the internaught years

theoceanspectre  asked:

Your admiration for Annemarie Schwarzenbach is, well, admirable. Can I ask where you first came across her, and what it is that so intrigues you? (I am aware that one glance at a photograph of her answers the second question, but, you know.) She’s quite the obscure obsession.

She is an obscure obsession, and that’s probably the reason why I care this much: her whole existence seems so precarious that, lacking support, I worry she might just slip away. Think of it as a wildlife conservation effort for one of history’s most unexpected footnotes.

First, the writing: most interesting there is the total lack of distinction between exterior and interior landscapes (which err towards either ‘limitless and overwhelming’, or ‘domesticated and claustrophobic’). The narrators, for their part, remain mostly nameless and genderless (ceding, perhaps, to the frequently-voiced fear of losing one’s self alongside one’s country); however, the stories they tell are so intimate that you can’t help but feel like you’ve forged a real connection, you and this non-being. An article I read described this effect as similar to Cupid’s heard-but-not-seen strategy, from the Psyche myth. And to pile on another layer: her work, taken in sum, functions as a fractured autobiography. Digging through the requisite backstory becomes an archeological mission in its own right— one which further perpetuates the myth of a close acquaintance.

Then there’s her remarkable bravery— not a trait she saw in herself, but one which I’m assigning to her. The tenacity with which she stuck to her principles was so extreme that it’s easy to forget how much endurance and dedication it actually took. At some point, she developed a philosophy of just powering through the [sexism; homophobia; ultra-conservative family; depression; anxiety; addiction; war]— there’s a reason why, in Der Vulkan, Klaus Mann gives her a cameo as “the angel of the dispossessed.”

So I hope that answers the question! Her life involved so many contradictions that it gets dangerous to romanticize her— but that doesn’t preclude the carrying of a few lonely torches.

Erika and Thomas Mann in 1937, not long after Erika had threatened to cut off all contact with her father if he didn’t take a definitive stance against the Nazis. Up to this point, he had erred towards neutrality, while simultaneously refusing to support Klaus’s antifascist journal Die Sammlung and publicly defending Bermann Fischer, a publisher rumored to be in league with Goebbels. These actions, wrote Erika in 1936, had caused more harm to Klaus than the actions of the entire Nazi party combined.  After a great deal of pressure from his wife, Katia, Thomas did release an open letter (written, in large part, by Katia) declaring his solidarity with the antifascist cause. His honorary doctorate and the entire Mann family’s citizenships were swiftly revoked (save for Erika’s and Klaus’s, which had been revoked in ‘34 and '35, respectively.)

 As of March– the month this photo was taken– the Manns had been granted Czechoslovakian citizenship, and the feud between Erika and Thomas had apparently cooled enough to let them stand next to each other. The lasting bitterness would– uncharacteristically– come from Klaus, who, in Mephisto, based Hendrik Höfgen partly off of ex-boyfriend/brother-in-law Gustaf Gründgens, and partly off of Thomas Mann himself, “as ambitious, flawed, sexually perverse; a man ready to sell his soul while tempting others to do the same.”