Related to but different from this question about the purpose of such redactions.

How should a passage such as this from Mary Shelley's Frankenstein be read aloud?

St. Petersburgh, Dec. 11th, 17--

I have listened to a few audiobook excerpts and they differ on the convention: they may say "seventeen blank blank" or simply omit the year entirely. Omission is a reasonable option for the header of a letter, which is the context of this line.

However, what about this sentence from Thomas Mann's Death in Venice as translated by Michael Henry Heim?

Gustav Aschenbach or von Aschenbach, as he had officially been known since his fiftieth birthday, set out alone from his residence in Munich’s Prinzregentenstrasse on a spring afternoon in 19.. — a year that for months had shown so ominous a countenance to our continent — with the intention of taking an extended walk.

The sentence doesn't make sense if "19.." is omitted. The audiobook I was able to hear a sample of used a different translation that doesn't include any mention of the year at all. How would "19.." be pronounced?

  • Fake it. Or read "dash-dash".
    – Hot Licks
    Commented Mar 23, 2020 at 22:29
  • It would be nice if someone had done a bit of research by listening to a sample of audiobooks and reporting here how the question posed had been dealt with. I have no audiobooks and cannot therefore do that research, but without it a good answer is impossible.
    – JeremyC
    Commented Mar 23, 2020 at 22:32
  • 1
    The first one I might read as "December 11th in a year late in the 18th century".
    – Hot Licks
    Commented Mar 23, 2020 at 22:39
  • 1
    I would probably read '17--' it as 'seventeen something'. Commented Mar 24, 2020 at 6:58

1 Answer 1


In the first case I'd improvise and say "Dec. 11th in a year not mentioned of the eighteenth century". I'd do similarly for the second one.

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