Thomas Mann Biography


(Great Authors of World Literature, Critical Edition)
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Thomas Mann (mahn), regarded by many critics as one of the outstanding novelists of the twentieth century, was born in Lübeck, Germany, to Johann Heinrich Mann, a grain merchant and senator of Lübeck, and Julia da Silva-Bruhns Mann, the daughter of a German planter in Brazil and his Portuguese-Creole wife. Thomas Mann had two brothers and two sisters; both sisters committed suicide—Carla in 1910 and Julia in 1927. The eldest child of the family, Heinrich Mann, became a distinguished novelist himself. As a child, before his school days, Thomas enjoyed a prosperous and relaxing family life; he loved the seaside holidays at Travemünde and knew the comfortable security of German bourgeois life.

His father wanted Thomas to become a grain merchant like himself. The boy was sent to a military school, where he was thoroughly unhappy. When Thomas was fifteen, his father died suddenly from blood poisoning. The business failed, and Thomas’s mother took his brothers and sisters to Munich, where he rejoined them after completing his studies. In Munich he was a fire-insurance clerk. He sold his first story, “Gefallen,” the story of a fallen woman, in 1894.

When he tired of business life—after a year—he attended lectures at the University of Munich, auditing courses without officially matriculating. When his brother Heinrich suggested that Thomas join him in Rome, he welcomed the suggestion. The brothers lived in Palestrina, where Thomas began his first novel, Buddenbrooks, the book that was to make him famous and contribute to his winning, in 1929, the Nobel Prize in Literature. The novel portrays a merchant family, and the society of which it is a part, with all its pretenses and weaknesses. Nevertheless, the young writer, faithful to his own experience, was not entirely scornful of that society and regarded the members of it as fundamentally worthwhile.

While Mann was still in Rome, his first volume of short stories, Der kleine Herr Friedemann (little Mr. Friedemann), was published. He returned to Munich and joined the staff of the journal Simplicissimus but resigned before completing Buddenbrooks, on which he continued to work. The book was completed after two and a half years of work and was published at the end of 1900 (with the date 1901). Although the novel did not receive immediate critical attention or...

(The entire section is 976 words.)

Thomas Mann Biography

(Literary Essentials: Short Fiction Masterpieces)

Thomas Mann was born on June 6, 1875, in Lübeck, Germany. He was the son of Johann Heinrich Mann, a minor politician and grain merchant, and Julia Mann (née da Silva-Bruhn), an accomplished musician, born and reared in Brazil. The dichotomy between the burgher and the artist, embodied in Mann’s parents, is one of the themes of Mann’s fiction, appearing in such works as the novella Tonio Kröger. One of five children, Mann was especially close to his older brother Heinrich, who traveled through Italy with him. The philosophical and political conflicts between the brothers fueled some of the debates in Mann’s fiction, particularly in The Magic Mountain.

Though Mann worked briefly as an editor and an insurance agent, he was primarily a writer. When he was nineteen years old, the prestigious journal Die Gesellschaft published his first short story, “Gefallen”; after this first publication, Mann continued to write and publish until his death.

In 1905, Mann married Katya Pringsheim, whose father was a mathematics professor at the University of Munich. The Manns had six children: three girls and three boys. Their oldest son, Klaus, who was a writer, took his own life in 1949 at the age of forty-three.

In addition to the influence of Mann’s family on his writing, there were two other sources of influence: the political climate of Europe and the social environment of the artist. It was the political...

(The entire section is 534 words.)

Thomas Mann Biography

(Survey of Novels and Novellas)

A comparison of Thomas Mann’s parents suggests immediately the sense of ambiguity or contrast that marks his works. His father was a rich middle-class merchant, a solid citizen of the patrician bourgeoisie of the North German, Hanseatic trading town of Lübeck; his mother, Julia da Silva-Bruhns, was a fiery, artistic woman with a passion for music, of South American (Brazilian) origin and Creole stock. Of the five children, in addition to Thomas, Heinrich, the oldest, also became a fine writer. Thomas was both proud and mocking of his own staid, honored ancestry: He saw the decadence taking place. When he was nineteen, in 1894, after the death of his father, the Mann enterprise in Lübeck fell apart and the family moved south to Munich. By this time, Mann had given up on the puritanism of middle-class respectability, though he never transgressed too noticeably in the opposite direction. The tension sparked his desire to become a writer—an artist with many reservations about his vocation, like Tonio Kröger—and after entering and exiting various schools, he traveled with Heinrich, winding up in Rome, where he began to work on the novel that brought him fame: Buddenbrooks, a story of the decadence of a bourgeois family. Then with Tristan and Tonio Kröger, he confirmed his reputation, expanding the focus, adumbrated in the later Buddenbrooks, from the sociological to the artistic-musical. Now Mann meditated on the contrast between life and art, between the one’s necessity for involvement and the other’s need for isolation. Like the former one, this new tension resulted in a kind of pervasive irony, aimed in both directions. As an artist in search of beauty, Mann had variously mocked political venality, but “Beim Propheten” (1904; “At the Prophet’s,” 1936) also mocks the artist’s solitude, in this case that of the poet Stefan George and his disciples.

Instinctively, Mann determined that the expansion of tensions necessitated an evolution of literary style, from the basically naturalistic vein of a writer steeped in the novelistic literature of Russia to the more intellectualistic manner of a writer interested both in realistic characterization and in a more directexposition of his own views. Mann mastered the art not only of open, contrastive dialogue between characters but also of “inner” dialogue between character and author. The novella Death in Venice illustrates the new manner in a context of disintegration and solitude. It appeared immediately before the eruption of World War I. In an effort to defy his would-be solitude as an artist, Mann surprised his contemporaries by embracing with passionate patriotism the nationalistic cause of Germany and of Wilhelm II. His essay on Frederick II of Prussia, “Friedrich und die grosse Koalition” (1915; “Frederick and the Great Coalition,” 1929), led to Betrachtungen eines Unpolitischen, which was immediately attacked by his democratic critics as Germany succumbed. In the totality of Mann’s life, this political stance was an aberration....

(The entire section is 1259 words.)

Thomas Mann Biography

(Masterpieces of World Literature, Critical Edition)

Thomas Mann (mahn) was born in Lübeck, Germany, on June 6, 1875. He was the son of Johann Heinrich Mann, a wealthy businessman, and Julia da Silva-Bruhns, of Brazilian origin; the Mann family was very much like that described in the author’s novel Buddenbrooks: Verfall einer Familie (1901; English translation, 1924). Thomas was not the only person in his family with literary talent. His older brother, Heinrich, was an important novelist in his own right, and for a time his works were better known than those of Thomas. Mann’s father died in 1891, and the family’s fortune declined rapidly afterward. Mann attended the University of Munich and was briefly an insurance agent before settling down into his career as a full-time author.

Mann’s first publication was a collection of short stories, Der kleine Herr Friedemann (1898), and it met with general critical acclaim. Three years later, the novel Buddenbrooks firmly established Mann as an important author with an international reputation.

In 1905, Mann married Katja Pringsheim, the daughter of a wealthy Jewish banking family. Because of this marriage and the large sales of his books, Mann became independently wealthy. Together, Thomas and Katja Mann had six children. One of their children, Klaus, became an important author in his own right and is best known for his novel Mephisto (1936), which details events concerning his sister’s unhappy marriage...

(The entire section is 532 words.)

Thomas Mann Biography

(Masterpieces of World Literature, Critical Edition)

Thomas Mann’s prose works exemplify the problems faced by humankind in the twentieth century: the loss of community, the decline of personal and cultural standards, and the reaction of the individual to both totalitarian governments and conventional society. Although Mann’s prose style stemmed from the traditions of the nineteenth century, it embraced the innovations of the modernists. His works also display the influence of the other arts, in particular, music, which served not only as a source of thematic material but also as a repository of formal procedures, such as the leitmotif. Mann’s works are extraordinarily complex and densely filled with metaphors and other types of allusions; however, they remain popular and...

(The entire section is 120 words.)

Thomas Mann Biography

(Short Stories for Students)

A master of refined and tightly structured prose, and arguably one of the most important literary figures of twentieth-century Germany, Paul...

(The entire section is 454 words.)

Thomas Mann Biography

(History of the World: The 20th Century)

Article abstract: Mann wrote in the tradition of nineteenth century realism, depending upon depth and breadth of treatment rather than stylistic innovation for his effectiveness. After receiving the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1929, he was widely regarded as a sage as well as a great artist.

Early Life

Thomas Mann was born in Lübeck, Germany (later West Germany), an important city since the days of the Hanseatic League, on June 6, 1875. His father, Johann Heinrich Mann, was an apparently prosperous grain merchant, who operated a family business dating back to the eighteenth century. His mother, Julia da Silva-Bruhns, was from Rio de Janeiro, a half Portuguese Creole. Johann Heinrich...

(The entire section is 2195 words.)

Thomas Mann Biography

(Short Stories for Students)

Thomas Mann was born on June 6, 1875 in Luebeck, Germany, to Thomas Johann Heinrich Mann, a government official and small business owner, and...

(The entire section is 393 words.)