THOMAS MANN: LIVING TO WRITE
When I retired by stages from FT, PT and casual/volunteer work as a teacher, during the years 1999 to 2005, I found that I was able to watch a marvellous range of educational and visual material on TV. I had drawn on TV, video and film resources as stimulus in my work as a community and classroom teacher, adult educator, tutor and lecturer in the years 1967 to 2005; I had watched my share of TV and cinema in the years 1948 to 1967 as a child, adolescent and young adult in that first generation, 1950 to 1970, to be able to enjoy both mediums.
One docudrama I watched last year, in 2007, was made by a German television director Heinrich Breloer: The Manns: Novel of a Century. It was aired on German television in 2001. It is the saga of an extraordinary family that stamped Germany, its culture and its era like no other. Six hours of viewing, it examines the history of Germany’s most celebrated literary family: the Manns. This program made its TV debut in Australia in 2007 in the early years(60-64) of my late adulthood as human development theorists define the years 60 to 80.
Thomas Mann, his writing and his career have interested me since I first come across his diaries in the 1990s while still a teacher in Western Australia. Like many subjects that came across my desk and my reading as a student, as a teacher and as a member of society living through the tempestuous decades from the 1960s through the 1990s, my study of the life and writing of Thomas Man had to go on hold. This man had to be put in the pending, impending, in the “to be examined later in life” category.
This TV mini-series-docudrama, renewed, awakened and enhanced my interest, precipitated and refreshed my curiosity, in a life that the great philosopher Goethe said was “a striking example of the repeated puberty characteristic of genius.”1 In literary technique as well as in the work of the rational faculty, Mann experienced a richness, a daring and a purely intellectual excitement to a greater depth and with much more significance than has been generally realized.—Ron Price with appreciation to 1Henry Hatfield in Thomas Mann, New Directions, 1962(1951).
Even with my well-developed,
highly enhanced skepticism
which sixty-years of television1
watching has produced in the
application of a rational faculty
to this highly believable medium;
Even though I am more than a little
aware of the fundamental difference
between: stage, printed page and TV,
all of which have some unmistakable
politico-social and potentially distorting
point of view arranged for an audience;
Even though I knew little about this figure:
his diaries, his novels, his letters, his life,
his eloquent and outstanding humanism,
his courageous espousal of democracy,
his transcription of the raw materials of
his experience & personal history into form,
his literary and autobiographical writings
as novels, his utter-productive absorption
in self and society, his observational skills
and relentless reporting anchoring, as it did,
his imaginations and inventions in the soil
of facticity--and his very living to write--2
in spite of all of this—my interest was piqued
in a man who wrote three pages every day,
who read ravenously, who sought harmony
among the peoples of the world, who tried
to express the tenderness, beauty and pro-
fundity of life and who strove to create an
inner unity out of all his creative powers in
the great experiment that is existence itself.3
2 Peter Gay, “A Life of Thomas Mann,” The New York Times, 19 August 2008.
3 Associated Press, “Thomas Mann Dies At 80,” 13 August 1956 in The New York Times On The Web.
19 August 2008
married, living in Australia, teacher and a Baha'i--all for over 30 years.