The Magician: A Novel (Paperback)
The theater in which The Magician is set is global, its historical backdrop that of two world wars and the Cold War that followed, but it is the moving currents of culture, swirling and eddying their way through the forward flow of that (chillingly timely) history which provide such fascinating context for the world-famous German novelist Thomas Mann. His family, moths to the light of his bright-burning flame, illuminate the man and his time—not to mention his work—with haunting clarity, as do the characters who inhabit his novels, from those of the brilliant multigenerational Buddenbrooks to The Magic Mountain, Doctor Faustus to Death in Venice to The Confessions of Felix Krull, Confidence Man. Like Felix Krull, Tóibín’s Mann is a trickster of sorts, brave enough to buck authority but not public currents, ever in hiding, never able to live freely—sexually, personally or professionally. Not many people (except perhaps Felix Krull) would have the sheer guts, the ruthless knowledge or intuitive understanding to not only imagine the interior world of one of the world’s great novelists, conjure his milieu, but also to (selectively) birth his novels, one after another. It’s an endeavor even more breathtaking than was The Master, brilliant on so many levels that it creates from the clay of a great author’s life a kaleidoscopic, riveting tale of any artist’s riven nature, torn as so many are by the desire to fit in and the inability to do so, the ability to at once see and be blind, love and use that love cold-bloodedly. In short, the ambiguity and anguish inherent in any creative soul.— From Betsy Burton
Named a Best Book of the Year by The Washington Post, NPR, Vogue, The Wall Street Journal, and Bloomberg Businessweek
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 that is “a feat of literary sorcery in its own right” (Oprah Daily).
The Magician 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 this “exquisitely sensitive” (The Wall Street Journal) novel, Tóibín has crafted “a complex but empathetic portrayal of a writer in a lifelong battle against his innermost desires, his family, and the tumultuous times they endure” (Time), and “you’ll find yourself savoring every page” (Vogue).
“Marvelously executed and absorbing…”
—Joy Williams, Book Post
"Maximalist in scope but intimate in feeling...”
—Dwight Garner, The New York Times
“A work of huge imaginative sympathy…quite thrilling… an epic story of exile and literary grandeur.”
—Jay Parini, The New York Times Book Review
“An incisive and witty novel that shows what good company the Nobelist and his family might have been… vividly alive…”
—Dennis Drabelle, The Washington Post
“Powerful… The Magician masterfully weaves together Tóibín’s take on Mann’s personal and interior life… a stirring paean to literature and music… a magnificent achievement.”
—Heller McAlpin, The Christian Science Monitor
"Staggering… dazzling… You’ll find yourself savoring every page."
“A complex but empathetic portrayal of a writer in a lifelong battle against his innermost desires, his family and the tumultuous times they endure.”
“An ode to a 20th-century genius and a feat of literary sorcery in its own right.”
“An intimate portrait of Thomas Mann… In The Magician, Tóibín presents a rare view into the making of serious art and, in the process, shows he is a powerful magician himself.”
—Chicago Review of Books
“Compelling… This is an enormously ambitious book, one in which the intimate and the momentous are exquisitely balanced…Tóibín has fashioned an epic.”