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Thomas Mann: Parallel, oracle and warning

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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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After leaving the United States, where he had lived in exile for thirteen years, for Switzerland in 1952:

“I only want to admit that, as in 1933, political matters were not excluded from my considerations. In that land so smiled upon, yet grown too powerful, an unfortunate world constellation has brought forth changes in the atmosphere which can be perceived as depressing and alarming.”

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From An Appeal to Reason (1930)
Translated by H.T. Lowe-Porter

Every foreign policy corresponds to a domestic one which is its organic complement and forms with it an indissoluble intellectual whole.

Art and war

[T]here are hours, there are moments of our common life, when art fails to justify itself in practice; when the inner urgency of the artist fails him; when the more immediate necessities of our existence choke back his own thought; when the general distress and crisis shake him too, in such a way that what we call art, the happy and impassioned preoccupation with eternally human values, comes to seem idle, ephemeral, a superfluous thing, a mental impossibility. So it was, sixteen years ago, when the war broke out that was to be for every conscious being so much more than a war.

First World War: interests of the government versus interests of the people

Germany was led into that war by a system of government which – most naively from the historical point of view – put its own interests on a par with that of its people, and in the struggle to survive brought people and country to the last gasp.

The Nazis

[T]he moment has already come when militant nationalism displays itself less militantly for foreign than for domestic consumption…Its hatred is levelled not so much without as within; yes, actually its fanatical love of the fatherland appears chiefly as hatred not of the foreigner but of all Germans who do not believe in its methods and whom it promises to destroy root and branch.

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From Europe Beware (1935)
Translated by H.T. Lowe-Porter

On global grandiosity and its consequence

An undisguised half-education, pathetically overwrought and subject to no kind of restraint, flings about its pseudo-knowledge and malignant theories, its mystagogic balderdash and millenial conclusions, to which an abashed or even culpably sympathetic academic world demurs only meekly, with misgivings, weakly trying to remind its opponents of a few facts in rebuttal.

It would be war, all-embracing catastrophe, the collapse of civilization. It is my firm conviction that this, and only this, can be the consequence of the activist philosophy of this kind of man.

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