Mann, Thomas

Mann, Thomas (1875-1955), self-exiled German novelist and winner of the 1929 Nobel Prize in Literature, lived in Princeton for two and a half years 1938-1941, and was formally associated with the University during the academic years 1938-1940.

Mann had left Germany in 1933 when Hitler rose to power. After five years in Switzerland he was encouraged by friends to settle in this country, and President Dodds and Dean Gauss persuaded him to accept appointment as a lecturer in the University. While here Mann gave public lectures on Goethe, Wagner, and Freud and guest lectures in upperclass courses on the German romantic movement and the European novel.

The University made him a Doctor of Letters honoris causa at a special convocation in Nassau Hall in May 1939. In a moving response Mann expressed gratitude for his new home in America and spoke of gratitude in general: ``To be grateful for all life's blessings, . . . is the best condition for a happy life. A joke, a good meal, a fine spring day, a work of art, a human personality, a voice, a glance -- but this is not all. For there is another kind of gratitude . . . the feeling that makes us thankful for suffering, for the hard and heavy things of life, for the deepening of our natures which perhaps only suffering can bring.''

During their stay in Princeton Mr. and Mrs. Mann lived in the red brick Georgian house at the corner of Stockton Street and Library Place. Here, working three or four hours every morning, seven days a week, he completed Lotte in Weimar and started the fourth volume of the Joseph tales. Here, also, he wrote his essays against Nazism.

Mann found Princeton pleasant. ``This town is like a park,'' he wrote a friend in Europe, ``with wonderful opportunities for walks and with astonishing trees that now, during Indian summer, glow in the most magnificent colors.'' He and Albert Einstein, who had been friends in Germany, met frequently in each other's homes. Eventually a warmer climate lured Mann to California, where he remained until 1953 when he returned to Switzerland to spend his last years.

In 1964 a stone tablet with the words ``THOMAS MANN LIVED HERE 1938-1941'' was placed in the brick wall at the front of the house at 65 Stockton Street (now occupied by the Aquinas Institute). At its dedication Professor Victor Lange, then chairman of the department of German, expressed the hope that as ``a lasting reminder of Thomas Mann's presence in Princeton'' it might ``strengthen the spirit of courageous humanism among us and reaffirm the vision of a community of free men to which his life and work bore such eloquent testimony.''


From Alexander Leitch, A Princeton Companion, copyright Princeton University Press (1978).

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