Chapter 6

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Jan de Vries

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May 8, 2022, 8:47:04 AMMay 8
to Lotte in Weimar; book discussion

Again a discussion about Goethe; now between Charlotte and August, Goethe’s son. Somehow I found this chapter a bit more interesting. Again, the  discussion is not part of a story but talk for its own sake. Like music; it is satisfying to make music and it is pleasant to listen to music. In addition,  some statements are worthwhile. For instance, people who always want to do good are often unpleasant. I can see that it was satisfying to Mann to write these dialogues. Reading these dialogues is hardly satisfying.  Let’s see what the last chapter brings.

Nori Geary

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May 8, 2022, 4:38:59 PMMay 8
to Lotte in Weimar; book discussion

Ch 5 was more-or-less an uninterrupted monologue from Adele Schopenhauer. Ch 6 begins with the admission that Adele was indeed interrupted, twice, by Mager. The first was to relay an enquiry from Lotte’s sister whether she would still come for dinner. Lotte decides no, she will visit, but dinner should not wait, as “important responsibilities” detain her –  we are back to comic opera; what responsibilities, other than her curiosity about others’ views of Goethe? Mager’s second interruption is to announce a call by August Goethe. Adele says of this, “speak of the devil and he comes” and soon takes her leave, and the balance of ch 6 described August’s visit.

Lotte draws August out about his own life and his relationship with his father, for whom he is acting as an assistant in some of Goethe’s official responsibilities. As we have learned August is a defender of Napoleon and easily becomes angry if his views are even doubted, which Lotte seems to do. August is not described in complimentary terms, except perhaps that like his father he has deep dark brown eyes (eyes again!). Lotte finds his speech stilted and affected, but his descriptions of his father’s work, travels, and illnesses interest her.

One interesting detail is that there is a current opinion much of Goethe’s work is coarse. August attributes that to veiled criticisms of Goethe’s affair with his mother – if the artist is himself not of the highest deportment, then so must his work be questionable. August feels that this sort of criticism should have evaporated when the two finally married and the Duke made August legitimate and heir to Goethe’s noble title, but of course they did not evaporate. 

August describes two stays by his father in Frankfurt at the Gerbermühle, the estate of friends. This name means the tanners’ mill, which seemed unusual name, so I looked it up. The mill building dates from the early 15th C and was put to many uses, including as a tannery, and it is now a fancy restaurant. Back to Lotte. August attitude about his father’s visits to the Gerbermühle is a bit conflicted. It seems that Goethe became infatuated with the young wife of his friend, a woman 35 y younger than he and, of course, in a rival of August’s mother for Goethe’s affections. So it is hard for August to tell the story calmly. His woman was also something of a muse for some poetry by Goethe. Lotte points out that this muse had not led Goethe to any creation of the importance of Werther. In fact, earlier in the chapter she said the same about some woman who was an earlier muse, but the product, the novel Elective Affinities, was also not the equal of Werther. So Lotte is proud and perhaps jealous of her stature as the most important muse. These passages were mildly amusing.

August seems quite a bitter person. An exception is an acquaintance, Achim von Arnim, with whom he spent many pleasant hours. In 1808, however, August went to Heidelberg to study law and stayed with a friend of Goethe’s named Voss. Achim was there as well and had earned Voss’s enmity because of his overly romantic and old-fashioned notions of Germany. Voss made it clear to August that his position as Goethe’s aide made friendship with Achim poorly advised, so August dropped Achim. More bitterness, or does August repress such thoughts if the concern the great man?

In the final part of the chapter August tells Lotte that he is betrothed to Ottalie von Pogwisch, at least is almost betrothed, as it seems Ottalie has not explicitly agreed. Of course, Lotte does not let on that Adele has already told her. Lotte gently brings up th fact that Ottalie is a loyal Prussian, wondering if that will be a problem for August. He brushes that off. I wonder if what he means is essentially that he cares not at all what a mere female thinks about such matters. Lotte then discusses Ottalie’s devotion to Goethe and wonders if this is behind her affections – that is, whether August is in a way Goethe’s representative in Ottalie’s eyes. But Lotte backs off when August does not answer and wishes him and her all the best. August delivers an invitation from Goethe that dine with him in a couple of days, on Friday. So ends another long and not very informative chapter. Perhaps some of what we learned becomes more significant later. 

Sarah Robinson

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May 8, 2022, 7:26:00 PMMay 8
to Nori Geary, Lotte in Weimar; book discussion
Hi, am not sure if we are back on gmail or still on the google book site too.

Jan, you are missing the musical cadence found in much of great literature.  I find myself doing a kind of needlework, or humbly darning wool socks, trying to sew together the disconnected pieces.  Mann’s choice of writing style in this novel is challenging for all who read it.  Since he deeply respected Goethe before undertaking this novel, primarily based on research if not knotting a comic opera, perhaps he is knotting like one of the main characters in Dickens “Tale of two cities” when the woman knits who should be executed for supporting the French crown.  While Mann admires Goethe, in this novel he also recognizes and presents in these conversations with Latte in the first 6 chapters, that Goethe is not only flawed like we all are (out of Eden, so to speak), but also shows his Faustian character and how Germans love to bow down.. and with his fame and title he comes to love his power…and misuses it in ways that cause harm to his son.

Too, I find the anticipated reconnection with Goethe after 40 years is fraught with confusion about her fame and who she is in 1816.  The interviews in these chapters actually help her in many levels, and while she listens and learns. And she makes her own decisions, in spite of Mager.  It is farce and absurd at times, but weaving the chapters together can be done..including a ribbon, eyes and their color…

Chapter 6 has Latte showing empathy for August, showing she does not swallow everything about August she was told in chapter 5.  She actually reaches out to him like a mother. And she sees Goethe in him.  What is and what could have been, as well as the roles and images cast upon Late, Goethe and August. Means and ends are also discussed or written as Late’s thoughts in chapter 2 when she is being used.

I look forward to chapter 7 when she is again face to face for the first time in 40 years. I anticipate folks making fools of themselves, but also with the major historical events in the past four decades, will we also recognize  a change in German identity, but also with cautious warnings?  After all we know Mann was at “war” with 
Hitler in his own time.. what Boes he want us to darn together?

Best to you both,
Sarah

Sent from my iPad

On May 8, 2022, at 4:39 PM, Nori Geary <nori....@gmail.com> wrote:


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