The series “55 Voices for Democracy” is modeled after the BBC radio speeches, through which Thomas Mann, from his home in California, turned to listeners in Germany, Switzerland and occupied Netherlands and Czechia during the war. From 1940 until November 1945, Thomas Mann pleaded to thousands of listeners to resist the Nazi regime and thus became the most important German voice in exile. In this election year, Thomas Mann’s conviction that the “social renewal of democracy” is condition and warrant for its victory seems more relevant than ever.

"55 Voices for Democracy"  is an initiative launched by the Thomas Mann House in October 2019. With the new podcast series, Los Angeles Review of Books, Thomas Mann House, Goethe-Institute Boston, the Goethe Pop Up Seattle and WunderbarTogether expand the successful series. Beginning on October 20, 2020, Tom Zoellner and his co-hosts, including in the first episodes Amal Khaled, will engage in a vivid conversation with intellectuals, artists, and activists about the question of how to renew democracy today. Among the first guests are Rebecca Solnit, the political scientist Chantal Mouffe, and Suzanne Nossel, CEO of PEN America.

Tom Zoellner (host) is the New York Times bestselling author of eight nonfiction books, including Uranium Train, and The Heartless Stone. He teaches at Chapman University and Dartmouth College. A former reporter for the San Francisco Chronicle, he is the politics editor at the Los Angeles Review of Books.

Tom Lutz (producer) is a Distinguished Professor of Creative Writing at the UC Riverside, the founding editor in chief of the Los Angeles Review of Books, founder of The LARB Radio Hour, The LARB Quarterly Journal, The LARB Publishing Workshop, and LARB Books. He is the author of nine books for academic and trade presses and winner of the American Book Award.

Amal Khaled (co host) is the Director of Wunderbar Together, a collaborative initiative funded by the German Federal Foreign Office and implemented by the Goethe-Institut, dedicated to promoting the robust relationship between Germany and the US. Currently based in Washington, DC, Amal was born in Alexandria, Egypt, and pursued her MA degree in Intercultural Communication at the Ludwig Maximilian University of Munich in Germany.


Episode 1: Rebecca Solnit

Polymath author of twenty books, writer, historian, essayist, urban geographer, memoirist, and activist Rebecca Solnit is our inaugural guest on 55 Voices for Democracy. The author of, among other books, Men Explain Things to Me, Savage Dreams, Infinite City, A Paradise Built in Hell, A Field Guide to Getting Lost, Hope in the Dark, Recollections of My Nonexistence, and her recent The Mother of All Questions, she is a thinker dedicated to furthering radical equality and economic justice, for whom “a commitment to the future makes the present inhabitable.”  She is interviewed by Tom Zoellner and Amal Khaled.

– Listen here.



In collaboration with Los Angeles Review of Books, Goethe-Institut Boston, Goethe Pop Up Seattle and Wunderbar Together.


Villa Aurora & Thomas Mann House e. V. is supported by the German Federal Foreign Office and Federal Government Commissioner for Culture and the Media.