Thomas Mann

 

 

“It is remarkable how a man cannot summarize his thoughts in even the most general sort of way without betraying himself completely, without putting his whole self into it, quite unawares, presenting as if in allegory the basic themes and problems of his life.”

The Magic Mountain

 

“A man lives not only his personal life, as an individual, but also, consciously or unconsciously, the life of his epoch and his contemporaries. He may regard the general, impersonal foundations of his existence as definitely settled and taken for granted, and be as far from assuming a critical attitude towards them as our good Hans Castorp really was; yet it is quite conceivable that he may none the less be vaguely conscious of the deficiencies of his epoch and find them prejudicial to his own moral well-being. All sorts of personal aims, hopes, ends, prospects, hover before the eyes of the individual, and out of these he derives the impulse to ambition and achievement. Now, if the life about him, if his own time seems, however outwardly stimulating, to be at bottom empty of such food for his aspirations; if he privately recognises it to be hopeless, viewless, helpless, opposing only a hollow silence to all the questions man puts, consciously or unconsciously, yet somehow puts, as to the final, absolute, and abstract meaning in all his efforts and activities; then, in such a case, a certain laming of the personality is bound to occur, the more inevitably the more upright the character in question; a sort of palsy, as it were, which may extend from his spiritual and moral over into his physical and organic part. In an age that affords no satisfying answer to the eternal question of 'Why?' 'To what end?' a man who is capable of achievement over and above the expected modicum must be equipped either with a moral remoteness and single-mindedness which is rare indeed and of heroic mould, or else with an exceptionally robust vitality. Hans Castorp had neither one nor the other of these; and thus he must be considered mediocre, though in an entirely honourable sense.”

The Magic Mountain

 

 

“He undressed, lay down, put out the light. Two names he whispered into his pillow, the few chaste northern syllables that meant for him his true and native way of love, of longing and happiness; that meant to him life and home, meant simple and heartfelt feeling. He looked back on the years that had passed. He thought of the dreamy adventures of the senses, nerves, and mind in which he had been involved; saw himself eaten up with intellect and introspection, ravaged and paralysed by insight, half worn out by the fevers and frosts of creation, helpless and in anguish of conscience between two extremes, flung to and from between austerity and lust; raffiné, impoverished, exhausted by frigid and artificially heightened ecstasies; erring, forsaken, martyred, and ill -- and sobbed with nostalgia and remorse.”

Tonio Kröger

 

 

“The observations and encounters of a solitary, taciturn man are vaguer and at the same times more intense than those of a sociable man; his thoughts are deeper, odder and never without a touch of sadness. Images and perceptions that could be dismissed with a glance, a laugh, an exchange of opinions, occupy him unduly, become more intense in the silence, become significant, become an experience, an adventure, an emotion. Solitude produces originality, bold and astonishing beauty, poetry. But solitude also produces perverseness, the disproportionate, the absurd and the forbidden.”

Death in Venice

 

“What an absurd torture for the artist to know that an audience identifies him with a work that, within himself, he has moved beyond and that was merely a game played with something in which he does not believe.”

Doctor Faustus

 

To allow only the kind of art that the average man understands is the worst small-mindedness and the murder of mind and spirit. It is my conviction that the intellect can be certain that in doing what most disconcerts the crowd, in pursuing the most daring, unconventional advances and explorations, it will in some highly indirect fashion serve man - and in the long run, all men.”

Doctor Faustus


From "Joseph": "Every return is a transformation, and just as the same number of colorful splinters keep falling into an ever-changing display in a kaleidoscope, so life as it plays out constantly brings forth something new out of the same components--with the son's constellation made up of the same fragments that had formed the constellation of his father's life."

...

God was present, and Abraham walked before Him, consecrated in his soul by that outward nearness of His. They were two, an I and a Thou, both of whom said " I " and to the other " Thou. " It is true that Abraham composed the properties of God, with the help of his own greatness of soul - without which He would not have known how to compose them or name them, so that they would have remained in darkness. But after all God remained a powerful Thou, saying " I , " independent of Abraham and independent of the world.


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