Vol. 23 No. 2 1956 - page 153

Marguerite Yourcenar
The works of Thomas Mann surely belong to that very
rare category of the modern classic, which is not to say that they
have passed beyond all discussion; they are, on the contrary, to be
taken up again and again, reconsidered, and examined in all their
aspects and at their various levels, serving both to nourish the mind
and to test its qualities. Such works appeal to us at a fifth reading
for reasons different from, or even opposite to, those which made us
like them in the beginning. The atmosphere which at first seems
strange and almost exotic to the non-German reader of
wears off as he grows familiar with the book, or more intimately ac–
quainted with Germany itself; the human document then lies fully
exposed, the drama of a man caught up in those familial and social
forces which have formed him, and which are slowly moving to
destroy him. What was new and contemporary in a novel like
Magic Mountain,
expressly built as it is to describe a single time and
place, does not conceal the truly a-temporal and cosmic basis of
that masterpiece; the sensual element which once proved disquieting
Death in Venice
no longer surprises the present-day reader, who
thus left free to meditate upon one of the finest allegories of death
that the somber spirit of Germany has ever produced.
German works these, without question: German in their use
of hallucination to illuminate fact; in their search for wisdom magic–
ally acquired, wherein secrets whispered or half-spoken hover be–
tween the lines, apparently intended to be revealed as little as possible;
their portrayal of those great entities which haunt Germanic
• A revised and greatly expanded version of an essay which appeared originally
in French in the volume,
Hommage de Ia France
Thomas Mann,
last year in Paris by Martin Flinker.
143...,144,145,146,147,148,149,150,151,152 154,155,156,157,158,159,160,161,162,163,...290
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