Adrian Leverkühn (LEH-vehr-kewn), or Adri, a gifted musical composer who is convinced that he has entered into a twenty-four-year compact with Satan in which he has pledged his soul for an extended period of creativity. Like his Faustian predecessor in legend, he masters various academic goals while studying at Kaiseraschern, Halle, and Leipzig. At first he intends to become a student of theology, but while at Halle he deserts this field as arid and unchallenging. As a composer, he is influenced greatly by the technique of Arnold Schönberg. His most significant works are “Apocalypsis cum figuris” and the monumental “The Lamentation of Dr. Faustus,” for both of which he feels he has received unearthly inspiration at the expense of his salvation. Affable and spirited in his early years, he becomes literally and emotionally darker and more reclusive as his obsession intensifies. At the conclusion of the twenty-four years, in which time he has become internationally respected for his genius, he calls his friends to him and in anguish describes the imminent payment he must make of his soul. As he strikes the opening chords of “The Lamentation of Dr. Faustus,” he suddenly collapses over the keyboard, a victim of a paralytic stroke from which he never recovers in either mind or body. The novel, narrated by Leverkühn’s warmest and most sympathetic friend, Serenus Zeitblom, is presented as the biography of this afflicted genius.
Serenus Zeitblom (zeh-REH-news TSIT-blohm), or Seren, a doctor of philosophy, the narrator of the novel. a retired professor of classical languages, sixty years of age at the time he is writing, he describes the creative life and the hideous transformation of Leverkühn, whom he has known since childhood and with whom he studied at Halle and Leipzig. Through Zeitblom, Mann creates a double chronology that achieves a rich, symbolic pattern. While the professor describes the life and death of his...
(The entire section is 859 words.)