My first publication as a scholar of German literature detailed my discovery of the source for the Freemasonic conversations in The Magic Mountain. I had the pleasure of lecturing on the subject in the house Mann occupied while in Princeton. The Magic Mountain is an intricate, sexy, and brilliant work that ends ominously with Hans Castorp on a battlefield during the first World War. Mann’s lecture at Princeton about the novel is a humble and revealing document. Corngold discusses in great detail Mann’s explanation and remorse for his position on World War I. Mann’s error had nothing to do with the desire to acquire new territory but was a statement of problematic values that developed quickly into his staunch advocacy for democracy and international cooperation in opposition to the absolutist National Socialist state. Remorse and admission of error are, for me, marks of a decent human being. Furthermore, it is quite untrue that Sigmund Freud supported the war throughout its “duration”: consult his paper “The Disillusionment of the War,” written in 1915.
In Response to: Mann and the First World War