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Der gelebte Mythus aber ist die epische Idee meines Romans, und ich sehe wohl, daß, seit ich als Erzähler den Schritt vom Bürgerlich-Individuellen zum Mythisch-Typischen getan haben mein heimliches Verhältnis zur analytischen Sphäre sozusagen in sein akutes Stadium getreten ist. Das mythische Interesse ist der Psychoanalyse genau so eingeboren, wie allem Dichtertum das psychologische Interesse eingeboren ist. . .
Im Leben der Menschheit stellt das Mythische zwar eine frühe und primitive Stufe dar, im Lebendes einzelnen aber eine spate undreife. Was damit gewonnen wird, ist der Blick für die höhere Wahrheit, die sich im Wirklichen darstellt, das lächelnde Wissen vom Ewigen, Immerseienden, Gültige, vom Schema, in dem und nach den das vermeintliche ganz Individuelle lebt, nicht ahnend in dem naiven Dünkel seiner Erst- und Einmaligkeit, wie sehr sein Leben Formel und Wiederholung, ein Wandeln in tief ausgetretenen Spuren ist.
But the epic concept of my novel is myth experienced as life and I well understand that from the time I took the step as a writer from the bourgeois-individual to the mythic-typical, my personal relationship to the analytical sphere stepped into an acute stage, in a manner of speaking. The interest in the mythical is as inherently a part of the psychoanalytical as an interest in the psychological is inherently of interest to a writer. . .
The myth is the foundation of life; it is the timeless schema, the pious formula into which life flows when it reproduces its traits out of the unconscious. Certainly when a writer has acquired the habit of regarding life as mythical and typical there comes a curious heightening of his artistic temper, a new refreshment to his perceiving and shaping powers, which otherwise occurs much later in life; for while in the life of the human race the mythical is an early and primitive stage, in the life of the individual it is a late and mature one.
–Thomas Mann, Freud und die Zukunft (1937) in Leiden und Größe der Meister, pp. 920-21 (Frankfurter Ausg. 1982)
More from Scott Horton:
Six Questions — October 18, 2014, 8:00 pm
Nathaniel Raymond on CIA interrogation techniques.
I recently spent a semester teaching writing at an elite liberal-arts college. At strategic points around the campus, in shades of yellow and green, banners displayed the following pair of texts. The first was attributed to the college’s founder, which dates it to the 1920s. The second was extracted from the latest version of the institution’s mission statement:
The paramount obligation of a college is to develop in its students the ability to think clearly and independently, and the ability to live confidently, courageously, and hopefully.
Let us take a moment to compare these texts. The first thing to observe about the older one is that it is a sentence. It expresses an idea by placing concepts in relation to one another within the kind of structure that we call a syntax. It is, moreover, highly wrought: a parallel structure underscored by repetition, five adverbs balanced two against three.
Percentage of Britons who cannot name the city that provides the setting for the musical Chicago:
An Australian entrepreneur was selling oysters raised in tanks laced with Viagra.
A naked man believed to be under the influence of LSD rammed his pickup truck into two police cars.
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“Shelby is waiting for something. He himself does not know what it is. When it comes he will either go back into the world from which he came, or sink out of sight in the morass of alcoholism or despair that has engulfed other vagrants.”