The novel “Doctor Faustus” was created by Thomas Mann in difficult times. The first pages of the work were written in 1943, when the truth about the collapse of a new national idea degenerated into fascism became apparent to everyone, even Germans. Published in 1947, the novel was an artistic denial of the anti-human ideal that Germany set for itself in the 1930s and 1940s.
The storyteller is a friend of the main character, Ph.D. Serenus Zeitblom, writes a biography of Adrian Leverkühn during the fall of German cities under the onslaught of Russian troops. Narrating the events at the beginning of the 20th century, he periodically returns the reader to the present, drawing a concrete parallel between the life story of a private individual and the whole country.
The ingenious composer Adrian Leverkühn is a fictional hero. In his artistic image is much more from Goethe’s Faust than from any of the real musicians. Separate reminiscence features are present in the character, but rather at the level of musical technique (parallel in the XXII chapter with Thomas Mann’s contemporary – composer and theoretician Arnold Schoenberg) than the character or characteristics of life. Musical compositions created by Adrian Leverkühn are not a continuation, but a contrast of classical works, which affirm the creative basis of creativity. The disharmony present in the symphonies of “Doctor Faustus” by the end of his life turns into a real “Lament”, which is the antipode of Beethoven’s ninth symphony and an expression of the internal decay of the composer’s personality.
The dominant character trait of the protagonist – pride is the basis of his insane genius, and his spiritual decline. The incredible individualism inherent in Adrian Leverkühn makes it inaccessible to simple human feelings, depriving a woman at the beginning of love, then a friend and, at the end of her life, her son named Nepomuk’s nephew. Adrian explains his failures with a deal with the Devil, which took place due to the initial corruption of his soul.
The devil does not need to persuade the hero to sign the contract: he is to clarify the terms of cooperation and explain how everything will work. The enemy of the human race becomes visible only after the appearance in the brain of Adrian of the foci of venereal meningitis – a disease that he picked up after the first love experience in the arms of a prostitute. The fall of the character explains his vision from a spiritual point of view, brain damage – from the physiological. Whether Adrian Leverkühn really met the Devil or it only seemed to him – the reader should decide. The storyteller does not dare to make any statements.
The main condition of the deal – the lack of love – is unquestionably fulfilled by Adrian until the penetration of the young talented violinist Rudolf Schwerdtfeger into his life. The persistence of the little dude imperceptibly for the composer wins his heart. Only the friendship that has arisen collapses suddenly when it turns out that Adrian and Rudolph love the same girl – the artist Marie Godot. The latter sees in Leverkühn only a brilliant composer, but Rudy, she gives her heart. The engagement of the artist and violinist turns into a tragedy: the former lover of Schwerdtfeger, Inesa Rodde, kills him in a tram after a concert. Adrian twice loses a friend – at the beginning due to betrayal, then – due to natural death.
In the novel “Doctor Faustus”, love has no life-affirming beginning: actress Clarissa Rodde kills herself, betrayed by a lover and abandoned by the groom; reaching for the simple bourgeois happiness of Ines Rodde, he turns out to be a sensual traitor, drug addict and criminal; Adrian Leverkühn, the “theologian” who preserves his purity, gives it to reproach to the harlot. It is hard to say whether love is present in the families of Serenus Zeitblom or Ursel Leverkühn. It is possible that these unions are formed due to the worldwide tradition of acquiring life partners when they reach a certain age.
The theme of love in the novel reflects the collapse of German culture, which is gradually slipping into the abyss of fascism. Adrian Leverkühn’s nephew, the five-year-old Nepomuk Schneidevein, is a symbolic image of an old, dying Germany – a beautiful and pure heart. The composer himself becomes a symbolic expression of Germany’s real – proud, loving no one, putting his own destructive genius above all else. The failure of internal individualism and external alienation is proved by the madness of Adrian Leverkühn and the collapse of Hitler’s Nazi ideas. The death of the composer and the destruction of Germany as a cultural country put an end to the two time layers of the narrative – 1940 and 1945, respectively.
Serenus Zeitblom connects the birth of fascism in Germany with the eternal desire of the German nation to declare itself. Already the First World War was perceived by the Germans as “liberation from world stagnation.” World War II was a new attempt to advance into the political arena. The bourgeois intelligentsia reacted negatively to Nazi ideas, but tried to see in them a real chance for the revival of the country. Serenus Zeitblom, taking part in the discussions of the Sixt Cridvis circle, eschews sympathetic talk about the new policy of the German authorities, but also does not express his rejection directly.
“Doctor Faustus” is an intellectual, philosophical, musical novel. It contains lengthy discussions about music – musical instruments, composers, ancient and modern techniques for creating musical works. Thomas Mann reveals to the reader the history of music, the nature of creativity, the problem of genius. The latter is considered in the novel in two ways – what owns Adrian Leverkühn can be called both insane genius and brilliant insanity at the same time.
The artistic space of the novel is represented by a small German town – Kaisersacher, the spirit of which pursues the main character throughout his life. Even looking up from his home, Adrian Leverkühn chooses his place of residence, one in one coinciding with the place where he spent his childhood. The composer’s inner loneliness is also determined by his external arrangement: in the beginning – outside the city, and then – in gloomy rooms without sunlight.