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Thomas Mann

Thomas Mann (June 6, 1875August 12, 1955) was a German novelist and essayist, lauded principally for a series of highly symbolic and often ironic epic novels and mid-length stories, noted for their insight into the psychology of the artist and intellectual and an underlying eroticism informed by Mann's own struggles with his homosexuality.

Mann was born in Lübeck, his father a senator and grain merchant who died when his son was only 15. The family subsequently moved to Munich, where Mann lived from 1891 until 1933, with the exception of a year-long stay in Palestrina, Italy, with his older brother Heinrich, also a novelist.

In 1905, he married Katia Pringsheim , daughter of a prominent, secular Jewish family of intellectuals. They had six children (Erika, Klaus, Golo, Monika, Elisabeth, and Michael) who were highly intelligent and literary or artistic in their own right. He emigrated from Nazi Germany to Küsnacht near Zürich, Switzerland, in 1933, then in 1942 to Pacific Palisades, California, USA. In 1944, he became a naturalized citizen of the United States. He returned to Europe in 1952.

He was never to live in Germany again, though he traveled there regularly and was widely celebrated. On his return to Europe, he lived in Kilchberg, near Zürich, where he died in 1955.

He won the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1929, in large part for his achievement in the epic Buddenbrooks (1901), about the decline of a bourgeois family over several generations. Other major works include The Magic Mountain (originally Der Zauberberg, 1924), set in a highly symbolic sanatorium, Doktor Faustus (1947) and The Confessions of Felix Krull (originally Bekenntnisse des Hochstaplers Felix Krull, 1954).

Mann's diaries, unsealed in 1975, speak movingly of his own struggles with his sexuality, which found reflection in his works, especially through the obsession of the elderly Aschenbach for the young Polish boy, Tadzio, in his long short story, or novella, Death in Venice (originally Der Tod in Venedig, 1912). Anthony Heilbut's biography, Thomas Mann: Eros and Literature (1997), was widely acclaimed for uncovering the centrality of Mann's sexuality to his oeuvre. Mann himself described his feelings for young violinist and painter Paul Ehrenberg as the "central experience of my heart." However, he chose marriage and family. His works also deal with other sexual themes, such as incest in such works as "Wälsungenblut"


Unlike his brother Heinrich, it has been claimed that Thomas never truly engaged with the politics of his day. Heinrich was an overt Communist, whereas Thomas was criticised for not condemning the Nazi regime enough... despite this, Mann's books, particularly Buddenbrooks, were amongst the many burnt by Hitler's regime, and his move to Switzerland was largely due to the rise of National Socialism in Germany.

As regards his books, they are often unashamedly bourgeois, and represent that stratum of society. Politics does emerge in some form or other in many of them, but for some people, given the extremism of the period in Germany, he didn't do enough.


  • Little Herr Friedemann (1898) = Der kleine Herr Friedemann
  • Buddenbrooks (1901) = Buddenbrooks - Verfall einer Familie
  • Tonio Kröger (1903)
  • Royal Highness (1909) = Königliche Hoheit
  • Death in Venice (1912) = Der Tod in Venedig
  • Reflections of an Unpolitical Man (1918) = Betrachtungen eines Unpolitischen
  • The German Republic (1922) = Von deutscher Republik
  • The Magic Mountain (1924) = Der Zauberberg
  • Disorder and Early Sorrow (1926) = Unordnung und frühes Leid
  • Mario and the Magician (1930) = Mario und der Zauberer
  • Joseph and His Brothers (1933-43) = Joseph und seine Brüder
    • The Tales of Jacob (1933)
    • The Young Joseph (1934)
    • Joseph in Egypt (1936) = Joseph in Ägypten
    • Joseph the Provider (1943) = Joseph, der Ernährer
  • The Problem of Freedom (1937) = Das Problem der Freiheit
  • Lotte in Weimar or The Beloved Returns (1939)
  • The Transposed Heads (1940) = Die vertauschten Köpfe - Eine indische Legende
  • Doctor Faustus (1947) = Doktor Faustus
  • The Holy Sinner (1951) = Der Erwählte
  • Confessions of Felix Krull Confidence Man, The Early Years (1922/1954) = Bekenntnisse des Hochstaplers Felix Krull. Der Memoiren erster Teil (unfinished)

Project Gutenberg etexts of Mann's work.

Last updated: 08-16-2005 22:40:27
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