The Modern German Novel: A Mid-Twentieth Century Survey

By H. M. Waidson | Go to book overview

V
IRONY AND CONVICTION

IN many ways Thomas Mann's earlier work was governed by an acceptance of Nietzsche's outlook and by the Neo-Romanticism of the eighteen-nineties. During the first world war Mann supported Imperialist Germany and interpreted the German spirit as conservative, romantic, musical, orderly, harmonious and spontaneous, in contradistinction to Western democracy which, he maintained, was based on equalitarian humanism and a rationalism which led to the glorification of the dissecting, sceptical intellect at the expense of the spirit. After much heart-searching in the light of Germany's defeat in 1918 Thomas Mann became a supporter of the Weimar Republic and social democracy; his interpretation of life in terms of a dichotomy between instinct and reason remained basically unchanged, but with increasing conviction he felt it was his duty to publicize his changed viewpoint and to preach the cause of rationalism and democracy as he understood them. His later writing became in consequence more didactic and discursive, and the greater part of his energies found expression in long novels which are intricate in structure and elaborate in style; the short stories and Novellen of the pre- 1914 period are much more direct in approach and use of language.

Der Zauberberg ( 'The Magic Mountain', 1924) and the tetralogy Joseph und seine Brüder ( 'Joseph and his Brethren', 1933-43), the major works of the central period of their author's creative life, are both governed by a confidence in liberal humanism and in the reasonable possibility of progress. They are written in order to encourage the reader with a positive message, and it is thus not mere chance that they alone of their author's works conform with any closeness to the Bildungsroman in form. In contrast to the earlier artist-intellectual heroes, Hans Castorp is a simple, receptive

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The Modern German Novel: A Mid-Twentieth Century Survey
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Contents v
  • Foreword vii
  • I - The Blurred Edges of Realism 1
  • II - Documentation 16
  • III - Past Time 33
  • IV - The Idyllic Ideal 42
  • V - Irony and Conviction 51
  • VI - 'the Golden Future Time' 62
  • VII - The Observers 72
  • VIII - Surrealism 78
  • IX - The Length of Time 90
  • X - Novel and Short Story 104
  • XI - Summing Up 115
  • Select Bibliography 120
  • List of Authors and Works 123
  • Index 129
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