Thomas Mann (6 June 1875 – 12 August 1955) 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.
Helen Tracy Lowe Porter, a druggist’s daughter from Towanda, Pennsylvania, and Mann’s erstwhile voice in English, had a habit of serial inconsistency when it came to Mann’s German: words Mann used repeatedly, my professor said, HTLP democratized into different synonyms; where Mann varied his usage, HTLP regularized it. I can’t verify the accuracy of my professor’s diagnosis of HTLP’s editorial disorder, but I can say that such reading experiences shape the caution I now take when talking about work in translation.
In fact, Thomas Mann’s writings on political matters are extremely important. He started the process writing about Kultur und Zivilisation, a defender of extreme Wilhelmine cultural conservatism (Betrachtungen eines Unpolitischen), and came through a process of internal reckoning and self-criticism to recognize the profoundly flawed premises of this thinking. He embraced democracy and rejected the stultifying forces of German authoritarianism (Von deutscher Republik). Considering especially that he was a literary icon to the conservative forces, that was a courageous act.
Thomas Mann decides [in Death in Venice] to create a brief dialogue between Socrates and Phaedrus which is presented in the form of a dream of Aschenbach’s. The protagonists, of course, are enjoying the shade of that old plane tree not very far from the walls of Athens-they are not, as said in Plutarch’s Eroticus, under Helicon, next to the Muses’ shrine. Plato-and it is a logical decision given that on this occasion he has decided to show openly the Greek origin of the textbecomes now his guide and source, which means that the German writer adapts two passages of Plato’s Phaedrus and reproduces another one of the Symposium.
Thomas Mann does not seem to want to break that tension of precarious balance which is the result of impulses and counter-impulses. Taking advantage, in my opinion, of what might be an allusion to Heraclitean wisdom, he refers to Von Aschenbach [a character in Mann's Death in Venice] as a man who is eager for escape, freedom, relief and forgetfulness.
Death in Venice is Thomas Mann’s most famous and widely read literary work. This semiautobiographical short story about a writer’s trip to the city of Venice, which uses symbolism and employs Mann’s meticulously written prose, also presents themes relating to modernity.
Reflection, self-observation, psychological refinement, philosophical profundity, and aesthetic sensibility appear to the young Thomas Mann destructive and disintegrating forces; in one of his most exquisite stories, Tonio Kröger (1903), he has found moving words for his love of human life in all its simplicity. Because he stood outside the bourgeois world that he portrayed, his vision was free, but he had a nostalgic feeling for the loss of naiveté, a feeling which gives him understanding, sympathy, and respect.
Thomas Mann is for the twentieth century German literary establishment almost what Goethe was for the prior century. The unassailable Olympian. The artist against whose talents all others are measured.
Besides Kanzantzakis, many novelists have drawn on Nietzsche. Thomas Mann (1875-1955) wrote repeatedly about him and his characters are often engaged in struggles to define their ideas in a world in which old philosophies are decaying, like Nietzsche, torn between romanticism and rationalism (notably in The Magic Mountain).
Born in 1875 into a newly unified Germany, Mann moved to Munich at the age of eighteen. His first novel, Buddenbrooks, was published in 1901. Living his life in the modern time, Mann was an avid reader of Nietzsche. Mann was also “modern in his mode of work, rejecting emotion and inspiration in favor of discipline, detachment, and application."
The nineteenth century had come to its end when a young writer, the twenty-seven-year-old son of a merchant from the old Hanse city of Lübeck, published his novel Buddenbrooks (1901). Twenty-seven years have passed since then... Here is the first and as yet unsurpassed German realistic novel in the grand style which takes its undisputed and equal place in the European concert.