Great Throughts Treasury

A database of quotes

Thomas Mann, fully Paul Thomas Mann

German Novelist, Essayist, Short Story Writer, Social Critic, Philanthropist, Awarded Nobel Prize for his Novels

"It was left for the Germans to bring about a revolution of a kind never seen before: [the Nazi] revolution, devoid of ideas... and opposed to everything that is higher, better and decent; opposed to liberty, truth, and justice."

"Knowledge of the soul would unfailingly make us melancholy if the pleasures of expression did not keep us alert and of good cheer."

"Myth is the foundation of life, it is the timeless pattern, the religious formula to which life shapes itself... There is no doubt about it, the moment when the storyteller acquires the mythical way of looking at things, that moment marks a beginning in his life."

"What happens to a man is less significant than what happens within him."

"A great truth is a truth whose opposite is also a truth."

"A man's dying is more the survivors' affair than his own."

"All interest in disease and death is only another expression of interest in life."

"Describes the professional artist as a morally suspect, even socially dangerous, conman, who from a deliberately chosen position of spiritual alienation, yet offers the ambiguous, self-serving products of his art, in expectation not only of support and remuneration, but also of social approval and even adoration as genius. [Paraphrased]"

"The friend of humanity cannot recognize a distinction between what is political and what is not. There is nothing that is not political."

"The only religious way to think of death is as part and parcel of life."

"There is a way of being an artist that goes so deep and is so much a matter of origins and destinies that no longing seems to it sweeter and more worth knowing than longing after the bliss of the commonplace."

"Thought that can merge wholly into feeling, feeling that can merge wholly into thought - these are the artist's highest joy."

"Happiness is a perfume which you cannot pour on others without getting a few drops on yourself."

"Knowledge is all-knowing, understanding, forgiving; it takes up no position, sets no store by form. It has compassion with the abyss - it is the abyss. So we reject it, firmly, and henceforward our concern shall be with beauty only. And by beauty we mean simplicity, largeness, and renewed severity of discipline; we mean a return to detachment and to form."

"Order and simplification are the first steps toward the mastery of a subject. The actual enemy is the unknown."

"One believes in the coming of war if one does not sufficiently abhor it."

"War is only a cowardly escape from the problems of peace."

"Time cools, time clarifies, no mood can be maintained quite unaltered through the course of hours. In the early dawn, standing weapon in hand, neither of the combatants would be the same man as on the evening of the quarrel. They would be going through it, if at all, mechanically, in obedience to the demands of honour, not, as they would have at first, of their own free will, desire, and conviction; and such a denial of their actual selves in favour of their past ones, it must somehow be possible to prevent."

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

"A black pall, you know, with a silver cross on it, or R.I.P. — requiescat in pace — you know. That seems to me the most beautiful expression — I like it much better than ‘He is a jolly good fellow,’ which is simply rowdy."

"A harmful truth is better than a useful lie."

"A human being tends to believe that the mood of the moment, be it troubled or blithe, peaceful or stormy, is the true, native, and permanent tenor of his existence ... whereas the truth is that he is condemned to improvisation and morally lives from hand to mouth all the time."

"A human being who is first of all an invalid is all body; therein lies his inhumanity and his debasement."

"A man lives not only his personal life, as an individual, but also, consciously or unconsciously, the life of his epoch and his contemporaries. He may regard the general, impersonal foundations of his existence as definitely settled and taken for granted, and be as far from assuming a critical attitude towards them as our good Hans Castorp really was; yet it is quite conceivable that he may none the less be vaguely conscious of the deficiencies of his epoch and find them prejudicial to his own moral well-being. All sorts of personal aims, hopes, ends, prospects, hover before the eyes of the individual, and out of these he derives the impulse to ambition and achievement. Now, if the life about him, if his own time seems, however outwardly stimulating, to be at bottom empty of such food for his aspirations; if he privately recognises it to be hopeless, viewless, helpless, opposing only a hollow silence to all the questions man puts, consciously or unconsciously, yet somehow puts, as to the final, absolute, and abstract meaning in all his efforts and activities; then, in such a case, a certain laming of the personality is bound to occur, the more inevitably the more upright the character in question; a sort of palsy, as it were, which may extend from his spiritual and moral over into his physical and organic part. In an age that affords no satisfying answer to the eternal question of 'Why?' 'To what end?' a man who is capable of achievement over and above the expected modicum must be equipped either with a moral remoteness and single-mindedness which is rare indeed and of heroic mould, or else with an exceptionally robust vitality. Hans Castorp had neither one nor the other of these; and thus he must be considered mediocre, though in an entirely honourable sense."

"A secret and ardent stirring within the frozen chastity of the universal."

"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. They are sluggish, yet more wayward, and never without a melancholy tinge. Sights and impressions which others brush aside with a glance, a light comment, a smile, occupy him more than their due; they sink silently in, they take on meaning, they become experience, emotion, adventure. 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."

"A state of conscience is higher than a state of innocence."

"A writer is a person for whom writing is more difficult than it is for other people."

"Absolutely everything beloved and cherished of the bourgeoisie, the conservative, the cowardly, and the impotent — the State, family life, secular art and science — was consciously or unconsciously hostile to the religious idea, to the Church, whose innate tendency and permanent aim was the dissolution of all existing worldly orders, and the reconstitution of society after the model of the ideal, the communistic City of God."

"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."

"Analysis as an instrument of enlightenment and civilization is good, in so far as it shatters absurd convictions, acts as a solvent upon natural prejudices, and undermines authority; good, in other words, in that it sets free, refines, humanizes, makes slaves ripe for freedom. But it is bad, very bad, in so far as it stands in the way of action, cannot shape the vital forces, maims life at its roots. Analysis can be a very unappetizing affair, as much so as death."

"And beyond the Wegknies, between hill and mountain wall between the rusty colored pines, through whose branches sunbeams fell, it happened and went wonderful that Castorp, left by Joachim, who overtook lovely sick that he with male kicks her passing by, and in the moment when he to the right of her was, with a hatless bow and spoken in a low voice, 'Good morning,' she respectfully (why actually: respectfully) welcomed and answer from her received: courtesy not more astonished head tilt, she thanked, also said in turn good morning in his own language, with her ??eyes smiled, - and all this was something else, something thoroughly and blissful but the look on his boots, it was a stroke of luck and a turn of events for good and very best, quite unprecedented way and almost the comprehension border, it was the salvation."

"And for its part, what was life? Was it perhaps only an infectious disease of matter—just as the so-called spontaneous generation of matter was perhaps only an illness, a cancerous stimulation of the immaterial?"

"And his heart was stirred, it felt a father's kindness: such an emotion as the possessor of beauty can inspire in one who has offered himself up in spirit to create beauty."

"And life? Life itself? Was it perhaps only an infection, a sickening of matter? Was that which one might call the original procreation of matter only a disease, a growth produced by morbid stimulation of the immaterial? The first step toward evil, toward desire and death, was taken precisely then, when there took place that first increase in the density of the spiritual, that pathologically luxuriant morbid growth, produced by the irritant of some unknown infiltration; this, in part pleasurable, in part a motion of self-defense, was the primeval stage of matter, the transition from the insubstantial to the substance. This was the Fall."

"And then he'd rub his cheeks with cold cream because he'd just shaved and the tears stung."

"And then the sly arch-lover that he was, he said the subtlest thing of all: that the lover was nearer the divine than the beloved; for the god was in the one but not in the other - perhaps the tenderest, most mocking thought that ever was thought, and source of all the guile and secret bliss the lover knows."

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

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

"Art is the spirit in matter, the natural instinct toward humanization, that is, toward the spiritualization of life."

"As a science of the unconscious it is a therapeutic method, in the grand style, a method overarching the individual case. Call this, if you choose, a poet’s utopia."

"As death, when we come to consider it closely, is the true goal of our existence, I have formed during the last few years such close relations with this best and truest friend of mankind, that his image is not only no longer terrifying to me, but is indeed very soothing and consoling And I thank my God for graciously granting me the opportunity...of learning that death is the key which unlocks the door to our true happiness."

"Beauty begets shame"

"Beauty can pierce one like a pain."

"Because when they say only the eyes, the conversation takes place after the 'you.'"

"But for him it was music - music when it was just that only, and against the word of Goethe: 'The art deals with the heavy and the good guys, he found objectionable, that the light is too hard if it's good what it may be as well as the severity. Some of them got stuck with me, I got it from him. However, I've always taken to mean that one must be very versed in Hard and good, so to receive the Light."

"But he would stay the course — it was his favorite motto."

"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."

"But sometimes a person begins with opinions and judgments and valid criticisms, but then things creep in that have nothing to do with forming opinions, and then it’s all over with strict logic, and what you end up with is an absurd world republic and beautiful style."

"But the boredom of Frau Spatz had by now reached that pitch where it distorts the countenance of man, makes the eyes protrude from the head, and lends the features a corpselike and terrifying aspect. More than that, this music acted on the nerves that controlled her digestion, producing in her dyspeptic organism such malaise that she was really afraid she would have an attack."