Thomas Mann: Bekenntnisse des Hochstaplers Felix Krull (Confessions of Felix Krull, Confidence Man)
This was Mann’s last book and remained incomplete at his death. It is also fairly untypical for Mann, as it is uncharacteristically light-hearted. Felix Krull is a pretty and charming young man. He twists everyone, his parents included, round his little finger. He can fake illness – first to avoid school and then to avoid military service. His charm resides not only in his physical beauty but also in his skill with words. The book, or what is left of it, recounts how Felix uses his gifts and talents to smooth-talk his way up European society, lying when that is appropriate, talking or just looking good when that works. It’s all good fun but not very substantive. Had Mann lived and not only finished the book but gone back over it, you have the feeling that it might have been more worthwhile. But, for now, it is merely a footnote – albeit an interesting footnote – to a great career.
First published in German by Fischer 1954
First published in English 1955 by Knopf