German novelist. He left Nazi Germany in 1937 with his brother Thomas Mann and went to the USA. His books include Im Schlaraffenland/In the Land of Cockaigne (1901) and Professor Unrat/The Blue Angel (1904; widely known as a film), depicting the sensual downfall of a schoolteacher. His novels show Germany in its new, vulgar prosperity from the end of the 19th century to the period just before World War I, and his best works were suppressed for a time.
Life He was born into a rich merchant family in Lübeck, spent his youth in France and Italy, and began his career as a writer at an early age. Eventually he became president of the writers' section of the Prussian Academy of Arts, but was expelled by the Nazis 1933. He lived in France until 1940, when he escaped to the USA. By this time he had established an international reputation.
Early works and influences His three novels published under the title Die Göttinnen/The Goddesses 1902–03 were in the same sensuous and romantic vein as Professor Unrat, a work from which the later expressionist writers drew much of their inspiration. Mann's nationalism and merciless analysis based on sound documentation have led to comparisons with the French novelist Emile Zola; other influences were the short-story writer Guy de Maupassant and the Italian writer Gabriele D'Annunzio. Mann is in turn the acknowledged master of Jakob Wassermann and Lion Feuchtwanger.
Mature works Mann made himself above all the novelist of the German middle classes. Perhaps his greatest work is the scathing trilogy Das Kaiserreich/The Empire, in which he seeks to paint a vast fresco of German life under Kaiser Wilhelm II: Die Armen 1917 portrays the proletariat; Der Untertan 1918 the bourgeoisie; and Der Kopf 1925 the governing class. His social criticism and psychological insight also found masterly expression in the novel Die kleine Stadt/The Little Town 1909, a romantic story of a band of actors visiting an Italian town. Other works include Mutter Marie/Mother Mary 1927, Eugénie oder die Bürgerzeit/The Royal Woman 1928, and Ein ernstes Leben/The Hill of Lies 1932.
Later works His long historical novels on the life of Henry IV of France – Die Jugend des Königs Henri Quatre/Young Henry of Navarre 1935 and Die Vollendung des Königs Henri Quatre/Henry, King of France 1938 – are ambitious studies of human greatness, but show a decline in artistic standards.
Non-fiction Mann's miscellaneous writings include essays on French literature and political writings against the Nazi regime. He also wrote his autobiography, Ein Zeitalter wird besichtigt/Review of an Age 1945–46.