Friday, March 26, 2010

Can you forgive her

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Chapter 10 On Belief "Reflections of a Nonpolitical Man" Thomas Mann

For a long time I have tried hard to find a precise, exhaustive, and final definition of the literary man-this book bears witness to this. Now I have finally grasped it, and, far from jealously guarding it, I hurry from a social drive to share it, surprised and amused, as the reader will be, by its simplicity.

A literary man is a being who always knows exactly: “One must now-“ and who immediately also can. The rest is just commentary. The literary man, you see, is not, he only judges-a happy, enviable lot, as I often perceived. For how easy it is for the purely judging person always to jump into the right boat, never to miss the connection, always to be found arm in arm with the latest group of young people. But one can be “backward” and still be even more, or, to add a word and put emphasis on it, more worthy than many a judging marcher at the tete – simply because one is after all something and is therefore heavier, slower, less nimble in running along and running ahead than such a frivolous nothing of literary orientation. Great people, people who were much, who were hindered by obligations, solid weights of their being, from unrestrainedly and joyfully plunging into a new opinion of the times without inhibition, have found it difficult to come to terms with such new things and to make their peace with them: I refer to Goethe again and to the disturbance and paralysis that he experienced at the intrusion of the Revolution and of politics. Another example is Pascal, whose greatness and power of fascination actually rest on his problematic position between epochs, between middle ages and modernity, Christianity and enlightenment. He belonged to both periods with parts of his being, a critic and a religious man. Such a predicament creates spirit, creates depth, freedom and irony; creates personality. Personality, the only interesting thing on earth, is always a product of mixture and of conflict: epochs, contrasts and contradictions rebound off on another and become intellect, life, form. Personality is being, not opining, and if it tries its hand at giving opinions, then it becomes aware that it consists of opposites and is badly suited to propagate the nothing-but-new, the strictly up-to-date. Epochs of primarily individualistic and social thought, for example, alternate in history. But only literary weathercocks proclaim and demand one or the other unconditionally, according to the way the wind is blowing, and damn the sinner against the spirit of the times to the bottomless pit. The artist and poet at any rate, in accordance with his deepest nature, will always have an inalienable right to individual ethos; he is the necessary and born protester, the individual with his god. He can and must not be deprived of his loneliness, his “evangelical freedom,” even in times of strict social constraint.

[the first two paragraphs]

Pet Shop Boys - Can you forgive her


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