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In 1933 the prominent author and political activist Heinrich Mann and his partner Nelly Kroeger were forced to flee Germany finding refuge in France and later I ve read any number of fictionalized biographies about Henry James Friedrich Nietzsche etc that I have uite enjoyed This book doesn t know whether it is a novel or a biography though it calls itself a biography and so doesn t truly succeed at either I don t get any real sense of Emma or Heinrich as people Sentences like this In 1919 Emmy Johanna Kroger responded to the future as birds reply to light with song tell me about the author than about the subject If you want to have an omniscient narrator have the courage of your convictions and write a novel about your real life characterThe author s favorite word is imagine and favorite phrase is might have If Madame Bovary had fallen into her hands I imagine what she would have loved most was its intimacy 91 She had a flair for fashion and I imagine her studying trends 207 She might even have made felt hats for Heinrich 207 She might have remembered a red pair of gloves she once owned 210 Thomas received another visit from the FBI you could imagine them saying Let s drop in on the Manns we re sure to be offered a good cup of coffee and some delicious cake with whipped cream 341Do you see the problem She has extended fantasies of this is how it might have been but I have no proof of it as in these extended wanderings of the author s imagination Perhaps she taught herself English listening for snippets of it repeating random phrases she had caught gone with the wind certainly not joe di maggio is a new york yankee over and over again in the street entering rue Rossini and crossing the marble mosaic floor of the entrance hall then in the lift looking out from the wrought iron balcony cooking a phrasebook propped up against a bowl as a text mixing the ingredients for plum pudding from an English cookbook she d found 205 She had a flair for fashion and I imagine her studying trends head shapes prices wearing her latest creations in cafes restaurants casinos and on the Promenade des Anglais If someone admired her hat she would produce her business card wait for a phone call and then receive or visit her new client for a measurement the down payment would always have been welcome For herself she favored the bandeau or turban but for others she must have created cartwheels and cloches pillboxes and hybrid cocktail hats to be worn couettishly She might even have made felt hats for Heinrich blocked into shape sanded brushed lined with silk his name embroidered on the inside rim Millinery is mainly handwork and so perhaps this is how they spent the best days of their French exile she stitching he writing the space between them filled with birdsong 207 a button popped off the d colletage of Nelly s red velvet dress to reveal the splendid contours of her lacy bra I like to think that the little red velvet button described a perfect arc across the table and landed right on top of Thomas Mann s Charlotte surprise 302 This last uote brings me to my next problem with the book her repetitive and biased portrayal of Thomas Mann Almost all we learn of him is the list of drugs he had to take to sleep repeated over and over with variations that he had a silk bedcover it makes an appearance I don t know how many times presumably to show how self indulgent and self involved he was and how fond of fame he was and how jealous he was of any success of Heinrich s Here is bias combined with speculation Received a letter from Willi Munzenberg supported by the novelist Romain Rolland again regarding Heinrich s nomination for the Nobel Prize Did he toss it in the bin 217Here is bias combined with a weird omniscient narrator did she get this from diaries from letters by friends Who knows but the omniscient narrator Thomas was often recognized in public He enjoyed being told that he was famous 320Thirdly the weird flights into Virginia Woolf land just don t make sense Perhaps if it were a Dos Passos style montage novel it would have All in all I think the author should just write a novel call it a novel and call it a day

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House of Exile

Crossing paths with the likes of Joyce Brecht Kafka Schwitters and Woolf House of Exile is a uniue work pioneering a new literary form the collective biograph An unusual biography as it follows the lives of two literary brothers Heinrich and Thomas Mann The former I have never heard of But many years ago I can remember ploughing through a copy of Thomas s Magic Mountain There are a number of subsidiary characters including Virginia Woolf and Lion Feuchtwangler That name meant something as I can remember that as an adolescent a translation of his Jue Suss sat on the shelves of my local library I did wonder what it was all about but never borrowed it to find out Nor did anyone else it seemed as I recollect it stood for many years unmoving There are many other characters as the book deals in the main with the response by the Mann brothers and many of their friends to the rise of Hitler and Nazism Heinrich lived in France until about 1940 while Thomas was in the USA and was eventually granted citizenship Heinrich and others crossed the Pyrenees on foot when Vichy France started handing over wanted individuals to the Gestapo By that time Heinrich was in his 60s and the crossing was an ordeal in itself Eventually he escaped to the USA together with his much younger wife Nelly Kroeger Things were not easy in the USA for emigres from fascism Heinrich was under constant surveillance by the FBI because of his left wing views The book is a fascinating view on the lives of those escaping Hitler much of which I was unaware of There are distressing passages when we read that one friend and another had been killed in concentration camps Much of the book reads like a diary with short sometimes unconnected sentences and hopping from character to character Sometimes it is difficult for a non German speaker to remember all the names but do not let that put you off

Evelyn Juers ✓ 9 Free read

In great despair Los Angeles There Nelly committed suicide in 1944 and Heinrich dies in 1950 Prior to their death they formed a uniue cliue of friends in exile Ambitious by turns captivating and exasperating this sprawling book is like an enormous photomontage that popular German art form of the 1920s made up of textual mosaics from newspaper articles diary entries letters novels or on occasion FBI files These bits words phrases entire paragraphs are usually unattributed and range from notes about literature and publishing to medication pets shopping for and preparing food Juers also mines the writing of non German writers including Virginia Woolf and James Joyce to contextualize the time and the refugees situation Both style and content are arresting and Juers has mined sources unavailable to the average English speaking reader But House of Exiles is a problematic work of biography and had I not been reviewing it I would have put it down long before the ending I was in the end glad to have plowed on The work is a reuiem for a lost generation of German artists musicians and writers and those that lived for them


10 thoughts on “House of Exile

  1. says:

    This is an interesting and mainly well written biography of Heinrich Mann Thomas Mann's brother and his wife Nelly Kroeger

  2. says:

    I’ve read any number of fictionalized biographies—about Henry James Friedrich Nietzsche etc—that I have uite enjoyed

  3. says:

    I received a copy of this book through First Reads and I was excited to get my hands on it as the description sounded so interesting Sadly the book doesn't live up to its promise It claims to be biography but if it is it's biography seen through a kaleidoscope dimly The author describes it as 'a collective biography set in an age of fragment

  4. says:

    Ambitious by turns captivating and exasperating this sprawling book is like an enormous photomontage – that popular German art form of the 1920s – made up of textual mosaics from newspaper articles diary entries letter

  5. says:

    Well researched Constructed in a most unusual manner with disparate passages long list of the names of European

  6. says:

    Haven't received my copy yet just received notice I had won 41612Receive my copy last night and can't wait to get started I will have to wait a little bit I have 8 others plus my current read in front 5212Started last night 6712Finally finished 61912Blurb from GoodReads In 1933 the author and political activist Heinrich Mann and his partner Nelly Kroeger fled Nazi Germany finding refuge first in the south of France and later in great despai

  7. says:

    Interesting device juxtaposing contemporaneous writers Woolf Gide with the Manns

  8. says:

    As rich and dense as wedding cake and just as hard to digest in anything than the smallest portions House of Exile is acc

  9. says:

    An unusual biography as it follows the lives of two literary brothers Heinrich and Thomas Mann The former I have never heard of But many years ago I can remember ploughing through a copy of Thomas's Magic Mountain There are a number of subsidiary characters including Virginia Woolf and Lion Feuchtwangler That name meant so

  10. says:

    I bought House of Exile when it was shortlisted for the 2009 Prime Minister’s Award for Non Fiction not knowing anything about its subject matter except that it was indirectly something to do with Thomas Mann He is one of those writers I’ve heard of but never got round to reading It turns out that he was the brother o