Having read only Thomas Mann's fiction, this was interesting. It's good to read both fiction and non-fiction by an author (if it's available) because they are such different windows into who they are as people as well as the context of history within which they write. That being said, I was pleasantly surprised at this collection of essays (mostly lectures). They include:
Goethe's Faust Goethe's Career As a Man of Letters Goethe as Representative of the Bourgeois Age Goethe and Tolstoy 'Anna KareninaHaving read only Thomas Mann's fiction, this was interesting. It's good to read both fiction and non-fiction by an author (if it's available) because they are such different windows into who they are as people as well as the context of history within which they write. That being said, I was pleasantly surprised at this collection of essays (mostly lectures). They include:
Goethe's Faust Goethe's Career As a Man of Letters Goethe as Representative of the Bourgeois Age Goethe and Tolstoy 'Anna Karenina' Lessing Keist's 'Amphitryon' Chamisso Platen Theodor Storm The Old Fontane Sufferings of Greatness of Richard Wagner Richard Wagner and 'The Ring' Schopenhauer Freud and the Future Voyage with Don Quixote
And here follows some lengthy quotes:
From 'Goethe and Tolstoy' (a very interesting essay and one of my favourites in this book...this essay would be 4 stars for me):
"One day Gorky sees the aged Tolstoy sitting alone by the sea. This scene is the crowning point of his reminiscences. 'He sat, his head on his hands; the wind blew the silver hair of his beard through his fingers. He was looking far out across the sea, and the little green waves rolled docilely to his feet and caressed them, as though they wanted to tell the old wizard something about themselves....He seemed like an ancient stone come alive, that knew and pondered the beginning and end of all things, and what and how would be the end of the stones and grasses of the earth, the waters of the sea, the whole universe from the sun to the grain of sand. And the sea is a part of his soul, and all about him comes from him and out of him. In the old man's musing quietude I felt something portentous, magic. I cannot express in words what I more felt than thought at that moment. In my heart were rejoicing and fear, then all melted together in one single blissful feeling: I am not bereft on this earth, so long as this old man is living on it.' And Gorky steals away on his tiptoes that the sand may not crunch under his tread and disturb the old man's thoughts."
Now, I understand that most of the quote is Gorky, but wow, you just don't hear people described like that any more. There seems to be a disconnect from the spiritual and the physical in our lives. At least in the daily grind of it, perhaps. It helps that I was on the coast of the Pacific Ocean while reading this.
Here's an interesting quote about Goethe and tolerance: " 'He is tolerant, without being mild.' Just consider what that means. Toleration, indulgence, is always, in our human experience, associated with mildness, with benevolent feeling toward man and the universe; so far as I know, it is a product of love. But tolerance without (<--italicized) love, harsh (<--italicized) tolerance -- what would that be? It is more than human, it is icy neutrality, it is either something godlike or something devilish." Makes you think about how we define tolerance today and how people demonstrate it. It seems to me it is often without mildness or love ... and consequently leaves me feeling that devilish-ness about it.
And last from this essay: "The main thing is that nothing should come too easy. Effortless nature -- that is crude. Effortless spirit is without root -- or substance. A lofty encounter of nature and spirit as they mutually yearn toward each other -- that is man."
From 'Anna Karenina' (talking about Tolstoy's epics as art...Thomas Mann has a few epic art pieces as well, n'est-ce pas?): "Art is the most beautiful, austerest, blithest, most sacred symbol of all supra-reasonable human striving for good above and beyond reason, for truth and fullness. The breath of the rolling sea of epic would not so expand our lungs with living air if it did not bring with it the astringent quickening spice of the spiritual and the divine."
And lastly from 'Voyage with Don Quixote'. This essay is a journal written during Thomas Mann's maidan trans-atlantic voyage on a cruise ship. It is filled with personal reflections connected to his Don Quixote readings (which he had never read up until then). And some stories unrelated to his readings as well. I would give this essay 4/5 stars for sure. Here's a funny commentary on the newest of 'media': "Our newspaper is a very silly sheet, I must confess. It appears daily except Sundays; we need not lack for fresh print any more than for fresh bread. They shove the papers through the slot in our door, where we find them and pick them up when we come down before luncheon. We read them on the spot, for who knows what Europe will do once our backs are turned? Most of the sheet -- that is, the advertisements and pictures -- is printed beforehand and so possesses no immediacy. But our boat is also provided with wireless: seemingly so alone and forsaken upon the waste of waters, we are in contact with the whole world, can send out messages to every quarter and receive them in turn. Thus what flashes to us from all the continents is printed in the 'stop-press' of our news sheet. What did we read today? In the zoological garden of a Western state an ailing tiger was given whisky as a medicine. The ravening beast conceived such a taste for the strong drink that he would not give it up when he was cured but now daily demands his dram. That and other such matter we read in our ship's paper. Certainly this particular item is gratifying to read. Not in vain have our news-purveyors reckoned upon our sympathy with the spirit-loving animal. But yet: is there not something like an abuse here? A technical miracle like radio-telegraphy used to transmit such a kind of news over land and sea -- ah, humanity, your mental and spiritual development has not kept pace with your technical, it has stopped far behind. Herein lies your lack of faith that your future can be more happy than your past. The gap between your technical maturity and your other unripeness creates precisely the unsatisfied craving with which you clutch at every sheet of news. And so we read of the hilarious tiger. We may be glad that it is not worse. But, after all, the case is the same with our frivolous radio as with our ship's musicians. Under certain circumstances it can send out SOS too. In the name of and for the dignity of technique one might almost wish that it might come to that!"
Ha. Wireless technology. Frivolous news. The gap is still there and broadens daily on facebook/twitter/etc. There is nothing new under the sun. Ahem....more
Thomas Mann was a German novelist, short story writer, social critic, philanthropist, essayist, and 1929 Nobel Prize laureate, known for his series of highly symbolic and ironic epic novels and novellas, noted for their insight into the psychology of the artist and the intelLibrarian Note: There is more than one author in the GoodReads database with this name. See this thread for more information.
Thomas Mann was a German novelist, short story writer, social critic, philanthropist, essayist, and 1929 Nobel Prize laureate, known for his series of highly symbolic and ironic epic novels and novellas, noted for their insight into the psychology of the artist and the intellectual. His analysis and critique of the European and German soul used modernized German and Biblical stories, as well as the ideas of Goethe, Nietzsche, and Schopenhauer. His older brother was the radical writer Heinrich Mann, and three of his six children, Erika Mann, Klaus Mann and Golo Mann, also became important German writers. When Hitler came to power in 1933, Mann fled to Switzerland. When World War II broke out in 1939, he emigrated to the United States, from where he returned to Switzerland in 1952. Thomas Mann is one of the best-known exponents of the so-called Exilliteratur....more