*Düsseldorf. City on the Rhine River in western Germany’s Ruhr region, which was the nation’s industrial heart in the 1920’s. At one point in the narrative, the characters, who live in the best part of the city, unwittingly pass through a district given over to industry and lined with workers’ houses, an area they usually avoid. The genteel Düsseldorf described in the novella is a place of tree-lined streets and rows of apartment buildings with ornamented facades. It could be any provincial city in Germany during the 1920’s; as one character notes, it lacks the sophistication of Berlin or Munich. Nevertheless, it seems exactly the right place for the unfolding of Frau Rosalie von Tümmler’s poignant story. Like the city she inhabits, she is ordinary and provincial, yet possesses a touch of beauty and gentility.
Mann himself spent time in Düsseldorf, where, according to his biographers, he engaged in a homoerotic affair with a young man.
*Ruhr. The western German landscape that Frau Tümmler so loves stands in sharp contrast with the area’s industrialization, where weapons factories, steel mills, and coal mines dominate. Although crisscrossed with the heaviest concentration of railways in the world, the Ruhr has rich soil and a temperate climate that nurture such an abundance of trees and shrubbery and flowers that they tend to obscure the traces of heavy industry. In...
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