Books 2010

Books 2009

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Thursday, 16 April 2009


Mann broadcast anti-Nazi polemics over the radio from his exile during the war years. The talks, titled "Deutsche Hoerer!" ("German Listeners"!) were vigorous and uncompromising; but in one of his very last broadcasts, immediately after the capitulation of Germany, he began with a phrase which has always seemed to me a shining example of the capacity of a truly great mind for imaginative sympathy:

"How bitter it is when the entire civilised world is rejoicing at the defeat, the abject humiliation of one's beloved country..."

He urged his compatriots to remember that they were not just the dupes, the victims or the accomplices of a loathsome criminal gang but the heirs of a great civilisation, and exhorted them to pick themselves up out of the actual and metaphorical ruins and rebuild that 'better Germany'. The gesture was indeed spurned as far as far as Mann personally was concerned, but it was still a noble act.

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  • Nothing is of greater consolation to the author of a novel than the disovery of readings he had not conceived but which are then prompted by his readers. (Umberto Eco, Reflections on The Name of the Rose)
  • ... relatively few persons in London ... can afford the luxury of one or more servants. No fewer than 3,700,000 have no servants at all, and of the half million that have servants 227,000 have only one. (The Times, 6 June 1895)
  • Standing among savage scenery, the hotel offers stupendous revelations. There is a French widow in every bedroom, affording delightful prospects. (Tyrolean inn brochure, according to Gerard Hoffnung)
  • (A doctor is at an elderly relative's deathbed) "The old sawbones, eh?" he bellowed ... "Just in the nick, perhaps. Haul the old girl back by the short hairs, if you ask me. Devilish smart at his work ... Always take a fence with more confidence when I know he's out with us."
  • Too often, when a man of Monty Godkin's mental powers is plunged in thought, nothing happens at all. The machinery just whirs for a while, and that is the end of it. (P G Wodehouse, Heavy Weather)
  • ...the breed that take their pleasures as Saint Laurence took his grid (Kipling, The Five nations)

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