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thomas mann Quotes

Thomas Mann Quotes

Birth Date: 1875-06-06 (Sunday, June 6th, 1875)
Date of Death: 1969-08-27 (Wednesday, August 27th, 1969)



    • I think of my suffering, of the problem of my suffering. What am I suffering from? From knowledge - is it going to destroy me? What am I ?suffering from? From sexuality - is it going to destroy me? How I hate it, this knowledge which forces even art to join it! How I hate it, this sensuality, which claims everything fine and good is its consequence and effect. Alas, it is the poison that lurks in everything fine and good! - How am I to free myself of knowledge? By religion? How am I to free myself of sexuality? By eating rice?
    • Here and there, among a thousand other peddlers, are slyly hissing dealers who urge you to come along with them to allegedly 'very beautiful' girls, and not only to girls. They keep at it, walk alongside, praising there wares until you answer roughly. They don't know that you have resolved to eat nothing but rice just to escape from sexuality!
    • We are most likely to get angry and excited in our opposition to some idea when we ourselves are not quite certain of our own position, and are inwardly tempted to take the other side.
    • Beauty can pierce one like pain.
    • That daily the night falls; that over stresses and torments, cares and sorrows the blessing of sleep unfolds, stilling and quenching them; that every anew this draught of refreshment and lethe is offered to our parching lips, ever after the battle this mildness laves our shaking limbs, that from it, purified from sweat and dust and blood, strengthened, renewed, rejuvenated, almost innocent once more, almost with pristine courage and zeal we may go forth again - these I hold to be the benignest, the most moving of all the great facts of life.
    • The important thing for me, then, is not the 'work,' but my life. Life is not the means for the achievement of an esthetic ideal of perfection; on the contrary, the work is an ethical symbol of life.
    • Extraordinary creature! So close a friend, and yet so remote.
    • The meeting in the open of two dogs, strangers to each other, is one of the most painful, thrilling, and pregnant of all conceivable encounters; it is surrounded by an atmosphere of the last canniness, presided over by a constraint for which I have no preciser name; they simply cannot pass each other, their mutual embarrassment is frightful to behold.
    • I have an epic, not a dramatic nature. My disposition and my desires call for peace to spin my thread, for a steady rhythm in life and art.
    • This fantastic state of mind, of a humanity that has outrun its ideas, is matched by a political scene in the grotesque style, with Salvation Army methods, hallelujahs and bell-ringing and dervishlike repetition of monotonous catchwords, until everybody foams at the mouth. Fanaticism turns into a means of salvation, enthusiasm into epileptic ecstasy, politics becomes an opiate for the masses, a proletarian eschatology; and reason veils her face.
    • In the Word is involved the unity of humanity, the wholeness of the human problem, which permits nobody to separate the intellectual and artistic from the political and social, and to isolate himself within the ivory tower of the 'cultural' proper.
    • Democracy is timelessly human, and timelessness always implies a certain amount of potential youthfulness.
    • In certain respects, particularly economically, National-Socialism is nothing but bolshevism. These two are hostile brothers of whom the younger has learned everything from the older, the Russian excepting only morality.
    • This was love at first sight, love everlasting: a feeling unknown, unhoped for, unexpected - in so far as it could be a matter of conscious awareness; it took entire possession of him, and he understood, with joyous amazement, that this was for life.
    • The Freudian theory is one of the most important foundation stones for an edifice to be built by future generations, the dwelling of a freer and wiser humanity.
    • Unhappy German nation, how do you like the Messianic role allotted to you, not by God, nor by destiny, but by a handful of perverted and bloody-minded men.
    • It is a strange fact that freedom and equality, the two basic ideas of democracy, are to some extent contradictory. Logically considered, freedom and equality are mutually exclusive, just as society and the individual are mutually exclusive.
    • What we call National-Socialism is the poisonous perversion of ideas which have a long history in German intellectual life.
    • An art whose medium is language will always show a high degree of critical creativeness, for speech is itself a critique of life: it names, it characterizes, it passes judgment, in that it creates.
    • A writer is somebody for whom writing is more difficult than it is for other people.
    • Politics has been called the 'art of the possible,' and it actually is a realm akin to art insofar as, like art, it occupies a creatively mediating position between spirit and life, the idea and reality.
    • Reduced to a miserable mass level, the level of a Hitler, German Romanticism broke out into hysterical barbarism.
    • Every reasonable human being should be a moderate Socialist.
    • It is not good when people no longer believe in war. Pretty soon they no longer believe in many other things which they absolutely must believe in if they are to be decent men.
    • It often happens that an old family, with traditions that are entirely practical, sober and bourgeois, undergoes in its declining days a kind of artistic transfiguration.
    • They sang their mysterious duo, sang of their nameless hope, their death-in-love, their union unending, lost forever in the embrace of night's magic kingdom. O sweet night, everlasting night of love! Land of blessedness whose frontiers are infinite!
    • It had been a moving, tranquil apotheosis, immersed in the transfiguring sunset glow of decline and decay and extinction. An old family, already grown too weary and too noble for life and action, had reached the end of its history, and its last utterances were sounds of music: a few violin notes, full of the sad insight which is ripeness for death.
    • If you are possessed by an idea, you find it expressed everywhere, you even smell it.
    • What they, in their innocence, cannot comprehend is that a properly constituted, healthy, decent man never writes, acts, or composes.
    • This longing for the bliss of the commonplace.
    • He remembered the dissolute adventures in which his senses, his nervous system and his mind had indulged; he saw himself corroded by irony and intellect, laid waste and paralyzed by insight, almost exhausted by the fevers and chills of creation, helplessly and contritely tossed to and fro between gross extremes, between saintly austerity and lust - oversophisticated and impoverished, worn out by cold, rare artificial ecstasies, lost, ravaged, racked and sick - and he sobbed with remorse and nostalgia.
    • I stand between two worlds, am at home in neither, and in consequence have rather a hard time of it. You artists call me a commoner, and commoners feel tempted to arrest me ... I do not know which wounds me more bitterly. Commoners are stupid; but you worshippers of beauty who call me phlegmatic and without yearning, ought to reflect that there is an artistry so deep, so primordial and elemental, that no yearning seems to it sweeter and more worthy of tasting than that for the raptures of common-placeness.
    • I admire the proud and cold who go adventuring on the paths of great and demoniac beauty, and scorn 'man' - but I do not envy them. For if anything is capable of making a poet out of a man of letters, it is this plebeian love of mine for the human, living, and commonplace. All warmth, all goodness, all humor is born of it, and it almost seems to me as if it were that love itself, of which it is written that a man might speak with the tongues of men and of angels, and yet without it be no more than sounding brass or a tinkling cymbal.
    • What I have done is nothing, not much - as good as nothing. I shall do better things, Lisaveta - this is a promise. While I am writing, the sea's roar is coming up to me, and I close my eyes. I am looking into an unborn and shapeless world that longs to be called to life and order, I am looking into a throng of phantoms of human forms which beckon me to conjure them and set them free: some of them tragic, some of them ridiculous, and some that are both at once - and to these I am very devoted. But my deepest and most secret love belongs to the blond and blue-eyed, the bright-spirited living ones, the happy, amiable, and commonplace. Do not speak lightly of this love, Lisaveta; it is good and fruitful. There is longing in it and melancholy envy, and a tiny bit of contempt, and an unalloyed chaste blissfulness.
    • But he would 'stay the course' - it was his favorite motto.
    • Hidden away amongst Aschenbach's writing was a passage directly asserting that nearly all the great things that exist owe their existence to a defiant despite: it is despite grief and anguish, despite poverty, loneliness, bodily weakness, vice and passion and a thousand inhibitions, that they have come into being at all. But this was more than an observation, it was an experience, it was positively the formula of his life and his fame, the key to his work.
    • The new hero-type favored by Aschenbach, and recurring in his books in a multiplicity of individual variants, had already been remarked upon at an early stage by a shrewd commentator, who had described his conception as that of 'an intellectual and boyish manly virtue, that of a youth who clenches his teeth in proud shame and stands calmly on as the swords and spears pass through his body ... the figure of Saint Sebastian is the most perfect symbol if not of art in general, then certainly of the kind of art in question.
    • Gustav Aschenbach was the writer who spoke for all those who work on the brink of exhaustion, who labor and are heavy-laden, who are worn out already but still stand upright, all those moralists of achievement who are slight of stature and scanty of resources, but who yet, by some ecstasy of the will and by wise husbandry, manage at least for a time to force their work into a semblance of greatness.
    • Was it an intellectual consequence of this 'rebirth,' of this new dignity and rigor, that, at about the same time, his sense of beauty was observed to undergo an almost excessive resurgence, that his style took on the noble purity, simplicity and symmetry that were to set upon all his subsequent works that so evident and evidently intentional stamp of the classical master.
    • How else is the famous short story 'A study in Abjection' to be understood but as an outbreak of disgust against an age indecently undermined by psychology.
    • How strange a vehicle it is, coming down unchanged from times of old romance, and so characteristically black, the way no other thing is black except a coffin - a vehicle evoking lawless adventures in the plashing stillness of night, and still more strongly evoking death itself, the bier, the dark obsequies, the last silent journey!
    • With astonishment Aschenbach noticed that the boy was entirely beautiful. His countenance, pale and gracefully reserved, was surrounded by ringlets of honey-colored hair, and with its straight nose, its enchanting mouth, its expression of sweet and divine gravity, it recalled Greek sculpture of the noblest period.
    • There were profound reasons for his attachment to the sea: he loved it because as a hard-working artist he needed rest, needed to escape from the demanding complexity of phenomena and lie hidden on the bosom of the simple and tremendous; because of a forbidden longing deep within him that ran quite contrary to his life's task and was for that very reason seductive, a longing for the unarticulated and immeasurable, for eternity, for nothingness. To rest in the arms of perfection is the desire of any man intent upon creating excellence; and is not nothingness a form of perfection?
    • The writer's joy is the thought that can become emotion, the emotion that can wholly become a thought.
    • Never had he felt the joy of the word more sweetly, never had he known so clearly that Eros dwells in language.
    • This was Venice, the flattering and suspect beauty - this city, half fairy tale and half tourist trap, in whose insalubrious air the arts once rankly and voluptuously blossomed, where composers have been inspired to lulling tones of somniferous eroticism.
    • I must tell you that we artists cannot tread the path of Beauty without Eros keeping company with us and appointing himself as our guide.
    • Space, like time, engenders forgetfulness; but it does so by setting us bodily free from our surroundings and giving us back our primitive, unattached state. Yes, it can even, in the twinkling of an eye, make something like a vagabond of the pedant and Philistine. Time, we say, is Lethe; but change of air is a similar draught, and, if it works less thoroughly, does so more quickly.
    • Psycho-analyses - how disgusting.
    • I, for one, have never in my life come across a perfectly healthy human being.
    • A man lives not only his personal life, as an individual, but also, consciously or unconsciously, the life of his epoch and his contemporaries.
    • Hans Castorp loved music from his heart; it worked upon him much the same way as did his breakfast porter, with deeply soothing, narcotic effect, tempting him to doze.
    • I never can understand how anyone can not smoke - it deprives a man of the best part of life ... with a good cigar in his mouth a man is perfectly safe, nothing can touch him - literally.
    • In effect it seemed to him that, though honor might possess certain advantages, yet shame had others, and not inferior: advantages, even, that were well-nigh boundless in their scope.
    • One always has the idea of a stupid man as perfectly healthy and ordinary, and of illness as making one refined and clever and unusual.
    • Placet experiri
    • 'Beer, tobacco, and music,' he went on. 'Behold the Fatherland.'
    • There is something suspicious about music, gentlemen. I insist that she is, by her nature, equivocal. I shall not be going too far in saying at once that she is politically suspect.
    • My aversion from music rests on political grounds.
    • I love and reverence the Word, the bearer of the spirit, the tool and gleaming ploughshare of progress.
    • 'Love as a force contributory to disease.'
    • This conflict between the powers of love and chastity ... it ended apparently in the triumph of chastity. Love was suppressed, held in darkness and chains, by fear, conventionality, aversion, or a tremulous yearning to be pure.... But this triumph of chastity was only an apparent, a pyrrhic victory. It would break through the ban of chastity, it would emerge - if in a form so altered as to be unrecognizable.
    • It seemed that at the end of the lecture Dr. Krokowski was making propaganda for psycho-analysis; with open arms he summoned all and sundry to come unto him. 'Come unto me,' he was saying, though not in those words, ' come unto me, all ye who are weary and heavy-laden.' And he left no doubt of his conviction that all those present were weary and heavy-laden. He spoke of secret suffering, of shame and sorrow, of the redeeming power of the analytic. He advocated the bringing of light into the unconscious mind and explained how the abnormality was metamorphosed into the conscious emotion; he urged them to have confidence; he promised relief.
    • Two principles, according to the Settembrinian cosmogony, were in perpetual conflict for possession of the world: force and justice, tyranny and freedom, superstition and knowledge; the law of permanence and the law of change, of ceaseless fermentation issuing in progress.
    • The beautiful word begets the beautiful deed.
    • Writing well was almost the same as thinking well, and thinking well was the next thing to acting well. All moral discipline, all moral perfection derived from the soul of literature, from the soul of human dignity, which was the moving spirit of both humanity and politics. Yes, they were all one, one and the same force, one and the same idea, and all of them could be comprehended in one single word... The word was - civilization!
    • Frau Stohr ... began to talk about how fascinating it was to cough.... Sneezing was much the same thing. You kept on wanting to sneeze until you simply couldn't stand it any longer; you looked as if you were tipsy; you drew a couple of breaths, then out it came, and you forgot everything else in the bliss of the sensation. Sometimes the explosion repeated itself two or three times. That was the sort of pleasure life gave you free of charge.
    • Disease makes men more physical, it leaves them nothing but body.
    • Our air up here is good for the disease - I mean good against the disease,... but it is also good for the disease.
    • A black pall, you know, with a silver cross on it, or R.I.P. - requiescat in pace - you know. That seems to me the most beautiful expression - I like it much better than 'He is a jolly good fellow,' which is simply rowdy.
    • Six months at most after they get here, these young people - and they are mostly young who come - have lost every idea they had, except flirtation and temperature.
    • It is a cruel atmosphere down there, cruel and ruthless.
    • The only religious way to think of death is as part and parcel of life; to regard it, with the understanding and the emotions, as the the inviolable condition of life.
    • The ancients adorned their sarcophagi with the emblems of life and procreation, and even with obscene symbols; in the religions of antiquity the sacred and the obscene often lay very close together. These men knew how to pay homage to death. For death is worthy of homage as the cradle of life, as the womb of palingenesis.
    • Irony, forsooth! Guard yourself, Engineer, from the sort of irony that thrives up here; guard yourself altogether from taking on their mental attitude! Where irony is not a direct and classic device of oratory, not for a moment equivocal to a healthy mind, it makes for depravity, it becomes a drawback to civilization, an unclean traffic with the forces of reaction, vice and materialism.
    • Paradox is the poisonous flower of quietism, the iridescent surface of the rotting mind, the greatest depravity of all.
    • Analysis as an instrument of enlightenment and civilization is good, in so far as it shatters absurd convictions, acts as a solvent upon natural prejudices, and undermines authority; good, in other words, in that it sets free, refines, humanizes, makes slaves ripe for freedom. But it is bad, very bad, in so far as it stands in the way of action, cannot shape the vital forces, maims life at its roots. Analysis can be a very unappetizing affair, as much so as death.
    • Time has no divisions to mark its passage, there is never a thunderstorm or blare of trumpets to announce the beginning of a new month or year. Even when a new century begins it is only we mortals who ring bells and fire off pistols.
    • Order and simplification are the first steps toward the mastery of a subject - the actual enemy is the unknown.
    • Asien verschlingt uns. Wohin man blickt: tatarische Gesichter.
    • 'What was life? It was warmth, the warmth generated by a form-preserving instability, a fever of matter, which accompanied the process of ceaseless decay and repair of protein molecules that were too impossibly ingenious in structure.
    • Disease was a perverse, a dissolute form of life.
    • Le corps, l'amour, la mort, ces trois ne font qu'un. Car le corps, c'est la maladie et la volupte, et c'est lui qui fait la mort, oui, ils sont charnels tous deux, l'amour et la mort, et voila leur terreur et leur grande magie!
    • L'amour pour lui, pour le corps humain, c'est de meme un interet extremement humanitaire et une puissance plus educative que toute la pedagogie du monde!
    • Human reason needs only to will more strongly than fate, and she is fate.
    • Opinions cannot survive if one has no chance to fight for them.
    • All interest in disease and death is only another expression of interest in life.
    • The invention of printing and the Reformation are and remain the two outstanding services of central Europe to the cause of humanity.
    • There is both rhyme and reason in what I say, I have made a dream poem of humanity. I will cling to it. I will be good. I will let death have no mastery over my thoughts. For therein lies goodness and love of humankind, and in nothing else.
    • Love stands opposed to death. It is love, not reason, that is stronger than death. Only love, not reason, gives kind thoughts.
    • For the sake of goodness and love, man shall let death have no sovereignty over his thoughts. And with that, I wake up.
    • Everything is politics.
    • Speech is civilization itself. The word, even the most contradictory word, preserves contact - it is silence which isolates.
    • A man's dying is more the survivors' affair than his own.
    • What we call mourning for our dead is perhaps not so much grief at not being able to call them back as it is grief at not being able to want to do so.
    • Time cools, time clarifies, no mood can be maintained quite unaltered through the course of hours.
    • The purifying, healing influence of literature, the dissipating of passions by knowledge and the written word, literature as the path to understanding, forgiveness and love, the redeeming might of the word, the literary spirit as the noblest manifestation of the spirit of man, the writer as perfected type, as saint.
    • Absolutely everything beloved and cherished of the bourgeoisie, the conservative, the cowardly, and the impotent - the State, family life, secular art and science - was consciously or unconsciously hostile to the religious idea, to the Church, whose innate tendency and permanent aim was the dissolution of all existing worldly orders, and the reconstitution of society after the model of the ideal, the communistic City of God.
    • We, when we sow the seeds of doubt deeper than the most up-to-date and modish free-thought has ever dreamed of doing, we well know what we are about. Only out of radical skepsis, out of moral chaos, can the Absolute spring, the anointed Terror of which the time has need.
    • Passionate - that means to live for the sake of living. But one knows that you all live for the sake of experience. Passion, that is self-forgetfulness. But what you all want is self-enrichment. C'est ca. You don't realize what revolting egoism it is, and that one day it will make you the enemies of the human race.
    • He was all for catharsis and purification, he dreamed of an aesthetic consecration that should cleanse society of luxury, the greed of gold and all unloveliness.
    • It is a pregnant complex, gleaming up from the unconscious, of mother-fixation, sexual desire, and fear.
    • What was it that drove these thousands into the arms of his art - what but the blissfully sensuous, searing, sense-consuming, intoxicating, hypnotically caressing, heavily upholstered - in a word, the luxurious quality of his music?
    • Wagner's art is the most sensational self-portrayal and self- critique of German nature that it is possible to conceive.
    • When it had long since outgrown his purely medical implications and become a world movement which penetrated into every field of science and every domain of the intellect: literature, the history of art, religion and prehistory; mythology, folklore, pedagogy, and what not.
    • Has the world ever been changed by anything save the thought and its magic vehicle the Word?
    • The myth is the foundation of life; it is the timeless schema, the pious formula into which life flows when it reproduces its traits out of the unconscious. Certainly when a writer has acquired the habit of regarding life as mythical and typical there comes a curious heightening of his artistic temper, a new refreshment to his perceiving and shaping powers, which otherwise occurs much later in life; for while in the life of the human race the mythical is an early and primitive stage, in the life of the individual it is a late and mature one.
    • I hold that we shall one day recognize in Freud's life-work the cornerstone for the building of a new anthropology and therewith of a new structure, to which many stones are being brought up today, which shall be the future dwelling of a wiser and freer humanity.
    • As a science of the unconscious it is a therapeutic method, in the grand style, a method overarching the individual case. Call this, if you choose, a poet's utopia.
    • Hold fast the time! Guard it, watch over it, every hour, every minute! Unregarded it slips away, like a lizard, smooth, slippery, faithless, a pixy wife. Hold every moment sacred. Give each clarity and meaning, each the weight of thine awareness, each its true and due fulfillment.
    • Cruelty is one of the chief ingredients of love, and divided about equally between the sexes: cruelty of lust, ingratitude, callousness, maltreatment, domination. The same is true of the passive qualities, patience under suffering, even pleasure in ill usage.
    • Profundity must smile.
    • This music of yours. A manifestation of the highest energy - not at all abstract, but without an object, energy in a void, in pure ether - where else in the universe does such a thing appear? We Germans have taken over from philosophy the expression 'in itself,' we use it every day without much idea of the metaphysical. But here you have it, such music is energy itself, yet not as idea, rather in its actuality. I call your attention to the fact that is almost the definition of God. Imitatio Dei - I am surprised it is not forbidden.
    • Why does almost everything seem to me like its own parody? Why must I think that almost all, no, all the methods and conventions of art today are good for parody only?
    • What a glorious gift is imagination, and what satisfaction it affords!
    • Only he who desires is amiable and not he who is satiated.
    • The intellect longs for the delights of the non-intellect, that which is alive and beautiful dans sa stupidite.
    • What a wonderful phenomenon it is, carefully considered, when the human eye, that jewel of organic structures, concentrates its moist brilliance on another human creature!
    • O scenes of the beautiful world! Never have you presented yourself to more appreciative eyes.
    • I have always been an admirer. I regard the gift of admiration as indispensable if one is to amount to something; I don't know where I would be without it.
    • The positive thing about the sceptic is that he considers everything possible!
    • Tolerance becomes a crime when applied to evil.
    • War is only a cowardly escape from the problems of peace.
    • thomas mann

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