Lübeck versus Berlin in Thomas Manns Buddenbrooks

Yahya Elsaghe


From early on, Buddenbrooks has been received as a ‘German’ novel in an unequivocal and unqualified sense of the term. Why, then, is the German unification of 1871 almost completely absent from the narration? Why does the city of Berlin play such a subordinate part in it? Why does the name of the capital occur only in dubious, if not fatal, collocations? Why, on the other hand, are the historical data of Lübeckian institutions manipulated so massively? Why, for example, is the tenure of a new head of school aligned with the founding date of the Second Empire? And why does the narrator avoid referring to ‘his’ city by its proper name? These and some other questions are to be examined on the basis of a socio-historical contextualisation of the text. As a result of its re-reading the novel will prove to be far more Lübeckian than German. (YE; in German)

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