Stoddard Martin

Son of Mann

Cursed Legacy: The Tragic Life of Klaus Mann

By Frederic Spotts

Yale University Press 338pp £30 order from our bookshop

What do you do if your son, who has grown up with privileges you have enabled, behaves in a way that threatens not only his own wellbeing but also that of your family? This question lurks behind Frederic Spotts’s febrile, compulsive account of the career of Thomas Mann’s talented, wayward and depressive eldest son, Klaus, the author of numerous novels, essays, lectures and plays during the period when Nazism stalked Europe. Spotts subscribes to a fashionable thesis that the way Thomas Mann brought him up was a prime cause of his son’s demise, aged forty-two, in the aftermath of the Second World War. Klaus’s fatal overdose, whether accidental or intended, stemmed from a Todessehnsucht that may be ascribed to genes – Thomas’s sisters both took their own lives – or to a variant strain of the German Romantic disease. It is also the type of finale pathétique that the author of a biographical novel about Tchaikovsky had long been honing.

Subscribe to read the full article

hamilton_sept2016_online

Follow Literary Review on Twitter

  • Last Tweets

    • 'Costume of the life force? Words fail.' Germaine Greer on an ode to the condom ,
    • It's Write on Kew for the next four days. There are free copies of Literary Review about; why not dip your toe into the magazine?,
    • Which sci-fi author time-travelled to ancient Rome and lived a parallel life a persecuted Christian named Thomas? ,
    • You can pick up free copies of Literary Review at Write On Kew, which begins tomorrow. Fill your boots (with magazines).,
    • Michael Burleigh reads a survey of the rise of Asia ,
    • The Book of Kells, the Codex Amiatinus and the Carmina Burana: manuscript celebrities ,
    • 'Her bias is firmly towards all that is subterranean, hidden, buried, cavernous': Gillian Tindall explores Crossrail ,