The Conservative Imagination
THE 'epic in prose about the life of Frederick the Great', which in Death in Venice Thomas Mann ascribes to his writer-heroAschenbach, he himself had planned to write several years before.1 He did not leave it at such vicarious fulfilment. Reduced to the modest dimensions of an essay, "Frederick and the Great Coalition" was published in 1915 as a small book which also contained reprints of two patriotic pieces, "Thoughts in War" and "Letter to the Svenska Dagbladet". Like these, the essay was inspired by the First World War and caused the painful break, lasting longer than the war itself, in Thomas Mann's hitherto closest personal and literary relationship. For his brother Heinrich responded with the celebrated essay on Zola (which first appeared in November 1915 in the periodical Die weissen Blätter and was later included in the volume Macht und Mensch).2 This essay was Heinrich Mann's "J'accuse". Zola's attack upon the perversion of truth in the name of ill-conceived patriotic ideals, his denunciation of the political powers in the land who had contrived, and their intellectual supporters who had condoned, a miscarriage of justice in the trial for espionage of the Jewish officer Dreyfus, served Heinrich Mann as the historical disguise for his own condemnation of the German war and all those German writers who espoused the national cause.
There can be little doubt that many of Heinrich Mann's obvious allusions to the contemporary intellectual scene in Germany were aimed at the conservative and patriotic author
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Publication information: Book title: The Ironic German, a Study of Thomas Mann. Contributors: Erich Heller - Author. Publisher: Little Brown. Place of publication: Boston. Publication year: 1958. Page number: 116.
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