Thomas Mann--Felix Bertaux: Correspondence, 1923-1948

Thomas Mann--Felix Bertaux: Correspondence, 1923-1948

Thomas Mann--Felix Bertaux: Correspondence, 1923-1948

Thomas Mann--Felix Bertaux: Correspondence, 1923-1948

Excerpt

Thomas Mann's long and fascinating career on the international scene as writer, lecturer and homme engagé has been presented and scrutinized from many points of view by an abundant critical literature, the publication of his diaries and numerous correspondences. However, documentation on his relationship to France is scarce outside Germany. It is my purpose to make available, through the presentation and translation of his correspondence with Félix Bertaux, one of his French critics and translators who became his friend, a body of data until now not readily accessible. Thomas Mann's letters and Félix Bertaux' replies reveal early French critical reaction to Mann's works and the important role Bertaux played in facilitating their reception in France. On a personal level, this correspondence is testimony to the untarnished friendship that developed not only between the two men, but which involved their families and fostered a deeper understanding and a better attitude toward each other's country.

Thomas Mann's work did not attract much attention in France before the 1920's. Buddenbrooks, his major novel, was published in 1901, but serious reviews of it appeared in France only from 1908 on. Before World War I, a dozen articles and reviews of Thomas Mann's works, mostly of Buddenbrooks and of Royal Highness, had appeared in French periodicals, including one by Félix Bertaux.

After the interruption of World War I, three French critics, Maurice Muret, Pierre Mille and Geneviève Maury, who were attracted to Mann's ideas chiefly by his proclaimed political stance in Betrachtungen eines Unpolitischen (Reflections of a Non-political Man), wrote about him in periodocals such as the Revue Mondiale, Le Temps and the Journal de Genève. In late 1921 André Gide, who had emerged as the undisputed leader among French intellectuals of his generation, took notice of Thomas Mann in the larger context of . . .

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