Buddenbrooks by Thomas Mann, dramatized by Judith Adams

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Classic Serial on BBC Radio 4

BBC Radio 4, 12-26 August 2012
Spanning four generations of the Buddenbrook family, this saga saw the family trying to sustain their inheritance - a trading company on the Baltic Sea - in the changing world of nineteenth century Europe.
The narrator, Count Molin (Pip Carter) told the tale in a calm, detached manner, as if refusing to become involved in any of the problems besetting the family. Or perhaps his tone was symptomatic of a bourgeois world in which human feelings counted for little; success in business mattered. Toni Buddenbrook (Clare Corbett) was married off to the Count with scant regard for her feelings; it was more important to forge a suitable professional connection between the two families. This dream turned out to be a false one: the Count lost his money and Toni was reduced to soiled goods, an unhappy wife with a child.
Chris Wallis' production suggested that such attitudes were commonplace in society at that time; as a result, the junior members of the Buddenbrook family grew up emotionally stunted. Christian Buddenbrook (Carl Prekopp) tried to rebel against his family's obsessions; his behaviour resembled that of a naughty child resisting a parent's authority. His brother Thomas (Angus Imrie) cast him out of the firm, but this move was of little benefit either to Christian or the family as a whole. No one had ever contemplated the possibility that one of the Buddenbrooks might hate the life of business, and prefer to act according to their instincts instead.
The elder members of the family, old Johann (Kenneth Cranham), Jean (Michael Maloney), and Elizabet (Barbara Flynn) came across as reasonable people - devoted to their family in their own way, but unable (or more likely unwilling) to allow any form of self-determination to their siblings. They spoke in measured tones, showing concern where appropriate, but woe betide anyone who countermanded their words.
Although set in the mid-nineteenth century, Buddenbrooks offered a penetrating analysis of the chaos wrought by unrestrained capitalism - both in terms of society and the individual. The family's fortunes seemed destined to fail, but no one actually realized that there were alternatives to business, if anyone actually went out and searched for them.