The Magician is Toibin’s 12th novel, so we are in good literary hands in this book. It’s also not the first time Toibin explores a person struggling with identity and sexual perversions. The Magician is an intimate portrait of The life of Thomas Mann, his magnificent wife, Katia, and the times in which they lived. Including the First World War, the rise of Hitler, World War II, the Cold War and exile. We discover intimate issues and world issues simultaneously as we travel through Mann’s life. The title is a nod to this closeness, The Magician was a nickname bestowed on Mann by his children, and it conveys the distance he maintained even with those closest to him. I was fascinated by Mann’s relationship with his six children, who have unique characters and ideas of their own. Sadly it was also confirmed that the family suffered numerous incidents of suicide among Thomas’s siblings and their own children. The writing is a fluid blend between fact and fiction. This is a man and a family fiercely engaged by the world, profoundly flawed like most but unforgettable. An excellent read and a thoroughly researched piece.
Thomas Mann with his family on Hiddensee Island in 1924. [via Getty Images]
Who Is This Mann, fellow?
Thomas Mann was a German writer, novelist, philanthropist and essayist born in 1875 in Lubeck, Germany. He was the son of a senator and merchant, Thomas Johann Heinrich Mann and Júlia da Silva Bruhns. The cultured, conservative, and devoutly Protestant atmosphere of the Mann home became the subject of Buddenbrooks (1901), an epic of considerable complexity and clearly autobiographical elements.
Mann wrote many fictional novels, including ‘Royal Highness’ (1916) and ‘Early Sorrow’ (1929). ‘The Magic Mountain,’ considered Mann’s most critically acclaimed work, was published in 1924. It is said that it took him ten years to complete this novel. His novel, ‘Royal Highness,’ won him the Nobel Prize. This story was inspired by his happy marriage resulting in a story about form and life and their reunion. World War I changed Mann’s views about Monarchy and German supremacy. He left Germany in 1933 and finally settled in the U.S. in 1938 after having lived in France and Switzerland for some time. He worked at the University of Princeton for some time. More novels by Mann include ‘The Tales of Jacob’ published in 1933, and following it the next year was ‘The Young Joseph.’ These were stories based on biblical characters, with ‘Joseph in Egypt’ and ‘Joseph and his Brothers’ a part of the tetralogy. Inspired by Russian culture, he wrote essays on Leo Tolstoy and his perpetual realism.