cover image Reminiscences and Reflections: A Youth in Germany

Reminiscences and Reflections: A Youth in Germany

Golo Mann. W. W. Norton & Company, $25 (338pp) ISBN 978-0-393-02871-3

Those hoping to learn what it was like growing up in the household of Thomas Mann will gain few insights from these memoirs of his third child. The father--referred to throughout as ``TM''--comes across as a shadowy figure. So, too, do the luminaries TM encounters, from novelist Hermann Hesse to educator Kurt Hahn and philosopher Karl Jaspers. Replete with dropped names, platitudes and chitchat about nearly every book the younger Mann has read, his reminiscences seem one-dimensional and inconsequential. Exceptions include his evocation of a prewar German village and an episode in which he, as a 14-year-old, is snubbed by a prince for a breach of etiquette, but such rewards are few. The author writes awkwardly: the drama of the crucial years 1932 and 1933, when he fled his country, is undercut by secondhand, needlessly complicated accounts of the maneuverings of politicians as Hitler rose to power. Nonetheless, the book concludes with remarkably moving ruminations on the plight of the exile. (Sept.)