Welcome To #MutuallyMann

#MutuallyMann was an interactive reading experience and a space for transatlantic conversation in times of social distancing and quarantine.

We, the Thomas Mann House and the S. Fischer Verlag publishing house, invited readers all over the world to read Thomas Mann’s novella Mario and the Magician over the course of one week and share thoughts, questions, ideas or favorite quotes with each other.

For the initiative, we gathered a group of exciting #MutuallyMann reporters, renowned authors and intellectuals to share their thoughts on the book, too! Participants included: 

Tobias Boes, Professor of German and literary scholar at University of Notre Dame; Adrian Daub, Professor of Literature at Stanford; Veronika Fuechtner, Professor of German at Dartmouth; Elisabeth Galvan, Professor of German Literature at Università di Napoli L’Orientale; Morten Høi Jensen, author and critic working on a book about The Magic MountainWilliam Kinderman, acclaimed pianist and Professor at the UCLA Herb Alpert School of Music;  Friedhelm Marx, Thomas Mann Fellow and Professor of German Literature; Andreas Platthaus, Thomas Mann Fellow and head of literature and literary life at Frankfurter Allgemeine ZeitungHedwig Richter, Professor of Modern and Contemporary History; Donna Rifkind, author of The Sun and Her Stars: Salka Viertel and Hitler’s Exiles in the Golden Age of HollywoodAlex Ross, music critic for The New Yorker, Kai Sina, Professor of German Literature; Katharina Sykora, Thomas Mann Fellow and art historian and Hans Wißkirchen, President of the German Thomas Mann Society.

From April 27 to May 1, users posted their opinions, photos and comments on social media with the hashtag #MutuallyMann. We channeled and collected many of them and those of our reporters on this blog. Check out our social wall to read all the contributions by our experts and see what was happening on #MutuallyMann. 

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Previously On #MutuallyMann

May 2, 2020

#MutuallyMann – All Contributions

One week of our virtual reading initiative comes to an end.

We would like to thank you all for the inspiring and creative contributions. We collected the texts and videos here, so you can get a better overview and look through them again. Also, many many thanks to everyone who posted, commented and discussed with us over the last week.

We hope you all found as much pleasure in reading and analyzing “Mario and the Magician” together as we did! Enjoy…

May 2, 2020
May 2, 2020

“A Note on Endings” by Adrian Daub

It’s a wrap! Adrian Daub, Professor of Literature at Stanford, is ending our #MutuallyMann initiative with “A Note on Endings.“ As the novella marks the end of a decade, as well as the beginning of new horrors, Daub writes: “After all, it’s unclear the novella really could or should end, because such an ending would to some extent constitute a liberation from the atmosphere it describes.“

May 2, 2020
May 2, 2020

“Ragazzo di Vita or The Young Man as Political and Erotic Savior” by Katharina Sykora

Thomas Mann Fellow and art historian Katharina Sykora states that “we become witnesses of a blatant gender inversion.“ In her text, she takes a closer look at the homoerotic desires and sexual implications in the novella.

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May 1, 2020

“Sorcerer’s Apprentice: Media Mastery, Crowd Control, Demagoguery” by William Kinderman

William Kindermann, acclaimed pianist and Professor at the UCLA Herb Alpert School of Music, reads Mann’s novella against the backdrop of contemporary American politics. In his text, he draws parallels between Mario and a famous U.S. reality TV show… Final sprint for #MutuallyMann!

May 1, 2020
May 1, 2020

“Thomas Mann: A Child at Heart” by Morten Høi Jensen

“Was Thomas Mann ever young?“ In the first contribution for our last day of #MutuallyMann, Morten Høi Jensen, author and critic, explores Mann’s relationship with childhood in “Mario and the Magician” and reveals an unusually playful side of the author.

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April 30, 2020
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Doing my ‘homework’ like in the old days. 😊 Section two of Mario und der Zauberer. Lovely again, with a beatiful scene on an Italian beach in which the honour of Italy is at stake because of an innocent incident with a 8 year old girl “nach ihrer körperlichen Entwicklung ein gutes Jahr jünger zu schätzen und mager wie ein Spatz”. My comment on todays blog by Hedwig Richter: Broadly speaking the statement of the entanglement of the discourse of civilization with Western colonial ideas may be true, but I tend to read this particular story in a different way. ‘Afrikanisch’ here – at least in the part that I’ve reread now – clearly refers to temperature, not to culture. In so far ‘Unordnung’ is connected to culture, it is connected to Italian culture. Could it be that nationalism in this story plays a stronger part than colonialism? And that German enthousiasm in reception of this story in 1929 (as we heard about from Tobias Boes) stems from this underlying nationalist motive i.e. competition between two – European – nations/spirits, namely Nordic and Mediterranean? That might also shed light on the apparent contradiction with reception of the Wagnerlecture in 1933 (as also referred to by Tobias Boes). Then the public in Munich may have seen the Wagnerlecture as a turn on Mann’s account in comparison to his Mario und der Zauberer story from four years earlier. #mutuallymann #thomasmannhouse #thomasmann #germanliterature #buddenbrookhaus #fischerverlag #readinginitiative #stayathome

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April 30, 2020
April 30, 2020

“A German novella becomes Italian ballet: Luchino Visconti’s Mario e il mago” by Elisabeth Galvan 

The Italian director Luchino Visconti brought “Mario e il mago” as a ballet to the stage of Milan‘s La Scala in 1956. Elisabeth Galvan, Professor of German literature at Università di Napoli L’Orientale, tells us more about this almost unknown story in the second contribution for day four of #MutuallyMann.

April 30, 2020
April 30, 2020

“Magic Show and Avant-Garde Theater” by Kai Sina

How do Susan Sontag, Thomas Mann, the magician Cipolla and 60s avant-garde theater go together? Literary scholar Kai Sina explores these connections in his text “Magic Show and Avant-Garde Theater.“ Departing from the charming anecdote of 16-year-old Sontag visiting Mann on San Remo Drive in 1949, Sina reveals fascinating insights in this second contribution for #MutuallyMann today!

April 30, 2020
April 30, 2020

Andreas Platthaus on “Mario and the Magician”

Day four starts with a contribution by our former fellow Andreas Platthaus, journalist and head of literature and literary life at the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung. Platthaus reads the novella as an early statement against emerging fascism in Germany.

 

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April 29, 2020

“A Political Creed” by Hans Wißkirchen

In today’s reading section, Hans Wißkirchen, President of the German Thomas Mann Society, thinks about how the depiction of the magician also mirrors Mann’s own political beliefs. 

April 29, 2020
April 29, 2020

Donna Rifkind on “Mario and the Magician”

And another insightful contribution for day three of #MutuallyMann: “What had been an experience became a novella — and as much, what had been a novella became an act of becoming.“ – Author Donna Rifkind (“The Sun and Her Stars”) takes Mann’s quote about writing “Mario and the Magician“ as a starting point to reflect on the role of the narrator in the story. “It became a novella in the same way that a conjurer spins magic from the mundane fact of air.“ 

April 29, 2020
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When I got the email from the Thomas Mann House (where I should be btw enjoying the life of a public intellectual right now) asking if I would like to participate at #MutuallyMann I instantly told myself: Finally! An excuse to take a break of my usual theoretical readings and enjoy some nice literature in my very mild German quarantine. Of course I could not keep up with the reading schedule (sorry @thomas_mann_house !) between my projects, dozens of too long video calls and the kids of very dear friends who think that their father is a real magician. Therefore, I just began reading “Mario and the Magician” in an anarchist move without checking the schedule again. Guilty 🙋🏽‍♂️ What would I do to drink a fresh lemonade in Torre di Venere right now!? If Corona is making me wait till I can be in Los Angeles, let me at least enjoy good old Bella Italia as they say in German. “Yes, decidedly one should go to Torre […] in May, before the water is warm enough to tempt the Southerner to bathe“, writes Thomas Mann. Mmmmmh 😌. Even imagining the magician with the ugly hair in front of me did not bother me initially. I maybe got used to men with ugly hair, it felt familiar anyway 🤷🏽‍♂️. Only the faces of the excited kids & their parents buying Cipolla’s shit show while he was humiliating its victims brought me back to reality tbh. I had to think about the 13%, the 22%, the 36%, the 51% of voters in different European countries & the United States… you might now the rest of this story. After reading the short text, as usual, I started to search the internet to look up if I am right or wrong with my analysis of the novel. It’s just a nerdy thing that I can’t let go. I spend a few minutes looking at the different covers of ancient issues of “Mario and the Magician” (see above). Then I found an article that compares Cipolla to someone else very familiar: “The Evil Magician Casts a Spell. Donald Trump's eerie likeness to Thomas Mann's Mussolini parable” (The New Republic, August 15, 2016). And there I was again in my good old thinking, reading and writing mode about who shapes our existence today and why so many people applaud watching the abuse of the marginalized.

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April 29, 2020
April 29, 2020
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“The Cavaliere's performance was to take place in a hall where during the season there had been a cinema with a weekly programme.” – This line from Thomas Mann’s 1930 “Mario and the Magician” locates the magician’s or Cavaliere's performance in a cinematic space. Weimar cinema in particular is populated with characters like Mann’s magician hypnotist, a deranged artist and backwoods dictator. Jewish-German film critic and U.S. immigrant Siegfried Kracauer explained this “procession of tyrants” such as Dr. Caligari, Nosferatu and Dr. Mabuse with a collective unconsciousness overwhelmed by freedom and prone to submission under absolute order. Unlike these films but like Kracauer’s critique, “Mario and the Magician” brings to light a fatal political psychology that needs to be confronted with the complex layers of reality and the demands of reason. Mann and Kracauer exchanged friendly letters from 1934 to 1945 while they both lived in exile. In 1938, the Nobel laureate recommended the critic for a scholarship to enable him to write his book “From Caligari to Hitler,” which was finally published in 1947. The picture shows Rudolf Klein-Rogge as the title character in Fritz Lang’s 1922 "Dr. Mabuse the Gambler." The quote is from Thomas Mann: Death in Venice and Seven Other Stories. Vintage International, 1989, p. 144. #MutuallyMann #thomasmann #siegfriedkracauer #fritzlang #rudolfkleinrogge #germanliterature #germanfilm #germanexpressionism #filmtheory #weimarcinema #weimarculture #exile #literature #exileliterature #marioandthemagican #marioundderzauberer #fromcaligaritohitler #drmabuse #nosferatu #drcaligari #thomasmannhouse #thomasmannarchiv Call no. B-I-KRAC-5 #kepplertasaki #sfischerverlage @thomas_mann_house @_s_fischer

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April 28, 2020

Manuscript page of “Mario and the Magician“

For our initiative, the Thomas-Mann-Archive at ETH Zurich shared a very rare treasure with us: The only remaining manuscript page of “Mario and the Magician“! 

April 28, 2020
April 28, 2020

“The Ethics of Adulthood in Times of Crisis” by Veronika Fuechtner

Today’s second contribution by Veronika Fuechtner, Professor of German at Dartmouth, is looking at the central role of children in “Mario and the Magician:“ In which way do kids communicate with other children across language barriers and how does their attention oscillate between overstimulation and boredom in Mann’s story?

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April 28, 2020
April 28, 2020

Alex Ross on “Mario and the Magician”

Day two of #MutuallyMann starts with another exciting video message!

“An allegory of art and the artist” – Alex Ross, music critic for the The New Yorker, enriches our discussion by reflecting on the motif of the “Zauberer” (magician) and the power of art to realize grotesque, sometimes even destructive energies.

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April 27, 2020

“Thomas Mann and the civilized ‘we’” by Hedwig Richter

The second contribution for the first day comes from Hedwig Richter, Professor of Modern and Contemporary History. What was the self-image of the German bourgeoisie at the time Thomas Mann wrote the novella? Her text gives us a better understanding of Mann’s self-conception and the cultural and political climate in 1929, and serves as another great introduction to our story.

April 27, 2020
April 27, 2020

Tobias Boes on “Mario and the Magician”

Today is the day! Let’s get started with #MutuallyMann…

The first contribution comes in the form of a video message by Tobias Boes, a literary scholar at the University of Notre Dame. What were the circumstances under which Thomas Mann wrote “Mario and the Magician“ and why was 1929 such a crucial year for the author?

April 27, 2020
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Initiators

Thomas Mann House, a residency center and space for transatlantic debate in Los Angeles, California.
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S. Fischer Verlag, publishing house and publisher of Mann’s work in Germany, Frankfurt am Main.
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