- Expected Mar 16, 2021
A classic, provoctive book exploring German culture and identity by the author of Death in Venice and The Magic Mountain, now back in print.
When the Great War broke out in August of 1914, Thomas Mann, like so many people on both sides of the conflict, was exhilarated. Finally, the era of decadence that he had anatomized in Death in Venice had come to an end; finally, there was a cause worth fighting and even dying for, or, at least when it came to Mann himself, writing about. Mann dropped the short story he was working on in order to compose a full-throated paean to the German cause. Soon after, his older brother and lifelong rival, the novelist Heinrich Mann, responded with a no less withering denunciation. Thomas took it as this was an almost unforgivable stab in the back.
The bitter dispute between two brothers would swell in to the strange, tortured literary monument that is Reflections of a Nonpolitical Man, a book that is as blind as it is troubled and full of curious insight. Mann worked on it and added to it throughout the war years, publishing it only when German defeat was inevitable, and these reflections are in a sense a first draft for his later explorations of German destiny in The Magic Mountain and Doktor Faustus. His effort to hold on to a notion of common good that lies beyond politics in the face of growing and inconceivable political disaster is all the more thought-provoking for being fatally flawed.