Letters of Heinrich and Thomas Mann, 1900-1949

Thomas Mann, Author, Heinrich Mann, Editor, Hans Wysling, Editor University of California Press $50 (462p) ISBN 978-0-520-07278-7
This latest volume in the University of California distinguished series, Weimar and Now: German Cultural Criticism, is certainly one of the most readable ones. Edited and well annotated by Wysling, former director of the Thomas Mann Archive in Zurich, this volume is a satisfying portrait of two brothers and writers. Thomas is celebrated everywhere as the author of Buddenbrooks, Death in Venice and Felix Krull, and, as American Thomas Mann biographer Anthony Heilbut argues, Heinrich, author of The Blue Angel and Young Henry Navarre, deserves better than oblivion. Here, at least ""Mann and Supermann"" both come off well. These letters are literary works in themselves of considerable interest, not because they are exceptionally frank--Thomas stays mum about his now-notorious homosexuality, and Heinrich was usually secretive about his girlfriends--but both men's life business was expressing themselves in writing, and so their letters offer vital self-portraits. Novelistic details are never far from view, even when Thomas writes in old age to describe Heinrich's funeral procession ""across the warm lawn of the cemetery in Santa Monica""--a detail Heinrich would have no doubt appreciated. Reneau, a freelance translator based in Connecticut, managed to make a clear, fresh-seeming English version out of the intricate, elaborate and sometimes stuffy and stodgy prose of both Manns. (Feb.)
Reviewed on: 03/02/1998
Release date: 03/01/1998
Genre: Nonfiction
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