Changing blogging domain and site

Dear blogger friends, Lately, I had a few problems with the Blogger web site for my blog The Content Reader . I took this as a sign that I should finally create a web site of my own. I have been checking out other options, but could not get my act together. Finally, I have managed to create a basic web site with Wix, which I hope will be developed over time.  It has not been easy to find my way around. One thing one can say about Blogger is that it is easy to work with.  This site will no longer be updated Follow me to my new domain @ Hope to see you there.  Lisbeth @ The Content Reader

Die Manns (The Mann Family) by Tilmann Lahme

One of my favourite books is Buddenbrooks by Thomas Mann. It was Thomas Mann's first novel and it was published in 1901. It gave him the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1929. Tilmann Lahme's biography of the Mann family is an interesting account of a family where the author rose above everyone else.

Thomas Mann was born in 1875, but the biography starts in 1922 when he was already an established writer with part of his production behind him. It covers the years in Germany, the exile years during World War II (France, Switzerland, and the USA), the peace years, and the final years in Switzerland. 

The Manns was a troubled family. The mother Katia, took care of the family and the business that was Thomas Mann. They had six children; Klaus, Erika, Golo, Monika, Elisabeth och Michael. The Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung reviewed the book and this extract says it all. "Each unhappy family is unhappy in its own way, says Tolstoy. One should read this book to  understand the meaning of it." (my transl.) How true. This is a peculiar family and one cannot help reflecting that it might depend on Thomas Mann himself. Protected by his own family by his wife, he demanded peace and quiet to write. He was put on a pedestal, treated almost godlike. The children's only wish is an acknowledgment from their father.  It never comes. Furthermore, he did keep favourites, and not very discreetly. Maybe that is a reason why, almost all of them, had problems in their adult lives. Some of them did, occasionally, make good careers, but it came at a cost. 

All of the children, except Golo, lived off their parents. None of them did well in school. They jumped from education to education, work to work, and had difficulties settling down on their own, finding their place in life. There is a strange interdependency between the family members. The could not live with each other, but neither without each other. In 1933, the first day in exile, Golo writes in his diary: "Now the family is all I have; it can never end well..." (my transl.)

Thomas Mann struggled with homosexual tendencies, which was mostly reflected through his novellas,  Death in Venice being the most known such work. Three of his children were also homosexual, Klaus, and Golo, and Erika was bisexual. Klaus and Erika went in their father's footsteps, writing books, articles, and manifestos. Especially, Klaus and Erika, political to the left, tended to oppose life in most of its forms.  They also tried acting, especially Erika, but she got tired of acting when she did not get the main role from the beginning. Michael, the youngest, was a talented violin player. He, however, never wanted to leave the safe world of lessons to go into performing. He finally did and had some kind of career. Monika never really made it off at all. One wonders if the idea that achievements come easy was due to their successful father. 

The most successful of the children were Golo and Elisabeth. The latter became an internationally recognised expert on maritime law and policy and the protection of the environment. She received numerous rewards from various countries for her work. Golo studied history (after trying out numerous different educations), wrote books, and became a successful and famous historian. He was the only one who went for a career and life without constantly asking the parents for money. 

Egocentric is the word that comes to mind when describing the Mann family.  It is the main character of the family members, except Katia. She was quite different from the rest of them but very loyal to the Mann family as a concept. Maybe because her role was to be the practical person taking care of everything. There is however a lack of structure in the education of the children. Although one may not say they were spoilt, there was leniency towards them, which might explain their not too happy adult lives. There is always the idea that if anything goes wrong it is somebody else's fault. If there is a lack of money, somebody should give them money. This includes Thomas Mann. Although wealthy there were times when money was lacking. The family could not understand why their rich friends could not just give them the money they needed. 

Their life in exile was a rather pleasant one compared to a lot of their fellow exiles. In 1939 Klaus Mann's novel The Volcano was published. He considered it his best novel and worked on it for two years. It received good reviews when it was published and his fellow emigration colleagues felt he had described their lives well. "Possibly it would have been in place with "a little more poverty and despair over money," "a little more misery, dirt and darkness" in a novel about emigration, says Stefan Zweig. Klaus Mann has not experienced any of this, and thus he has not described it."(my transl).

Lahme's biography is well researched and makes for interesting reading. There are a lot on Mann's views on the politics in Germany, the war years, and the following return to Europe after the exile, not mentioned here. It reads like an exciting book where you wonder what will happen next to the family.

The Mann family saw the world according to their eyes. When it did not live up to their expectations, they went on with a few white, and sometimes, not so white lies. This was most notable with Klaus and Erika. While reading the biography, one is more than amazed at how they lived their lives. Although sometimes a little bit shocked about their actions, their attitude towards each other, towards other people and towards the world, it is a fascinating account of a family out of the extraordinary. 


  1. Funny, I was thinking about that quote quite often in relation to the Manns and to Thomas Mann's most famous book The Buddenbrooks. While I have read a lot about the Mann family, I haven't read this book. Must look out for it.

    Thanks for the link.

    1. The quote from the beginning of Tolstoy's novel is one of my favourite beginnings. It was so well put by FAZ, and so true about the family. I really enjoyed this biography.

    2. Also one of my favourite ones, of course. It is probably the best one ever written.

    3. You refer to Anna Karenina? I have an older book, with beautiful illustrations, but have only started.

  2. I meant the quote from Anna Karenina. Yes, it's also a great book. Once you've finished, have a look here.


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