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Thomas Mann


Thomas Mann is, in my view, one of the top five writers of the twentieth century, yet has two distinctive differences from the other major writers of the century, such as Joyce, Kafka and Proust. Firstly, he is not associated with any major literary innovations like the others. Indeed, his writing in some cases clearly looks back to the nineteenth century, though his later writings are definitely very twentieth century. Secondly, while not overly prolific, he was certainly far more prolific than the others and not just churning them out but producing several major novels. He wrote the last great nineteenth century bourgeois novel – Buddenbrooks (Buddenbrooks) and several novels/stories that can be considered among the finest of the twentieth century.

Thomas Mann was born in Lübeck in 1875, where his family were successful merchants, like the Buddenbrooks. Mann moved to Munich when he was eighteen, three years after his father’s death and then went to Rome. He obtained early literary success with the publication of Buddenbrooks (Buddenbrooks). Though the painter Paul Ehrenberg – who appeared in Doktor Faustus (Doctor Faustus) as Rudi Schwerdtfeger, Leverkühn’s best friend – was the love of his life, Mann sought conventional respectability and, in 1905, married Katia Pingsheim, who came from a well-off Jewish family. They remained married till Mann’s death fifty years later. His homosexuality was not revealed till after his death.

He volunteered for service in the First World War but was turned down for health reasons. During this period he was writing Der Zauberberg (The Magic Mountain), which was published in 1924 and established his reputation as one of the great European novelists. He became sympathetic to communism and to Stalin and was very anti-Hitler. He won the Nobel Prize in 1929. In 1933, he and his family escaped to Switzerland, fearing the Nazis. In 1935, while in Britain en route to the United States, his daughter Erika married W H Auden, who had never met her but married her to prevent her from being repatriated by the Nazis. The Manns lived in the United States till 1947 when they returned to Switzerland where they lived till his death in 1955.

Books about Thomas Mann

There are hundreds of books about Mann, particularly in German. There is an English-language bibliography here.

Other links

Thomas Mann
Thomas Mann
FBI Report on Thomas Mann
A Talk With Thomas Mann at 80
Nobel Prize citation
New York Times obituary
Thomas Mann (in German)
Thomas Mann (in German)
Mann, Thomas 1875-1955 (in German)
Buddenbrookhaus (Heinrich and Thomas Mann Centre – in German)
Thomas-Mann-Haus (his former summer home – in German)
Thomas-Mann-Archiv (in German)


1897 Der kleine Herr Friedemann (Little Herr Friedemann) (stories)
1901 Buddenbrooks (Buddenbrooks) (novel)
1903 Tristan, Tonio Kröger und andere Novellen (Tonio Kröger and Other Stories)
1906 Fiorenza (Fiorenza) (drama)
1909 Königliche Hoheit (Royal Highness) (novel)
1912 Der Tod in Venedig (Death in Venice) (novel)
1914 Das Wunderkind (The Wunderkind) (story)
1918 Betrachtungen eines Unpolitischen (Reflections of a Nonpolitical Man) (essay)
1919 Herr und Hund (UK: Bashan and I; US: A Man and His Dog) (novel)
1922 Bekenntnisse des Hochstaplers Felix Krull (novel)
1923 Goethe und Tolstoi. Von Deutscher Republik (essays)
1924 Der Zauberberg (The Magic Mountain) (novel)
1930 Mario und der Zauberer (Mario and the Magician) (novel)
1933 Leiden und Größe Richard Wagners (Sufferings and Greatness of Richard Wagner) (essay)
1933-43 Joseph und seine Brüder (Joseph and His Brothers) ((Die Geschichten Jaakobs (The Tales of Jacob) (1933); Der junge Joseph (The Young Joseph) (1934); Joseph in Ägypten (Joseph in Egypt) (1936); Joseph, der Ernährer (Joseph the Provider) (1943)) (novel)
1938 Achtung Europa! (Essay)
1939 Lotte in Weimar (The Beloved Returns) (novel)
1940 Die vertauschten Köpfe (Transposed Heads) (stories)
1944 Das Gesetz (The Tables of the Law) (novel)
1947 Doktor Faustus (Doctor Faustus) (novel)
1951 Der Erwählte (The Holy Sinner) (novel)
1953 Die Betrogene (The Black Swan) (story)
1954 Bekenntnisse des Hochstaplers Felix Krull (Confessions of Felix Krull, Confidence Man) (novel)
1955 Versuch über Schiller (essay)