A New York Times Notable Book, Critic’s Top Pick, and Top Ten Book of Historical Fiction
Named a Best Book of the Year by The Washington Post, NPR, Vogue, The Wall Street Journal, and Bloomberg Businessweek
From one of today’s most brilliant and beloved novelists, a dazzling, epic family saga set across a half-century spanning World War I, the rise of Hitler, World War II, and the Cold War that is “a feat of literary sorcery in its own right” (Oprah Daily).
The Magician opens in a provincial German city at the turn of the twentieth century, where the boy, Thomas Mann, grows up with a conservative father, bound by propriety, and a Brazilian mother, alluring and unpredictable. Young Mann hides his artistic aspirations from his father and his homosexual desires from everyone. He is infatuated with one of the richest, most cultured Jewish families in Munich, and marries the daughter Katia. They have six children. On a holiday in Italy, he longs for a boy he sees on a beach and writes the story Death in Venice. He is the most successful novelist of his time, winner of the Nobel Prize in literature, a public man whose private life remains secret. He is expected to lead the condemnation of Hitler, whom he underestimates. His oldest daughter and son, leaders of Bohemianism and of the anti-Nazi movement, share lovers. He flees Germany for Switzerland, France and, ultimately, America, living first in Princeton and then in Los Angeles.
In this “exquisitely sensitive” (The Wall Street Journal) novel, Tóibín has crafted “a complex but empathetic portrayal of a writer in a lifelong battle against his innermost desires, his family, and the tumultuous times they endure” (Time), and “you’ll find yourself savoring every page” (Vogue).
The Booker-shortlisted T ib n (House of Names) unfurls an expansive fictional biography of Thomas Mann, a Nobel laureate who was devoted to family, obsessed with physical beauty, and driven by desire. T ib n draws on excerpts from Mann's diary entries, exposing unrequited loves and erotic encounters with male classmates and boarders as a young man in L beck, Germany, around the turn of the 20th century. The Mann who emerges in these pages is a man led by dangerous impulses and constantly pursued by the "lure of death and the seductive charm of timeless beauty" who creates a thinly veiled depiction of a merchant family from L beck in Buddenbrooks, records his hypersexual attraction to a young Polish boy in Death in Venice, and draws from his visits to his ailing tubercular wife at a sanatorium for The Magic Mountain. An academic sojourn in Princeton and worldwide lecture tours lead a U.S. State Department official to tell him, "after Einstein, you are the most important German alive." But a series of traumatic events including several suicides (siblings and two of his six children) compound the effects of the wars and his struggles with his sexuality, and he goes into exile in the Pacific Palisades. The glory of music dominates much of the novel the strains of Wagner's Lohengrin; the "collision between bombast and subtlety" of Mahler's Eighth Symphony; and the glow said to have radiated from Bach when his music was performed, which Mann aspires to replicate in prose. This vibrates with the strength of Mann's visions and the sublimity of T ib n's mellifluous prose. T ib n has surpassed himself.
Not impressive but not bad
A so so read.