Mann

"Mario and the Magician" by Thomas Mann  See below for PDF copy
Friday, January 12, 2018, Time: 1:00-3:00
Location: Skokie Public Library, Book Discussion Room

During the first half of the story, the narrator describes a trip to Torre di Venere, Italy, which becomes unpleasant for him and his family. He feels the Italian people are too nationalistic. The second half of the story introduces the character Cipolla, a hypnotist who uses his mental powers in a "fascist" way to control his audience. Cipolla may well represent the mesmerizing power of authoritarian leaders in Europe at the time —he is autocratic, misuses power, and subjugates the masses in an attempt to counterbalance his inferiority complex by artificially boosting his self-confidence. Cipolla's assassination by Mario, a native of Torre di Venere, is not a tragedy but a liberation for the audience.

“Mario and the Magician” is one of Mann's most political stories. Mann openly criticizes fascism, a choice which later became one of the grounds for his exile to Switzerland following Hitler's rise to power. The magician, Cipolla, is analogous to the fascist dictators of the era with their fiery speeches and rhetoric. The story was especially timely, considering the tensions in Europe when it was written. Stalin had just seized power in Russia, Mussolini was urging Italians to recapture the glory of the Roman Empire, and Hitler with his rhetoric was quickly gaining steam in Germany. The end of the story represents Mann's changing political views; he moved from staunch support of the Kaiser during his early life to a belief in progressive, democratic values in Europe and a desire to rid the continent of fascist influences.

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Philip Zawa,
Oct 7, 2017, 9:09 AM
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