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schencka
On Reading: Thomas Mann, _The Magic Mountain_, 1924

Naphta smiled. Illiteracy! And now Settembrini had spoken the word he evidently believed would instill true terror, had held up the Gorgon's head and the sight of which everyone would dufifully turn ashen. He, Naphta, regretted having to disappoint his vis-a-vis, for he found the humanist fear of the very word "illiteracy" very amusing. One would have to be a Renaissance man of letters, a verbal dandy, a Gongorist, a Marinist, a fop of the estilo culto, to endow the disciplines of reading and writing with such exaggerated educational importance and imagine that intellectual night reigned where such skills were lacking. Did Herr Settembrini not recall that the greatest poet of the Middle Ages, Wolfram von Eschenbach, had been illiterate? In those days it was thought disgraceful to send to school any lad who did not wish to become a cleric, and this scorn for the literary arts, on the part of the aristocracy and commonfolk alike, had remained the hallmark of genuine nobility; whereas the literary man, that true son of humanism and the bourgeoisie, who could read and write--which nobles, warriors, and common people could do only poorly or not at all--could do nothing else, understood absolutely nothing about the world, and remained a Latin windbag, a master of speech, who left real life to honest folk, which was why he had also turned politics into a bag of wind, full of rhetoric and beautiful literature, call radicalism and democracy in party jargon, and so on and so forth.
 
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