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The Fundamental Connection Between Sickness and Creativity By Bhaskar Banerjee

Thomas Mann, a German short story writer-novelist was awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1929. When his diaries were unsealed in 1975, they told of his struggles with his sexuality and which found reflection in his many works. His Death in Venice (1912) is a short novel wherein perverted love, decay and death result from a breakdown of traditional morals of a celebrated middle-aged writer Aschenbach belonging to Munich.
A dedicated artist with strong moral attitudes, Aschenbach proceeds on a holiday to Venice. In the hotel he finds himself watching a fourteen-year-old boy of Polish family whose flawless beauty and profile recalled a piece of classical Greek sculpture. From then on, after the initial aesthetic response, Aschenbach is lost. Sensuality he has subdued all his life. But now, the conflict between sensuality and intellect keep troubling him all the time. Looking at the boy, Tadzio, fills him with the anguish of love, expressed outside the door of the boy's bedroom. One night, a dream filled with orgiastic Dionysian imagery reveals to him the sexual nature of his feelings for Tadzio. And it leads to following the boy, contemplating, dreaming - spanning the whole gamut of unrest, ecstasy and fear.
Aschenbach's judgment becomes diseased and perverted. Thus, Achenbach's encounter with a silent stranger standing alone at a mortuary at Munich with bellicose gaze straight into the eyes sets his heart throbbing with horror and enigmatic desire. The stranger's white and long lips, exposed gums, red eyelashes over pale eyes, two vertical furrows like horns on his forehead - these give him the mask of death and the marks of the devil. The stranger symbolizes the demonic atmosphere that pervades Aschenbach's progressive decline. He also, in the meanwhile, suffered the bonhomie of a lascivious young-old man, roughed and drunk - all these prior incidences are indicative of his innate moral decadence, and of what he is to become when he follows the boy Tadzio through the 'odour of the sickened city' , Venice.
He (Aschenbach) becomes, with the aid of a cosmetic expert's rouge and hair dye, the old-young fop, and is constantly lured into the sight of the boy, who seems to be aware of his attentions, and, in return, seems also to be encouraging and tempting him.
On a near-deserted beach Aschenbach watches Tadzio for the last time, driven to agony on seeing the boy unsupervised for once, fighting with an older boy where Tadzio is quickly bested. Angrily, Tadzio leaves his companion and wades over to Aschenbach's part of the beach, where he stands for a moment looking out to sea; then turns halfway around to look at his "lover". To Aschenbach, it is as if the boy is beckoning to him. Irrevocably caught in the fatal fascination of the boy's corruptive beauty, he tries to rise and follow, only to collapse back into his chair, and soon after dies of cholera in the silence of his homosexual love.
When news of his death becomes public, the world decorously mourns the passing of a great artist, his artistic reputation remaining unharmed. But the secret of his moral degeneration, too, dies with Aschenbach's death.
Aschenbach had been the 'Apollonian' artist (Apollo, the god of reason and the intellect) who cultivated the classical virtues of restraint, moderation and harmony. But after seeing the beautiful boy his repressed emotional and sexual urges found release in 'Dionysian' lawlessness (Dionysus, god of unreason and of passion), where the developing neurosis led to his unnatural obsession, infatuation, moral collapse, broken health and inglorious death. Achenbach is portrayed as the unheroic hero of the story.
Aschenbach embodies the conflict between Art and Life - between creativity and sicknesses in real life.
Mann, although attacked sarcastically by his enemies for having made paederasty (boy-love) acceptable to the cultivated middle classes, it has been pivotal to introducing the discourse of same-sex to the common culture; Mann probably intending to stress the need for a balanced existence.
Bhaskar Banerjee runs iBongo Inc. as a Business Development Manager for iBongo Inc. and manages a recently developed website Rajasthan.iBongo Rajasthan.iBongo - He is dedicated and works hard to ensure success.
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