Buddenbrooks. Verfall einer Familie

  • Country in which the text is set
  • Featured locations
    Möwenstein             Mövenstein


  • Impact

    The novel portrays the fate of a patrician family in Lübeck between 1835 and 1877. Over four generations the family’s “decline” accelerates as the men become increasingly alienated from their inherited profession as merchants due to their increasing refinement and attraction to the life of the mind (music, philosophy). Their lifespan decreases from generation to generation. Along with her brothers Thomas and Christian, Tony Buddenbrooks belongs to the third generation and ultimately proves the most vital and hardy of the siblings. But she too is forced to make sacrifices. Shortly after coming of age she faces pressure from her family to marry a man she does not love, Bendix Grünlich, who is presented almost as a caricature of a businessman. However, Tony is permitted a brief hiatus in Travemünde, where she finds true love for only time in her life, a relationship she subsequently sacrifices for the “firm.”

    When writing about himself, Thomas Mann frequently refers to Buddenbrooks, his most popular novel and the one that saw his breakthrough as an author. The texts Bilse und ich (1906) and Lübeck als Geistige Lebensform (1926) are essential reading for any interpretation of Buddenbrooks. In both these texts Mann argues against an overly ‘realistic,’ autobiographic interpretation of the novel and particularly against seeing the work as somehow “peeking” into Lübeck society. In his portrayal of student-fraternity (Burschenschaft) member Morten Schwarzkopf, Mann seems to have drawn on the work of esteemed Danish literary critic Georg Brandes: Die Hauptströmungen der Literatur des 19. Jahrhunderts (Danish 1871 ff, German 1897, see vol.6: Das Junge Deutschland)

    Nobel Prize 1929 “in particular for [...] Buddenbrooks [...] as a classic work of modern times“, by 1930 the number of copies published had crossed the one-million mark.

    Hans Peter Neureuter

  • Balticness

    On a symbolic level the Baltic Sea—like love—comes to represent Tony’s experience of the infinite, the sea becomes the experience of the endless abyss.


  • Bibliographic information

    Thomas Mann: Buddenbrooks. Verfall einer Familie. Novel. Edited and revised by Eckhard Heftrich in cooperation with Stephan Stachorski and Herbert Lehnert.Große kommentierte Frankfurter Ausgabe. Werke – Briefe – Tagebücher, vol. 1.1, p.145-158 (part 3, chapters 8-9); Kommentarband 1.2; Frankfurt am Main 2002.

  • Translations
    Language Year Translator
    Danish 1903 L. Stange
    Danish 1953 Johannes Wulff
    Danish 2002 Niels Brunse
    English 1935 Helen Tracy Lowe-Porter
    English 1994 John E. Woods
    Estonian 1936 Jaan Kangilaski
    Finnish 1925 Siiri Siegberg
    Finnish 2010 Ilona Nykyri
    Icelandic 1999 Þorbjörg Bjarnar Friðriksdó́ttir
    Latvian 1929 Lizete Skalbe, Kārlis Štrāls, Zelma Kroder
    Lithuanian 1930 K. Karnauskas
    Lithuanian 1968 J. Vaznelis
    Norwegian 1952 Margrethe Kjær
    Norwegian 2005 Per Paulsen
    Polish 1931 Ewa Librowiczowa
    Polish 1971 Ewa Librowiczowa, rev. by Jan Bokiewicz, Wojciech Freudenreich
    Russian 1935 V. A. Zorgenfreja
    Russian 1953 Natalia Man
    Swedish 1904 Walborg Hedberg
    Swedish 1930 Alfred Wingren
    Swedish 1934 Curt Munthe
    Swedish 1952 Walborg Hedberg, rev. by Irma Nordvang
    Swedish 1975 Walborg Hedberg, rev. by Nils Holmberg
    Swedish 2005 Ulrika Wallenström
  • Year of first publication
  • Place of first publication

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