Thomas Mann: Lotte in Weimar (The Beloved Returns)
Mann had always been an admirer of the great German poet Johann Wolfgang Goethe and this book is a fictionalised biography of Goethe. In his great novel, Die Leiden des jungen Werthers (The Sorrows of Young Werther), the main female character, Charlotte, was based on a real woman, Charlotte Kestner (née Buff), the Lotte of the title of this novel. This story is about their (fictitious) meeting forty years later. Mann’s theme – and, of course, one of his favourite themes – is the truth versus reality dichotomy. In this case, the issue is who is more real – the real Charlotte or the heroine of Goethe’s novel. But it is also about another of his favourite themes – artistic creation. Here he is concerned about Goethe the artist and how he created the fictitious Lotte from the real one. While this not one of Mann’s best novels, it is certainly a fascinating exploration of artistic creation.
First published in German by Bermann-Fischer 1939
First published in English 1940 by Knopf