A quote for the new year: Thomas Mann on ‘the people’

Thomas Mann, Doktor Faustus. Das Leben des deutschen Tonsetzers Adrian Leverkühn, erzählt von einem Freunde, Stockholm: Bermann-Fischer Verlag, 1947.

«To a friend of enlightenment the word and conception “the folk” has always something anachronistic and alarming about it; he knows that you need only tell a crowd they are “the folk” to stir them up to all sorts of reactionary evil. What all has not happened before our eyes — or just not quite before our eyes — in the name of the folk, though it could never have happened in the name of God or humanity or the law! But it is the fact that actually the folk remain the folk, at least in a certain stratum of its being, the archaic; and people from Little Brassfounder’s Alley and round about, people who voted the Social-Democratic ticket at the polls, are at the same time capable of seeing something daemonic in the poverty of a little old woman who cannot afford a lodging above-ground. They will clutch their children to them when she approaches, to save them from the evil eye. And if such an old soul should have to burn again today, by no means an impossible prospect, were even a few things different, “the folk” would stand and gape behind the barriers erected by the Mayor, but they would probably not rebel» (pp. 37-38 of the English translation by H.T. Lowe-Porter, Doctor Faustus: the life of the German composer Adrian Leverkühn as told by a friend, Oxford University press, 1949).

If you liked the quote, please take a moment to read another one on freedom (by Italian politician Piero Calamandrei) at the Blog Nostrum.

Photo is of George Grosz‘s Panik, a 1917 ink drawing.

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One Response to A quote for the new year: Thomas Mann on ‘the people’

  1. Pingback: A quote for the new year: Piero Calamandrei on freedom | Blog Nostrum

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