Death in Venice
Gustav Ashenbach on a warm spring evening 19 … left his Munich apartment and went on a long walk. Excited by day labor, the writer hoped that his walk would reassure him. Coming back, he was tired and decided to take the tram at the Northern Cemetery. At the bus stop and near her there was no soul. On the contrary, in the glimmer of the passing day, the Byzantine structure-the chapel-was silent. In the portico of the chapel, Ashenbach noticed a man whose extraordinary appearance gave his thoughts a completely different direction. He was of medium height, a thin, beardless, and very snub-nosed man with red hair and milky-white freckled skin. The broad-brimmed hat gave him the appearance of a stranger from far edges, in his hand he had a stick
Until now, he had looked at travel as a kind of hygienic measure and never felt tempted to leave Europe. His life was limited to Munich and a hut in the mountains, where he spent a rainy summer. The thought of traveling, about a break in work for a long time, seemed to him dissolute and destructive, but then he thought that he still needed changes. Ashenbach decided to spend two or three weeks in some corner of the affectionate south.
The creator of the epic about the life of Friedrich of Prussia, the author of the novel “Maya” and the famous story “The Insignificant,” the creator of the treatise “Spirit and Art,” Gustav Aschenbach was born in Leningrad, a district town of the Silesian province, to the family of a prominent judicial official. He made up his name as a schoolboy. Due to poor health, doctors forbade the boy to attend school, and he was forced to study at home. On the part of his father, Ashenbach inherited a strong will and self-discipline. He began the day by pouring cold water, and then for several hours honestly and zealously sacrificed art to the accumulated forces in the dream. He was rewarded: on the day of his fiftieth birthday the emperor granted him the title of nobleman, and the
After several attempts to settle somewhere, Aschenbach settled in Munich. The marriage, in which he joined a young man with a girl from a professorial family, was terminated by her death. He still has a daughter, now married. The son has never been. Gustav Aschenbach was slightly below average height, brunette with a shaven face. His combed back, already almost gray hair framed a high forehead. The bow of gold glasses crashed into the bridge of the nose of a large, noblely contoured nose. His mouth was large, his cheeks thin, in wrinkles, his chin was divided by a soft dash. These traits were carved by a chisel of art, rather than a hard and troubled life.
Two weeks after the memorable walk, Ashenbach departed with a night train to Trieste, so that next morning he could board a steamer going to Paul. He chose an island for rest in the Adriatic Sea. However, rains, humid air and provincial society irritated him. Soon Aschenbach realized that he had made the wrong choice. Three weeks after arrival, the fast motorboat had already taken him to the Military Harbor, where he boarded a steamer going to Venice.
Leaning his arm on the rail, Ashenbah looked at the passengers who had already boarded. On the upper deck stood a bunch of young people. They chatted and laughed. One of them, in an overly fashionable and bright suit, stood out from the whole company with his croaking voice and exaggerated excitement. Looking more closely at him, Ashenbach realized with horror that the boy was a fake. Under the make-up and fair-haired wig was an old man with wrinkled hands. Ashenbach looked at him, shuddering.
Venice met Ashenbach with a gloomy, leaden sky; from time to time it was drizzling with rain. The disgusting old man was also on deck. Ashenbach looked at him frowning, and he was seized by a vague feeling that the world was slowly transforming into a nonsense, into a caricature.
Ashenbach settled in a large hotel. During the dinner, Ashenbach noticed a Polish family behind the neighboring table: three young girls of fifteen to seventeen years under the supervision of a governess and a boy with long hair, looking like fourteen years old. Ashenbach noted with amazement to himself his immaculate beauty. The boy’s face was like a Greek sculpture. Ashenbach was struck by the clear distinction between the boy and his sisters, which even affected the clothes. The outfit of the young girls was extremely unpretentious, they held stiffly, the boy was dressed smartly and his manners were free and at ease. Soon the children joined a cold and majestic woman, whose strict outfit was adorned with magnificent pearls. Apparently, it was their mother.
The next day the weather did not get better. It was damp, heavy clouds covered the sky. Ashenbach began to think about leaving. During breakfast, he again saw the boy and again marveled at his beauty. A little later, sitting in a lounger on a sandy beach, Ashenbach again saw the boy. He, along with other children, built a castle of sand. The children called out to him, but Ashenbach could not make out his name. Finally he established that the boy’s name was Tadzio, a diminutive of Tadeusz. Even when Ashenbach did not look at him, he kept remembering that Tadzio was somewhere nearby. His father’s benevolence filled his heart. After the second breakfast, Ashenbach climbed up in the elevator with Tadzio. For the first time he had seen him so close. Ashenbach noticed that the boy was fragile. “He is weak and painful,” Ashenbach thought, “truly, he will not live to be old.”
A walk through Venice did not bring pleasure to Ashenbach. Returning to the hotel, he told the administration that he was leaving.
When Ashenbach opened the window in the morning, the sky was still cloudy, but the air seemed fresh. He repented of the hasty decision to leave, but it was too late to change it. Soon Aschenbach was already on a steamer on a familiar road through the lagoon. Ashenbach looked at the beautiful Venice, and his heart was torn. What was a mild regret in the morning, now turned into anguish. When the steamer approached the station, Ashenbach’s pain and confusion increased to mental confusion. At the station, a messenger from the hotel approached him and informed that his baggage had been sent by mistake almost in the opposite direction. With difficulty concealing his joy, Ashenbach said that without luggage anywhere will not go and returned to the hotel. Around noon he saw Tadzio and realized that the departure was so difficult for him because of the boy.
The next day the sky cleared, the bright sun flooded the sandy beach with its radiance, and Ashenbach no longer thought of leaving. He saw the boy almost constantly, he met him everywhere. Soon Ashenbach knew every line, every turn of his beautiful body, and there was no end to his admiration. It was a drunken ecstasy, and the aging artist surrendered to him with greed. Suddenly Ashenbach wanted to write. He shaped his prose on the model of Tadzio’s beauty – these exquisite one and a half pages, which were soon to cause general admiration. When Ashenbach finished his work, he felt exhausted, he was even tormented by conscience, as after unauthorized disingenuity.
The next morning, Ashenbach had the idea of bringing a cheerful, easy acquaintance with Tadzio, but he could not speak to the boy-he was overcome by a strange timidity. This acquaintance could lead to healing sobering, but the aging person did not aspire to him, he too treasured his drunken state. Ashenbach no longer cared about the term of the holidays, which he himself arranged. Now he gave all his strength not to art, but to the feeling that intoxicated him. He rose early: Tadzio was barely disappearing, the day seemed to him lived. But it was just beginning to dawn, as he was already awakened by the memory of a heartfelt adventure. Then Ashenbach sat at the window and patiently waited for the dawn.
Soon, Aschenbach saw that Tadzio noticed his attention. Sometimes he looked up, and their eyes met. Once Ashenbach was awarded a smile, he took it with him, as a gift, promising trouble. Sitting on a bench in the garden, he whispered words, despicable, unthinkable here, but sacred and in spite of everything worthy: “I love you!”.
In the fourth week of his stay, Gustav von Aschenbach felt some changes. The number of guests, despite the fact that the season was in full swing, was clearly decreasing. In German newspapers there were rumors of an epidemic, but the hotel staff denied everything, calling the disinfection of the city preventive measures of the police. Ashenbach felt unaccountable satisfaction from this evil secret. He only worried about one thing: if Tadzio had left. With horror he realized that he did not know how he would live without him, and decided to keep silent about the mystery that he accidentally found out.
Meetings with Tadzio no longer satisfied Ashenbach; he pursued, tracked him down. And yet it was impossible to say that he suffered. The brain and his heart became intoxicated. He obeyed the demon, who trampled his mind and dignity with his feet. Dumbfounded, Ashenbach wanted only one thing: persistently pursue the one who lit his blood, dream about him and whisper the tender words of his shadow.
One evening a small troupe of wandering singers from the city gave a performance in the garden in front of the hotel. Ashenbach was sitting at the balustrade. His nerves reveled in vulgar sounds and a vulgar melodic melody. He sat at ease, although he was tense internally, for Tadzio stood at the foot of the stone balustrade five paces from him. Sometimes he turned around his left shoulder, as if he wanted to surprise the one who loved him. The shameful fear caused Ashenbach to lower his eyes. He already noticed more than once that the women who patronized Tadzio recalled the boy if he was near him. This caused Ashenbach’s pride to languish in hitherto unknown torments. Street actors began to collect money. When one of them approached Ashenbach, he again smelled disinfection. He asked the actor why they disinfected Venice, and in response he heard only the official version.
The next day, Ashenbach made a new effort to learn the truth about the outside world. He went to the English travel agency and turned to the clerk with his fatal question. The clerk told the truth. In Venice came the epidemic of Asian cholera. Infection penetrated food products and began to mow people on tight Venetian streets, and premature heat was as much as possible favored by it. Cases of recovery were rare, eighty and a hundred people died. But the fear of ruin proved to be stronger than honest compliance with international treaties and forced the city authorities to persist in the policy of silence. The people knew this. On the streets of Venice grew crime, professional debauchery took an unprecedented brazen and unbridled forms.
The Englishman advised Ashenbach to leave Venice urgently. The first thought of Ashenbach was to warn about the danger of the Polish family. Then he will be allowed to touch the head of Tadzio; then he turns and flies out of this swamp. At the same time, Ashenbach felt that he was infinitely far from seriously wanting such an outcome. This step would again make Ashenbach himself, which he now feared most. This night, Ashenbach had a terrible dream. He dreamed that he, submissive to the power of an alien god, participates in a shameless bacchanalia. From this dream Ashenbach woke up broken, helplessly obeyed the power of the demon.
The truth swam out into the light, the hotel guests hurried away, but the lady with the pearls was still here. Ashenbach, embraced by passion, at times it seemed that flight and death would sweep away all life around him, and he alone, along with the beautiful Tadzio, would remain on this island. Ashenbach began to select bright, young details for his costume, to wear precious stones and sprinkled with perfume. He changed clothes several times a day and spent a lot of time on it. In the face of a voluptuous youth, his own aging body disgusted him. Hairdresser at the hotel Ashenbach painted his hair and put on his face makeup. With a beating heart he saw a young man in the color of years in the mirror. Now he was not afraid of anyone and openly pursued Tadzio.
A few days later, Gustav von Aschenbach felt unwell. He tried to overcome the attacks of nausea, which were accompanied by a feeling of despair. In the hall he saw a pile of suitcases – the Polish family was leaving. The beach was unfriendly and deserted. Ashenbach, lying in a chaise longue and covering his knees with a blanket, again looked at him. Suddenly, as if obeying a sudden impulse, Tadzio turned. The one who contemplated him was sitting just as he did on the day when this twilight gray gaze first met his gaze. Ashenbach’s head slowly turned, as though repeating the boy’s movement, then rose to meet his gaze and fell to her breast. His face took a languid, inward-looking expression, like a man sinking into a deep slumber. Ashenbach thought that Tadzio was smiling at him, nodding and taking him to an immense space. As always,
A few minutes passed before some people rushed to the aid of Ashenbach, slipping on his side in his chair. On the same day, the shocked world received with reverence the news of his death.