THE WORLD'S BEST--will these youthful pages, written by one who had barely turned twenty-five, toward the end of a work the autonomous aspiration to greatness of which far surpassed the original intentions of the author and had to be fulfilled by him in patient toil--will they do justice to the bold title of this book and will they be able to hold their own besides examples of mature literary mastery? Just between you and me, it was not I who selected the chapter. Confronted with a number of proposals, the editor decided on this piece. "So many people," he explained, "feel so warmly about this particular novel, and this is such a distinguished unit from it, that we consider it a very good and representative selection." Habeant--I was glad to be relieved of the decision what from among my writings should be counted among the "World's Best," or even only what is nearest to my own heart. Is it these humorous school tales which I wrote at a time when the experiences on which they are based were still fresh in my memory, half bitter and half comical? I hardly think so. Is it the figure of their sensitive hero, little Hanno, and his escape into music which so soon becomes an escape into death and indeed is nothing but a preliminary to it? Yes, that is much more likely. The sad figure of Hanno and his sufferings have remained near and dear to me, and it was not without a certain amount of autobiographical meditation that I gave my consent to the editor's choice.
It is a significant bit of chance--and perhaps more than chance, in other words it may be what we call fate--to see a section of that melancholy work of my youth in which the bourgeois elements are dissolved in music, reappear within the framework of an anthology just at the moment when the Anglo-American edition of my most recent novel, a book vibrating with all the terror of our era and a late counterpart to the Buddenbrooks, goes to press. Written along the lines of the old German chap-book about Dr. Faustus the exorcist, the story treats the plight of music in our time as a paradigm for the crisis of art itself, of our culture in general. After fifty years of roaming through space and time, my road leads me back to the familiar German scene, to German cities of old and to German