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Thomas Mann

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1/30/2015 11:14:16 PM
Posted: 3 years ago

Part 1:

During the years 1999 to 2005, I retired by stages after a 50 year student-working life from: FT, PT and casual/volunteer work. It was an early retirement at the age of 55. I had come to find the demands of job and family, Baha'i community and society in general with their 60 to 80 hour weeks of nose-to-the-grindstone stuff more than I could cope with. I remember, in the last months of employment taking monthly shots of testosterone. The decline in testosterone levels that occurs by aging is sometimes called "andropause" in men, as a comparison to the decline in estrogen that comes with menopause in women

In the first years of my sea-change, as an early retirement is sometimes called, I also went on a new cocktail of medications for my bipolar disorder and this added to my sense of well-being and gave me better sleeping patterns. I found that I was able to watch a marvellous range of educational and visual material on TV for, perhaps, two hours a day. I had drawn on TV, video and film resources as stimulus in my work as a community and classroom teacher, adult educator, tutor and lecturer in the years 1967 to 2003; I had watched my share of TV and cinema in the years 1948 to 1967 as a child, adolescent and young adult in that first generation, 1950 to 1970, to be able to enjoy both mediums.

One docudrama I watched in 2007, just as I was about to go on two old-age pensions at the age of 65, was made by a German television director Heinrich Breloer: The Manns: Novel of a Century. It was aired on German television in 2001. It is the saga of an extraordinary family that stamped Germany, its culture and its era like no other. Six hours of viewing, it examined the history of Germany"s most celebrated literary family: the Manns. This program made its TV debut in Australia in 2007 in the early years (60-65) of my late adulthood as human development theorists define the years 60 to 80.

Part 2:
Thomas Mann, his writing and his career have interested me since I first come across his diaries in the 1990s while still a teacher in Western Australia. Mann's diaries, unsealed in 1975, tell of his struggles with his bisexuality, and they came into my reading when I was teaching English literature to matriculation students in the city of Perth. Like many subjects that came across my desk and my reading as a student, as a teacher and as a member of society living through the tempestuous decades from the 1960s through the 1990s, my study of the life and writing of Thomas Man had to go on hold. This man had to be put in the pending, impending, in the "to be examined later in life" category.

This TV mini-series-docudrama, renewed, awakened and enhanced my interest, precipitated and refreshed my curiosity, about a life that was "a striking example of the repeated puberty characteristic of genius."1 These were the words of the great philosopher Goethe. In literary technique as well as in the work of the rational faculty, Mann experienced a richness, a daring and a purely intellectual excitement to a greater depth and with much more significance than has been generally realized.

Mann"s work continues to be examined and reread, as though the key to it remains in some furtive, cloaked part of his dark and exotic psychosexual being. "It is as well," Mann wrote in Death in Venice, "that the world knows only a fine piece of work and not its origins." The ability to entertain conflicting points of view, essential for a novelist, rendered him incapable of personal intimacy or loyalty so wrote one reviewer.2

Part 3:

Thomas Mann wrote about death obsessively; his son Klaus allowed the aura of death to enter his own spirit. As early as 1932 Klaus wrote in his diary that he had thought about suicide. In February 1933 he wrote: "In the mornings, nothing but the wish to die. When I calculate what I have to lose, it seems negligible. No chance of a really happy relationship. Probably no chance of literary fame in the near future . . . Death can only be regarded as deliverance."3

I took an interest in this due to my own dance with the topic of death that seems to have been linked to my bipolar disorder.--Ron Price with appreciation to 1Henry Hatfield in Thomas Mann, New Directions, 1962(1951); 2 Theodore Ziolkowski's review of Thomas Mann: A Biography, Ronald Hayman, Illustrated, 700 pages, NY, 1995, and 3 "I Could Sleep with All of Them," Colm T"ib"n, a review of In the Shadow of the Magic Mountain: The Erika and Klaus Mann Story by Andrea Weiss in the London Review of Books, 6 November 2008.

Part 4:

Even with my well-developed,
highly enhanced skepticism
which nearly fifty-years of
television watching1 & seventy
years of living has produced in
the application of my rational
faculty to life's complexities......

Even though I am more than a little
aware of the fundamental difference
between: stage, printed page and TV,
all of which have some unmistakable
politico-social & potentially distorting
point of view arranged for an audience;

Even though I knew little about this figure:2
his diaries, his novels, his letters, his life,
his eloquent and outstanding humanism,
his courageous espousal of democracy,
his transcription of the raw materials of
his experience & personal history into form,
his literary and autobiographical writings
as novels, his utter-productive absorption
in self and society, his observational skills,
his transcription of the dull, the quotidian
aspects of existence with a clarity and his
pitiless gaze, his relentless reporting as well
as invention anchoring his imagination and
his discomfort in the soil of fact & fiction,
his very living to write, not writing to live........3

In spite of all of this"my interest was piqued
about a man who wrote three pages every day,
who read ravenously, who sought harmony
among the peoples of the world, who tried
to express the tenderness, beauty and the
profundity of life; who strove to create an
inner unity out of all his creative powers in
the great experiment that is existence itself.4

He was, indeed, a world citizen, an heir to
Goethe, Heine and Kant whose writing was
a type of autobiography so different than my
own, and who knew he was a writer when he
was still young; whereas I had to wait by a
series of steps & phases, degrees & epochs
for the last decade of my middle-age & my
late adulthood as 1 of the models of human
development used by psychologists call the
years from 60 to 80 in the human lifespan!!

You were, like me, far removed from the
political agitation and distraction of the
times, and you faced yourself and your
humanity by concentrating on your work
contributing, as I do, to the causes you
held dear until your death in 1955 when
my childhood was ending, as my life's
adolescence just about to begin with its
controlled post-puberal eroticism. 5

1 1950-1957, and 1977 to 2015
2 The German writer Thomas Mann
3 Peter Gay, "A Life of Thomas Mann," a review of Thomas Mann: The Making of an Artist by Richard Winston, A.A. Knopf, NY, 300 pages, in The New York Times, 3 January 1982.
4 Associated Press, "Thomas Mann Dies At 80," 13 August 1956 in The New York Times On The Web.
5 In 1955 I was just 11 years old, at the start of my adolescent baseball and hockey careers as well as my pre-puberal eroticism. At the age of 12 I kissed my first girl.

Ron Price
19/8/"08 to 30/1/"15.
Married for 48 years, a teacher for 32, a student for 18, a writer and editor for 16, and a Baha'i for 56(in 2015)