Soll man »abreisen«, wenn das Leben sich ein bißchen unheimlich, nicht ganz geheuer oder etwas peinlich und kränkend anläßt? Nein doch, man soll bleiben, soll sich das ansehen und sich dem aussetzen, gerade dabei gibt es vielleicht etwas zu lernen.
[tr. Should we “leave” when life is a bit eerie, not quite harsh, or a little embarrassing and ailing? No, you should stay, look at it and expose yourself to it, there may just be something to learn from it.]
It is spooky when a book that was written a long time ago and comments on an impending catastrophe, reflects – or seems to reflect – current affairs.
Mario and the Magician was written in 1930 and describes the rise of fascism in Italy. I had no idea the novella would be about this. I was intrigued by the title simply because Thomas Mann was called “the Magician” by his children, which was not was this story was about at all.
But there we have it, two sides of the coin: what can appear charming, entertaining, and imaginative by some, may also be used to destroy. An allegory used marvellously by Mann, whose grotesque magician Cipolla binds his audience by hypnotism to obey his commands, and whose disrespect for the dignity of the townspeople culminates in destruction.
»War das auch das Ende?« wollten sie wissen, um sicherzugehen … »Ja, das war das Ende«, bestätigten wir ihnen. Ein Ende mit Schrecken, ein höchst fatales Ende. Und ein befreiendes Ende dennoch, – ich konnte und kann nicht umhin, es so zu empfinden!
[tr.: “Was that the end?” They wanted to know to make sure … “Yes, that was the end,” we confirmed. An end with horror, a most fatal end. And a liberating ending nevertheless, – I could and can not help feeling so!]
As for myself, I am still in shock that I have found a work by Thomas Mann that I could connect with, even if that connection is one of concerns for current events. I still don’t enjoy Mann’s writing style much, but in this instance his drawn out narrative and formal, seemingly dispassionate, choice of words, helped to build the tension of the story.