*Lübeck (LEW-behk). German city in which the novel is set. Although the novel does not identify the city by name, its four-story house at 4 Meng Street is clearly the house that belonged to Thomas Mann’s grandparents. All but the elegant facade and cellar were destroyed when Lübeck was bombed in 1942. These have been preserved in the new building, the Buddenbrook House, the Heinrich and Thomas Mann Center purchased by the City of Lübeck in 1991. As in the novel, Meng Street intersects Breite Street and stands in the shadow of the medieval twin towers of St. Mary’s Church.
Most of the action is set within the walls of the Buddenbrooks’ two homes, not only because of the damp, cold climate on the Baltic Sea but also because the family is perhaps unconsciously insulating itself from the social upheaval that has been sweeping Europe since the French Revolution. Two rooms in particular define their protected living space in the Meng Street residence. The salon is called the “landscape room” because it is hung with large tapestries of idyllic scenes; and the formal dining room is called the “room of the gods” because statues of Greek gods are set into the walls.
The Meng Street house, which is purchased by the Buddenbrooks at the height of their prosperity, is still closely connected with the family business and has grain storage facilities on the premises. However, the fact that the family has let the back wing of the house fall into ruin is a sign that the Buddenbrooks’ fortunes are in decline. Stray cats inhabit the space over rotten floorboards.
Their opulent new home on Fischergrube has attractive features, which reflect the family’s aesthetic and philosophical preoccupations. There is a large music room with a grand piano, and the...
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