J.P. Stern

  • Reflections of a Non-Political Man by Thomas Mann, translated by Walter Morris
    Lorrimar, 435 pp, £19.50, February 1986, ISBN 0 8044 2585 X

Long before the English began worrying about their national identity, the Germans fought a war to assert theirs – or so many German intellectuals felt in August 1914. Thomas Mann’s contribution to this eruption of nationalist self-consciousness was delivered in a series of essays written over the following four years, and it is among the strangest things he ever wrote. Not the least paradox of this exacting, ambitious and deeply ironical work is the fact that when it was first published, in the month of Germany’s defeat, the causes and attitudes so strenuously defended in its pages seemed to the population at large all but discredited: and Mann’s own rejection of most of them was soon to follow. Whatever his motives in writing these essays, there was nothing expedient about publishing them.

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