Short Story #3: The Path to the Cemetery by Thomas Mann
Title: The Path to the Cemetery
Author: Thomas Mann
Short Story #3 out of 365
Rating: 3 (out of 5 stars)
Date Read: 1/1/2014
Source: The World's Greatest Short Stories, Dover Thrift Edition, edited by James Daley.
SummaryThe story starts with introducing the reader to a path to the cemetery that parallels the highway. Soon, the reader is introduced to Piepsam Lobgott (Praisegod), a sad figure of a man who wanders the path to the cemetery to those few souls who ever loved him. They are reside in the cemetery and he has fallen into a life of drinking. When a young man on a bicycle rides past Piepsam on the footpath instead of the highway, Piepsam reproaches him and threatens to report him. Long after the boy has left (who is nameless but the narrator addresses as "Life" in that he represents all that Piepsam has lost; beauty, youth, carelessness, etc), Piepsam yells and screams until he collapses. The gathered spectators sent for men from the hospital and though in all likelihood, Piepsam is dead at story's end, I also wonder if he is actually dead or just gone mad and catatonic. One wonders at this point if that is a moot point.
ReflectionI'm not sure I have read anything of Mann. I may have but have since forgotten it or maybe was supposed to read it and never did. I'm not quite sure. But I liked this story. The pacing is what struck me most. It had a slow and meandering start as the narrator introduces the reader to the path, makes mention of things that are not relevant, but the pace quickens as we meet Piepsam, learn about his past and see him unleash his anger upon "Life." As I read it aloud (I find myself increasingly enjoying reading these stories aloud), I found myself speaking faster with no discernible explanation other than the story seemed to demand it.
Additionally, like Short Story #2: How Old Timofei Died With a Song by Rainer Maria Rilke, this story had an intriguing first sentence: "The path to the cemetery ran always parallel to the highway, always side by side until it reached its goal, that is to say, the cemetery." That Piepsam is the sole walker of this path tells the reader that he is indeed the most likely to end up in the cemetery.
For a full listing of all the short stories in this series, check out the category 365 Short Stories a year.
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