Zwei Welten and Thomas Mann: In The Attempt

Thomas Mannトーマス・マン『トニオ・クルーガー』日本語訳(Japanische Übersetzung)

Do you ever get bewildered by the conflicting aspirations pulling yourself in opposing directions? Do you sometimes feel overwhelmed by contradicting ideas of conforming to the wider society while hoping to keep tied to where you are so that you feel secure and authentic? Thomas Mann(1875-1955), famous for his novel Der Tod in Venedig (Death in Venice), explored this theme strenuously in his less known short novels.

Ich stehe zwischen zwei Welten, bin in keiner daheim und habe es infolge dessen ein wenig schwer. (…) Sehnsucht ist darin und schwermütiger Neid und ein klein wenig Verachtung und eine ganze keusche Seligkeit. Tonio Kröger by Thomas Mann


Our existence is an amalgamation of contradicting beliefs, realities and aspirations. What Thomas Mann tried to do in his short stories was to step further in his attempt to illustrate heartbreaking inner conflict of young artists: The nature of artistic self-consciousness and inner suspicion that the artist must be an outsider relative to respectable society.


He examined these issues through a series of dichotomies. He explored the youthful disillusionment by contrasting it with the happiness and blithe naïveté found in many of people. The protagonists are envious of innocent vitality their counterpart enjoy but proud of his insights, philosophical profundity and aesthetic sensitivity.


We sometimes find ourselves craving for, if not envious of, what we don’t possess but our counterpart does while taking pride in what you have and who you are. Deep down you are wishing to live a more laid-back life while energized by intensity of your professional pursuit. To the contrary, you might be interested in throwing yourself into more challenging, vibrant business while hoping to stay around with a relaxed, intimate and like-minded circle of people. There is a dash of contempt for those on the other side, which keeps you from leaving behind what is comfortable and familiar for you.


Creating dichotomy between art and life as well as intellect and nature, he explored the ramifications of this separation and portrayed protagonists as the agent of reconciliation between these facets of existence. In one of his short stories, a young man reaffirms his faith in humanity and love for life as his alienation is surmounted at last by his love for humanity. It was ultimately a quest for some kind of balance and wholeness for human values that would be personally sustained.