Books: Work, Save, Pray

LETTERS OF THOMAS MANN. Selected and translated by Richard and Clara Winston. 690 pages. Knopf. $17.50.

In 1911 Thomas Mann put aside work on his novel Confessions of Felix Krull, Confidence Man to write Death in Venice. When he returned to it 43 years later, he took up work on the very same manuscript page and continued writing without the slightest alteration in tone or intent. The history of writing cannot contain another instance of such awesome single-mindedness and coherence.

One has the feeling that Mann could have done the same thing with most of the 540 letters in this volume, but what...

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