Thomas Mann

(1875 – 1955)

Thomas MannBiographical Sketch

Paul Thomas Mann (Lübeck, Germany, June 6, 1875 – Zürich, Switzerland, August 12, 1955) was a German novelist, short story writer, social critic, philanthropist, essayist, and 1929 Nobel Prize laureate, known for his series of highly symbolic and ironic epic novels and novellas, noted for their insight into the psychology of the artist and the intellectual. His analysis and critique of the European and German soul used modernized German and Biblical stories, as well as the ideas of Goethe, Nietzsche, and Schopenhauer. Mann was a member of the Hanseatic Mann family, and portrayed his own family in the novel Buddenbrooks. His older brother was the radical writer Heinrich Mann, and three of his six children, Erika Mann, Klaus Mann and Golo Mann, also became important German writers. When Hitler came to power in 1933, Mann fled to Switzerland. When World War II broke out in 1939, he emigrated to the United States, whence he returned to Switzerland in 1952. Thomas Mann is, among his many contributions to world literature, also one of the best-known exponents of the so-called Exilliteratur; i.e. books in the German language written by writers of anti-nazi attitude who fled from Nazi Germany (Germany and Austria) between 1933 and 1945.

Mann was awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1929, principally in recognition of his popular achievement with the epic Buddenbrooks (1901), The Magic Mountain (Der Zauberberg, 1924), and his numerous short stories. Based on Mann’s own family, Buddenbrooks relates the decline of a merchant family in Lübeck over the course of three generations. The Magic Mountain (Der Zauberberg) follows an engineering student who, planning to visit his tubercular cousin at a Swiss sanatorium for only three weeks, finds his departure from the sanatorium delayed. During that time, he confronts medicine and the way it looks at the body and encounters a variety of characters who play out ideological conflicts and discontents of contemporary European civilization.

Mann’s diaries, unsealed in 1975, tell of his struggles with his bisexuality, which found reflection in his works, most prominently through the obsession of the elderly Aschenbach for the 14-year-old Polish boy Tadzio in the novella Death in Venice (Der Tod in Venedig, 1912). Handling the struggle between the Dionysiac and the Apollonian, Death in Venice has been made into a film and an opera. Blamed sarcastically by Mann’s old enemy, Alfred Kerr, to have ‘made pederasty acceptable to the cultivated middle classes,’ it has been pivotal in introducing the discourse of same-sex desire into general culture.

Balancing his humanism and appreciation of Western culture was Mann’s belief in the power of sickness and decay to destroy the ossifying effects of tradition and civilisation. Hence, too, the “heightening” of which Mann speaks in his introduction to The Magic Mountain and the opening of new spiritual possibilities that Hans Castorp experiences in the midst of his sickness. Mann also valued the insight of other cultures, notably adapting a traditional Indian fable in The Transposed Heads. His work is the record of a consciousness of a life of manifold possibilities, and of the tensions inherent in the (more or less enduringly fruitful) responses to those possibilities. In his own summation (on receiving the Nobel Prize), he said: “The value and significance of my work for posterity may safely be left to the future; for me they are nothing but the personal traces of a life led consciously, that is, conscientiously.”

Read more about Thomas Mann on Wikipedia.


Major Awards and Honors

Nobel Prize in Literature
  • 1929
Goethe Prize (Germany)
  • 1949



Novels and Novel Fragments
  • Buddenbrooks (1901)
  • Königliche Hoheit (1909)
    (Royal Highness)
  • Der Zauberberg (1924)
    (The Magic Mountain)
  • Lotte in Weimar (1939)
    (The Beloved Returns)
  • Doktor Faustus (Doctor Faustus: The Life of the German Composer Adrian Leverkühn, As Told by a Friend) (1947)
  • Die Entstehung des Doktor Faustus: Roman eines Romans (1948)
    (Doktor Faustus: The Genesis of a Novel)
  • Joseph und seine Brüder: Gesamtausgabe (1948)
    (Joseph and His Brothers – Tetralogie)

    • Die Geschichten Jaakobs (1933)
      (Joseph and his Brothers)
    • Der junge Joseph (1934)
      (Young Joseph)
    • Joseph in Ägypten (1936)
      (Joseph in Egypt)
    • Joseph, der Ernährer (1943)
      (Joseph the Provider)
  • Der Erwählte (1951)
    (The Holy Sinner)
  • Bekenntnisse des Hochstaplers Felix Krull (1954)
    (Confessions of Felix Krull, Confidence Man)
  • Die Romane (1986)
  • Gesammelte Werke (1980 – 1990)
Novellas and Short Stories
  • Vision (1893)
  • Gefallen (1894)
  • Der Wille zum Glück (1896)
    (The Will for Happiness)
  • Tobias Mindernickel (1898)
  • Der kleine Herr Friedemann (1898)
    (Little Herr Friedemann)
  • Der Kleiderschrank (1899)
    (The Wardrobe)
  • Luischen (1900)
    (Little Lizzy)
  • Der Weg zum Friedhof (1900)
    (The Way to the Churchyard)
  • Gladius Dei (1902)
  • Die Hungernden (1903)
    (The Starvelings; The Hungry)
  • Tristan: Sechs Novellen (1903)
    – Darin: Tonio Kröger
    (Tristan: Six Novellas; contains Tonio Kröger)
  • Schwere Stunde (1905)
    (Harsh Hour; Hour of Hardship; A Weary Hour)
  • Wälsungenblut (1905)
    (The Blood of the Walsungs)
  • Das Eisenbahnunglück (1909)
    (Railway Accident)
  • Wie Jappe und Do Escobar sich prügelten (1911)
    (The Fight Between Jappe and Do Escobar)
  • Tod in Venedig (1912)
    (Death in Venice)
  • Das Wunderkind (1914)
    (An Infant Prodigy; The Wunderkind; The Child Prodigy)
  • Beim Propheten (1914)
    (At the Prophet’s)
  • Herr und Hund (1919)
    (Bashan and I; A Man and His Dog)
  • Gesang vom Kindchen (1919)
    (Children and Fools)
  • Unordnung und frühes Leid (1925)
    (Early Sorrow; Disorder and Early Sorrow)
  • Mario und der Zauberer (1930)
    (Mario and the Magician)
  • Die vertauschten Köpfe: Eine indische Legende (1940)
    (The Transposed Heads: A Legend of India)
  • Das Gesetz (1943)
    (The Tables of the Law)
  • The Thomas Mann Reader (1950)
  • Die Betrogene (1953)
    (The Black Swan)
  • Stories of a Lifetime (1961)
  • Sämtliche Erzählungen (1985)
  • Fiorenza (1906)
Essays, Lectures, Addresses, Correspondence, Journals
  • Bilse und ich (1906)
  • Versuch über das Theater (1907)
  • Der alte Fontane (1910)
    (The Old Fontane)
  • Gedanken im Kriege (1914)
  • Friedrich und die große Koalition (1915)
  • Ein Abriß für den Tag und die Stunde (1915)
  • Betrachtungen eines Unpolitischen (1918)
    (Reflections of a Nonpolitical Man)
  • Goethe und Tolstoi (1921)
    (Goethe and Tolstoy)
  • Rede und Antwort (1921)
  • Von deutscher Republik (1922)
  • Okkulte Erlebnisse (1924)
  • Pariser Rechenschaft (1926)
  • Lübeck als geistige Lebensform (1926)
  • Theodor Fontane (1929)
  • Three Essays (1929)
  • Platon – Tristan – Don Quijote (1930)
  • Deutsche Ansprache: Ein Appell an die Vernunft (1930)
  • Die Forderung des Tages (1930)
    (Order of the Day)
  • Lebensabriß (1930)
    (A Sketch of my Life)
  • Goethe als Repräsentant des bürgerlichen Zeitalters (1932)
    (Goethe as Representative of the Bourgeois Age)
  • Goethe’s Laufbahn als Schriftsteller (1933)
    (Goethe’s Career as a Man of Letters)
  • Leiden und Größe Richard Wagners (1933)
    (Sufferings and Greatness of Richard Wagner)
  • Past Masters and Other Essays (1933)
  • Meerfahrt mit Don Quijote (1934)
    (Voyage with Don Quixote)
  • Achtung, Europa! (1935)
  • Freud und die Zukunft (1936)
    (Freud and the Future)
  • Freud, Goethe, Wagner (1937)
  • Schopenhauer (1938)
    (The Living Thoughts of Schopenhauer)
  • Vom zukünftigen Sieg der Demokratie (1938)
    (The Coming Victory of Democracy)
  • Dieser Friede (1938)
    (This Peace)
  • Bruder Hitler (1939)
  • Das Problem der Freiheit (1939)
  • Dieser Krieg (1940)
    (This War)
  • Deutsche Hörer!
    (Listen, Germany!)
    Monthly BBC radio addresses, 1941 – 1945 (55 addresses total); published in book form 1945.
  • Deutschland und die Deutschen (1945)
  • Adel des Geistes: Sechzehn Versuche zum Problem der Humanität (1945)
  • Nietzsches Philosophie im Lichte unserer Erfahrung (1947)
    (Nietzsche’s Philosophy in the Light of Contemporary Events)
  • Essays of Three Decades (1947)
  • Neue Studien (1948)
  • Goethe und die Demokratie (1949)
  • Ansprache im Goethejahr 1949 (1949)
  • Die Erotik Michelangelos (1950)
  • Michelangelo in seinen Dichtungen (1950)
  • Der Künstler und die Gesellschaft (1953)
  • Versuch über Schiller (1955)
    (On Schiller)
  • Letters of Thomas Mann 1889-1955 (1955)
  • Last Essays (1959)
  • Letters to Paul Amann (1960)
  • Briefwechsel Thomas Mann – Heinrich Mann, 1900 – 1949 (1965)
    (Letters of Heinrich and Thomas Mann, 1900 – 1949)
  • Briefwechsel Hermann Hesse – Thomas Mann (1968)
    (The Hesse-Mann Letters)
  • Briefwechsel mit seinem Verleger Gottfried Bermann Fischer 1932 – 1955 (1973)
  • Briefe an Otto Grautoff, 1894 – 1901, und Ida Boy-Ed, 1903 – 1928 (1975)
  • An Exeptional Friendship: The Correspondence of Thomas Mann and Erich Kahler (1975)
  • Gespräch in Briefen: Thomas Mann, Karl Kerényi (1975)
    (Mythology and Humanism: The Correspondence of Thomas Mann And Karl Kerényi)
  • Über mich selbst: Autobiographische Schriften (1983)
  • Tagebücher:
    • 1918 – 1921 (1979)
    • 1933 – 1934 (1980)
    • 1935 – 1936 (1994)
    • 1937 – 1939 (1980)
    • 1940 – 1943 (1982)
    • 1944 – 1.4.1946 (1986)
    • 28.5.1946 – 31.12.1948 (1989)
    • 1949 – 1950 (1991)
    • 1951 – 1952 (1993)
    • 1953 – 1955 (1995)
  • Diaries 1918 – 1939 (1982)
  • Briefe:
    • 1889 – 1936 (1988)
    • 1937 – 1947 (1992)
    • 1948 – 1955 und Nachlese (1979)
  • Thomas Mann – Agnes E. Meyer: Briefwechsel 1937 – 1955 (1992)
  • Notizbücher (1992 – 2003)
  • Essays (1993)
  • Thomas Mann – Felix Bertaux: Correspondence 1923 – 1948 (1994)
  • Thomas Mann: On Myself, and Other Princeton Lectures (1996)
  • Herzlich zugeeignet: Widmungen von Thomas Mann 1887 – 1955 (1998)
  • Thomas Mann – Käthe Hamburger Briefwechsel 1932 – 1955 (1999)
  • Zutrauliche Teilhabe: Thomas Mann über Goethe (1999)
  • Collegheft 1894-1895 (2001)
  • Briefwechsel 1943 – 1955: Theodor W. Adorno, Thomas Mann (2002)
  • Briefe und Tagebücher (2002)
  • Essays (2002)
  • Jahre des Unmuts: Thomas Manns Briefwechsel Mit René Schickele, 1930 – 1940
Online editions of Thomas Mann’s works:


A Selection of Quotes

Mario and the Magician

“Wahrscheinlich kann man vom Nichtwollen seelisch nicht leben eine Sache nicht tun wollen, das ist auf Dauer kein Lebensinhalt.”

The Magic Mountain

“Tolerance becomes a crime when applied to evil.”

“Laughter is a sunbeam of the soul.”

“Space, like time, engenders forgetfulness; but it does so by setting us bodily free from our surroundings and giving us back our primitive, unattached state … Time, we say, is Lethe; but change of air is a similar draught, and, if it works less thoroughly, does so more quickly.”

Über mich selbst: Autobiographische Schriften

“Nein, die Schule hat keinen bestimmenden Einfluss auf meine Entwicklung gehabt. Die Schule hat von meinen besonderen Anlagen wohl instinktiv etwas gespürt, sie aber als obstinate Untauglichkeit gewertet und verworfen. Ein Lehrer drohte, zufällig nicht mir, sondern einem anderen Schüler, mit den Worten: “Ich werde dir deine Karriere schon verderben!” Am gleichen Tag las ich bei Storm den Spruch: “Was du immer kannst, zu werden, scheue Arbeit nicht und Wachen, aber hüte deine Seele vor dem Karrieremachen.”

As quoted in “This I Believe: The Personal Philosophies of One Hundred Thoughtful Men and Women” (Edward R. Murrow, ed.)

“War is only a cowardly escape from the problems of peace.”

Find more quotes by Thomas Mann on Wikiquote and Goodreads.




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