The War and the Future: An Address by Thomas Mann

The War and the Future: An Address by Thomas Mann

The War and the Future: An Address by Thomas Mann

The War and the Future: An Address by Thomas Mann

Excerpt

LADIES AND GENTLEMEN:

Nowadays, it is not an easy but a rather oppressive situation to stand upon a platform behind the speaker's desk and see the eyes of an audience turned toward you with inquiry and expectancy. I say "now," but this situation which may be natural for the man of action and mass-persuasion, for the politician and party- man, has in truth always been strange and inappropriate for the artist, the poet, the musician of ideas and words, a situation in which he has never felt quite at home, for he becomes, to a certain extent, untrue to his own nature. The element of strangeness and uneasiness lies, for him, in the very nature of the task, in speaking, in committing himself, teaching, in stating convictions and defending opinions. For the artist, the poet, is one who absorbs all the movements and intellectual tendencies, all the currents and spiritual contents of the times and allows them to act upon him; he is affected by all of them, digests them all mentally, gives them form and in this way makes visual the total cultural picture of his times for his contemporary world and for posterity. He does not preach nor propagandize; he gives things a plastic reality, indifferent to nothing; but committed to no cause except that of freedom, of ironical objectivity. He does not speak himself; he let others speak and even when he is not a dramatist, his conditions are those of the drama, of Shakespeare, wherein the person who happens to be speaking is always right. To speak on his own responsibility is foreign to him, burdensome and alarming. He is, of necessity, a dialectical nature and knows the truth that lies in Goethe's words: "Sobald man spricht, beginnt man schon zu irren" [as soon as a man speaks, error begins]. He agrees with Turgeniev, who said: "When I describe a man and say that he has a pointed nose, a long chin and white hair, or red cheeks, or long teeth, or that he is cross-eyed, or that his eyes have this color and that expression, it cannot be contradicted. It is a cheerful reality. There is nothing to be said against it. But when I defend an opinion, a contradictory one can immediately be raised against it. It can always be assailed; . . .

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

Oops!

An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.