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||Heinrich Mann (1871-1950)|
German writer, the elder brother of Thomas Mann. Heinrich Mann's attacks on militarism, nationalism, and the authoritarian social structure of German society, led to his exile in 1933. Whereas Thomas Mann was influenced by the Russian novelists of the 19th century, especially Leo Tolstoy, and drew international attention to German prose with his works, the francophile Heinrich never gained the fame of his brother and was considered more of a Leftist social critic.
'Und auf einmal sah er ihr Gesicht von gestern wieder, das ganz bunte. Die Künstlerin Fröhlich sass erst jetzt vor ihm, die eigentliche. Er hatte sie entstehen sehen und merkte es erst jetzt. Ein flüchtiger Blick eröffnete sich ihm auf die Küche, in der Schönheit, List, Seele gemacht wird. Er war enttäuscht und eingeweiht. Er dachte gleich hintereinander: "Weiter ist es nichts?" und "Das ist aber grossartig!" Das Herz klopfte ihm – und inzwischen rieb die Künstlerin Fröhlich sich die farbigen Fette, die es ins Klopfen gebracht hatten, mit einem Tuch von den Händen.' (from Professor Unrat, 1904)
Heinrich Mann was born in Lübeck into a prominent merchant family. His father, Thomas Johann Heinrich Mann, owned a grain firm and was elected the senator overseeing taxes for Lübeck. Mann's mother Julia, née da Silva-Bruhns, came from a German-Portugese-Creole family.
Mann studied at a private preparatory school until 1889, and then worked as an apprentice to a bookseller in Dresden and as a publisher in Berlin (1891-92). After contractig tuberculosis, he spent some time in a sanatorium in Switzerland. The inheritance Mann received after the death of his father in 1891, allowed him to start his literary career. His first novel, In einer Familie, came out in 1893. In 1894 he moved to Munich, where he was the editor of Das zwanzigste Jahrhundert.
From the mid-1890s until World War I, Mann lived mostly in Italy and France. His novels from these years dealt mostly with social life in imperial Germany. Im Schlaraffenland (1900), based on Maupassant's Bel Ami was a satirical depiction of middle-class Germans. A central character is a corrupt Jewish banker, James L. Türkheimer, whose house is the center of financial manipulation and intrigues of the high society. After writing the novel, Mann said that he was "temporaly sick of the common bourgeois". Die Göttinnen (1902) portrayed aestheticism and individualism in Europe at the turn of the century. As a journalist Mann himself had taken a rather conservative approach to "cultural decadence", but in his novels he began to satirize his former stand. Thomas Mann criticized his brother's fifth novel, Die Jagd nach Liebe (1903), about the life of the Munich burgeoisie as containing "strained jokes" and "disgraceful gimaces and somersaults".
Mann's best known novel is Professor Unrat oder Das Ende eines Tyrannen (1905, Small Town Tyrant), a story of a misogynist schoolmaster in Wilhelminian Germany, who falls in love with a seductive barefoot dancer Rosa Fröhlich. The novel has been filmed many times, but the most acclaimed version is Der Blaue Engel (The Blue Angel), which was directed by Joseph von Sternberg. Marlene Dietrich who played Lola Lola, the beautiful performer at a night club, was instantly catapulted to international stardom. "At the time I thought the film was awful and vulgar and I was shocked by the whole thing. Remember, I was a well brought up German girl." (Marlene Dietrich)
In 1906 Mann began work on his trilogy Das Kaiserreich (The Empire), "the history of the German public soul under William II". The first book, Der Untertan, was banned during World War I, but appeared after the November revolution in 1918. It received a mixed critical reception, especially among the conservative literary establishment, but gained a huge success. Mann followed the rise of the opportunist Diederich Hessling, whose father runs a small paper factory. At school Diederich bullies the only Jew in his class, and when the bystanders applause, he feels strong. "He was acting on behalf of the whole Christian community of Netzig. How splendid it was to share responsibility, and to be a part of a collective consciousness." Mann revealed through more or less grotesque characters the moral bankruptcy of the bourgeoisie and the weaknesses of German society under Wilhelm II. The second book, Die Armen (The Poor), which revealed Mann's poor knowledge of Socialist theory, appeared in 1917, and the third, Der Kopf (The Chief), in 1925.
Mann's other works from the 1920s and early 1930s include Mutter Marie (1927), a novel about the mercenary schemes of a general's wife, and Ein ernstes Leben (1932), an exploration of contemporary German values. In Die Jugend des Königs Henri Quatre (1935) and Die Vollendung des Königs Henri Quatre (1937) Mann painted a historically accurate portrait of the 16th century French king, the first of the Bourbon dynasty, who converted to Roman Catholicism but remained sympathetic to Protestantism, secretly supporting the revolt of the Protestant Netherlands against Spain.
In 1914 Mann married the actress Marie (Mimi) Kanová, they divorced in 1930. The Prussian Government called Mann to Berlin to the Academy of Arts and in 1931 he was elected to the presidency of the Poetry Section. He remained in the office until the beginning of the persecution of literature under the Nazi regime. Behind the machinations was his former admirer, Gottfried Benn, a writer and a doctor of medicine. Mann was accused of violating the autonomy of art in his call for an anti-Nazi coalition. Years later, in December 1945, Lewis Mumford said in an open letter to a German writer, that during "the last century two writers stand out, among a bare handful one might name: Heinrich Heine and Heinrich Mann. These men dared to challenge Germany." After leaving his home country, Mann first lived in Prague and then near Nice on the Riviera. There he wrote his most ambitious novels based on the life of Henry IV, the French king who was known for his religious tolerance. The Hungarian philospher and Marxist literature theoretician Georg Lukács hailed the novels as representing the highlights of "critical realism" and "democratic humanism".
Mann settled in 1940 in the United States with his second wife, Nelly Kröger, who was nearly 30 years his junior. She had been a nightclub hostess in Berlin, where they had met in the late 1920s. Her unintellectual personality much embarassed Thomas Mann. An alcoholic and suffering from mental illness, she committed suicide in 1944, and was buried in Santa Monica, California. Through his connections, Mann obtained contracts with both MGM and Warner Brothers. At the MGM studios had to be at his office from 10 am to 1 pm, but he had little to do. Even though Sternberg's The Blue Angel was well-known, nobody had read the novel that had inspired it. Mann spoke English poorly, and in Los Angeles he was supported mostly by his famous brother. After the war, Mann began a correspondence with the East Berlin Prostitute Margot Voss, and supported her with money and packages. "My blouse is bursting from the good things," she said.
During his last years, Mann worked on his autobiography, Ein Zeitalter wird besichtigt (1945). He was awarded the German Democratic Republic's first National Prize and invited to become the president of East Germany's new Academy of the Arts. Mann died in California in Santa Monica on March 12, 1950, before he was able to assume his post. Mann's body was moved to East-Berlin in 1961.
As an essayist Mann moved from conservative middle-class opinions to a strong commitment to democracy and various forms of socialism. During WW I he was one of the few writers, who was in opposition to the German "ideas of 1914". In his famous essay 'Zola' (1915), which celebrated the French author's political commitment, Mann formulated the role of the writer in society and indirectly attacked the exploitative attitudes of capitalists and industrialists which had led to conflict. With its reference to Thomas Mann, the work caused a temporary rupture between the brothers. Thomas, who was more conservative, had defended the war, and was offended. His reply, 'Betrachtungen eines Unpolitischen' (1918, Reflections of an Unpolitical Man), was a direct attack on Heinrich. Thomas, who had at first asserted the artist's need for independence from political concerns, eventually came to support many of Heinrich's views. In Der Hass (1933) Mann showed how the cultivation of hatred as perpetrated by the Nazis, must inevitably lead to the demise of civilization.
For further reading: Heinrich Mann, le poète et la politique by A. Banuls (1966); Heinrich Mann by R.N. Linn (1967); Heinrich Mann and His Public by L. Winter (1970); Artistic Consciousness and Political Conscience by D. Roberts (1971); The Brothers Mann by N. Hamilton (1972); Heinrich Mann: Leben, Werk, Wirken by Volker Ebersbach (1978); Heinrich Mann: Werk und Wirkung, ed. by Rudolf Wolff (1984); Heinrich Mann's Novels and Essays: The Artist As Political Educator by Karin Verena Gunnemann ( 2002); Heinrich Mann: Narratives of Wilhelmine Germany, 1895-1925 by Stephen A. Grollman (2002)