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Full text of "ModernGermanLiterature18801950"

312                   MODERN   GERMAN  LITERATURE

(in Mann's own words) that turning of the mind to democracy,
common service, companionship, love, which had been proclaimed
in the previous year in Heinrich Mann's novel Die kleine Stadt.

The problem of the artist is handled with painful incisiveness
in Der Tod in Venedig (i 913): a German author, ripe in years, with
his work already in the schoolbooks, goes for a holiday to Venice;
here, to his own horror, he falls in love with a beautiful boy,
cannot tear himself away, dies. The negative solution is positive in
scope: the romantic adulation of beauty is shameless ^lud&rlicW)\
the hero, if he had not been a romantic artist, might have con-
trolled himself, might have left Venice and returned to duty.1 The
septentrional artist is softened and corrupted by the balmy south;
but there is peril, too, in the indolent and consciousless east: the
boy is a Pole, and smitten already with an incurable disease. The
meaning of Der Tod in Venedig is clear enough in the hero's com-
munings with himself: beauty, virtue, wisdom are, as Plato taught,
divine; but of these only beauty is at once divine and visible to the
senses; and since the artist works by the apperception of the senses,
beauty is the artist's way to the spiritual. But how can he whose
way to the spiritual goes through the senses attain wisdom and
dignity? Is not this a devious way of sin that is bound to lead
astray ? The poet cannot take the way to beauty but Eros joins him
as guide. . . . Poets are like women, passion is their exaltation,
and their yearning must be for love. Mann's grim picture of the
doomed artist is relieved by his interpretation of Schiller's char-
acter in the short tale Schmre Stunde (in Das Wunderkind): it is the
physical incapacity caused by the overweight of mind that isolates
the artist; the true artist, however, conscious of his frailty but
also of the nobility of his task, develops the 'heroism of weakness'
(Heroismus der Schvache): Schiller, too, is doomed by disease, and
realizes how terrible his fate is when he compares himself with
Goethe; but he finds consolation in the thought that it is harder
to be a hero than to be a god. Here, too, there is an acknowledg-
ment by Mann that the artist may be god-like and raised above
criticism: Goethe, 'der GottKch-Unbewusste\ creating by inspiration

1 Dr D. M. Hall, in her dissertation The Venice Legend in German Literature
since i$$o, has made it seem likely that one of the sources of the book was the
unabridged edition of Platen's diary (ed. Laubmann und von ScheHter, 1896-
1900). In a speech on Pkten (in Leiden und Grosse der Meister) Thomas Mann
takes the poet's homosexuality for granted. Another possible source is Eftt
Vermachtnis (1911), the diary of the painter Anselm Feuerbach.