Encyclopedia of Fantasy (1997)
Mann, Thomas

(1875-1955) German writer, one of the central figures of 20th-century literature; he won the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1929. His first stories, some with elements of Supernatural Fiction, appeared as early as 1894, and were assembled as Der kleine Herr Friedemann ["Little Herr Friedmann"] (coll 1898; trans H T Lowe-Porter in Stories of Three Decades coll 1936 US/UK); his first novel, the famous Buddenbrooks (dated 1901 but 1900; trans H T Lowe-Porter 1924 US/UK) is associational. His first major work of fantasy interest is Der Tod in Venedig (1913; trans Kenneth Burke in Death in Venice and Other Stories coll 1925 US; new trans H T Lowe-Porter as Death in Venice 1930 US/UK), in which the writer Gustav von Aschenbach engages in a possibly solipsistic liebestod in a Venice haunted by a beckoning Hermes figure who may be Death. Der Zauberberg (1924; trans Lowe-Porter as The Magic Mountain 1927 US/UK) is not fantasy, but presents a vision of early-20th-century civilization that is so all-encompassing that Hans Castorp (the protagonist) can serve as an Underlier figure for those who undergo a transformative Rite of Passage in fantasy narratives, and that the sanatorium or Magic Mountain where he spends seven years (> Time in Faerie) can serve as a lesson in the imaginative use of the Polder as a venue for the intensest learning possible (>>> Shangri-La). The novel as a whole may represent a definitive defence of the civilization that World War I devoured.

Joseph und Seine Brüder – published in four parts as Die Geschichten Jaakobs (1933; trans Lowe-Porter as Joseph and His Brothers 1934 US; vt The Tales of Jacob 1934 UK), Der junge Joseph (1934; trans Lowe-Porter as Young Joseph 1935; vt The Young Joseph UK), Joseph in Ägypten (2 vols 1936; trans Lowe-Porter as Joseph in Egypt 1938 US/UK), and Joseph, der Ernährer (1943 Sweden; trans Lowe-Porter as Joseph the Provider 1944 US), all assembled as Joseph and his Brothers (omni 1960 US) – takes the Bible as a kind of Playground, an arena of speculation about the nature of Myth in which the characters themselves – their behaviour clearly dictated by Story – act with knowing complicity. Dei vertauschten Köpfe (1940 Sweden; trans Lowe-Porter as The Transposed Heads 1941 US) is based on an Indian Legend in which two men's heads are literally transposed through the agency of the Goddess Kali, causing the same suicidal confusion that made them behead themselves in the first place; it was made into an Opera by Peggy Glanville-Hicks (1912-1990).

Of more direct fantasy interest is Doktor Faustus: Das Leben des deutschen Tonsetzers Adrian Leverkühn, erzählt von einem Freunde (1947 Sweden; trans Lowe-Porter as Doctor Faustus: The Life of the German Composer Adrian Leverkühn as Told by a Friend 1948 US), within the complex texture of which reposes a Twice-Told version of the original Faust story, overlaid by the main body of the text, which is set in the 20th century and depicts the Pact with the Devil by virtue of which Leverkühn becomes a great composer (> Music); his fate and the fate of Germany through two World Wars are seen as intertwined. [JC]

other works: Mario und de Zauberer (1930 chap; trans H T Lowe-Porter as "Mario and the Magician" in Stories of Three Decades coll 1930 US/UK), associational Allegory of the psychology of totalitarianism; Der Erwählte (1951; trans Lowe-Porter as The Holy Sinner 1951 US); Die Betrogene (1953; trans Willard R Trask as The Black Swan 1954 US).

Thomas Mann


This entry is taken from the Encyclopedia of Fantasy (1997) edited by John Clute and John Grant. It is provided as a reference and resource for users of the SF Encyclopedia, but apart from possible small corrections has not been updated.