Friday, November 30, 2007

Mann's Dilemmas

[Thomas Mann to Heinrich Mann]

Garrison Infirmary,

Friday, November 2, 1900.

Dear Heinrich:

Many thanks for your letters, both of which finally arrived in order, despite Dr. von Staat's lengthy attempt to prevent delivery, and for the card from Ferrara with the monument, which pleased me especially. The figure is very inspiring. Might you not be able to find a larger photograph of it and send it to me rolled up--to HerzogstraBe, for this time it really is likely that I shall not be here much longer.

In principle everything remains the same with my feet. The sodium silicate bandages (a substitute for plaster) have been taken off and, since the inflammation has not yet gone down completely, they will now be treated once more with wet poultices. But they are built badly and will stay that way; and for that reason I now want to be released back to duty soon, so that the first exercises will promptly cause them to fail again. In fact, they want me to purchase--at a considerable sum--springy insole supports for flat feet or even specially designed footwear; but if I'm not directly forced, I shall not do so, for my belief is that whoever has limbs requiring the correction of some kind of apparatus is not fit for active duty, and I think I shall be able to have this view prevail. When? That, of course, I can't say; but it would be very nice if I were already free by Christmas, and then I really would like to move to Florence soon after, to read what I need to on the spot. But, unfortunately, things have not progressed that far as yet, and then there is the question of what I would do with the apartment and my furniture. That will be easily taken care of, however, once I'm moving around again in the plain coat of free man. . .

I'm not doing well at the moment, for my worries about Buddenbrooks seem only to have begun now that it is finished. Fischer wrote to me after he had read the first half, and therefore did not yet know anything. After a few bits of exaggerated praise and some criticism, he arrived at the conclusion that he would be very inclined to publish it if I were willing to cut the book down by half. He was so shocked himself by this villainous demand, that he immediately called it "monstrous" and nearly begged my pardon; but, as a publisher, that was what he had to say. The sad story is simply that the novel amounts to more than a thousand pages and would have to appear in two volumes, which, at 8 to 10 marks each and in current circumstances, would be really and truly unsellable. Nevertheless, I am insisting that the book appear as it is, for, wholly aside from the question of my artistic conscience, I simply do not feel that I have the strength to set pen to it once again. Only extreme exertion allowed me to finish it and now I want finally to be freed of it so I can occupy myself with other things. In my extensive reply to Fischer, then, I refused resolutely to cut the book, but showed myself to be very flexible and resigned in regard to everything else. As things are now, I'm prepared to sign any contract that merely preserves the appearance that I am not simply giving away the work of three years. I instructed him to draw one up that offers him security, more or less; that limits, conditions, or reassigns the royalties, and stipulates, for example, that a potential loss on his part will be compensated by me out of later royalties. But he is to put the book out as it is. There is a distinction, after all, between long and long-winded! Even today a two-volume novel is not an absolute impossibility! And then I said to him that this novel was by no means the last book I would ever give him, and that ultimately everything depended upon whether he--also as a businessman--believed a little in my talent and was willing, or not, to stand up for it once and for all. Now I must return to waiting patiently, until he has read the story through to the end and writes again. The situation is difficult, difficult and in danger of proceeding badly. It would be very sad if I were left sitting with the book; I can already feel how that would make it harder for me to continue producing.--Incidentally--now you are not the only one receiving abusive postcards. I got a rhymed one about Piepsam, saying that I'm obviously a guzzler myself and therefore should "leave off" with the "scribbling." How charming! Dr. Geheeb sent me a whole package of new publications from the press in consolation, along with the request that I cause another such pleasant scandal right away. . .

I'll let you know when I change my address again. The time to come is likely to be very unpleasant for me, since I'll be back in training and have to make up a lot of exercises and, at the beginning, still have to sleep in the barracks. And I'm so weak from all the time in bed that I don't know how I'm supposed to manage it. If only they wanted to make an end of it and throw me out!

Warm regards,
Your T.

Translation, Winstons.

No comments: