Thomas Mann, author of "Death in Venice", "The Magic Mountain", and "Buddenbrooks" was a man with secrets. This biography offers a portrait of the Nobel Prize-winning German novelist, drawing on Mann's unexpurgated diaries. It uncovers a brilliant writer's mask to reveal the private man: his bisexuality, his obsession with preserving appearances ...Read MoreThomas Mann, author of "Death in Venice", "The Magic Mountain", and "Buddenbrooks" was a man with secrets. This biography offers a portrait of the Nobel Prize-winning German novelist, drawing on Mann's unexpurgated diaries. It uncovers a brilliant writer's mask to reveal the private man: his bisexuality, his obsession with preserving appearances and the deep guilt which plagued him for nearly fifty years. The sanitized self-image Mann strove to maintain is revealed as a fragile veneer. Drawing on the diaries that he stipulated should remain under seal for twenty years after his death, and on interviews with Mann's children, the author depicts a man subject to nervous trembling, convulsive sobbing and moments of sexual embarrassment. When his novels are reread from this perspective, new meanings emerge and interconnections between the problems of the author and his characters become apparent. As Mann wrote to a friend, he devised "novelistic forms and masks which can be displayed in public as a means of relaying my love, my hatred, my sympathy, my contempt, my pride, my scorn and the accusations I want to make". Ronald Hayman is the biographer of Proust, Sartre, Kafka, Nietzche, Brecht and Sylvia Plath.Read Less
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Publishers Weekly, 1995-02-13 German novelist Thomas Mann (1875-1955) played an almost heroic role in keeping German culture alive, and in opposing Hitler, after Germany had surrendered to Nazism; yet this major, dramatic biography reveals a writer who was deeply ambivalent about the Jewishness of his wife, Katia, and who tried, for the first three years of their exile in Switzerland, not to condemn the Nazis publicly. According to Hayman, Mann was terrified the Nazis would get hold of the diaries he had left behind, expose his bisexuality and ruin his reputation. Living behind the facade of married respectability, the guilt-ridden Mann, as the diaries disclose, felt passionate attractions toward boys and young men, including his friend the painter Paul Ehrenburg-though he never ``took the step from homoeroticism into homosexuality,'' in Hayman's analysis. Indispensable for understanding Mann's novels and stories, this literary biography unearths startling connections between his life and work. Prone to convulsive sobbing and fits of nausea, Mann was an aloof father to his six children, two of whom committed suicide. Hayman, biographer of Brecht and Nietzsche, strips away the cultivated mask to plumb a divided soul, ``the last great European man of letters'' in Hayman's assessment. Photos. (Apr.)
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