Thomas Mann Quotes

Paul Thomas Mann, 1875 – 1955

Born: 6 June 1875, L
Died: 12 August 1955, Z

Mann’s father, a senator and grain merchant, died in 1891 and mother and son moved to Munich, although Mann returned to Lübeck for gymnasium. Preparing for a career in journalism he studied at the Ludwig Maximillians University and the Technical University of Munich. He published his first story in 1898 and was awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature for 1929. He was a strong supporter of Kaiser Wilhelm during the first world war but drifted to more liberal positions over time. He was an outspoken opponent of the National Socialists from 1930. He and his wife were on vacation in Switzerland when Hitler came to power, they didn’t return home. The Nazis did not burn Mann’s books, possibly out of respect for his Nobel, but revoked his citizenship in 1936. He was able to get a Czech passport and used it to emigrate in 1939 to the US where he taught at Princeton until 1942, then moved to Pacific Palisades, California. Mann recorded a series of anti-Nazi radio programs in the US, the tapes were broadcast by the BBC to reach German listeners. His was one of the main voices of the Exilliteratur, the German writers opposing Nazism from exile. He was naturalized a US citizen in 1944, he returned to Switzerland in 1952 for the rest of his life. Mann was bisexual, although it’s not certain he consummated any of the homosexual feelings that were hinted at in his work and revealed when his diaries were unsealed after his death. He died of atherosclerosis.

Thomas Mann quotes:

A great truth is a truth whose opposite is also a truth.
    Thomas Mann

A harmful truth is better than a useful lie.
    Thomas Mann

A man lives not only his personal life, as an individual, but also, consciously or unconsciously, the life of his epoch and his contemporaries.
    Thomas Mann – The Magic Mountain (1924)

A man’s dying is more the survivors’ affair than his own.
    Thomas Mann – The Magic Mountain (1924)

A solitary, unused to speaking of what he sees and feels, has mental experiences which are at once more intense and less articulate than those of a gregarious man.
    Thomas Mann

A writer is somebody for whom writing is more difficult than it is for other people.
    Thomas Mann – Essays of Three Decades (1942)

All interest in disease and death is only another expression of interest in life.
    Thomas Mann – The Magic Mountain (1924)

An art whose medium is language will always show a high degree of critical creativeness, for speech is itself a critique of life: it names, it characterizes, it passes judgment, in that it creates.
    Thomas Mann – Speech at the Prussian Academy of Art in Berlin (22 January 1929)

Animals do not admire each other. A horse does not admire its companion.
    Thomas Mann

Art is the funnel, as it were, through which spirit is poured into life.
    Thomas Mann

Beauty can pierce one like pain.
    Thomas Mann – Buddenbrooks (1901)

But he would “stay the course” — it was his favorite motto.
    Thomas Mann – Death in Venice (1912)

But my deepest and most secret love belongs to the fair-haired and the blue-eyed, the bright children of life, the happy, the charming and the ordinary.
    Thomas Mann – Tonio Kröger (1903)

Culture and possessions, there is the bourgeoisie for you.
    Thomas Mann

Democracy is timelessly human, and timelessness always implies a certain amount of potential youthfulness.
    Thomas Mann – The Coming Victory of Democracy (1938)

Disease makes men more physical; it leaves them with nothing but body.
    Thomas Mann – The Magic Mountain (1924)

Every reasonable human being should be a moderate Socialist.
    Thomas Mann – The New York Times (18 June 1950)

Everything is politics.
    Thomas Mann – The Magic Mountain (1924)

Extraordinary creature! So close a friend, and yet so remote.
    Thomas Mann – Herr und Hund (A Man and his Dog) (1918)

For the myth is the foundation of life; it is the timeless schema, the pious formula into which life flows when it reproduces its traits out of the unconscious.
    Thomas Mann

For the sake of goodness and love, man shall let death have no sovereignty over his thoughts.
    Thomas Mann

Forbearance in the face of fate, beauty constant under torture, are not merely passive. They are a positive achievement, an explicit triumph.
    Thomas Mann – Death in Venice (1912)

Has the world ever been changed by anything save the thought and its magic vehicle the Word?
    Thomas Mann – Freud and the Future (1937)

He thought what a fine thing it was that people made music all over the world, even in the strangest settings — probably even on polar expeditions.
    Thomas Mann – The Magic Mountain (1924)

Human reason needs only to will more strongly than fate, and she is fate.
    Thomas Mann – The Magic Mountain (1924)

I admire the proud and cold who go adventuring on the paths of great and demoniac beauty, and scorn “man” — but I do not envy them.
    Thomas Mann – Tonio Kröger (1903)

I have always been an admirer. I regard the gift of admiration as indispensable if one is to amount to something; I don’t know where I would be without it.
    Thomas Mann

I have an epic, not a dramatic nature. My disposition and my desires call for peace to spin my thread, for a steady rhythm in life and art.
    Thomas Mann – Nobel banquet speech (10 December 1929)

I love and reverence the Word, the bearer of the spirit, the tool and gleaming ploughshare of progress.
    Thomas Mann – The Magic Mountain (1924)

I must tell you that we artists cannot tread the path of Beauty without Eros keeping company with us and appointing himself as our guide.
    Thomas Mann – Death in Venice (1912)

I stand between two worlds, am at home in neither, and in consequence have rather a hard time of it. You artists call me a commoner, and commoners feel tempted to arrest me.
    Thomas Mann – Tonio Kröger (1903)

I tell them that if they will occupy themselves with the study of mathematics they will find in it the best remedy against the lusts of the flesh.
    Thomas Mann

I think of my suffering, of the problem of my suffering. What am I suffering from? From knowledge — is it going to destroy me? What am I ?suffering from? From sexuality — is it going to destroy me?
    Thomas Mann – Letter to Otto Grautoff (1896)

If you are possessed by an idea, you find it expressed everywhere, you even smell it.
    Thomas Mann – Tonio Kröger (1903)

In books we never find anything but ourselves. Strangely enough, that always gives us great pleasure, and we say the author is a genius.
    Thomas Mann

In effect it seemed to him that, though honor might possess certain advantages, yet shame had others, and not inferior: advantages, even, that were well-nigh boundless in their scope.
    Thomas Mann – The Magic Mountain (1924)

In the Word is involved the unity of humanity, the wholeness of the human problem, which permits nobody to separate the intellectual and artistic from the political and social, and to isolate himself within the ivory tower of the “cultural” proper.
    Thomas Mann – Letter to the dean of the Philosophical Faculty, Bonn University (January 1937)

It is a strange fact that freedom and equality, the two basic ideas of democracy, are to some extent contradictory. Logically considered, freedom and equality are mutually exclusive, just as society and the individual are mutually exclusive.
    Thomas Mann – “The War and the Future” speech (1940)

It is love, not reason, that is stronger than death.
    Thomas Mann

It is most certainly a good thing that the world knows only the beautiful opus but not its origins, not the conditions of its creation; for if people knew the sources of the artist’s inspiration, that knowledge would often confuse them, alarm them, and thereby destroy the effects of excellence. strange hours! strangely enervating labor! bizarrely fertile intercourse of the mind with a body!
    Thomas Mann – Death in Venice (1912)

It is not good when people no longer believe in war. Pretty soon they no longer believe in many other things which they absolutely must believe in if they are to be decent men.
    Thomas Mann

Literature … is the union of suffering with the instinct for form.
    Thomas Mann

Love stands opposed to death. It is love, not reason, that is stronger than death. Only love, not reason, gives kind thoughts.
    Thomas Mann – The Magic Mountain (1924)

No man remains quite what he was when he recognizes himself.
    Thomas Mann

One always has the idea of a stupid man as perfectly healthy and ordinary, and of illness as making one refined and clever and unusual.
    Thomas Mann – The Magic Mountain (1924)

No man remains quite what he was when he recognizes himself.

Thomas Mann
One always has the idea of a stupid man as perfectly healthy and ordinary, and of illness as making one refined and clever and unusual.

Thomas Mann

The Magic Mountain (1924)
Only he who desires is amiable and not he who is satiated.

Thomas Mann

Confessions of Felix Krull, Confidence Man (1954)
Opinions cannot survive if one has no chance to fight for them.

Thomas Mann

The Magic Mountain (1924)
Order and simplification are the first steps toward the mastery of a subject — the actual enemy is the unknown.

Thomas Mann

The Magic Mountain (1924)
Paradox is the poisonous flower of quietism, the iridescent surface of the rotting mind, the greatest depravity of all.

Thomas Mann

The Magic Mountain (1924)
Politics has been called the “art of the possible,” and it actually is a realm akin to art insofar as, like art, it occupies a creatively mediating position between spirit and life, the idea and reality.

Thomas Mann

Speech at the US Library of Congress (29 May 1945)
Solitude begets originality, bold and disconcerting beauty, poetry. But solitude can also beget perversity, disparity, the absurd and the forbidden.

Thomas Mann

Death in Venice (1912)
Solitude gives birth to the original in us, to beauty unfamiliar and perilous — to poetry. But also, it gives birth to the opposite: to the perverse, the illicit, the absurd.

Thomas Mann

Death in Venice (1912)
Space, like time, engenders forgetfulness; but it does so by setting us bodily free from our surroundings and giving us back our primitive, unattached state.

Thomas Mann

The Magic Mountain (1924)
Speech is civilization itself. The word, even the most contradictory word, preserves contact — it is silence which isolates.

Thomas Mann

The Magic Mountain (1924)
That daily the night falls; that over stresses and torments, cares and sorrows the blessing of sleep unfolds, stilling and quenching them; that every day anew this draught of refreshment and lethe is offered to our parching lips, ever after the battle this mildness laves our shaking limbs, that from it, purified from sweat and dust and blood, strengthened, renewed, rejuvenated, almost innocent once more, almost with pristine courage and zeal we may go forth again — these I hold to be the benignest, the most moving of all the great facts of life.

Thomas Mann

“Sleep, Sweet Sleep” Neue Freie Presse (Vienna, 30 May 1909)
The accouterments of life were so rich and varied, so elaborated, that almost no place at all was left for life itself. Each and every accessory was so costly and beautiful that it had an existence above and beyond the purpose it was meant to serve — confusing the observer and absorbing attention.

Thomas Mann
The beautiful word begets the beautiful deed.

Thomas Mann

The Magic Mountain (1924)
The Freudian theory is one of the most important foundation stones for an edifice to be built by future generations, the dwelling of a freer and wiser humanity.

Thomas Mann

The New York Times (21 June 1939)

The important thing for me, then, is not the “work,” but my life. Life is not the means for the achievement of an esthetic ideal of perfection; on the contrary, the work is an ethical symbol of life.

Thomas Mann

Reflections of a Non-Political Man (1918)]
The invention of printing and the Reformation are and remain the two outstanding services of central Europe to the cause of humanity.

Thomas Mann

The Magic Mountain (1924)
The meeting in the open of two dogs, strangers to each other, is one of the most painful, thrilling, and pregnant of all conceivable encounters; it is surrounded by an atmosphere of the last canniness, presided over by a constraint for which I have no preciser name; they simply cannot pass each other, their mutual embarrassment is frightful to behold.

Thomas Mann

Herr und Hund (A Man and his Dog) (1918)
The only religious way to think of death is as part and parcel of life; to regard it, with the understanding and the emotions, as the the inviolable condition of life.

Thomas Mann

The Magic Mountain (1924)
The positive thing about the skeptic is that he considers everything possible!

Thomas Mann
The task of a writer consists of being able to make something out of an idea.

Thomas Mann
The writer’s joy is the thought that can become emotion, the emotion that can wholly become a thought.

Thomas Mann

Death in Venice (1912)
There is an artistry so deep, so primordial and elemental, that no yearning seems to it sweeter and more worthy of tasting than that for the raptures of common-placeness.

Thomas Mann

Tonio Kröger (1903)
There is at bottom only one problem in the world, and this is its name. How does one break through? How does one get into the open? How does one burst the cocoon and become a butterfly?

Thomas Mann

Dr. Faustus (1947)
There is only one real misfortune: to forfeit one’s own good opinion of oneself. Lose your complacency, once betray your own self-contempt and the world will unhesitatingly endorse it.

Thomas Mann
There is something suspicious about music, gentlemen. I insist that she is, by her nature, equivocal. I shall not be going too far in saying at once that she is politically suspect.

Thomas Mann

The Magic Mountain (1924)
This was love at first sight, love everlasting: a feeling unknown, unhoped for, unexpected – in so far as it could be a matter of conscious awareness; it took entire possession of him, and he understood, with joyous amazement, that this was for life.

Thomas Mann

“Early Sorrow” Tellers of Tales (1939)
Time cools, time clarifies, no mood can be maintained quite unaltered through the course of hours.

Thomas Mann

The Magic Mountain (1924)
Time has no divisions to mark its passage, there is never a thunderstorm or blare of trumpets to announce the beginning of a new month or year. Even when a new century begins it is only we mortals who ring bells and fire off pistols.

Thomas Mann

The Magic Mountain (1924)
To be grateful for all life’s blessings … is the best condition for a happy life. A joke, a good meal, a fine spring day, a work of art, a human personality, a voice, a glance — but this is not all. For there is another kind of gratitude, … the feeling that makes us thankful for suffering, for the hard and heavy things of life, for the deepening of our natures which perhaps only suffering can bring.

Thomas Mann

accepting honorary degree at Princeton University (1939)

Tolerance becomes a crime when applied to evil.

Thomas Mann

The Magic Mountain (1924)
Wagner’s art is the most sensational self-portrayal and self-critique of German nature that it is possible to conceive.

Thomas Mann

Suffering and Greatness of Richard Wagner (1933)
War is only a cowardly escape from the problems of peace.

Thomas Mann
We are most likely to get angry and excited in our opposition to some idea when we ourselves are not quite certain of our own position, and are inwardly tempted to take the other side.

Thomas Mann

Buddenbrooks (1901)
We artists cannot tread the path of Beauty without Eros keeping company with us and appointing himself as our guide. Though we may be heroes in our fashion and disciplined warriors … it is passion that exalts us, and the longing of our soul must remain the longing of a lover — that is our joy and our shame.

Thomas Mann

Death in Venice (1912)
We do not fear being called meticulous, inclining as we do to the view that only the exhaustive can be truly interesting.

Thomas Mann

The Magic Mountain (1924)
We don’t love qualities, we love persons; sometimes by reason of their defects as well as of their qualities.

Thomas Mann
What a glorious gift is imagination, and what satisfaction it affords!

Thomas Mann

Confessions of Felix Krull, Confidence Man (1954)
What a wonderful phenomenon it is, carefully considered, when the human eye, that jewel of organic structures, concentrates its moist brilliance on another human creature!

Thomas Mann

Confessions of Felix Krull, Confidence Man (1954)
What is uttered is finished and done with.

Thomas Mann
What pleases the public is lively and vivid delineation which makes no demands on the intellect; but passionate and absolutist youth can only be enthralled by a problem.

Thomas Mann
What they, in their innocence, cannot comprehend is that a properly constituted, healthy, decent man never writes, acts, or composes.

Thomas Mann

Tonio Kröger (1903)
What we call mourning for our dead is perhaps not so much grief at not being able to call them back as it is grief at not being able to want to do so.

Thomas Mann

The Magic Mountain (1924)
Writing well was almost the same as thinking well, and thinking well was the next thing to acting well.

Thomas Mann

The Magic Mountain (1924)
Yes, they are carnal, both of them, love and death, and therein lies their terror and their great magic!

Thomas Mann

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