Essays of Three Decades by Thomas MannHaving read only Thomas Manns fiction, this was interesting. Its good to read both fiction and non-fiction by an author (if its 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:
Goethes Career As a Man of Letters
Goethe as Representative of the Bourgeois Age
Goethe and Tolstoy
The Old Fontane
Sufferings of Greatness of Richard Wagner
Richard Wagner and The Ring
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 mans 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 mans thoughts.
Now, I understand that most of the quote is Gorky, but wow, you just dont 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.
Heres 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 Tolstoys epics as art...Thomas Mann has a few epic art pieces as well, nest-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 Manns 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. Heres 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 ships 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 ships 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.
Essays of three decades
Helen Tracy Lowe-Porter June 15, — April 26,  was an American translator and writer, best known for translating almost all of the works of Thomas Mann for their first publication in English. The couple lived in Oxford ; after , their residence was in Princeton, New Jersey. For more than two decades, Lowe-Porter had exclusive rights to translate the works of Thomas Mann from German into English. She was granted these rights in by Alfred A. The violet has to be cast into the crucible
Essays of three decades
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