Iris and her friends: a memoir of memory and desire

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He had a luxurious and cultivated household in Munich, with many servants and a summer house in the mountains outside the city. Mann supported German nationalism during the Great War and quarreled bitterly with his older writer-brother, Heinrich, who took an international stance and espoused the French cause.

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But they were staunch allies in their opposition to Nazism, both before and after Hitler came to power, and both went into exile. Thomas must have had an extremely strong character to survive the loss of his houses and all his possessions, his manuscripts and correspondence, his publisher, royalties, and Nobel prize-money, his citizenship, honorary doctorate, and German audience. In that class and that time children did not live in close proximity to their parents.

The Mann children had a separate nursery and were brought up by maids, governesses, and tutors, but their father was exceptionally withdrawn.

Their autobiographies all paid tribute to his elegant style, high art, penetrating irony, subtle wit, depth of meaning, and profound insight into European culture. They all defined their own identity in relation to their father. But their own literary efforts were inevitably criticized by reviewers either for exploiting his name or for failing to equal his achievement.

Escape to Life , written in English by Erika and Claus and published by Houghton Mifflin in the spring of , shortly before the outbreak of World War II, is an autobiography, a portrait of their father and an effective piece of anti-Nazi propaganda. The somewhat euphemistic title agreed upon was Escape to Life. He and Katia happened to be in Switzerland when the Nazis took power and burnt the Reichstag while blaming their political enemies for the fire.

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Their oldest children believed it was dangerous for them to return to Germany. Knowing their phone was tapped, they told the parents that the weather was so bad and the spring-cleaning of the house so disruptive that it would be better if they did not come back. The parents, unaccustomed to such subterfuge, had some difficulty deciphering the message. The context of Escape to Life demands a dignified and flattering portrait of Thomas as leader of the emigration.


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But there are some hints, between the lines, of his repressive power and godlike authority at home. They associated him with the vague smell of cigar smoke, eau-de-cologne, and dust from his books. He is both touchy and lenient, weary and preoccupied, living in his own world and completely aloof from what goes on in the house. But his vanity, or his sense of honor, prevented him from doing so—at least, for a while. After the reading there was a long and dismal silence. Very strange, indeed. I reveled in mysticism, for I thought him a skeptic.

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He is by instinct and tradition a Protestant: I was attracted to Catholicism. I had his terminology in my fingertips, his images in my blood. Everybody was struck by their peculiar charm and puzzled by their rapid dialogues bristling with secret formulas, tender allusions, enigmatic jokes. Though born a year and nine days after his sister, Klaus always celebrated his birthday on her day—November 9. The last inevitable step has a fascination and even a practical interest which no previous event can equal. Five hundred words a day for 60 years adds up to a long shelf of books.

An accomplished speaker and performer of the highest rank, he read the Schiller essay—cut by Erika from to 20 pages—in both West and East Germany. On holiday in Noordwijk he worked, like Gustav von Aschenbach, while sitting in a chair on the seashore.

Iris and Her Friends

The doctrine [he] sought to inculcate was that not only was the physical continuation of human life at stake but also. The first sign of his fatal illness occurred in Noordwijk, three weeks before his death, with a dragging pain in his left leg that was originally diagnosed as a thrombosis, or a dangerous blood clot. He was flown back to Zurich for more specialized treatment, and his appearance, after his holiday, seemed to Erika reassuring.

His narrow head was bronzed by the sun, he suffered no pain and did not complain of feeling ill. He collapsed on August 11, and was given intravenous drugs, blood transfusions, flasks of oxygen and finally morphine. I am so weak. The autopsy report, which provided morbid details worthy of The Magic Mountain , explained the reason for his sudden collapse, after he seemed to be making good progress, and for the failure of the most drastic and powerful remedies.

His last illness, in fact, was misdiagnosed. Like all his children, Monika confessed that Thomas was the most important figure in her life. On summer afternoons he would lie on a deck chair with a handkerchief over his face and even play tennis in the garden Thomas Mann as jock! Monika also describes Thomas, in more negative terms, as a strong, controlled personality—distant, aloof, and withdrawn—who constantly turned inward on himself. I was torn between despair and delight.

Papa pretended amused outrage. In her charming and chatty, amusing, and anecdotal Unwritten Memories , the practical and commonsensical Katia, who justly compares herself to Leonore in Fidelio , conveys with Wilhelmine propriety the public image of her husband. Thomas based his works more on reality than imagination and never worried about the effect they would have on the people who inspired his characters. The bizarre minor figures in The Magic Mountain were the same people Katia had described in her letters to Thomas from a Swiss sanatorium.

In short, enough. During an anti-Nazi lecture in the Beethoven Hall in Berlin in , the Fascist audience became extremely hostile. You never know what might happen. I know my way around here. Taking advantage of the passage of time and the far freer cultural climate, Golo pries open the vault containing the family secrets and gives a more realistic, probing, and convincing picture of Thomas.

I writhed in silent agony. My life will never be right again.

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Part One: Memoirs of Early Years

Ships with Tracking Number! Buy with confidence, excellent customer service!. Seller Inventory Xn. John Bayley. This specific ISBN edition is currently not available. View all copies of this ISBN edition:. Synopsis About this title The husband of Iris Murdoch and author of Elegy for Iris, follows up his moving memoir of his wife's struggle with memory loss by recalling his own past, describing vivid scenes of his childhood in colonial India, his vacations on the English coast, his early love of literature, and his romance with Iris.

Review : Novelist Iris Murdoch died in after a three-year battle with Alzheimer's disease. Buy New Learn more about this copy. Customers who bought this item also bought.