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Mahler's Influences in Literature

Chapter 32 - Influences in Literature


It is hardly surprising, given Gustav Mahler’s conservative disposition toward literature, that studies of his reception among writers have only marginally featured in an otherwise remarkably wide and sophisticated spectrum of critical engagements with the composer. The poets he set to music were inevitably older figures, usually folk-influenced, and he gave fin-de-siècle Vienna’s vibrant literary scene of coffeehouse intellectuals and salonnières (Arthur Schnitzler, Hermann Bahr, Hugo von Hofmannsthal, et al.) a comfortably wide berth. Nonetheless, important examples of his influence on subsequent writers do exist, first among them Thomas Mann, who based the name and physical description of the central character of his 1912 novella Death in Venice, Gustav von Aschenbach, on Mahler. This and subsequent cases are reviewed here, among them Stefan Zweig, Kurt Frieberger, Ingeborg Bachmann, Peter Rosegger, and others from the very recent past.

Published Cambridge University Press, 2020.

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