Cursed Legacy


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The Tragic Life of Klaus Mann

Frederic Spotts

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Son of the famous Thomas Mann, homosexual, drug-addicted, and forced to flee from his fatherland, the gifted writer Klaus Mann’s comparatively short life was as artistically productive as it was devastatingly dislocated. Best-known today as the author of Mephisto, the literary enfant terrible of the Weimar era produced seven novels, a dozen plays, four biographies, and three autobiographies—among them the first works in Germany to tackle gay issues—amidst a prodigious artistic output. He was among the first to take up his pen against the Nazis, as a reward for which he was blacklisted and denounced as a dangerous half-Jew, his books burnt in public squares around Germany, and his citizenship revoked. Having served with the U.S. military in Italy, he was nevertheless undone by anti-Communist fanatics in Cold War-era America and Germany, dying in France (though not, as all other books contend, by his own hand) at age forty-two.

Powerful, revealing, and compulsively readable, this first English-language biography of Klaus Mann charts the effects of reactionary politics on art and literature and tells the moving story of a supreme talent destroyed by personal circumstance and the seismic events of the twentieth century.

Frederic Spotts is an independent scholar who has written widely on cultural topics and on German and Italian politics. He is the author of Hitler and the Power of Aesthetics, among other books, and is the editor of the letters of Leonard Woolf. He lives in France.

“An immensely resonant biography of one of the twentieth century’s unsung warriors. Klaus Mann was the first person to link racism and fascism with homophobia, thereby earning the hatred of both the left and right. His private history was equally astonishing, a family drama worthy of its own myth. He shared the sexual inclination of his father, Europe’s most famous writer, but what Thomas Mann could only express in brilliantly guarded prose, his son lived openly and with great heroism. Frederic Spotts’ indispensable book will make you rejoice, and also break your heart.”—Anthony Heilbut, author of Thomas Mann: Eros and Literature and The Fan Who Knew Too Much: The Secret Closets of American Culture

Cursed Legacy is an accessible and compelling account of a figure once described as the spokesman for a younger generation. A German whose experiences transformed him into a European, Klaus Mann’s intellectual trajectory—as masterfully portrayed by Frederic Spotts—is at once fascinating and tragic. And all the time, in the background, there looms the brooding figure of the oppressive father, Thomas Mann.”—Paul Bishop, author of Carl Jung

“This absorbing biography draws a three-dimensional picture of the life of Klaus Mann, novelist, playwright, essayist, gay rights advocate, and seemingly the unluckiest man of letters in the years around WWII.”—Publishers Weekly

“Frederic Spotts’s account of the man is both clear-eyed and thoughtful.”—New Statesman

“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 well-being 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.”—Stoddard Martin, Literary Review

“Humane and deeply tragic. . . . The book is a sparkling tribute to Spotts’ brilliance.”—Richard Edmonds, Hiskind

“Spotts writes with humor and style, and a great admiration for his subject, which makes this biography valuable for literary historians but also quite accessible to the general reader.”—Jewish Book Council

“Deftly handling a story ripe with psychological and cultural meaning, Spotts paints Mann as a hero, waging a war for truth, liberty, and self-determination.”—New Yorker

“Like all the finest biographers, Spotts brings history to life. He enables the reader to grasp the deep anxieties experienced by someone whose political convictions threatened his professional livelihood. . . .  Above all he tells the heart-breaking story of an intellectual who stood up for his beliefs in dark times and paid a highly personal price for his politics.”—Anna Katharina Schaffner, TLS

“Delving into numerous aspects of Klaus’ life . . . Spotts offers a keen insight into the struggles of a young man who wanted nothing more than to make a name for himself in the literary world.”—Stephanie E. Libbon, Gay & Lesbian Review

Finalist for the Lambda Literary Awards in the Gay Memoir/Biography category.
ISBN: 9780300218008
Publication Date: April 26, 2016
352 pages, 6 1/8 x 9 1/4
16 b/w illus.

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