In the Shadow of the Magic Mountain: The Erika and Klaus Mann Story

In the Shadow of the Magic Mountain: The Erika and Klaus Mann Story

by Andrea Weiss
     
 

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Thomas Mann’s two eldest children, Erika and Klaus, were unconventional, rebellious, and fiercely devoted to each other. Empowered by their close bond, they espoused vehemently anti-Nazi views in a Europe swept up in fascism and were openly, even defiantly, gay in an age of secrecy and repression. Although their father’s fame has unfairly

Overview

Thomas Mann’s two eldest children, Erika and Klaus, were unconventional, rebellious, and fiercely devoted to each other. Empowered by their close bond, they espoused vehemently anti-Nazi views in a Europe swept up in fascism and were openly, even defiantly, gay in an age of secrecy and repression. Although their father’s fame has unfairly overshadowed their legacy, Erika and Klaus were serious authors, performance artists before the medium existed, and political visionaries whose searing essays and lectures are still relevant today. And, as Andrea Weiss reveals in this dual biography, their story offers a fascinating view of the literary and intellectual life, political turmoil, and shifting sexual mores of their times.
            In the Shadow of the Magic Mountain begins with an account of the make-believe world the Manns created together as children—an early sign of their talents as well as the intensity of their relationship. Weiss documents the lifelong artistic collaboration that followed, showing how, as the Nazis took power, Erika and Klaus infused their work with a shared sense of political commitment. Their views earned them exile, and after escaping Germany they eventually moved to the United States, where both served as members of the U.S. armed forces. Abroad, they enjoyed a wide circle of famous friends, including Andre Gide, Christopher Isherwood, Jean Cocteau, and W. H. Auden, whom Erika married in 1935. But the demands of life in exile, Klaus’s heroin addiction, and Erika’s new allegiance to their father strained their mutual devotion, and in 1949 Klaus committed suicide.
            Beautiful never-before-seen photographs illustrate Weiss’s riveting tale of two brave nonconformists whose dramatic lives open up new perspectives on the history of the twentieth century.

Editorial Reviews

Times (UK)

"Theirs is a fascinating tale. Outside the pages of the Manns' own memoirs and essays, or Klaus's deeply personal fiction, it's hard to imagine it more sympathetically told."

— Ian Brunskill

Gay & Lesbian Review
"A fascinating glimpse into the two Manns' eventful and celebrity-filled lives."
The Australian

"The scene was set, the drama a tragedy. Klaus's lifelong attempt to win his father's approval--or die trying, which he did--was a campaign complicated and harried by cataclysmic world events brought masterfully into play by Weiss, and summed up on one word: Hitler."

— Kathy Hunt

The Advocate

"If you've ever dreamed of entering the elite literary circles of André Gide, Bertolt Brecht, Christopher Isherwood, and Carson McCullers, here's your passport."

— "Best of Summer Reading"

Southern Humanities Review

"Through the stories of Erika and Klaus, Weiss offers a fascinating view of the literary and intellectual life, political turmoil, and shifting sexual mores of the times. A chief merit . . . is that Weiss links the fates of Mann's progeny . . . to many of the major figures of European culture as well, thus giving her readers glimpses into the lives of other anti-fascist intellectuals and artists in the Nazi era."

— Stephanie E. Libbon

David Hajdu
“Andrea Weiss proves here that complex life forms can thrive in the dark. In the Shadow of the Magic Mountain illuminates not only its primary subjects, Erika and Klaus Mann, but also the father who overshadowed them. A brilliant and important work of historical and literary portraiture.”

Paul Robinson
“Weiss has got hold of an intrinsically dramatic story, and she tells it well. The dual lives of Thomas Mann’s eldest children combine homosexuality, political conflict, and the unfathomable burden of being the offspring of Germany’s greatest living writer. The chief merit of Weiss’s lively rendering of this story is the way she links the fates of Mann’s progeny not only to one another but to many of the major figures of European culture. Hence her book also tells us a great deal about the lives of anti-fascist intellectuals and artists in the Nazi era.”

Times (UK) - Ian Brunskill
"Theirs is a fascinating tale. Outside the pages of the Manns' own memoirs and essays, or Klaus's deeply personal fiction, it's hard to imagine it more sympathetically told."
The Australian - Kathy Hunt
"The scene was set, the drama a tragedy. Klaus's lifelong attempt to win his father's approval—or die trying, which he did—was a campaign complicated and harried by cataclysmic world events brought masterfully into play by Weiss, and summed up on one word: Hitler."
The Advocate - "Best of Summer Reading"
"If you've ever dreamed of entering the elite literary circles of André Gide, Bertolt Brecht, Christopher Isherwood, and Carson McCullers, here's your passport."
­Paul Robinson
“Weiss has got hold of an intrinsically dramatic story, and she tells it well. The dual lives of Thomas Mann’s eldest children combine homosexuality, political conflict, and the unfathomable burden of being the offspring of Germany’s greatest living writer. The chief merit of Weiss’s lively rendering of this story is the way she links the fates of Mann’s progeny not only to one another but to many of the major figures of European culture. Hence her book also tells us a great deal about the lives of anti-fascist intellectuals and artists in the Nazi era.”

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780226886725
Publisher:
University of Chicago Press
Publication date:
04/15/2008
Pages:
310
Sales rank:
1,125,981
Product dimensions:
6.00(w) x 9.00(h) x 1.10(d)

Meet the Author

Andrea Weiss is professor in the Film/Video Program at the City College of New York and the author of Paris Was a Woman: Portraits from the Left Bank and Vampires and Violets: Lesbians in Film. She has been an independent filmmaker for over twenty-five years, and her documentary Escape to Life: The Erika and Klaus Mann Story will be released on DVD in 2008.

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