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

"Wagner’s art is the most sensational self-portrayal and self-critique of German nature that it is possible to conceive."

"Was it an intellectual consequence of this ‘rebirth,’ of this new dignity and rigor, that, at about the same time, his sense of beauty was observed to undergo an almost excessive resurgence, that his style took on the noble purity, simplicity and symmetry that were to set upon all his subsequent works that so evident and evidently intentional stamp of the classical master."

"We do not fear being called meticulous, inclining as we do to the view that only the exhaustive can be truly interesting."

"We don't love qualities, we love persons sometimes by reason of their defects as well as of their qualities."

"We know that and will not wean until something new is the only way that keeps our lives, refreshes our sense of time - the only one which allows us to rejuvenate, strengthen, release our experience of time and thus to renew our sense of life in general."

"We, when we sow the seeds of doubt deeper than the most up-to-date and modish free-thought has ever dreamed of doing, we well know what we are about. Only out of radical skeptics, out of moral chaos, can the Absolute spring, the anointed Terror of which the time has need."

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

"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!"

"What an absurd torture for the artist to know that an audience identifies him with a work that, within himself, he has moved beyond and that was merely a game played with something in which he does not believe."

"What did one see if one looked in any depth into the world of this writer's fiction? Elegant self-control concealing from the world's eyes until the very last moment a state of inner disintegration and biological decay; sallow ugliness, sensuously marred and worsted, which nevertheless is able to fan its smoldering concupiscence to a pallid impotence, which from the glowing depths of the spirit draws strength to cast down a whole proud people at the foot of the Cross and set its own foot upon them as well; gracious poise and composure in the empty austere service of form; the false, dangerous life of the born deceiver, his ambition and his art which lead so soon to exhaustion ---"

"What good would politics be, if it didn’t give everyone the opportunity to make moral compromises."

"What I have done is nothing, not much — as good as nothing. I shall do better things, Lisaveta — this is a promise. While I am writing, the sea's roar is coming up to me, and I close my eyes. I am looking into an unborn and shapeless world that longs to be called to life and order, I am looking into a throng of phantoms of human forms which beckon me to conjure them and set them free: some of them tragic, some of them ridiculous, and some that are both at once — and to these I am very devoted. But my deepest and most secret love belongs to the blond and blue-eyed, the bright-spirited living ones, the happy, amiable, and commonplace."

"What is uttered is finished and done with."

"What our age needs, what it demands, what it will create for itself, is—terror."

"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."

"What the collectivist age wants, allows, and approves is the perpetual holiday from the self."

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

"What was it that drove these thousands into the arms of his art — what but the blissfully sensuous, searing, sense-consuming, intoxicating, hypnotically caressing, heavily upholstered — in a word, the luxurious quality of his music?"

"What was life? It was warmth, the warmth generated by a form-preserving instability, a fever of matter, which accompanied the process of ceaseless decay and repair of protein molecules that were too impossibly ingenious in structure."

"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."

"What we call National-Socialism is the poisonous perversion of ideas which have a long history in German intellectual life."

"Whatever profits man, that is the truth. In him all nature is comprehended, in all nature only he is created, and all nature only for him. He is the measure of all things, and his welfare is the sole and single criterion of truth."

"When life still hesitates to touch us, when neither duty nor guilt dares lay a hand upon us"

"When one day is like all the others, then they are all like one; complete uniformity would make the longest life seem short, and as though it had stolen away from us unawares."

"While I am writing, the sea's roar is coming up to me, and I close my eyes. I am looking into an unborn and shapeless world that longs to be called to life and order, I am looking into a throng of phantoms of human forms which beckon me to conjure them and set them free: some of them tragic, some of them ridiculous, and some that are both at once."

"Why does almost everything seem to me like its own parody? Why must I think that almost all, no, all the methods and conventions of art today are good for parody only?"

"With astonishment Aschenbach noticed that the boy was entirely beautiful. His countenance, pale and gracefully reserved, was surrounded by ringlets of honey-colored hair, and with its straight nose, its enchanting mouth, its expression of sweet and divine gravity, it recalled Greek sculpture of the noblest period."

"Writing well was almost the same as thinking well, and thinking well was the next thing to acting well. All moral discipline, all moral perfection derived from the soul of literature, from the soul of human dignity, which was the moving spirit of both humanity and politics. Yes, they were all one, one and the same force, one and the same idea, and all of them could be comprehended in one single word... The word was — civilization!"

"Yes, they are carnal, both of them, love and death, and therein lies their terror and their great magic!"

"You Christians studied them, Settembrini exclaimed, studied the classical poets and philosophers until you broke out in a sweat, attempted to make their precious heritage your own, just as you used the stones of their ancient edifices for your meeting houses. Because you were well aware that no new art could come from your own proletarian souls and hoped to defeat antiquity with its own weapon. And so it will be again, so it will always be. And you with your crude visions of a new morning will likewise have to be taught by those whom—so at least you would like to persuade yourselves, and others—you despise. For without education you cannot prevail before humanity, and there is only one kind of education—you call it bourgeois, but in fact it is human."

"You have never spent any time in theatrical circles, have you? So you do not know those thespian faces that can embody the features of a Julius Caesar, a Goethe and a Beethoven all in one, but whose owners, the moment they open their mouths, prove to be the most miserable ninnies under the sun."

"Life is possessed by tremendous tenacity. Even so, its presence remains conditional, and as it had a beginning, so it will have an end. I believe that life, just for this reason, is exceedingly enhanced in value, in charm."

"One of the most important characteristics distinguishing man from all other forms of nature is his knowledge of transitoriness, of beginning and end, and therefore of the gift of time. In man, transitory life attains its peak of animation, of soul power, so to speak. This does not mean man alone would have a soul. Soul quality pervades all beings. But man?s soul is most awake in his knowledge of the inter-changeability of the terms ?existence? and ?transitoriness." To man, time is given like a piece of land, as it were, entrusted to him for faithful tilling; a space in which to strive incessantly, achieve self-realization, move onward and upward. Yes, with the aid of time, man becomes capable of wresting the immortal from the mortal."

"Time is related to ? yes, identical with ? everything creative and active, with every progress toward a higher goal. Without transitoriness, without beginning or end, birth or death, there is no time, either. Timelessness ? in the sense of time never ending, never beginning ? is a stagnant nothing. It is absolutely uninteresting."

"What I believe, what I value most, is transitoriness. But is not transitoriness ? the perishableness of life ? something very sad? No! It is the very soul of existence. It imparts value, dignity, interest to life. Transitoriness creates time ? and ?time is the essence.? Potentially at least, time is the supreme, most useful gift."

"One of the most important characteristics distinguishing man from all other forms of nature is his knowledge of transitoriness, of beginning and end, and therefore of the gift of time. In man, transitory life attains its peak of animation, of soul power, so to speak. This does not mean man alone would have a soul. Soul quality pervades all beings. But man?s soul is most awake in his knowledge of the inter-changeability of the terms ?existence? and ?transitoriness.?"

"To man, time is given like a piece of land, as it were, entrusted to him for faithful tilling; a space in which to strive incessantly, achieve self-realization, move onward and upward. Yes, with the aid of time, man becomes capable of wresting the immortal from the mortal."