“Consciousness of self was an inherent function of matter once it was organized as life, and if that function was enhanced it turned against the organism that bore it, strove to fathom and explain the very phenomenon that produced it, a hope-filled and hopeless striving of life to comprehend itself, as if nature were rummaging to find itself in itself – ultimately to no avail, since nature cannot be reduced to comprehension, nor in the end can life listen to itself.”
The Magic Mountain
By reading the spiraling Buddenbrooks and immersing in the decaying, skeptical realm of Berghof, one can somewhat conceive Gesamtkunstwerk in a realm other than music and theater. Even if it does not involve, as Mann himself pointed out, a total/puristical involvement in the other arts (a measured dilletantism, as he said), by introducing a composition-like style to construct his works, applying leitmotifs and a symphonic-like structure. This, of course, can be also interpreted solely in a metaphorical sense, but it is almost reassuring in the sense that it melodically sprouts from this Wagnerian idea, a collaborative inclusion of other art forms.
This of course, sows the seeds in our minds of a complex and enduring relationship with this work, which sculpts itself intricately as we read. From a quite Homeric-like leitmotif in Buddenbrooks, to symbolic (in an almost music-like way) statements in Death in Venice and Doktor Faustus, we engage ourselves in the contradictory idealistic and Nitzschean-Schopenhauerian perspectives, which constantly interrogate our conviction and notion of the self and our surroundings.
And so this struggle reflects the meaning he saw regarding art. “Life needs to be taken seriously; so does art”, gaining a synthetic meaning. Art as a parallel to life, a humanistic discipline, an ethical war on both fronts, unrelenting trials that intertwine and, whatever their outcomes may be, always reach for the transcendental, a Dionysian-Apollonian cycle.
To commemorate the anniversary of his death, I decided to feast on Lübeck’s delicacy: marzipan. Though it’s not Niederegger (just a homemade attempt), the desserts for the ocassion were Marzipantorte (marzipan cake) and a Überraschungshappen (marzipan filled cookies, covered in chocolate). It was all enjoyed with strong coffee, the usual companion.
And so there goes my attempt at evoking the hanseatic atmosphere, to which its steadfast doors are kept open to any inquisitive visitor.
“(…) nearly all the great things that exist owe their existence to a defiant despite: it is despite grief and anguish, despite poverty, loneliness, bodily weakness, vice and passion and a thousand inhibitions, that they have come into being at all.”
Death in Venice