REMINISCENCES AND REFLECTIONS: A Youth in Germany by Golo Mann

REMINISCENCES AND REFLECTIONS: A Youth in Germany

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KIRKUS REVIEW

A memoir light on reminiscence and heavy on reflection, by the third son of Thomas Mann. Readers who expect to find new personal revelations about the great German novelist and his family will be disappointed. Golo Mann (Wallenstein, 1976), now 81, is after different game. By regarding himself as fairly typical of German middle-class youth, growing up in such places as Berlin, Heidelberg, and Munich during the turbulent 1930's, Mann reassesses the currents of power that led to the rise and fall of his country, offering, in effect, an intellectual history of the times. The most interesting chapters concern Mann's humanistic education under the influence of two extraordinary men--Kurt Hahn, the founder of the famous Salem school, and Karl Jaspers, the philosopher, whom he met later in Heidelberg. From Hahn, Mann learned early to love the intellectual life, to cherish an idealistic spirit, and to seek for a principle of harmony in life. Jaspers provided a more pragmatic philosophy: how to uphold individual honor and dignity when ashamed of one's country. Mann also offers fascinating glimpses revealing how precarious life was--even for the wealthy and world-renowned--when Hitler came to power. Anti-Jewish hatred was at such a fever-pitch that even Thomas Mann was forced to flee at night for Switzerland, leaving his bank accounts and manuscripts behind him. The horrors of war eventually made Golo Mann an exile, one haunted by speculations on the nature of evil in his homeland. What finally, he asks, was the cause? His answer lies in the modern German philosophic tradition of Nietzsche and Hegel: the ascendency of the magnetic figure harkening to the great historical moment. ""It was an incalculable misfortune that Hitler appeared on the scene at that particular moment in history. He was lucky. . ."" An illuminating memoir, of particular interest today as Germany is once again reborn as a powerful state.

Pub Date: Sept. 17th, 1990
Publisher: Norton