Klaus Heinrich Thomas Mann (18 November 1906 – 21 May 1949) was a German-born American writer and dissident. He was the brother of Erika Mann, with whom he maintained a lifelong close relationship. He is well known for his 1936 novel, Mephisto.
Klaus Mann, Staff Sergeant 5th US Army, Italy 1944
|Born||18 November 1906|
Munich, Kingdom of Bavaria, German Empire
|Died||21 May 1949 42) (aged|
|Relatives||Thomas Mann (father)|
Katia Pringsheim (mother)
see full family tree
Life and work
Born in Munich, Klaus Mann was the son of German writer Thomas Mann and his wife, Katia Pringsheim. His father was baptized as a Lutheran, while his mother was from a family of secular Jews. He began writing short stories in 1924 and the following year became drama critic for a Berlin newspaper. His first literary works were published in 1925.
Mann's early life was troubled. His homosexuality often made him the target of bigotry, and he had a difficult relationship with his father. After only a short time in various schools, he travelled with his sister Erika Mann, a year older than himself, around the world, visiting the US in 1927, and reporting about it in essays published as a collaborative travelogue in 1929.
In 1924 he had become engaged to his childhood friend Pamela Wedekind, the eldest daughter of the playwright Frank Wedekind, who was also a close friend of his sister Erika. The engagement was broken off in January 1928.
He travelled with Erika to North Africa in 1929. Around this time they made the acquaintance of Annemarie Schwarzenbach, a Swiss writer and photographer, who remained close to them for the next few years. Klaus made several trips abroad with Annemarie, the final one to a Soviet writers' congress in Moscow in 1934.
Since his young adulthood, Klaus was using drugs, mostly opiates, to which he later became heavily addicted. His diaries document an attempted morphine-injection in 1933 when Hitler took power. Initially, the aspiring writer used opium, Eukodal and later heroin to possibly increase his creative energy, as this was often the case for artists and intellectuals in literary circles at the time. He underwent drug detoxification in Budapest during his frantic travels and at the Kilchberg Sanatorium in Switzerland. After 1936, his drug use and sexual escapades became excessive during his stay in New York.
In 1933 Klaus participated with Erika in a political cabaret, the Pepper-Mill, which came to the attention of the Nazi regime. To escape prosecution he left Germany in March 1933 for Paris, later visiting Amsterdam and Switzerland, where his family had a house. Also in 1933, Klaus Mann and Annemarie Schwarzenbach, together with Fritz Landshoff and Dutch publisher Emanuel Querido, founded Die Sammlung, a literary magazine, first published in September 1933 in Amsterdam. It was primarily affiliated with a number of influential German writers who fled from the Hitler regime during the first years of the establishment and consolidation of Nazi rule. The magazine was funded by the wealthy Annemarie Schwarzenbach, and Klaus Mann served as its editor-in-chief from 1933 to 1935, when Die Sammlung's activity ceased.
Klaus Mann not only played an important role in the consolidation of the German Exilliteratur but also communicated with authors who remained in Germany after 1933. In a letter exchange with Gottfried Benn, whose ambivalence towards Nazi rule was well known, Klaus expressed concern about his continued membership in the national German academy of writers, pointing out the moral dilemma it posed, even urging him to leave the country to join the German intellectuals in exile.
In November 1934 Klaus was stripped of German citizenship by the Nazi regime. He became a Czechoslovak citizen. In 1936, he moved to the United States, living in Princeton, New Jersey, and New York. In the summer of 1937, he met his partner for the rest of the year Thomas Quinn Curtiss, who was later a longtime film and theater reviewer for Variety and the International Herald Tribune. In 1940 Klaus Mann founded another literary magazine for German writers living in exile in the United States, Decision. It lasted for only a year. During that time, he also lived at his father's house in Pacific Palisades when he was unable to support himself financially.
Mann became a US citizen in 1943. The process of naturalization was delayed because of an investigation the FBI conducted into Klaus Mann's political and sexual activities; he was openly gay but not an adherent of marxist ideologies. Throughout his life in the US, he identified himself as a liberal antifascist and cosmopolitan. In World War II, he served as a Staff Sergeant of the 5th US Army in Italy. In summer 1945, he was sent by the Stars and Stripes to report from Postwar-Germany.
Mann's most famous novel, Mephisto, was written in 1936 and first published in Amsterdam. The novel is a thinly-disguised portrait of his former brother-in-law, the actor Gustaf Gründgens. The literary scandal surrounding it made Mann posthumously famous in West Germany, as Gründgens' adopted son brought a legal case to have the novel banned after its first publication in West Germany in the early 1960s. After seven years of legal hearings, the West German Supreme Court banned it by a vote of three to three, although it continued to be available in East Germany and abroad. The ban was lifted and the novel published in West Germany in 1981.
Mann's novel Der Vulkan is one of the 20th century's most famous novels about German exiles during World War II.
He died in Cannes of an overdose of sleeping pills on 21 May 1949, after another drug treatment. The prolific writer likely committed suicide because of financial problems and social isolation. He was buried there in the Cimetière du Grand Jas.
- Der fromme Tanz, 1925
- Anja und Esther, 1925
- Revue zu Vieren, 1927
- Alexander, Roman der Utopie, 1929
- Auf der Suche nach einem Weg, 1931
- Kind dieser Zeit, 1932
- Treffpunkt im Unendlichen, 1932
- Journey into Freedom, 1934
- Symphonie Pathétique, 1935
- Mephisto, 1936
- Vergittertes Fenster, 1937
- Der Vulkan, 1939
- The Turning Point, 1942
- André Gide and the Crisis of Modern Thought, 1943
- The Chaplain, 1945
- Nicole Schaenzler: Klaus Mann. Eine Biographie. Campus Verlag, Frankfurt – New York 1999, ISBN 3-593-36068-3, p. 30
- Erika und Klaus Mann: Rundherum - Ahenteuer einer Weltreise. Reinbek bei Hamburg: Rowohlt, 1982.
- Nicole Schaenzler: Klaus Mann, p. 302
- Zauberers Sohn, Kind dieser Zeit (in German). Spiegel Online. Retrieved 6 March 2019.
- Nicole Schaenzler: Klaus Mann, p. 211
- Klaus Mann, Brief an Gottfried Benn, 9. Mai 1933 (in German). Deutsches Literatur Archiv Marbach (with permission of Frido Mann). Retrieved 12 March 2019.
- Klaus Mann, Notizen in Moskau, 1934. (in German). 100(0) Schlüssel Dokumente zur Deutschen Geschichte im 20. Jahrhundert. Retrieved 12 March 2019.
- "Report Klaus Mann Died After Overdose of Pills". Chicago Tribune. 25 May 1949. p. 12.
- Juliane Schicker. 'Decision. A Review of Free Culture' – Eine Zeitschrift zwischen Literatur und Tagespolitik. München: Grin, 2008. ISBN 978-3-638-87068-9
- James Robert Keller. The Role of Political and Sexual Identity in the Works of Klaus Mann. New York: Peter Lang, 2001. ISBN 0-8204-4906-7
- Hauck, Gerald Günter. Reluctant Immigrants: Klaus and Erika Mann In American Exile, 1936-1945. 1997.
- Huneke, Samuel Clowes. 'The Reception of Homosexuality in Klaus Mann's Weimar Era Work.' Monatshefte für deutschsprachige Literatur und Kultur. Vol. 105, No. 1, Spring 2013. 86-100. doi: 10.1353/mon.2013.0027
- Mauthner, Martin German Writers in French Exile, 1933–1940 London: Vallentine Mitchell, 2006 ISBN 978-0853035404
- Spotts, Frederic. Cursed Legacy: The Tragic Life of Klaus Mann New Haven: Yale University Press, 2016. ISBN 978-0300218008
- Harpole, Kimberley, and Waltraud Maierhofer. 'Women Performing the American 'Other' in Erika and Klaus Mann's Rundherum (1929). Sophie Journal . Vol.4, 2017. 1-32.
- Klaus Mann, Il cappellano, by Pier Giorgio Ardeni and Alberto Gualandi, Pendragon 2018
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