Born to be Mann

June 5, 2016

Today is Thomas Mann’s birthday. He was born in 1875 (Lübeck, Germany). All over the world societies dedicated to his name and fame will have some kind of memorial moment. Since there is nothing special to the number of years past since he was born (one hundred and forty-one to be precise) I don’t expect any Mannophile to pop the cork of a champagne bottle.

All in all, no matter what year we’re in, there is no one who celebrates this day the way Yves Altman does. Unfortunately, he’s not a real person but a fictional character in my second novel. Yves loved Thomas not for his magnificence as an author per se but mostly for being a father. One of many children, like Yves himself. Admiring Mann being able to prioritize, for putting work before family first.

Imagine Yves Altman waking up this morning, taking off to work as CEO of a Congress Center, treating his team to the most exquisite birthday cake he could find, probably made of Swiss chocolate and fabricated with German expertise. Yves shares his genuine happiness for a genius being able to have walked the face of this earth and is not too shy to show it.

Thomas Mann was born into a world totally different from ours, in the shadows of ‘the decline of the West’ (Spengler), before important things happened and great people contributed to society; Great War I, Wall street Crash, Sartre (La Nausée), Great War II, ‘nam, Havel, Oil Crisis (’73), Erica Jong, Fall of the Berlin Wall, Twin Towers, and more recently, Goldman Sachs, Hebdo, Bataclan, Thomas Piketty. Of course, this list is simple and incomplete. To those who worry ’cause of significant events lacking, I apologize. And yes, Mann experienced both wars, fled from one, warned against the first. I merely want to single out this day with my imaginary magic marker, since it’s a historical one to the world of literature. A great writer was born. He left a legacy of importance, a fact not only realized by ‘my’ virtual family man.

My own first Mann experience occurred in my early twenties when someone mentioned the title Der Zauberberg (The Magic Mountain). I found it mesmerizing. Obscure and neo-romantic at first encounter; it reveals a story of hardship and human failure, the stumble and rise of visionary misfits, the harsh reality of predestination, intolerable morality, the destructive nature of Western society. It was my first Mann.

Recently two friends admitted not having read ‘the thing’ at all, suggesting to me that Buddenbrooks was much better: ‘a funny masterpiece, hard to be topped by anything.’ Despite my dismay of an opinion that isn’t supported by personal experience (Just read the godforsaken book, don’t bore me with borrowed criticism), I didn’t end the friendship over this dispute.

Yves Altman would’ve. That’s for sure.