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Cholera in Thomas Mann's Death in Venice

Lookup NU author(s): Dr Thomas Rütten


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The article sets the cholera motif in Thomas Mann's famous novella Death in Venice against the historical context from which it partially originates. It is shown that this motif, while undoubtedly appropriated to serve Mann's own poetic ends, has a solid grounding in historical and autobiographical fact, thus blurring the boundaries between fact and fiction. The article illustrates the verifiable events of the outbreak of the Venetian cholera epidemic in May 1911, which Mann partly witnessed himself, during a holiday trip to Brioni and Venice, and partly heard and read about. It is established that Thomas Mann's account of the cholera in Venice in his novella is characterised by a rare and almost preternatural insightfulness into an otherwise murky affair that was marked by rumours, speculations and denials.

Publication metadata

Author(s): Rutten T

Publication type: Article

Publication status: Published

Journal: Gesnerus – Swiss Journal of the History of Medicine and Sciences

Year: 2009

Volume: 66

Issue: 2

Pages: 256-287

Print publication date: 01/01/2009

ISSN (print): 0016-9161

ISSN (electronic): 1017-3293

Publisher: Schwabe AG



Funder referenceFunder name
082800Wellcome Trust