THE REAL TADZIO by Gilbert Adair


Thomas Mann’s “Death in Venice” and the Boy Who Inspired It
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An offbeat, engaging footnote to a standard-bearer of “gay literature, of what might whimsically be defined as ‘homotextuality.’ ”

When Thomas Mann laid eyes on the seraphic Wladyslaw Moes, a young aristocratic Pole vacationing in Venice, it was as though this vision of youth—“this sailor-suited ephebe,” writes novelist Adair (Love and Death on Long Island, not reviewed, etc.)—delivered intact the entire narrative of Death in Venice to Mann. In this thumbnail biography, readers learn the fate of the inspiration for Tadzio, twined with an impressive amount of cogitation, for so short a study, on the novel’s (and the film’s and the opera’s) dynamism—realism and symbolism, psychology and mythology, classicism and raunchiness—while taking fair measure of the story’s iconic resonance. Adair swerves comfortably between the life of Moes, who suffered all the wretchedness expected for being an aristocrat in post-WWII Poland, yet remained a dandy until the end of his days, and the novella he provoked, that “catastrophic loss of dignity suffered by a great and mature artist infatuated by a very much younger object of his lust.”

Pub Date: Sept. 1st, 2003
ISBN: 0-7867-1247-3
Page count: 112pp
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1st, 2003