Thursday, December 16, 2021

Mann's Reflections of a Non-Political Man


Starting with the book review at  The occasion of this book review is the republication (this year) of Mann's Reflections of a Non-Political Man.  It has two additional essays by Mann and an introduction by Mark Lilla: Amazon has it at  

I received the book review on-line from TLS.  It was written by Michael Lipkin and entitled "A Non-Political Mann?" in which Mann is first castigated for being an active supporter of Germany in WWI.  I've been reading Margaret Macmillan's War: How Conflict Shaped Us.  Also, inasmuch as we, many of us, can't understand the forces that took the world into that war very clearly, I doubt I'd have a problem with Reflections of a Nonpolitical Man, in which he asserts "Germany's rights to defend itself against the aggression of English and French 'civilization.'"

The review goes on to describe Mann as reestablishing himself as a "defender of the fledgling democracy" with his On the German Republic, followed by The Magic Mountain which won him the Nobel prize in 1929.  "Mann was abroad on the lecture circuit when Hitler rose to power in 1933.  "He wisely elected to stay there. . ." 

Lipkin goes on to write, "He famously spent his last active years in California, of all places, testifying before the House Un-American Activities Committee as a suspected Communist."

I take the "of all places" to be referring to HUAC's presence.  Many European intellectuals leaned toward Communism after the war in order to emphasize their distance from fascism.  That was understandable in Europe -- not so much in the U.S.  HUAC didn't appreciate that in an American citizen; which Mann had become.  Also, Lipkin's reference to Mann's ". . . last active years in California" seems doubtful.  After experiencing HUAC and the frenetic anti-communism of the time, he let himself be hounded off to Switzerland in 1952 where a Jeffrey Meyers article describes him as being active: "In his last peaceful and greatly honored years, Mann published The Black Swan (1953) and Confessions of Felix Krull (1954). In addition to Mann, Rainer Maria Rilke, Stefan George, James Joyce, Robert Musil, Hermann Hesse, Erich Remarque, Ignazio Silone, Irwin Shaw, Jorge Luis Borges, Georges Simenon, Graham Greene, and Elias Canetti also lived and died there."  Mann died in Zurich in 1955.

The Jeffrey Meyers article can be seen here:;c=mqr;c=mqrarchive;idno=act2080.0051.419;g=mqrg;rgn=main;view=text;xc=1

Where among other things we learn "Mann, a great movie fan and friend of Charlie Chaplin, preferred the glamour of Hollywood to the dry academic life in Princeton. Most of the German exiles had settled in southern California and gathered in the stimulating salon of Greta Garbo’s screenwriter, Salka Viertel. Mann was then reunited with many old friends: the writers Franz Werfel, Bruno Frank, Lion Feuchtwanger, and Mann’s old political adversary Bertolt Brecht, as well as the film director William Dieterle and, for musical help with Doctor Faustus, Bruno Walter, Igor Stravinsky, and Arnold Schönberg. Mann, who didn’t feel entirely at ease in an English-speaking ambience, remained cocooned in the German colony. (It’s a pity that he never knew the most cultured and intellectual young Austrian directors, Billy Wilder and Fred Zinnemann.) Mann did not become close to any American writers but had some contact with three English émigrés: W. H. Auden and through him Christopher Isherwood (both were homosexual and spoke German) and Aldous Huxley. Mann praised Huxley’s novels and essays but roundly condemned the influential but pernicious drug-induced mysticism of The Doors of Perception (1954)."

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