Mann had made a name for himself in his mid-twenties with Buddenbrooks, a sort of German Forsyte Saga, and many other literary successes followed. He was 29 when he married in 1905, although his wife Katia almost certainly realized his inclinations were homosexual.
Yet she gave him six children and she managed his life so that he could indulge his passion for writing without disturbance.
However, he was a deeply introverted intellectual and romantic, so convinced that Germany was a civilized country of great music, literature and beauty that he buried his head in the sand as Prussian militarism drove his homeland towards the First War. global.
Later he was just as slow in condemning Hitler.
But since his wife was Jewish, Hitler’s advent forced Mann to act, and in devastation he drove the family into exile.
Mann will never feel really comfortable anywhere again, despite having returned to his homeland in the 1950s.
In old age, Mann reflects on his regrets, mistakes, and the compromises he made to survive.
Superb characterization and sharp ideas throughout this novel make it an extremely enjoyable novel.
● The magician, Colm Tóibín, Viking, £ 18.99. To order please call the Express Bookstore on 020 3176 3832. Free UK delivery on orders over £ 20