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Thomas Mann, a twentieth century German author, was acutely aware of and affected by the social, political, and military disruptions of Europe in his period. Although he believed that artists should remain independent of politics in their creative works, no German living through the upheavals of two world wars in which Germany was an aggressor state could remain completely detached from politics. Although Mann's fiction is not overtly political, he did write non-fiction on current events.
Mann himself lived much of his life as an expatriate, including in Italy and the United States, and eventually became a U.S. citizen. Nonetheless, a central concern of his work is German identity. Reflecting his own biography, many of his works include stories of Germans abroad in Switzerland (Magic Mountain) and Italy ("Death in Venice") and examine, inter alia, how German identity functions in expatriate settings. This question of German identity is tied to a related theme of European decadence.
Another major theme in his work is homoeroticism. Several of his male characters experience sexual attraction to other men, often balancing unstated or repressed longings with outward conventionality.
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