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New Left Review I/16, July-August 1962


George Lukacs

Thomas Mann

The text below is an extract from Lukacs’ essay “In Search of Bourgeois Man”, written in 1945 in honour of the seventieth birthday of Thomas Mann. In it, Lukacs traces Mann’s development from Buddenbrooks to the war-time Lotte in Weimar. His perspective is the whole ulterior development of German history. After 1933, Lukacs was haunted by the eclipse of German culture, which had been perhaps the richest and most vital in Europe in the formative years of his youth, and which had collapsed in barbarism. He returned to this theme again and again. “In Search of Bourgeois Man” is a tribute to Mann for his prescience and his resistance to fascism. Mann, who had often stayed with Lukacs’ parents in Budapest before 1914, reported an early encounter with Lukacs characteristically: “I have met Lukacs personally. He once spent an hour in Vienna giving me his ideas. He was right so long as he was talking. Even if afterwards I only remembered an impression of an almost unbearable degree of abstractness . . .” More than thirty years later he wrote a direct testimonial to the intelligence of the mature Lukacs: “There is no doubt that this birthday essay, ‘In Search of Bourgeois Man’ was a sociological and psychological portrayal of my life and work grander in scale and manner than anything I have ever yet received . . .”

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