A comparison of Death in Venice by Thomas Mann and Baron in the Trees by Italo Calvino.
Solitary individuals often exploit different views on our world, sometimes accompanied by a "disharmonious" way of living, as we can see in these two books. The concept of a distant view on life, is applied in both works, be it Gustav von Aschenbach's artistic dilemma in Death in Venice or Cosimo's escape from rules and regulations by leaving the natural life on the ground, to live beneath the sky yet above the earth, in Baron in the Trees. What is it then, that drives them? Is it the pursuit of perfection, of utmost beauty? The wish to live independently, free from the humdrum routine of an earthbound existence? Or perhaps they are merely engaging in a quest for romance? Both of the lead characters are different from the rest; both are hermits in their own separate ways, and their views on our world are accordingly diverse.
Death in Venice, written by Thomas Mann in 1912, is a symbol-laden story of aestheticism and decadence. Gustav von Aschenbach is an ascetic German author with a sense for discipline and formal perfection in literature, and writes thereafter. Upon travelling to Venice for vacation purposes, he encounters a young boy, named Tadzio. Obviously, this boy is a splendid example of Grecian, almost godlike beauty and innocence. Fascinated by this pulchritudinous being, Aschenbach is willingly engulfed in a whirlpool of decadence, sacrificing his once proud and dignified self in favour of an ever-increasing state of obsession for this boy and degradation of his former person. This infatuation eventually takes his life, when a lethal cholera invades Venice. He has the opportunity to leave, but cannot bring himself to leave what has now become an object of desire. Henceforth, his life ends in the embracement of madness.
This novel undoubtedly deals with the role of the artist in society, and houses numerous images and both historical and mythical figures.