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This article is taken from PN Review 21, Volume 8 Number 1, September - October 1981.

In Sickness and in Health Idris Parry

THOMAS MANN says in an essay on Richard Wagner that art is truth-the truth about the artist. If Mann's art is the truth about him, what it reveals is a person with great respect for order. Joined to this is an unfailing perception of the disorder latent in every form. As every psychologist knows, and most dramatists seem to demonstrate, any person who is abnormally attached to the formal proprieties is likely to be abnormally susceptible to the opposite extreme.

The development of living forms is a compensatory process. Order comes from balancing impulses. Forces, sometimes strongly opposed forces, are working on each other all the time, producing the tension which is structure. This controlled tension is a kind of ideal discipline in which the separate force is restrained and shaped by respect for the claims of others.

In another essay Thomas Mann remarks that the times in which he lived were full of change in Europe. With obvious satisfaction he goes on to say: 'My life in these times was a unity. The orderly way in which my life corresponds to this period numerically arouses in me the pleasure which I get from all order and propriety.' His numerical pleasure came from the fact that he completed his first novel Buddenbrooks in 1900 when he was twenty-five years old, while the century itself was twenty-five years old when he published his best-known novel The Magic Mountain, he himself being then fifty. By some oversight, ...

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