Last summer I wrote about the threat of demolition hanging over the Thomas Mann villa in Pacific Palisades, the place where Doctor Faustus was written. At the end of a frightening week, the happy news arrives that the German government has purchased the home. Frank-Walter Steinmeier, Germany's foreign minister, has declared that the house will become a cultural center and meeting place for young writers. “In stormy times like these we need more than ever cultural anchor points with our most important partner outside of Europe,” Steinmeier said. A not inconspicuous irony shadows the announcement. Mann left the United States in 1952 because he felt that the country was going the way of Nazi Germany. "Mann had intimate knowledge of how a civilized society could turn feral in an instant," I wrote in August, with the hateful demagoguery of Donald Trump in mind. The Mann house may be safe, but America is again poised at an ominous fork in the road.