Book of the week


28 March 2010, 2.41 CET

Thomas Mann, The Confessions of Felix Krull, Confidence Man (1954)

Felix Krull

Only at the two opposite poles of human contact, where there are no words or at least no more words, in the glance and the embrace, is happiness really to be found, for there alone are unconditional freedom, secrecy, and profound ruthlessness. Everything by way of human contact and exchange that lies between is lukewarm and insipid; it is determined, conditioned, and limited by manners and social convention. Here the word is master—that cool, prosaic device, that first begetter of tame, mediocre morality, so essentially alien to the hot, inarticulate realm of nature that one might say that every word exists in and for itself and is therefore no better than claptrap.

[M]y truest interest lies … rather in the extreme, silent regions of human intercourse—that one, first of all, where strangeness and social rootlessness still maintain a free, primordial condition and glances meet and marry irresponsibly in dreamlike wantonness; but then, too, the other in which the greatest possible closeness, intimacy, and commingling reestablish completely that wordless primordial condition.

Translation by Denver Lindley