Deep is the well of mankind. ,
so began the epic Joseph and his brothers,
a quartet of novels based on
the biblical stories of Joseph,
by great German author Thomas Mann.
It was an astonishing work,
based on the Wagner’s
Der ring des Nibelungen,
which Mann idealized as one
of the greatest works of art.
The first opera in the cycle of four,
is called Das Rheingold and the prelude
begins with six sustained E’s
played on the double basses,
so as to take one under the Rhein
into the murky world of the Niebelungen.
That is why the novels also
start with 6 words, that have the same effect.
Man tried to copy the opera as best he could
in the written word of the novel,
then the Nazi came to power in Germany
just after the publication of the first novel in the quartet,
and made Wagner their great Germanic Hero.
Mann, who along with many
leading intellectuals of his day,
had heralded the first world war as a
necessity, and had stood against his brother Heinrich
(also a great German novelist) Kafka and Rilke.
Heinrich Mann had fled to the USA, and refused to speak
to his younger brother again, over this difference of opinion.
Thomas ans his family fled to Switzerland, and then to USA.
Here he began the second of the three remaining novels.
from here on in the text, one senses Thomas’ growing
struggle to come to terms with Wagner
and his use by the Nazi state.
He begins to write further and further away from
the operas, as he struggle to come to terms
with the second world war, the first world war,
and the split with his brother, the suicide of one of his sons,
and the Nazi genocide against the Jews,
and all that stood against them in Europe.
These tension make this an epic set of novels
with the struggles embedded into the text,
making it a riveting read,
and a great statement against
war and violence.