THE HESSE/MANN LETTERS: The Correspondence of Hermann Hesse and Thomas Mann by Anni & Volker Michels--Eds. Carlsson

THE HESSE/MANN LETTERS: The Correspondence of Hermann Hesse and Thomas Mann

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KIRKUS REVIEW

On first being introduced by their publisher at the turn of the century, the youthful authors of Buddenbrooks and Peter Camenzind seemed a most unlikely pair--one a dry bourgeois rationalist, the other a pietistic utopian and mystic. So different on the surface of things, and yet this is the record not only of the mutual esteem of literary peers, but also of a more intimate fraternal bond that Mann found increasingly ""comforting and salutary,"" as Hesse found it ""gratifying and harmonious."" Their letters are both critically illuminating (Hesse's reputation has more to gain from this material) and affecting. Despite an early meeting, it was only with the rise of the Reich that the two writers found their common ground in ""loneliness and ostracism""--though Mann's exile is involuntary and Hesse's protest is spiritual and apolitical. Particularly in a tentative exchange on the ""Great Heads"" vs. the ""Darlings of Nature,"" their public birthday messages to each other, and Mann's successive letters to the Nobel committee on behalf of Hesse, they have a grave sympathetic understanding of each other's work. After a meeting in 1947, Hesse writes: "". . . seeing you has confirmed and reinforced my feeling that. . . we belong together, a feeling that. . . in some way corresponds to the twofold face of the present-day German character and spirit."" Since both repeatedly express regret and consternation over critics who choose to revile one of them in order to glorify the other, the attack on Mann in Hesse-supporter Theodore Ziolkowski's introduction seems out of keeping with the spirit of this refined friendship.

Pub Date: June 1st, 1975
Publisher: Harper & Row