Thomas Mann and F. M. Dostoyevsky: on the Essential Dialogue between Germany and Russia


  • Vladimir Gilmanov
  • Ivan Koptsev
  • Leonid Maltsev



T. Mann; F. Dostoyevsky; F. Nietzsche; “Faustian” culture; “Russian idea”; Christocentrism


This paper deals with the dialogue between East and West in the creative work of T. Mann and F. Dostoyevsky. The dialogue is focused on issues of essentialism: the truth and the simulacrum and the cultural and artistic activity of two different types (will to live and will to die). T. Mann’s prose is considered in the context of the author’s perception of Dostoyevsky’s oeuvre, which allows the authors to single out the main cultural codes and civilizational constants in the creative work of the two authors (the Western Faustian idea of rationality and the Russian idea of the soul). The article seeks to study T. Mann’s spiritual and creative antinomies, which manifest themselves in the writer’s motto “Dostoyevsky, but in moderation”. The complex interdisciplinary methodology of the research is based on the principle of dialogue between the artistic and the philosophical, the scholarly and the scientific, the religious and the irreligious, and academic and journalistic discourses. A hermeneutic study of literary text means considering it holistically in the context of culture. The authors refer to Dostoyevsky’s Diary of a Writer and Mann’s essays, along with other works by both writers. The main problematic contexts of the study include Friedrich Nietzsche’s concept God is dead and Oswald Spengler’s decline of Europe, along with the philosophical ideas of Western postmodernism (including the theory of simulacra by J. Baudrillard), Jung’s psychoanalytic studies, and the eschatological diagnoses and forecasts of Russian religious philosophy (V. S. Solovyov, N. A. Berdyaev, and I. A. Ilyin). The main results of the study are related to the opposing ideas of Dostoyevsky’s eschatological openness and Mann’s temporal dimension, associated respectively with metaphysical transcendence and humanistic immanence based on Kant’s philosophy of practical reason. A conclusion is drawn about the isomorphism of Dostoyevsky’s prose fiction and journalism and the anti-isomorphism of Mann’s fiction and essays. Choosing between the philosophy of the Nietzschean superman and Dostoyevsky’s Christ-centred ethics, Thomas Mann opts for Dostoyevsky. However, Mann’s perception of Dostoyevsky’s ideas retains a dialogical incompleteness, reflecting the insoluble contradiction between the rational and the irrational conceptions of the German classic.

Author Biographies

Vladimir Gilmanov

Dr. Hab. (Philology), Professor, Immanuel Kant Baltic Federal University.

14, A. Nevsky Str., 236016, Kaliningrad, Russia.

Ivan Koptsev

Dr. Hab. (Philology), Professor, Immanuel Kant Baltic Federal University.

14, A. Nevsky Str., 236016, Kaliningrad, Russia.

Leonid Maltsev

Dr. Hab. (Philology), Professor, Immanuel Kant Baltic Federal University.

14, A. Nevsky Str., 236016, Kaliningrad, Russia.


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How to Cite

Gilmanov, V., Koptsev, I., & Maltsev, L. (2018). Thomas Mann and F. M. Dostoyevsky: on the Essential Dialogue between Germany and Russia. Quaestio Rossica, 6(3), 817–832.



Conceptus et conceptio