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  • Published: 1 June 2021
  • ISBN: 9781681375311
  • Imprint: NY Review Books
  • Format: Paperback
  • Pages: 592
  • RRP: $29.99

Reflections of a Nonpolitical Man



A classic, controversial book exploring German culture and identity by the author of Death in Venice and The Magic Mountain, now back in print.

A classic, controversial book exploring German culture and identity by the author of Death in Venice and The Magic Mountain, now back in print.

When the Great War broke out in August 1914, Thomas Mann, like so many people on both sides of the conflict, was exhilarated. Finally, the era of decadence that he had anatomized in Death in Venice had come to an end; finally, there was a cause worth fighting and even dying for, or, at least when it came to Mann himself, writing about. Mann immediately picked up his pen to compose a paean to the German cause. Soon after, his elder brother and lifelong rival, the novelist Heinrich Mann, responded with a no less determined denunciation. Thomas took it as an unforgivable stab in the back.

The bitter dispute between the brothers would swell into the strange, tortured, brilliant, sometimes perverse literary performance that is Reflections of a Nonpolitical Man, a book that Mann worked on and added to throughout the war and that bears an intimate relation to his postwar masterpiece The Magic Mountain. Wild and ungainly though Mann’s reflections can be, they nonetheless constitute, as Mark Lilla demonstrates in a new introduction, a key meditation on the freedom of the artist and the distance between literature and politics.

The NYRB Classics edition includes two additional essays by Mann: “Thoughts in Wartime” (1914), translated by Mark Lilla and Cosima Mattner; and “On the German Republic” (1922), translated by Lawrence Rainey.

  • Published: 1 June 2021
  • ISBN: 9781681375311
  • Imprint: NY Review Books
  • Format: Paperback
  • Pages: 592
  • RRP: $29.99

About the author

Thomas Mann

Thomas Mann was born in 1875 in Lubeck, of a line of prosperous and influential merchants. Mann was educated under the discipline of North German schoolmasters before working for an insurance office aged nineteen. During this time he secretly wrote his first tale, Fallen, and shortly afterwards left the insurance office to study art and literature at the University in Munich. After a year in Rome he devoted himself exclusively to writing.

He was only twenty-five when Buddenbrooks, his first major novel, was published. Before it was banned and burned by Hitler, it had sold over a million copies in Germany alone. His second great novel, The Magic Mountain, was published in 1924 and the first volume of his tetralogy Joseph and his Brothers in 1933. In 1929 he was awarded the Nobel Prize for literature. IN 1933 Thomas Mann left Germany for Switzerland. Then, after several previous visits, in 1938 he settled in the United States, where he wrote Doctor Faustus and The Holy Sinner. Among the honours he received in the US was his appointment as a Fellow of the Library of Congress. He revisited his native country in 1949 and returned to Switzerland in 1952, where The Black Swan and Confessions of Felix Krull were written and where he died in 1955.

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