In 1925 Thomas Mann wrote a short novel called Disorder and Early Sorrow. It was soon translated into English and French and published in the Revue de France under the changed title – In Times of Inflation, seeing in it, in addition to its artistic merit, primarily a document of the German post-war life, a picture of Germany, where a bottle of beer cost eight thousand marks, people lived from hand to mouth, needed the most necessary clothes and shoes. And this story was autobiographical document and, moreover, a very personal one, as the author himself said in the comments to it.
This novella, according to the writer, is the history of the Revolution, told by the man who was not a revolutionary. On the novella, the author expresses himself metaphorically, uses a generalization for a historical analogy. And remembering his words about the fact that this is a very personal story, we can easily see in the characters real members of Mann’s family, his older children Erika and Klaus, his juniors – Elizabeth and Michael, his wife, Frau Katia. Even the house, where events take place, we can see an elegant country house, which is very similar to the villa on Poschinger Strasse. When peering intently at the head of the family in the novella – a professor and historian Cornelius, you can find in him the features that reflect the state of mind of the author himself. The same features are reflected in the novel The Magic Mountain. Mann, when commenting on Disorder and Early Sorrow, pointed directly to the inner connection between the novella and the novel.
Dr. Cornelius knows that professors of history do not like the history, because it is being done, but love it because it has already happened. They hate modern revolutions, perceiving them as lawless as brash confusion, in one word, as something unhistorical, and that their hearts belong to coherent historical past. But he himself, even knowing this, cannot get rid of his conservatism. His specialty is the era of Philip II and Counter-Reformation. In preparation for the upcoming lecture, he looks for sad and fair words he is going to use to tell students about hopelessly doomed struggle against the King of Spain, against all new, and against the course of history. What is more in Professor Cornelius – subjective gravitation toward the past or objective knowledge? This question he asks himself, but doesn’t answer it.
In 1925 Thomas Mann wrote a short novel called Disorder and Early Sorrow.