Today I was reading Hollingdale's book on Thomas Mann, and realized I had no idea what Hollingdale had looked like, or who he was exactly.
Well, here he is:
To summarize from Wikipedia, he left school at 16 (in 1946 or so) to become a journalist, learned German in private lessons, and became an influential scholar of modern German thought. Without a degree.
Hollingdale sees Mann as caught up in God-is-dead nihilism.
"The whole world of Thomas Mann's fiction is erected on this basis of no values. It is because this world has no values that the major novels are so long (no principle of selection); it is because it has no values that its ideological tendency is so uncertain (no instinctive moral judgment); it is because it has no values that its most valuable inhabitant, the artist, is inverted into a decadent and criminal (the identity of the best and the worst); it is because it has no values that it is seen ironically (self-defence against the meaningless); it is because it has no values that it resorts to mythology (an attempt to create value);it is because it has no values that its only reality is physical reality and its only causes physical causes, and when it tries to account for the fact that it has no values it seeks the explanation in physiology. But because the world which this fictional world seeks to mirror really has no values, this fictional world is a true mirror and the image it reflects a true image. The aesthetic faults we have discovered in it, which are true faults, are thus in the long run faults in the subject which it reflects. Or, as the mirror replied to the monster: 'There is nothing wrong with me, it is you who are distorted'."
Rather sweeping, but makes more sense
than lots of what I've seen dispensed.