The struggle between reason and passion
The struggle between reason and passion is played out in the
character of the disciplined and ascetic Gustav von Aschenbach on
vacation at the Grand Hotel des Bains on the Lido in Thomas Mann’s novella Death in Venice (1912).
According to Thomas Mann’s wife Katia, in her book Unwritten Memories (1974), the story is closely based on their holiday on the Lido the previous year:
All the details of the story, beginning with the man at the cemetery,
are taken from experience … In the dining-room, on the very first day,
we saw the Polish family, which looked exactly the way my husband
described them: the girls were dressed rather stiffly and severely, and
the very charming, beautiful boy of about 13 was wearing a sailor suit
with an open collar and very pretty lacings. He caught my husband's
attention immediately. This boy was tremendously attractive, and my
husband was always watching him with his companions on the beach. He
didn't pursue him through all of Venice —that he didn't do— but the boy
did fascinate him, and he thought of him often …
Death in Venice was made into a successful movie by Luchino Visconti, released in 1971 and starring Dirk Bogarde. Above, a still from the movie, featuring Bjorn Andresen as the boy (centre, facing the camera).