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In the Shadow of the Magic Mountain: The Erika and Claus Mann Story

by Andrea Weiss University of Chicago Press
Pub Date:
03/2008
ISBN:
9780226886725
Format:
Hbk 310 pages
Price:
AU$62.00 NZ$65.22
Product Status: Not Our Publication - we no longer distribute
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Thomas Mann’s two eldest children, Erika and Klaus, were unconventional, rebellious, and fiercely devoted to each other. Empowered by their close bond, they espoused vehemently anti-Nazi views in a Europe swept up in fascism and were openly, even defiantly, gay in an age of secrecy and repression. Although their father’s fame has unfairly overshadowed their legacy, Erika and Klaus were serious authors, performance artists before the medium existed, and political visionaries whose searing essays and lectures are still relevant today. And, as Andrea Weiss reveals in this dual biography, their story offers a fascinating view of the literary and intellectual life, political turmoil, and shifting sexual mores of their times.


In the Shadow of the Magic Mountain begins with an account of the make-believe world the Manns created together as children—an early sign of their talents as well as the intensity of their relationship. Weiss documents the lifelong artistic collaboration that followed, showing how, as the Nazis took power, Erika and Klaus infused their work with a shared sense of political commitment. Their views earned them exile, and after escaping Germany they eventually moved to the United States, where both served as members of the U.S. armed forces. Abroad, they enjoyed a wide circle of famous friends, including Andre Gide, Christopher Isherwood, Jean Cocteau, and W. H. Auden, whom Erika married in . But the demands of life in exile, Klaus’s heroin addiction, and Erika’s new allegiance to their father strained their mutual devotion, and in Klaus committed suicide.
Beautiful never-before-seen photographs illustrate Weiss’s riveting tale of two brave nonconformists whose dramatic lives open up new perspectives on the history of the twentieth century.
''Weiss has got hold of an intrinsically dramatic story, and she tells it well. the dual lives of Thomas Mann's eldest children combine homosexuality, political conflict, and the unfathomable burden of being the offspring of Germany's greatest living writer. The chief merit of Weiss's lively rendering of this story is the way she links the fates of Mann's progeny not only to one another but to many of the major figures of European culture. Hence her book tells us a great deal about the lives of anti-fascist intellectuals and artists in the Nazi era.'' - Paul Robinson, author of Gay Lives: Homosexual Autobiography from John Addington Symonds to Paul Monette''
Andrea Weiss is associate professor in the Film/Video Program at the City College of New York and the author of Paris Was a Woman: Portraits from the Left Bank and Vampires and Violets: Lesbians in Film. She has been an independent filmmaker for over twenty-five years, and her documentary Escape to Life: The Erika and Klaus Mann Story will be released on DVD in 2008.