Friday, January 7, 2011

Aimless Reading: The M's, Part 9.2 (Thomas Mann)

Mann, Thomas
Joseph and his Brothers


Purchased at Talking Leaves...Books.

After having read The Magic Mountain, I wanted to read more Thomas Mann, so I decided to read this tome. It is a 1,200 page retelling of the bible story. I made it about 3/4 of the way through and then skimmed my way to the end. Not sure reading the actual bible story wouldn't have been more useful. Definitely not my favorite book by Thomas Mann.

It may also have been the timing. We had just sold our house and spent about four months in agony packing our things, renting a new apartment, and waiting for the sale to close. And waiting...and waiting...and waiting. We lived in an economically depressed neighborhood and we had a really nice house that the mortgage company for the buyer decided was not worth the asking price. After approving the mortgage, they declined it, so the buyer had to go through the whole approval process again.

We'd already rented an apartment for January 1, but I don't think we closed until mid- or late February, so we paid rent and mortgage for two months. We moved into what we thought was a nice apartment on Auburn Ave. in Buffalo. Turned out the landlord had failed to properly connect the heat in our bedroom, so we spent the whole winter without proper heat in the bedroom.

It was in the midst of all this that I read the story of Joseph being sold into slavery by his brothers, etc. I can picture the book next to out bed in that cold, cold room, and I can see myself skimming the pages to get to the end. Now that I am writing about it, I have to say my memory of book suddenly seems pretty clear, so it must have had some effect on me.

from Joseph and his Brothers

It was beyond the hills to the north of Hebron, a little to the east of the road from Urusalim, in the month of Adar, on a spring evening flooded by moonlight bright enough to render writing legible and to reveal-in precise tracery yet shimmering like gossamer-the smallest detail of the leaves and clustered blossoms of a solitary tree, an aged and mighty terebinth, which despite a rather short trunk flung its sturdy branches wide. This beautiful tree was sacred. Beneath its shade counsel might be obtained in various ways, both from the mouths of men-because those who were moved to share their experience of the divine would gather listeners beneath its branches-and by higher means. For those who had slept with their heads leaning against its trunk had, in fact, repeatedly received instruction and prophecy, and during the many years of burnt sacrifices offered at this spot-as attested by the blackened surface of a stone slaughtering table where a slightly sooty flame guttered-the behavior of the smoke, a telling flight of a bird, or even some sign in the heavens had often reinforced the particular fascination that such pious acts at the foot of the tree enjoyed.

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