The Magician By Colm Tóibín

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The Magician: A Novel By Colm Tóibín

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Book/Novel Author: Colm Tóibín

Book/Novel Title: The Magician

 

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From one of today’s most brilliant and beloved novelists, a dazzling, epic family saga set across a half-century spanning World War I, the rise of Hitler, World War II, and the Cold War. Colm Tóibín’s magnificent new novel opens in a provincial German city at the turn of the twentieth century, where the boy, Thomas Mann, grows up with a conservative father, bound by propriety, and a Brazilian mother, alluring and unpredictable. Young Mann hides his artistic aspirations from his father and his homosexual desires from everyone. He is infatuated with one of the richest, most cultured Jewish families in Munich, and marries the daughter Katia. They have six children. On a holiday in Italy, he longs for a boy he sees on a beach and writes the story Death in Venice. He is the most successful novelist of his time, winner of the Nobel Prize in literature, a public man whose private life remains secret. He is expected to lead the condemnation of Hitler, whom he underestimates. His oldest daughter and son, leaders of Bohemianism and of the anti-Nazi movement, share lovers. He flees Germany for Switzerland, France and, ultimately, America, living first in Princeton and then in Los Angeles. In a stunning marriage of research and imagination, Tóibín explores the heart and mind of a writer whose gift is unparalleled and whose life is driven by a need to belong and the anguish of illicit desire. The Magician is an intimate, astonishingly complex portrait of Mann, his magnificent and complex wife Katia, and the times in which they lived—the first world war, the rise of Hitler, World War II, the Cold War, and exile. This is a man and a family fiercely engaged by the world, profoundly flawed, and unforgettable. As People magazine said about The Master, “It’s a delicate, mysterious process, this act of creation, fraught with psychological tension, and Tóibín captures it beautifully.”Read more
Colm Tóibìn writes in such depth about this complicated man(n), that you can see his good and bad sides at the same time and still feel sympathy for him.
Since I have read most of Thomas Mann’s works, I was interested in him as a person and this laid out background on most of his major works . Did not realize he had while living in the United States become a citizen
While biographers must confine themselves to what can be objectively known or safely inferred about their subjects, novelists are under no such constraint. Colm Toibin’s novel about Thomas Mann may ne based on a solid foundation of fact, but the story takes place mainly inside the consciousness of the protagonist as Toibin imagiines it.Toibin imagines a role for the reader, too, I believe: that of empathetic observer of a character who, at times, may seem naive (wondering whether Hitler would really come to power) or frightened (deciding to marry a woman so as to avoid the secret life of a man who desires other men) or preoccupied (sometimes privileging his work over the emotional needs of his children in order to get the next novel done). This interior vision humanizes the character, makes his life journey fascinating, and encourages this reader to think I should read Mann’s novel about his favorite writer (Goethe): Lotte in Weimar!

I disagree with reviewers who state that this is more a family saga than an in-depth study of a man. For Mann, his family seemed to be his entire world, once he emerged from his daily dedication to work. The scenes with his siblings, then later his children serve to illuminate his nature. The exploration of his sexual desires was perfectly judged and certainly wasn’t excessive – it seemed sad that he had to repress himself throughout life but that was his decision and reflected in the lives of three of his children.What I most particularly relished in this novel was the light shone on the politics of the various epochs Mann lived through and sought to understand enough to make public comment on. As one character informed him, he was damned either way. Many passages had me setting down the book and thinking, Toibin seems to be subtly offering us guidance for our own difficult times.
A tour de force of literary fiction.Of course it’s not going to be a source of excitement… It’s a journey through the life of a man of powerful intellect and imagination, and the vehicle is his own mind. The story gathers momentum as it continues, somehow avoiding stretches of lifeless prose. As WWII threatens and then unfolds in its hideousness, the story becomes still more engaging, while the chapters devoted to Mann’s last years are especially moving. Well, at least to me…

 

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