"I stand between two worlds, I am at home in neither, and this makes things a little difficult for me."

Tonio Kröger is a novella by Thomas Mann, first published in 1903. It traces the youth and early manhood of the writer, Tonio Kröger. It is a work of ideas, almost an essay on art (by which, I (and Mann) mostly mean literature) in story form. The "plot" such as it is has him getting crushes on a boy, then a girl in his youth, then going south (to Munich, I believe: the German city of art) for college, meeting up with some bohemian types there; then going back North, being mistaken for someone else, and finally going to Denmark, and Elsinore (Tonio compares himself to Hamlet several times in the work, but that's just hitting you over the head with it).

The structure of the novella is interesting, and almost musical: It follows the two theme exposition/development/recapitulation sonata-allegro form, and certain motifs recur: Gypsies on a green caravan, his father with a wildflower in his buttonhole, etc.

Everything about Tonio is split, between the Southern/artistic/bohemian side and the Northern/business/bourgeois side. He is, in fact, an artistic type, but he longs for the simple comforts of the bourgeois.

His problem with the artistic life is that it is inhuman. A good writer must be removed from the passions he distills on paper. He must evoke emotion, but be detached from it.

Wordsworth's famous quote is apt:

"I have said that poetry is the spontaneous overflow of powerful feelings; it takes its origin from emotion recollected in tranquility; the emotion is contemplated till, by a species of re-action, the tranquility gradually disappears, and an emotion, kindred to that which was the subject of contemplation, is gradually produced, and does itself actually exist in the mind."
But to Tonio (and to Mann), poetry is the destruction of feelings in the poet: once the feeling is on paper, it dies. An artist does not feel, he observes. If you "pluck even a single leaf from the laurel-tree of art" you must "pay for it with your life".

He feels that he was fated to be an artist, that he is "marked out among the thousands by a sign". His mother was an artist, his father was a bourgeois, thus he is a little of both, and conflicted about the side he finds himself on. There was really no choice in the matter, and he resolves his "conflict" by a simple change of perspective, by finding a (I'd say Proustian, were that not anachronistic) sort of joy in sorrow, in a sad awareness of the world. By resigning himself to fate.

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