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Heinrich Mann (1871–1950)

Author of Man of Straw

148+ Works 2,563 Members 26 Reviews 7 Favorited

About the Author

Heinrich Mann wrote about artists and poets and voluptuaries, for whom art is a "perverse debauch." His novels set in Germany are usually grotesque caricatures with political implications; those set in Italy tend to be feverish riots of experience in an amoral world. His "Professor Unrat" (1905) show more was made into the famous film "The Blue Angel." "The Little Town" (1909) is perhaps his most benign novel. Heinrich Mann, like his brother Thomas Mann, fled Nazi Germany and came to the United States. His literary reputation is strongest in Europe. In the United States, his reputation is clouded partly by the rancor of his brilliant, hectic prose and partly by his admiration of the former Soviet Union. (Bowker Author Biography) show less
Image credit: Photo © ÖNB/Wien


Works by Heinrich Mann

Man of Straw (1919) — Author — 836 copies
The Blue Angel (1905) — Author — 651 copies
Young Henry of Navarre (1935) — Author — 231 copies
Henry, King of France (1938) — Author — 172 copies
The Little Town (1909) — Author — 88 copies
In the Land of Cockaigne (1900) — Author — 56 copies
Ein Zeitalter wird besichtigt (1946) — Author — 29 copies
Novellen (1970) — Author — 23 copies
The Living Thoughts of Nietzsche (1939) — Editor — 19 copies
Der Hass : deutsche Zeitgeschichte (1933) — Author — 18 copies
Die Jagd nach der Liebe (1904) — Author — 16 copies
Zwischen den Rassen (1975) 13 copies
Diana (1929) 11 copies
Lidice (1942) — Author — 10 copies
Ein ernstes Leben (1991) 9 copies
Die Armen (1950) 9 copies
Minerva (1985) 8 copies
Der Kopf: Roman (1925) 8 copies
Enttäuschung. Novellen (1983) 7 copies
Das Gute im Menschen. Drei Novellen. (1985) — Author — 6 copies
Venus (1985) 6 copies
Geist und Tat (1981) 6 copies
Der Atem : Roman (2007) 5 copies
Auferstehung. Novelle. (1927) 5 copies
Mother Mary (1988) — Author — 5 copies
Der Untertan. Im Schlaraffenland — Author — 4 copies
Essays (1994) — Author — 4 copies
Empfang bei der Welt / Der Atem (1982) — Author — 4 copies
Professor Unrat / Die kleine Stadt (1992) — Author — 4 copies
Mensch und Macht. Essays (1919) 4 copies
Abdication : Et autres nouvelles (1989) — Author — 4 copies
In einer Familie (2000) 4 copies
Es kommt der Tag (1936) 4 copies
Kobes 3 copies
Tebaa (2012) 3 copies
Briefwechsel (2021) 3 copies
Novellen I 3 copies
Das öffentliche Leben (2001) 3 copies
Gesammelte Werke (2020) 3 copies
Meistererzählungen. (2006) 2 copies
Heinrich Mann. 1871-1950. (1977) 2 copies
Politische Essays (1984) 2 copies
Madame Legros (2005) 2 copies
Novellen II 2 copies
Schauspiele (1988) 2 copies
Zola (1915) 2 copies
Verlaten (1990) 2 copies
Liebesspiele. (1996) 2 copies
Nietzshe Y La Eternidad (2013) 2 copies
Oraselul 1 copy
Novellen — Author — 1 copy
Die Boesen 1 copy
Pippo Spano 1 copy
Novellen III 1 copy
Der Vater 1 copy
Liliane et Paul (1993) 1 copy

Associated Works

Madame Bovary (1857) — Afterword, some editions — 25,694 copies
Great German Short Novels and Stories (1933) — Contributor — 103 copies
Voor het einde 33 Duitse verhalen uit de jaren 1900-1933 (1977) — Contributor — 14 copies
Tyskland forteller : tyske noveller (1972) — Contributor — 11 copies
Meesters der Duitse vertelkunst (1967) — Author — 9 copies
Duitse expressionistische verhalen (1966) — Author — 9 copies
Life and letters today, November 1938 (1938) — Contributor — 1 copy


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Common Knowledge



A small Italian town is thrown into chaos by the arrival of an opera company to perform a new work by a local composer, the first theatrical performance in the town in thirty-eight and three-quarter years. The presence of the singers leads to a flare-up of the smouldering conflict between the liberal faction of professionals and veterans of Garibaldi's campaigns, headed by Advocate Belotti, and the conservative, clerical faction of small traders, headed by the irascible and combative priest Don Taddeo. But it also exposes a bewildering number of personal lusts, greeds, jealousies and revenge-struggles within the community.

Mann explicitly structures the book like an opera, with big opening and closing choruses as the singers arrive on the mail-coach and leave again, a spectacular sustained centre-piece taking us through the chaos both front-of-house and backstage during the tumultuous premiere of The poor Tonietta, and then two more scenes with the entire cast onstage: a Meistersinger-style riot in the main square and the night-time burning-down of Café Progress, which transforms seamlessly to Don Taddeo's big scene during mass in the cathedral. In between there are any number of romantic trysts in gardens and dark alleys, interspersed with jolly café conversation scenes.

There is a ludicrously oversized cast of named characters for a book of this length (around 400 pages), and Mann has fun "burying" characters who will later become important, slipping them in to play insignificant roles in the crowded ensemble scenes. Another very important part of his technique is to present a lot of crucial plot information to us only as gossip, so that we are never entirely sure who is sleeping with whom. But neither are any of the characters in the book, and a lot of actions people take turn out to have been based on false information.

Fun in detail, a lively evocation of Italian small-town life, but maybe a bit frustrating when you try to make something out of it as a complete novel.
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1 vote
thorold | Oct 12, 2022 |
review of
Heinrich Mann's Little Superman
by tENTATIVELY, a cONVENIENCE - January 9, 2012

I learned about this author in the course of research for my movie Robopaths. I learned that his bks were burned by the nazis so I decided to read something by him & to check out any movies that might've been based on any bks by him. This lead me to taking Little Superman out from the library as well as the movie The Kaiser's Lackey as well as to my buying a used copy of the novel Man of Straw. &, Lo & Behold!, they're all the same thing!

As Andrew Donson, Assistant Professor of History and German & Scandinavian Studies @ the University of Massachusetts Amherst, explains in the "Interpreting The Kaiser's Lackey" extra on the movie's DVD version:

"The English title of this film is not a literal translation of the German one, Der Untertan, which is a difficult word to translate. It literally means "The Subject", as in "The Subject of the King" - but in current & turn-of-the-century discourse, the "untertan" has also an authoritarian connotation. Various translators have rendered the title as: "The Patrioteer", "Little Superman", "Man of Straw", & "The Loyal Subject". An awkward, but perhaps more accurate translation of the title would be "The Servile Chauvinist Underling". The title of this film, the same title as Heinrich Mann's 1914 novel on which it's based, captures the main theme. Diederich [the story's central character] is on the one hand a tyrant who lords over other untertanen. On the other hand, he often finds himself in situations where he is the untertan, where others exercise their will over him. The essence and the humor of the film is that Diederich is happy in both situations. The narrative of the film shows how the institutions that shape Diederich's life, family, school, university, brotherhood, army, workplace, and government produce and regulate this authoritarian mentality."

[As a sidenote for bibliophiles, the Penguin edition (1984) that I have, Man of Straw gives no credit to a translator & yet it appears to be the exact same translation as the library edition that I read, Little Superman, published by Creative Age Press, Inc (1947). I suspect some shenanigans & intrigue in the omission of the translator's name in the Penguin edition, so I include it here: Ernest Boyd.]

As soon as I started reading this bk, I found the central character insufferable. He embodies everything that I detest: hypocrisy, social climbing, spinelessness, abusiveness, fraudulence, etc.. He is, indeed, a "Servile Chauvinist Underling", as Donson puts it. I was about 1/3rd of the way thru the bk when I watched the movie & learned that this was meant to be satire. I suppose it 'shd've' been obvious to me that it was intended to be satire all along but it seemed entirely too realistic to really be caricature. &, as the back-cover of Man of Straw states: "Heinrich Mann (brother of Thomas) was imprisoned for his radical and outspoken views, and spent a long exile from the country at which he aimed his bitter satire." - & that's no laughing matter.

Mann was condemned in Nazi Germany for writing Un-German works or some such but I don't think that the hypocrisy & opportunistic cowardice that he so thoroughly portrays is intrinsically German. It may've reached a particular nationalistic fervor in Germany but it was hardly confined to there. In fact, Mann's parody of upper middle class Germany isn't so far off from the lower middle class Baltimore that I grew up in. I'm reminded of a photographer that I once knew. He incessantly ridiculed me for valuing anything other than money. However, once he started realizing that my willful rejection of the 'values' that he represented was earning me some respect from others, he tried to sleaze up to me by asking me to pose for him as a photographer's model. I refused.

Mann's novel is such a thorough look at the completely unscrupulous machinations of his main character that I can only conclude that Mann, himself, must've been surrounded by such contemptible behavior. Diederich is constantly betraying & groveling, ass-kissing & terrorizing - wchever seems 'appropriate' to his 'social position' in relation to who he's dealing w/. & Mann depicts this utterly brilliantly. Diederich is constantly engaged in some sort of fraudulent dealings that he trembles at the thought of getting caught out at & blusteringly camouflages under cover of patriotic bullshit. The library copy that I read has one section underlined in ink that expresses Diederich's philosophy, in the mouth of one of his cronies, quite nicely:

""Democracy is the philosophy of the half-educated," said the apothecary. "It has been defeated by science." Some one shouted: "Hear! Hear!" It was the druggist who wished to associate with him. "There will always be masters and men," asserted Gottlieb Hornung, "for it is the same in nature. It is the one great truth, for each of us must have a superior to fear, and an inferior to frighten. What would become of us otherwise? If every nonentity believes that he is somebody, and that we are all equal! Unhappy the nation whose traditional and honorable social forms are broken up by the solvent of democracy, and which allows the disintegrating standpoint of personality to get the upper hand!"

Two pages later, the same underliner highlighted part of this passage:

"Diederich raised himself on his toes, "Gentlemen," he shouted, carried away on the tide of national emotion, "the Emperor William Monument shall be a mark of reverence for the noble grandfather whom we all, I think I may say, worship almost as a saint, and also a pledge to the noble nephew, our magnificent young Emperor, that we shall ever remain as we are, pure, liberty-loving, truthful, brave, and true!"

The underliner (not the untertan) emphasizes Diederich's claim of being "pure, liberty-loving, truthful, brave, and true!" w/ an exclamation mark next to it presumably b/c these are all qualities wch Diederich is completely lacking in. Earlier, I mention "Diederich's philosophy" - but that's misleading. In order to have a philosophy, one probably has to have a mind capable of formulating a justified position to adhere to. Diederich lacks even that - he simply takes the most cowardly & dishonest path of least resistance & changes his political allegiances to kowtow to whoever he's most afraid of at the time.

In the East German film version, a scene that exemplifies the preposterous bravuro posturing that Diederich & his kind rely on for image-building & bullying is the duel. The scene is also in the bk but I found it more compelling in the movie. It's common for men in Diederich's class to initiate duels w/ each other in order to simulate bravery. Under the most ridiculous pretexts ('Sir! You were looking at me!' - that sort of thing), men challenge each other as if their honor can bear no insult. But, as w/ cowards & bullies the world over, it's all just pretense. They know they're not taking any risks whatsoever. As w/ generals who send soldiers to the slaughter, it's the soldiers who get senselessly killed, while the generals, safe elsewhere, get the medals & other social rewards.

These duels consist of nothing more than 2 men heavily padded & w/ one arm behind their back fighting w/ swords until one of them scratches the other on the face. Even their eyes are heavily protected w/ goggles. As soon as Diederich is scratched on the cheek, he gets his scar that 'proves' his bravery - even though there's no risk of serious injury. Diederich then uses the scar as a badge of 'honor'. It's all completely ridiculous.

After Diederich unsuccessfully & humiliatingly attempts to get Lieutenant von Brietzen to not leave Diederich's 'dishonored' sister in the lurch, he's walking on the streets. "Suddenly he noticed that the gardens were still full of perfume and twittering beneath the spring skies, and it became clear to him that Nature itself, whether she smiled or snarled, was powerless before Authority, the authority above us, which is quite impregnable. It was easy to threaten revolution, but what about the Emperor William Monument? Wulckow and Gausenfeld? Whoever trampled others from under foot must be prepared to be walked on, that was the iron law of might. After his attack of resistance, Diederich again felt the secret thrill of the man who is trampled upon. . . . A cab came along from behind, Herr van Brietzen and his trunk. Before he knew what he was doing Diederich faced about, ready to salute."

In one of the very rare moments where Diederich somewhat introspectively criticizes the worldview that he otherwise takes for granted, Diederich sees his now 'dishonored' sister, Emma, in a new light: "The lieutenant, who had caused all this, lost notably in comparison - and so did the Power, in whose name he had triumphed. Diederich discovered that Power could sometimes present a common and vulgar appearance. Power and everything that went with it, success, honour, loyalty. he looked at Emma and was forced to question the value of what he had attained or was still striving for: Guste and her money, the monument, the favour of the authorities, Gausenfeld, distinctions and high office." Indeed. Alas, this critical introspection doesn't last long.

I noted earlier that these characteristics were hardly confined to Germans. As Diederich bullies 'his' employees he tells them: ""But I forbid socialistic agitation! In the future you can vote as I tell you, or leave!" Diederich also said that he was determined to curb irreligion. He would note every Sunday who went to church and who did not. "So long as the world is unredeemed from sin, there will be war and hatred, envy and discord. Therefore, there must be one master!" This reminds me of Henry Ford.

There's an excellent documentary about Ford called "Demon Rum" in wch some important points about the ironies of Ford's 'moralism' are highlighted - particularly the way in wch his 'moralism' helped create a subculture of thugs that he then used to suppress unions. In the Wikipedia bio of Ford ( http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Henry_Ford ) we find this:

"The profit-sharing was offered to employees who had worked at the company for six months or more, and, importantly, conducted their lives in a manner of which Ford's "Social Department" approved. They frowned on heavy drinking, gambling, and what might today be called "deadbeat dads". The Social Department used 50 investigators, plus support staff, to maintain employee standards; a large percentage of workers were able to qualify for this "profit-sharing.""

The Wikipedia entry qualifies this by saying that "Ford's incursion into his employees' private lives was highly controversial, and he soon backed off from the most intrusive aspects." Be that as it may, Ford's resemblance to Diederich is clear. Making it even clearer is that Ford was an anti-Semite who rc'vd the Grand Cross of the German Eagle from Nazi Germany.

& despite Der Untertan's having been written in 1914 about 19th century Germany, it's very prescient about Nazi Germany. In his speeches, Hitler emphasized the unity of classes - this despite his refinement of one of the most hierarchical structures the world has ever seen - w/ himself, of course, as the supreme world dictator, the LEADER (der Führer). ""Only His Majesty," Diederich answered. "He aroused the citizen from his slumbers, his lofty example has made us what we are." As he said this he struck himself on the chest. "His personality, his unique, incomparable personality, is so powerful that we can all creep up by it, like the clinging ivy!" he shouted, although this was not in the draft he had written. "In whatever His Majesty the Emperor decides for the good of the German people, we will joyfully cooperate without distinction of creed and class.[..]"" Diederich's oratorical shouting is highly reminiscent of Hitler's.

Diederich is also reminiscent of the nazi SS officer responsible for transporting Jews to the death camps. On the subject of Eichmann, Hannah Arendt writes in her bk Eichmann in Jersulalem - A Report on the Banality of Evil [see my review of that here: http://www.goodreads.com/book/show/13367624-eichmann-in-jerusalem ] that:

"What he fervently believed in up to the end was success, the chief standard of "good society" as he knew it. Typical was his last word on the subject of Hitler - whom he and his comrade Sassen had agreed to "shirr out" of their story; Hitler, he said, "may have been wrong all down the line, but one thing is beyond dispute: the man was able to work his way up from lance corporal in the German Army to Führer of a people of almost eighty million. . . . His success alone proved to me that I should subordinate myself to this man." His conscience was indeed set at rest when he saw the zeal and eagerness with which "good society" everywhere reacted as he did. He did not need to "close his ears to the voice of conscience," as the judgment had it, not because he had none, but because his conscience spoke with a "respectable voice," with the voice of respectable society around him."

& just as the nazis partially justified their genocide against the Jews, Gypsies, Homosexuals, & Political Opponents as a cleansing of the "Volk" (the body of the Germany people) so, too, is Diederich's behavior summed up nicely in this domestic scene:

"As Diederich lived in fear of his master, so Guste had to live in the fear of hers. When they entered a room she knew that the right of precedence properly belonged to her husband. The children, in turn, had to treat her with respect, and Männe, the dachshund, had to obey every one. At meals, therefore, the children and the dog had to keep quiet. Guste's duty was to discern from the wrinkles upon her husband's brow whether it was advisable to leave him undisturbed, or to drive away his cares with chatter. Certain dishes were prepared only for the master of the house, and when he was in a good humour Diederich would throw a piece across the table and, laughing heartily, would watch to see who caught it, Gretchen, Guste or the dog. His siesta was often troubled by gastronomical disturbances and Guste's duty then commanded her to put warm poultices on his stomach. Groaning and terribly frightened he used to say that he would make his will and appoint a trustee. Guste would not be allowed to touch a penny. "I have worked for my sons, not in order that you may amuse yourself after I am gone!" Guste objected that her own fortune was the foundation of everything, but it availed her nothing. . . . Of course, when Guste had a cold, she did not expect that Diederich, in his turn, would nurse her. Then she had to keep as far away from him as possible, for Diederich was determined not to have any germs near him. He would not go into the factory unless he had antiseptic tablets in his mouth, and one night there was a great disturbance because the cook had come down with influenza, and had a fever temperature. "Out of the house with the beastly thing at once!" Diederich commanded, and when she had gone he wandered about the house for a long time spraying it with disinfecting fluids."

Yes, as many of us are taught, "Cleanliness is next to Godliness" - but what about those of us who are atheists?
… (more)
tENTATIVELY | 10 other reviews | Apr 3, 2022 |
review of
Heinrich Mann's Young Henry of Navarre
by tENTATIVELY, a cONVENIENCE - February 1, 2016
full review: "Moderation, By Any Means Necessary?": https://www.goodreads.com/story/show/415192-moderation-by-any-means-necessary


Heinrich Mann became propelled into my top 10 of novelists thanks to my reading his Der Untertan 4 yrs ago. As I wrote in my review of it (in English translation as Little Superman):

"As soon as I started reading this bk, I found the central character insufferable. He embodies everything that I detest: hypocrisy, social climbing, spinelessness, abusiveness, fraudulence, etc.. He is, indeed, a "Servile Chauvinist Underling", as Donson puts it. I was about 1/3rd of the way thru the bk when I watched the movie & learned that this was meant to be satire. I suppose it 'shd've' been obvious to me that it was intended to be satire all along but it seemed entirely too realistic to really be caricature. &, as the back-cover of Man of Straw states: "Heinrich Mann (brother of Thomas) was imprisoned for his radical and outspoken views, and spent a long exile from the country at which he aimed his bitter satire." - & that's no laughing matter.

"Mann was condemned in Nazi Germany for writing Un-German works or some such but I don't think that the hypocrisy & opportunistic cowardice that he so thoroughly portrays is intrinsically German. It may've reached a particular nationalistic fervor in Germany but it was hardly confined to there. In fact, Mann's parody of upper middle class Germany isn't so far off from the lower middle class Baltimore that I grew up in." - http://www.goodreads.com/book/show/442159.Man_of_Straw

Ever since I read Der Untertan I've been wanting to read more by H Mann but I wanted to get his bks used from a store rather than order them online. Come what may, so to speak. NOW, I've finally read the 1st of 2 inter-related novels, Young Henry of Navarre, originally published in 1935, 21 yrs after Der Untertan. Is it an astonishing improvement? Has Mann matured remarkably by this? Maybe yes, maybe no, he's certainly changed his tact(ics).

Young Henry of Navarre is an historical novel set in 16th century France, the politics of it are certainly vivid but applying them to that dangerous time of 1935 might've been a little 'abstract' for readers contemporaneous w/ its release. The novel is about the gradual rise to power of King Henry of Navarre during wars between Catholics & Protestants. Here's some relevant background:

"During the 16th century, a revolution began in Christianity. A German monk named Martin Luther became increasingly unhappy with corruption in the Catholic Church. Luther started a movement among Christians who believed authority should not belong to clergy, but to the laypeople and their study of the Bible. Followers of the Reformation were known as Protestants."


"The Catholic League was a national group that intended to stamp out the spread of Protestantism in France. The group was led by the Duke of Guise who also had intentions of taking over the French throne. Under Guise's leadership, the League intended to replace King Henry III, the king of France, who was a Protestant.

"War broke out between the Catholic League and the Huguenots in 1562 and continued until 1598. Political unrest between the Huguenots and the powerful Guise family led to the death of many Huguenots, marking the beginning of the Wars of Religion. In 1562, the Huguenots were defeated by Guise in the first battle of the war. Guise was killed in this battle. A treaty was negotiated by Catherine de Medici that allowed Huguenot nobles to worship freely, but peasants could only worship in one town within each district.

"During the wars, Catherine de Medici was the Queen mother and held power during the reign of her sons Francois II, Charles IX and Henry III. The Huguenots were worried Catherine was planning a campaign against them with the Spaniards and attempted to capture King Charles IX. They failed, and though another attempt at peace was made, neither side trusted each other. The Huguenots faced a defeat in 1569, but began to gain ground with some Protestant nobles in France." - http://study.com/academy/lesson/the-french-wars-of-religion-catholics-vs-the-hug...

As if that 36 yr period of conflict between the 2 sects weren't enuf, after tis end only 20 yrs elapsed until the similar "Thirty Years War" (1618 to 1648):

"The spark that set off the Thirty Years War came in 1618, when the Archbishop of Prague ordered a Protestant church destroyed. The Protestants rose up in revolt, but within two years the rebellion was stamped out by the Habsburg general, Count of Tilly. After Bohemia was defeated the Protestant king of Denmark invaded the empire but was defeated by the famous general Albrecht von Wallenstein. In 1630 Sweden entered the war. Gustavus Adolphus, the King of Sweden, (the Lion of the North) whose dream was to make the Baltic a 'Swedish Lake', was the champion of the Protestants. In two battles he defeated and then killed Tilly. Gustavus Adolphus was killed in his decisive victory over Wallenstein at Luetzen (1632), and Wallenstein himself was murdered by a suspicious emperor in 1634.

"After 1635 the war lost its religious character and became purely political. Cardinal Richelieu, who was the real ruler of France, determined to arrest the growth of Habsburg power b"[y] "interfering on the side of the Protestants. The French won a long series of victories, which gave new hope to the Protestants in Germany. But by that time Germany was devastated and its economy in ruins. The war ended in stalemate and diplomats gathered to patch up affairs in the Peace of Westpahlia (1648).

"The Thirty Years War persuaded everybody that neither the Protestants nor the Catholics could be completely victorious and dreams of an empire, united under a Catholic Church had to be abandoned." - http://www.hyperhistory.com/online_n2/civil_n2/histscript6_n2/thirty1.html

"Thou Shalt Not Kill", remember guys? (Or shd I say "Guise"?) That's 66 yrs out of 86 yrs of war between the Protestants & the Catholics. How fucking stupid can these religious nuts get? Will the 20th & 21st centuries go down as the 100 Yrs War or some such as the Christians & Moslems slaughter each other (& all of the rest of us unfortunates caught in their crossfire) ad nauseum? Let's see how the Catholic Encyclopedia describes it:

"The Thirty Years War (1618-48), though pre-eminently a German war, was also of great importance for the history of the whole of Europe, not only because nearly all the countries of Western Europe took part in it, but also on account of its connection with the other great European wars of the same era and on account of its final results.

"The fundamental cause was the internal decay of the empire from 1555, as evidenced by the weakness of the imperial power, by the gross lack of patriotism manifested by the estates of the empire, and by the paralysis of the imperial authority and its agencies among the Protestant estates of Southwestern Germany, which had been in a state of discontent since 1555. Consequently the whole of Germany was in a continual state of unrest. The decay of the empire encouraged the other nations of Western Europe to infringe upon its territory." - http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/14648b.htm

"The fundamental cause was the internal decay of the empire from 1555, as evidenced by the weakness of the imperial power, by the gross lack of patriotism manifested by the estates of the empire, and by the paralysis of the imperial authority": Right, a bigger police state is always the answer (NOT). Why, the fundamental cause cd never be that people covet that imperial power, that religious leaders covet that imperial power & that sd religious leaders don't give a flying shit who they annihilate in pursuit of sd power. But I get ahead of the story. Forget I sd anything.

Young Henry of Navarre: "In the meantime the kingdom had for many years been riven everywhere between Catholics and Protestants." [..] "fire and slaughter ranged over the countryside in the name of the two hostile creeds. The difference of creed was regarded in deep earnest, and it made utter enemies of men whom nothing else divided. Certain words, especially the word "Mass," had so terrible an effect that brother was no longer understood of brother, and became of alien blood. It seemed natural to call in the aid of the Swiss and Germans. Let them be of the right faith, and, according as they went to Mass or not, they were better than a Frenchman who thought otherwise and were given leave to burn and pillage with the rest." (p 6)

I'm reminded of The Devils of Loudon, Aldous Huxley's 1952 novel about the politics of the purported demonic possession in Loudon in . There was a predecessor to Huxley's bk: "The Devils of Loudun by Edmund Goldsmid [1887]" wch is available online ( http://sacred-texts.com/evil/dol/ ) & described there thusly:

"This is an account of the possesion of the nuns of Loudun. In 1634 the Ursuline nuns of Loudon were allegedly possessed by demons. This is one of the largest cases of mass possession in history. Father Urbain Grandier, a local priest, was interrogated under torture, convicted of being responsible for the possessions (as well as sorcery), and subsequently burned at the stake. This is a 19th century translation of the primary account of the episode, originally written in French by Des Niau in 1634."

Apparently, there's not much questioning in that acct of the mechanics of what was called "one of the largest cases of mass possession in history". Possession by what? By a mythical creature dubbed "the devil" or by sexual frustration imposed by religious control freaks?

Following Huxley's novel was John Whiting's 1960 play, The Devils, Krzysztof Penderecki's 1969 opera The Devils of Loudon, & Ken Russell's highly dramatic 1971 movie, The Devils. This latter, in particular, added fuel to my personal fire that humans are squirming to get out of unnatural restrictions, that attempts to exercise mass control thru ideologies, religious & political, result in horrors of eruption when natural forces once again escape the nets of narrow-mindedness in explosions much more destructive than the pleasures suppressed.

Huxley's 1931 novel Brave New World was lumped together for me w/ George Orwell's 1948 1984 as a bk warning of the dangers of totalitarianism, of a dystopic near-future (or present) in wch mass control destroys the individual power of free thinking. But listening to a recording of Huxley reading on the radio from Brave New World impressed upon me that Huxley's take on such matters was as fearful of drugs & promiscuous sex as it was of oppressive government. On the Panarchy site ( http://www.panarchy.org/huxley/devils.html ) The Devils of Loudon's Appendix is presented & prefaced by Panarchy's editor(s) thusly:

"In this short text, Aldous Huxley puts forward the hypothesis that the evils we ascribe to religious intolerance and obscurantism are instead a product of human nature under specific circumstances, namely the existence of a totalitarian manipulative power. That is why, totalitarian political ideologies built on anti-religious bases can easily replicate the worst aspects of monopolistic religion. As a matter of fact, with the introduction of religious tolerance, those intolerant aspects of religious practice have been put almost to rest. As stated by Huxley, elsewhere in the book : “In the course of the last six or seven generations, the power of religious organizations to do evil has, throughout the Western world, considerably declined.” At the same time, “[f]rom about 1700 to the present day all persecutions in the West have been secular and, one might say, humanistic. For us, Radical Evil has ceased to be something metaphysical and has become political or economic.” For this reason we can add that those who still fight religion as the root of every evil are totally missing the target either deliberately or by reason of crass ignorance."

Huxley's claim that "“[f]rom about 1700 to the present day all persecutions in the West have been secular" is astounding if one were to consider that the Inquisition, alone, lasted into the 19th century. However, Huxley is far, FAR from an idiot & he makes his case articulately. His appendix begins:

"Without an understanding of man's deep-seated urge to self-transcendence, of his very natural reluctance to take the hard, ascending way, and his search for some bogus liberation either below or to one side of his personality, we cannot hope to make sense of our own particular period of history or indeed of history in general, of life as it was lived in the past and as it is lived today. For this reason I propose to discuss some of the more common Grace-substitutes, into which and by means of which then and women have tried to escape from the tormenting consciousness of being merely themselves."


"In modern times beer and the other toxic short cuts to self-transcendence are no longer officially worshipped as gods. Theory has undergone a change, but not practice; for in practice millions upon millions of civilized" [m]"en and women continue to pay their devotions, not to the liberating and transfiguring Spirit, but to alcohol, to hashish, to opium and its derivatives, to the barbiturates, and the other synthetic additions to the age-old catalogue of poisons capable of causing self-transcendence. In every case, of course, what seems a god is actually a devil, what seems a liberation is in fact an enslavement. The self-transcendence is invariably downward into the less than human, the lower than personal."


"Assemble a mob of men and women previously conditioned by a daily reading of newspapers; treat them to amplified band music, bright lights, and the oratory of a demagogue who (as demagogues always are) is simultaneously the exploiter and the victim of herd-intoxication, and in next to no time you can reduce them to a state of almost mindless subhumanity. Never before have so few been in a position to make fools, maniacs or criminals of so many."

Huxley's point is well-taken but I think that people's ways & means to "self-transcendence" isn't inevitably as "invariably downward" as Huxley claims. Disinhibition can be a tool for getting outside of other types of destructive habits such as shyness. That sd, Huxley's demagogues who are "simultaneously the exploiter and the victim of herd-intoxication" cd practically be synonymous w/ Mann's Untertan - thusly almost bringing us full-circle in an elliptical kinda way.

Mann's novel differs from the history briefly outlined thru the quotes above. EG: study.com claims that "Under Guise's leadership, the League intended to replace King Henry III, the king of France, who was a Protestant" has Henry III a protestant while Mann has him a Catholic. Mann's take on it is perhaps more complicated, w/ people changing religious affiliation according to the dictates of political expediency. Mann's bk is a novel, it gets into detail that can't possibly be historically verified including this personal scene between the child Henri of Navarre & his protestant mother:

""The King in Paris is friends with the King of Spain," his mother explained. "He lets the Spaniards invade us."

""So will not I!" cried Henri. "Spain is my enemy and always will be! Because I love you," he said impetuously, and kissed Jeanne. Tears trickled from her eyes into her half-bared bosom, which her little son caressed while he tried to comfort her. "Does my father just do what the King of France tells him? I won't," he assured her in a coaxing tone, feeling that this was what she liked to hear." - p 8

Since I loved Der Untertan as an astute observation of human nature I tend to provisionally accept Mann's fictionalized characterizations of these historical figures as being at least based in Mann's attempts to be fair & accurate w/in the novelistic restrictions/expansions. Nonetheless, I didn't read this falling for the delusion that I was reading an actual historical acct. People who read any history wd be well-advised to read w/ a similar grain-of-salt.
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tENTATIVELY | 3 other reviews | Apr 3, 2022 |
This review refers to the 2vol. 1956 edition of the Aufbau Verlag, Berlin.

Heinrich Mann’s monumental two-part novel - it is a misconception to designate each as a ‘member of a series’: it is one work! - were first published by the Querido Verlag in Amsterdam, the first part, Die Jugend des Königs Henri Quatre, in 1935, Die Vollendung des Königs Henri Quatre, in 1938 (https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Mann,_Heinrich_Henri_Quatre.jpg). The publishing house was founded in 1933 and published German language authors who had to emigrate and whose books, like those of Heinrich Mann, were burned by the Nazis.

Alfred Kantorowicz writes in the Nachwort that the first idea to write about ‘the good king Henri’ as he is still remembered, came to Heinrich Mann in 1925 when visiting the palace of Pau where Henri of Navarre, the later Henri IV of France was born in 1553 and where he grew up. Kantorowicz got to know personally Heinrich Mann in exile in France and his Nachwort is informative.

One needs to remember that this is a novel, not a biography; the author will have taken ‘poetic license’ but, I trust, not knowingly falsified events and characters. The novel is a character study above all. H.M. describes the development of Henry’s mind and thinking that is formed by the events, his rationality - in that Henry IV is, as is Montaigne whom he meets, a forerunner of the enlightenment - in his will to overcome the religious antagonisms, fanaticism and cold-blooded slaughters. The novel fascinates by the psychology of the complex and in their contradictions very human personalities of the king, his loves, his friends and adversaries, by the political intrigues, the religious wars … It is one of the great novels of the 20th century. Why is it then that it is lacking in popularity among readers (at least among the predominately english-language LT contributors)? Too demanding?

Oder sind es diese pessimistischen Sätzen über die menschliche Natur, die H.M. Montaigne zuschreibt, aber direkt auf das, während der Entstehung des Romans tobende, 1000jährige Reich anspielen? : „Geblendete, die nur toben und nichts erkennen: so stellt in der Regel das Geschlecht der Menschen sich dar.“ (I-470) und später: „…, da ein Volk erst nach Abschaffung des Denkens wirklich total werden kann.“ (I-645) Und Guise als Hitler: „Wer nicht dem Führer blinden Gehorsam schwor, war verloren. …“ (I-581); „‘Heil’ brüllt sein mörderischer Geheimbund, den er total und eins mit dem Land will.“ (I-583)

Über Kunst: Alexander Farnese, Herzog von Parma, Feldherr: - ein Künstler: „ihn drängt es, seine Kunst zu üben … mit seiner großen Theatermaschine … ein Kunstwerk der Strategie.“ (II-80)

Über das Kunstwerk: “So ging es nicht zu. Ist aber die Wahrheit.“ (II-523) Mit diesem Satz scheint H.M. auch seinen Roman zu kommentieren.

Und rückblickend auf sein Leben: „Man schämt sich während eines längeren Lebens vieler Handlungen …“ (II-565); Erstaunen über ein verfehltes Leben: Henri Valois: „‘War alles nur Irrtum ….’ (I-598)

Und endlich: „Die Partei, deren ganzen Bestand der Haß der Völker und Menschen ausmacht, ist überall, wird überall und immer sein.“ (II-849) Wie wahr! (I-19)
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MeisterPfriem | Jan 29, 2019 |



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