The Clown (short story)

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"The Clown" or "The Joker" as it is usually translated in English (orig. German Der Bajazzo), is one of Thomas Mann's short stories which were collected in Little Herr Friedemann and later, after his death, in the collection Death in Venice and other Stories.

It is a satirical story about a man who wastes his whole life idling, but simply lives on the interest of his father's inheritance. When he was alive, his father had often told him that he 'was just a joker and would do nothing.' He views his inactivity initially with optimism, calling it "philosophical loneliness". In the end, he is no longer able to deny his loneliness for what it actually is. This makes itself known in a reunion with an old acquaintance who originally believes that he (the first-person narrator) has "arranged his life so comfortably" and that he is surely "the smarter of the two", but leaves town early upon seeing through his façade. He toys shortly with the idea of suicide but gives the thought up after noting that such an act would be too heroic for a clown. Instead, he laments that his life will continue in the same monotonous manner.