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Thomas Mann’s 1929 novella Mario and the Magician describes the performance of an ominous hypnotist at a seaside resort. The magician entertains his gullible audience by placing individuals in a trance before making them humiliate themselves by dancing ludicrously on stage. The setting is Italy, seven years after Mussolini’s March on Rome, and the story is often understood as an allegory of fascist dictatorship.

Victim after helpless victim succumbs to the magician. A critical turn occurs when one “gentleman” claims that he can challenge the illicit power of the tyrant, who is therefore eager to crush him:

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