Thomas Mann's Artist-Heroes
Publication Year: 2014
Jeffrey Meyers has written acclaimed biographies of many of the most influential authors of the twentieth century, but none has affected him as deeply as Thomas Mann. From his first youthful encounter with Death in Venice, Meyers has cultivated a lifetime obsession with Mann’s elegant style, penetrating irony, and insight into the life of the artist.
Thomas Mann’s Artist-Heroes follows Mann’s own obsession with the artistic life through his characters: from the fiction of Gustav von Aschenbach in Death in Venice and the music of Adrian Leverkühn in Doctor Faustus, to Tonio Kröger’s life as a writer, to the artistically minded patient Hans Castorp in The Magic Mountain, and finally to Mann’s time in America and later memoirs by his family. Mann probes deeper than perhaps any other author into questions of how an artist is formed, why he must defy conventional society, and how suffering and disease affect his work.
Admirers of Thomas Mann and of Jeffrey Meyers’s biographies will find in this remarkable book the best introduction to one of the greatest writers of the modern age.
Published by: Northwestern University Press
Title Page, Copyright, Dedication
Thomas Mann combined brilliant artistry with profound intellect, moderated by irony, humor and wit. More than any other modern writer he illuminated the questions surrounding art and the artist: What makes an artist? Why must he defy conventional society? How does he create? How does music inspire him? Why must he suffer? How is disease related to art? ...
Introduction. My Quest for Thomas Mann: The Biographical Context
I first read Thomas Mann’s Death in Venice and Seven Other Stories in a Great Books course during my freshman year at the University of Michigan in 1955. As a rebellious sixteen-year-old would-be writer I was immediately fascinated by the intellectually rich and demanding fiction, full of symbols and allusions, which raised so many provocative questions...
Chapter One. Buddenbrooks
Tony Buddenbrook appears in the first and last scenes of Thomas Mann’s Buddenbrooks (1901); she is eight years old when the novel opens in 1835 and fifty when it closes in 1877. The second child of the old Consul Buddenbrook and sister of Tom, who will become the head of the wealthy...
Chapter Two. The Early Stories
Josef von Sternberg’s film The Blue Angel (1930) was supposedly based on Heinrich Mann’s novel Professor Unrat (literally: Professor Garbage or Excrement, 1905). But the story and theme actually owe much more to Thomas Mann than to his older but less well-known brother. Von Sternberg and his scenario-writer Robert Liebmann abandoned most of Heinrich’s...
Chapter Three. Death in Venice
In The Birth of Tragedy (1871) Nietzsche developed a theory of art and temperament based on the opposition of the Greek gods Apollo and Dionysius, of harmony and order against passion and license. In Death in Venice (1912) Mann elaborates this polarity in the life of Gustav von Aschenbach and opposes culture, intellect and discipline to instinct, panic...
Chapter Four. Illness as Enchantment: The Magic Mountain
In “The German Republic,” written in 1923 while he was completing The Magic Mountain, Mann argued that his fascination with the symbolic significance of disease and concern with death in his fiction were essentially humanistic: “Interest in death and disease, in the pathological, in decay, ...
Chapter Five. Schiller’s Don Carlos and The Magic Mountain
Several nineteenth-century writers and composers were seriously interested in Friedrich Schiller. Coleridge wrote a sonnet on the dramatist and translated Don Carlos in 1800; Carlyle published a Life of Schiller in 1825; and Verdi’s opera Don Carlo (1867) was more popular and artistically...
Chapter Six. Comedy in The Magic Mountain
Mann’s reputation as a difficult, ponderous, heavyweight novelist and the erudite allusions, serious subject matter and philosophical themes of The Magic Mountain have led readers to ignore the comic and satiric tone that enlivens the morbid novel. His method is very different from the somber and solemn way most authors—like Tolstoy, Gide and Solzhenitsyn...
Chapter Seven. The Late Stories
In Mann’s “Disorder and Early Sorrow” (1925) the characters in one family reflect the calamitous political events in postwar Germany. The Kaiser had been forced to abdicate and fl ee into exile aft er the military defeat in 1918, when the monarchy became a republic. Oswald Spengler published his...
Chapter Eight. Art as Disease: Doctor Faustus
Mann emphasizes the Faustian similarities between Hans Castorp and Adrian Leverkühn when he writes in 1953 that the hero of The Magic Mountain “is the seeker, the quester, who ranges heaven and hell, makes terms with them and strikes a pact with the unknown, with sickness and...
Chapter Nine. Dürer and Doctor Faustus
In Doctor Faustus Mann re-creates the German myth of the artist destroyed by a demonic pact, and uses a number of historical and cultural parallels to give substance to his fictional characters. Th e novel is like an ancient palimpsest with multiple layers of meaning: Faustian myth, Lutheran...
Chapter Ten. The Black Swan
In “Artists and Old Age” Gottfried Benn observes that the late period of an author’s work is characterized either by gentleness, serenity, toleration and noble mellowness or by ruthlessness and radical honesty.1 Mann’s novel The Black Swan (in German Die Betrogene, The Deceived One, 1953), completed ...
Chapter Eleven. Confessions of Felix Krull
After completing the Germanic and pathological Doctor Faustus and The Black Swan and returning to Europe from exile in America, Mann wrote a humorous, picaresque novel with cosmopolitan settings in France and Portugal, satirizing the old social stratifi cations that had existed before
Chapter Twelve. Thomas Mann in America
Thomas Mann and Vladimir Nabokov were both exiles, from Nazi Germany and Bolshevik Russia, before their second exile in the United States. Both authors came from wealthy patrician backgrounds, but lost almost everything when they were compelled to leave their native lands: books...
Chapter Thirteen. Family Memoirs of Thomas Mann
Mann fathered six children in symmetrical pairs—girl-boy, boy-girl, girl-boy— between 1905 and 1919. No writer (not even Tolstoy) has been so exhaustively written about by members of his immediate family. Thomas’ wife, Katia, and four of his talented children published books about him, ...
Page Count: 251
Publication Year: 2014
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