Abstract

The time of decline. A reading of Thomas Mann’s Buddenbrooks and Uwe Tellkamp’s Der Turm

This article is a comparative reading of Thomas Mann’s Buddenbrooks (1901) and Uwe Tellkamp’s Der Turm (2008). Both novels are family novels with decline as a main motif. Taking this motif as a point of departure, I ask if the authors operate with the same understanding of the concept. By analyzing the temporality and overall historical concept in the novels, I argue that although decline can be said to be the telos in both novels, this end is anticipated quite differently. In Mann’s novel the concept of decline has its upspring in a circular understanding of history, and means the ending of the bourgeois era and the degeneration of German culture. For Tellkamp decline means the coming of the end of the GDR and with that also an opening to something new altogether: what the Greeks called cairos.

Keywords: time, cairos, decline, history