Thomas Mann’s “Doktor Faustus”–Second of Two

7/29/09

This is the second of two posts devoted to Thomas Mann’s Doktor Faustus.  Below are two entries I first wrote in my philosophical journal on the dates indicated.

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Mann’s Doktor Faustus, p. 375, on Adrian’s [fictitious musical composition] “Apocalypse”:  “[T]he whole work is dominated by the paradox (if it is a paradox), that in it dissonance stands for the expression of everything lofty, solemn, pious, everything of the spirit; while the consonance and firm tonality are reserved for the world of hell, in this context a world of banality and commonplace.”

Wednesday, June 10, 2008

Thomas Mann, Doktor Faustus, p. 491, on Leverkühn’s last work, “Dr. Faustus’ Lament”:

Here, towards the end, I find that the uttermost accents of mourning are reached, the final despair achieves a voice, and–I will not say it, it would be to disparage the uncompromising character of the work, its irremediable anguish to say that it affords, down to its very last note, any other consolation than what lies in voicing it, in simply giving sorrow words; in the fact, that is, that a voice is given the creature for its woe.  No, this dark tone-poem permits up to the very end no consolation, appeasement, transfiguration.  But take our artist’s paradox: grant that expressiveness–expression as lament–is the issue of the whole construction; then may we not parallel with it another, a religious one, and too (though only in the lowest whisper) that out of the sheerly irremediable hope might germinate?  It would be a hope beyond hopelessness, transcendence of despair–not betrayal to her, but the miracle that passes belief.  For listen to the end, listen with me:  One group of instruments after another retires, and what remains, as the work fades on the air, is the high G of a cello, the last word, the last fainting sound, slowly dying in a pianissimo-fermata.  Then nothing more:  silence and night. But that tone which vibrates in the silence, which is no longer there, to which only the spirit hearkens, and which was the voice of mourning, is so no more.  It changes meaning, abides as a light in the night.

Compare to Jean-Luc Nancy on prayer, the prayer of lament!

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