Did she, too, exist? Then there was a pause. Then you heard another voice. Getting through the week, awash in shame and dread. It seemed a vast impertinence that I should be forced to meet Thomas Mann. And grotesque that he should waste his time meeting me. Of course I could refuse to go. Whatever the usual deference I had from Merrill, it seemed he now considered himself my equal in Thomas Mann worship.
Merrill and I met twice during the week after school. I had stopped reproving him. I was less angry; increasingly, I was just miserable. I was trapped. Since I would have to go, I needed to feel close to him, make common cause, so we would not disgrace ourselves. Sunday came.
We had already agreed on how we would start. But after a few minutes, unable to entertain any idea of how he might respond to what we were considering saying, we ran out of inspiration. What does a god say? Impossible to imagine. Merrill seemed hardly to be anxious at all. He appeared to think that we had a perfect right to bother Thomas Mann. He thought that we were interesting—two precocious kids, minor-league prodigies we knew neither of us was a real prodigy, which was someone like the young Menuhin; we were prodigies of appetite, of respect, not of accomplishment ; that we could be interesting to Thomas Mann.
I did not. I thought we were. By real standards, I thought, we hardly existed. The sun was strong and the street deserted. In two hours only a few cars passed. Then, at five minutes to four, Merrill released the brake and we coasted silently down the hill and reparked in front of We got out, stretched, made encouraging mock-groaning sounds to each other, closed the car doors as softly as we could, went up the pathway, and rang the bell.
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Cute chimes. We followed, almost to the end of the narrow dark passageway, just before the staircase. There was a door on the left, which she opened.
We followed her in, turning left once more before we were really inside. I saw the room—it seemed large and had a big window with a big view—before I realized it was he, sitting behind a massive, ornate, dark table. Katia Mann presented us.
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Here are the two students, she said to him, while referring to him as Dr. Thomas Mann; he nodded and said some words of welcome. The resemblance seemed uncanny, a marvel. His resemblance to the photograph seemed like a feat, as if he were posing now. But the full-figure picture had not made me imagine him as frail; it had not made me see the sparseness of the mustache, the whiteness of the skin, the mottled hands, the unpleasantly visible veins, the smallness and amber color of the eyes behind his glasses.
He sat very erectly and seemed to be very, very old. He was in fact seventy-two. I heard the door behind us close. Thomas Mann indicated that we were to sit in the two stiff-backed chairs in front of the table. He lit a cigarette and leaned back in his chair. He talked without prompting.
I remember his gravity, his accent, the slowness of his speech: I had never heard anyone speak so slowly. He is a great composer. It is related to the twelve-tone system, or row, of Schoenberg. Merrill said we were both very interested in Schoenberg. He made no response to this. Lowe-Porter been confronted with such a challenging task. A thin-lipped smile. Was he speaking so slowly, I wondered, because that was the way he talked? Or because he was talking in a foreign language?
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Or because he thought he had to speak slowly—assuming because we were Americans? A long, long pause.
Understanding Thomas Mann : Hannelore Mundt :
He seemed distracted for a moment, as if recalling something. He lit another cigarette and turned slightly in his chair. I wondered if this meant the conversation was over. But, no, he went on. Did he bring up the Wagner-Hitler problem? I think not. We did our best to show him that his words were not wholly lost on us. Now I was starting to see more.
For instance, what was on the rather cluttered table: pens, inkstand, books, papers, and a nest of small photographs in silver frames, which I saw from the back. Of the many pictures on the walls, I recognized only a signed photograph of F. World-leading experts Our international lecturers are highly respected in their fields. How to live alone with others Dr Katja Haustein discusses the ethics of tact. View the transcript of this video opens in a new tab.
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