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For Thomas Mann, the World’s Chaos Is Inside the House

Anyone about the German novelist Mann faces the same problem that Mann himself often did. How do you write about a family with six children? How do you juggle the lives of Erika (b. 1905), Klaus (b. 1906), Golo (b. 1909), Monika (b. 1910), Elisabeth (b. 1918) and Michael (b. 1919)? It would be much [easier] if there were just two or four children! “When a man has six children, he can't love them all equally,” Mann claimed. In a Mann wrote in 1925, he dealt with the problem by removing the middle two children and by focusing on the child he loved best, Elisabeth. The story was called “Disorder and Early Sorrow” when it was first translated into English, in 1936, by Helen Lowe-Porter. In a new anthology translated by Damion Searls, THOMAS MANN: NEW SELECTED STORIES (252 pp., Liveright, $30), the work is called “Chaotic World and Childhood Sorrow.” The favored daughter is Lorchen in the original German (Lowe-Porter changes her name to Ellie; Searls to Lorrie). Lorchen is too young and innocent to notice the changes that are going on around her. The story is set in 1923 when inflation raged through Germany. While the family in the story, like the Manns themselves, has not been destitute by the nation's collapsing currency, it […]

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