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Thomas Mann: Tolstoy, a force that could have stopped war

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Anti-war essays, poems, short stories and literary excerpts

Thomas Mann: Selections on war

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Thomas Mann

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From Tolstoi (1928)
Translated by H.T. Lowe-Porter

Much, very much of the misprision and violence done to the idea and to human dignity, which our age complacently pockets up – for which it will stand in history – would not have been borne by the “fatalistic” nineteenth century. Often, in 1914, it occurred to me that the war would not dare to break out if the keen, shrewd eyes of that old man at Yasnaya Polyana had still been open on the world.

From Goethe and Tolstoy (1922)
Translated by H.T. Lowe-Porter

[On] the Iberian Peninsula, where the destruction of the liberal system was still more obvious than in Italy, things have taken the same course, even more decisively; military dictatorship has been well established there for some time. But, indeed, all over Europe – as a consequence of the war and as a sign of an anti-liberal temper – the waters of nationalism are mightily swollen. The individual peoples of Europe display a turkey-cock self-assertiveness, a furious self-deification, in striking contrast to the poverty and prostration of the continent as a whole.

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Does not all our love of our kind rest on a brotherly, sympathetic recognition of the human being’s well-nigh hopelessly difficult situation? Yes, there is a patriotism of humanity, and it rests on this: we love human beings because they have such a hard time – and because we are one of them ourself!

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