actually goes to Thomas, although at his suggestion, his uncle Gorthold holds a fictitious position. Oh, Tom is a serious young man, who knows how to keep up appearances and who has a business sense! But the Christian, although he spent eight years in foreign lands, studying office work, does not show labor zeal and instead of compulsory sitting in the office of the family firm spends his time in the club and the theater.
Meanwhile, Clara is nineteen years old; she is so serious and god-fearing that it is difficult to marry her otherwise than as a person of spiritual rank, so Elizabeth Buddenbroke without thinking agrees to the marriage of her daughter with the pastor Tiburtius. Tom, to whom, after Gorthold’s death passes the title of head of the family and the position of the head of the firm, also agrees, but with one condition: if the mother allows him to marry Gerda Arnoldsen, Tony’s friend at the boarding house, he loves her, and, his future father-in-law is a millionaire…
Both engagements are celebrated in a close family circle: besides the relatives of the Buddenbrok, including the daughters of Gorthold – three old maidens with Breitenstraße and Clotilde, there are only Tiburtius, the Arnoldsen family and an old friend of the house Zazemi Weichbrodt. Tony introduces the history of the Buddenbrook family, reading out the family notebook… Soon two weddings will take place.
After that, silence reigns in the house on Mengstrzasse: Clara and her husband will now live in his homeland, in Riga; Tony, having entrusted Erik with Zazemi’s care, Weichbrodt, is leaving to visit his friend in Munich. Clotilda decides to settle herself and moves to a cheap boarding house. Tom and Gerda live separately. The Christian, who is more and more idle and therefore increasingly quarrels with his brother, eventually leaves the company and joins a partner in one company in Hamburg.
Here, Tony returns, but soon after her comes Alois the Permaneder, with whom she met in Munich. His manners leave much to be desired, but, as Tony says to his eternal attorney, Ide Jungman, his heart is kind, and most importantly – only a second marriage can make up for the failure with the first and remove the shameful stain from family history.
But the second marriage does not make Tony happy. Permaneder lives modestly, and really count on the fact that in Munich will respect the nativity of the Buddenbroke, and even more so. Her second child is born dead, and even grief can not bring the spouses together. And once aristocrat Tony finds her husband when he, drunk, tries to kiss the maid! The next day, Antonia returns to her mother and begins troubles about divorce. After that, it only remains for her to drag on the bleak existence of a divorced wife.
However, the family comes and joy – Thomas is born a son, the future heir of the company, named after his grandfather Johann, abbreviated – Ganno. Nyanchit it is taken, of course, Ida Yungman. And after a while Tom becomes a senator, winning the election of his old competitor in the trade of Hermann Hagenstrem, a man of an innocent and not honoring tradition. The new-born senator builds a new magnificent house – a real symbol of the power of the Buddenbrokes.
And then Klara dies of brain tuberculosis. Fulfilling her last request, Elizabeth gives Tiburtius the hereditary share of her daughter. When Tom learns that such a large amount without his consent left the firm’s capital, he is enraged. His faith in his own happiness is dealt a heavy blow.
In 1867, twenty-year-old Erika Grünlich marries Mr. Hugo Weinshenk, director of the insurance company. Tony is happy. Although in the family notebook next to the name of the director is inscribed the name of her daughter, and not her own, you might think that Tony is a bride – with such pleasure she is engaged in the arrangement of an apartment for young people and receives guests.
Meanwhile, Tom is in deep dejection. The notion that all successes have passed, that he is at forty-two years a man of conscience, based more on internal conviction than on external facts, completely deprives him of energy. Tom tries to catch his luck again and starts up a risky fraud, but that, alas, fails. The firm “Johann Buddenbroke” gradually descends to a penny turn, and there is no hope for a change for the better. The long-awaited heir, Ganno, despite all the efforts of his father, shows no interest in the trade business; this sickly boy, like his mother, is fond of music. Once Ganno falls into the hands of an old family notebook. The boy finds there the family tree and almost mechanically draws a line across his page below his name. And when the father asks him what it means, Ganno babbles: “
Erika’s daughter Elizabeth is born. But the family life of Weinshenkov is not destined to last long: the director, who did not do anything that most of his colleagues do not, is accused of an offense, sentenced to imprisonment and immediately taken into custody.
A year later, old Elizabeth Buddenbroke dies. Immediately after her death, Christian, who never managed to get accustomed to any company, lounging and constantly complaining about his health, declares his intention to marry Aline Poufogel, a person of easy virtue from Hamburg. Tom resolutely forbids him.
A big house on Mengstraße is no longer needed by anyone, and it is sold. And Herman Hagenstrem buys the house, whose trading business, in contrast to the affairs of the firm “Johann Buddenbroke,” is getting better and better. Thomas feels that he, with his constant doubts and fatigue, does not return the family company of the former glitter, and hopes that his son will do it. But alas! Ganno still shows only resignation and indifference. Disagreements with his son, deteriorating health, suspicion of his wife’s infidelity – all this leads to a decline in strength, both moral and physical. Thomas anticipates his death.
Early in 1873, Weinshenk was released ahead of schedule. Even without appearing on the eyes of his wife’s relatives, he leaves, informing Erika of his decision not to unite with his family until he can provide her with a decent life. More about it no one will hear anything.
And in January 1875, Thomas Buddenbroke dies. His last will – with the firm “Johann Buddenbroke”, which has a hundred-year history, should be finished within one year. The liquidation goes so hastily and unskillfully that from the condition of the Buddenbrokes, soon there are only crumbs left. Gerda is forced to sell a magnificent senator’s house and move to a country villa. In addition, she counts Idu Yungman, and she leaves for relatives. He departs from the city and the Christians – at last he can marry Alina Poufogel. And although Tony Buddenbroke does not recognize Alina as her relative, nothing can stop the latter from putting her husband in a closed clinic and taking full advantage of legal marriage, leading her former way of life.
Now the first place in the society of the Marienkirche is occupied by the Hagenstrems, and this is deeply wounded by Tony Buddenbroke. However, she believes that in time, Ganno will return their surnames to the former greatness.
Ganno is only fifteen years old when he dies of typhus…
Six months after his death Gerd goes to Amsterdam to his father, and together with her, the remains of Buddenbrok’s capital and their prestige finally leave the city. But Tony and his daughter, Clotilde, the three ladies Budenbrok with Breitenstraße and Zazemi Weichbrodt will still gather together, read the family notebook and hope… to hope for the best.