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Joseph and His Brothers (Joseph und seine Brüder #1-4)

4.42  ·  Rating Details  ·  1,001 Ratings  ·  79 Reviews
This remarkable new translation of the Nobel Prize-winner’s great masterpiece is a major literary event.

Thomas Mann regarded his monumental retelling of the biblical story of Joseph as his magnum opus. He conceived of the four parts–The Stories of Jacob, Young Joseph, Joseph in Egypt, and Joseph the Provider–as a unified narrative, a “mythological novel” of Joseph’s fall i
Hardcover, 1492 pages
Published May 10th 2005 by Everyman's Library (first published 1943)
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What a truly amazing accomplishment this is, and as I say that it occurs to me that I am referring not just to Mann's writing it, but to my finishing reading it. 1492 pages + introductions, that's my high water mark, the biggest single book I've ever read by a considerable margin. A daunting book, no doubt. It's also beautiful, erudite, enthralling, one of the best books I've read in my lifetime.

Okay, so this is one big damn book. Intimidating, right? A turgid Teutonic trudge through the second
Jun 03, 2014 Lee rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favorites
A six-star masterpiece of authority, erudition, execution, insight, wisdom, relevance, characterization, and epic adventure. Move over, The Magic Mountain -- this one deserves your reputation and readership. Despite 1492 dense "Everyman's Library" pages, this one is much more engaging, moving, thematically hefty, and its incorporation of ancient history and mythology and DETAIL more often boggles than numbs the mind. There's an older translation with more biblical language (see the end of this r ...more
Dec 10, 2013 Jimmy rated it it was amazing
I don't think I've ever read 1500 pages this quickly. The remarkable thing is that it was so easy. The writing pulled me along with a combination of great storytelling, philosophy, history, psychology, humor, character study, politics--basically everything I love mixed together perfectly. At times it felt like an adventure story. At other times like reading the encyclopedia if the encyclopedia were fun to read. Still other times I was moved to tears, my heart aching for these characters and thei ...more
Dec 08, 2015 Aubrey rated it really liked it
Recommended to Aubrey by: Jimmy
For it is good, consoling, and useful that phrases of lamentation from the early days of beleaguered humanity are preserved and lie at the ready, suitable for later and present occasions as if made for them, in order to ease the pain of life to whatever extent words can ease it, so that one may make use of them and join one's suffering with ancient and ever-present pain.
I take religion seriously. My being an atheist doesn't mean I can't recognize the worth of belief's various forms, for w
Erik Graff
Sep 26, 2015 Erik Graff rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: everyone
Recommended to Erik by: no one
Shelves: literature
Having developed a taste for Thomas Mann and a hobby reading modern reworkings of biblical themes, I was quite pleased to obtain a copy of the tetrology, Joseph and His Brothers, during the last semester in college. I was even more pleased during the reading of it.

Mann wrote Joseph during the rise of Nazism in his homeland, finishing it during his North American exile. One wonders how much the political experiences of his life during this period influenced the book with its themes of rejection,
May 24, 2015 Hadrian rated it it was amazing
Deep is the well of the past. Should we not call it bottomless?
-Opening lines

This is the fastest I've ever read 1500 pages. Review to come eventually, if at all.
May 26, 2012 Peter rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Harold Bloom said something to the effect that our capacity to be imaginatively involved in a book is never as great as it is in childhood. I yearn to be as transported as I was listening to my father reading The Chronicles of Narnia and The Lord of the Rings when I was a lad. This book -- I read the Lowe-Porter translation -- is probably the closest I have come in my adult years. It takes the story of Joseph and makes it seem as real and as natural as if it were happening in front of you. This ...more
Sep 15, 2013 Friedrick rated it it was amazing
Shelves: re-read
I've lost count of the number of times I've read Mann's magnum opus. It is enormous, sustaining, and deeply satisfying on scales both immense and minute, no matter how many times you read it. It goes much further than Paradise Lost toward fulfilling Milton's purpose to "justify the ways of God to men." I believe it is the best novel ever written in any language.

There now have been two English translations of this great masterpiece. H.T. Lowe-Porter's was done contemporanously with the four-part
Mircea Lungu
Apr 18, 2012 Mircea Lungu rated it it was amazing
Found the third volume at home. Started to read out of curiosity. Got addicted pretty fast. Mann is a genius. He captures in an incredibly credible way the atmosphere of the egyptean and archaic jewish societies.

The fact that I knew the story did not make me want to read less of it but rather the opposite. In fact I soon discovered that I was reading not to find out what's happening, but rather to find out how things happened...

I must mention that I am reading a romanian translation which is so
Jeff Young
May 31, 2011 Jeff Young rated it it was amazing
This is easily the best, most beautifully written book I've ever read.
It took me three months to digest this gigantic work, 10 to 20 pages a day. So, inevitably notions like "monumental, epic, awesome", come to mind. Thomas Mann has developed the rather short Bible story about Isaac, Jacob and Joseph into 4 books, 1300 pages in total.
It’s the epic strength of the story and also the setting (especially ancient Egypt) that give this book its quality. Mann has written some really moving parts, most of all those about the interaction between Joseph and his father Jac
Mar 01, 2015 Ben rated it it was amazing
Yes, Abram had knowingly shared his high optimism with his family. He was called Abiram, which may have meant "my father is exalted," or, quite rightly and probably, "father of the Exalted." For in some measure Abraham was God's father. He had discovered Him and thought Him into being. Those mighty attributes that he ascribed to Him were surely God's original property, Abram was not their originator. But by recognizing them, teaching them, and realizing them in his own thought, was he not His fa ...more
Dec 01, 2014 Sini rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Bijna iedereen kent Thomas Mann van geniale meesterwerken als “Der Zauberberg”, “Doctor Faustus”, “Der Tod in Venedig”. Maar bijna niemand kent het boek dat hij zelf zag als zijn magnum opus: “Jozef en zijn broers”, een hervertelling van het bekende Bijbelverhaal van 40 bladzijden, dat in Manns handen uitgroeide tot een literair-filosofisch en mythisch epos van ruim 1300 bladzijden. De recente en zeer geprezen Nederlandse vertaling hiervan kwam dan ook als geroepen, en als Mann-junk kocht ik hem ...more
Dec 21, 2013 Sofia rated it it was amazing
And Joseph took an oath of the children of Israel, saying, God will surely visit you, and ye shall carry up my bones from hence
Genesis 50:25

And Moses took the bones of Joseph with him: for he had straitly sworn the children of Israel, saying, God will surely visit you; and ye shall carry up my bones away hence with you
Exodus 13:19

And the bones of Joseph, which the children of Israel brought up out of Egypt, buried they in Shechem, in a parcel of ground which Jacob bought of the sons of H
"Very deep is the well of the past. Should we not call it bottomless?"
With this beginning Thomas Mann creates a monumental novel based on the story of Joseph in Genesis. By the time you have read more than two hundred pages and Joseph is yet to be born you begin to realize just how monumental this novel will be. The good news is that it is worth the time and effort.
Mann sets the story in the 14th century BC and makes Akhenaten the pharaoh who makes Joseph his vice-regent. A dominant topic of th
Lengthy retelling of the Joseph story from the Bible that I borrowed from the University library at the end of term and read outside on benches moving about from one to another trying to catch the sun.

I think I must have missed something about this book, it seemed rather unremarkable and didn't fit in with any other Mann book that I had read. The fraternal rivalries for the father's (apparently rather limited store of) affection seemed to echo Mann's own family dynamic. The idea that Potiphar's
Nick Klagge
Sep 16, 2012 Nick Klagge rated it it was amazing
This is a truly wonderful book. I would be very inclined to recommend it to others, except for the fact that it is almost 1500 pages long. It is divided up into four "books" that are more like the length of a normal novel, and I originally thought that I might read them somewhat separately, taking breaks in between to break it up. But they really aren't stand-alone, and anyway, once I was reading it, I didn't want to stop to read other books. All I can say is that if you are feeling up for a lon ...more
Jun 23, 2010 David rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is some dense prose. Mann really gives his language a biblical feel, though still modernized. It's really thick and can get a little exhausting, but it is also extremely beautiful language. It's an enthralling retelling. Although, I thought this was a story I was pretty familiar with and I come to find out some of what was new to me wasn't even stuff Mann made up. Mann does a great job of seamlessly integrating some of his invention with that of the bible. You could have a game show "Is it ...more
Aug 07, 2015 Rodrigo rated it it was amazing
This is one of the most wonderfull books ever writen, no doubt. The story of the bible is the point of departure for a beautiful analysis of humanity, full of humour and grandeur. The book is big and one has to read it carefully to enjoy it completely. Every sentence is a jewel, every passage is full of simple life elements that wonder and links us to the past to a point were we conclude that being human is a universal experience, independent of time and space. This is all blended in with a care ...more
James Spencer
Feb 02, 2011 James Spencer rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favorites
An incredible achievement! Mann considered this his best work and I agree. While not a quick or easy read, the rhythms carry you along page after page and in my case month after month. I savored the writing while enjoying Mann's extended exegesis on time, myth, story telling, history, religion, belief, etc. etc. What a shame this is not better known although the new translation should help considerably.
Jan 12, 2014 Lobstergirl marked it as want-to-acquire
Shelves: fiction
Saw this big fat Everyman hardcover at the store yesterday and coveted it, but it was $42 or $45 or something like that. With tax, that will be well nigh on $50. Maybe I should just bite the bullet and get it...think of it as four novels...
Bryn Hammond
Jun 22, 2014 Bryn Hammond rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: imagined-fiction
The first two parts were cult material for me and put this book up alongside Dostoyevsky and Moby Dick in my five most significant. Less so once in Egypt. I imagine that is partly me: my mind was ignited by little chapters such as 'The Red One' and 'The Primordial Bleating' where, for want of a way to phrase this, we get positively atavistic; Egypt became more of a conventional historical novel, and besides, I myself loved the tent life, the sheep and wells, and the archaic portions of the Bible ...more
Apr 15, 2013 Mimi rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
A 270 day passionate love affair has come to an end. 270, not 365 days, which is as many times as our hero was able to say good night in different ways. Joseph or Yusuf, son of Jacob, great-great son of Abraham, inherited his good looks from his mother - she who had been as handsome and beautiful as the moon when it is full and as Ishtar's mild star floating gently in the pure ether. And yet' it was not Joseph who took my fancy and sparked my fire as he had with the proud wife of one of Pharao's ...more
Danny Gurska
Mar 05, 2013 Danny Gurska rated it it was amazing
Shelves: 2013
This is an absolute Masterpiece. Mann brings new life to Joseph's story, along with all the other dusty characters of Genesis. Mann teaches us how powerful these stories are when we choose to work with them. This type of intellectual wrestling creates dialogue! It combats fundamentalism and the calcification of ideas. These stories were never intended to be pinned down to ONE TRUE interpretation, and so Thomas Mann takes us readers back to school.

Simply astounding. This work deserves the highest
Tom Brannigan
Nov 24, 2013 Tom Brannigan rated it really liked it
It took me about four weeks to complete the Joseph Tetralogy.....all 1500 pages! I found the whole work wonderous and a joy to read. If anyone is intimidated by the length, don't be. Allow yourself the time to enter Joseph's world. Looking back on it now, I think what Mann does to "flesh-out" Potipher's wife is probably my favorite invention. To get to the heart of what eventually destroys her house hold is a heart breaking story. A great deal of the book is Jacob story as well.
Let’s get the gushing fanboy raving out of the way first – this book only serves to solidify for me that Thomas Mann was one of three greatest writers of the 20th century, a true literary titan. In my opinion it manages to be better than Buddenbrooks: The Decline of a Family, The Magic Mountain, and Doctor Faustus - and, truth be told, I find it amazing that he managed to write a book better than Doctor Faustus. I’ve still not read The Confessions of Felix Krull, Confidence Man: The Early Years ...more
Jan 05, 2015 Lotti rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: gelezen-in-2015
Sini heeft een uitgebreide en perfecte recensie over dit geweldige en omvangrijke boek geschreven. Door hem ben ik ertoe aangezet om dit boek te lezen, al heb ik dat dan niet in het Nederlands, maar in het Duits gedaan.
Ik kan alleen maar toevoegen dat ik er enorm van heb genoten zowel wat taal en inhoud betreft. Ik ben geen bijbelkenner, maar heb wel het een en ander meegekregen in mijn opvoeding. Regelmatig had ik dan ook een soort Aha-Erlebnis in de zin van: daar heb ik wel eens van gehoord e
Marilyn Thornton
Jan 02, 2008 Marilyn Thornton rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: someone with a lot of time to read
I'm only through with Part 1, so can't give a thorough recommendation. I was given this book as a Christmas gift because I happened to mention to a gentleman at my church that my favorite Old Testament story was that of Joseph, the favored son of Jacob. He recommended the Mann book to me and then surprised me with a hardbound copy of the book. While I wouldn't likely have bought it or even otherwise read it (because of its length), I'm enjoying the highly detailed account Mann's imagination draw ...more
Lawrence Cahoon

It's a heavy tome, at almost 1500 pages. But it's really an essay (about 200 pages) and 4 novels that are published in one volume, so 5 separate literary works. The opening essay (sometimes called a Preface, sometimes a Prelude) is called the Descent into Hell but it isn't anything like Dante's Divine Comedy - no one bribes a ferryman, we're not shown any souls in torment. What Mann does is describe how incredibly far back in the past the story takes place, and how much farther back the tales th

Edward Jawer
Jan 22, 2016 Edward Jawer rated it it was amazing
Of Thomas Mann's great works, both "The Magic Mountain", and "Buddenbrooks", are so famous and overwhelming, that his four part novel, "Joseph and His Brothers" is often passed over by the force of the first two.

Written over the course of sixteen years, Mann often considered it his best work. From the very first sentence: "Very deep is the well of the past, should we not call it bottomless?'", Mann recreates the story of Joseph, from his boyhood, his sale by his brothers into slavery, and his ri
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Librarian Note: There is more than one author in the GoodReads database with this name. See this thread for more information.

Thomas Mann was a German novelist, short story writer, social critic, philanthropist, essayist, and 1929 Nobel Prize laureate, known for his series of highly symbolic and ironic epic novels and novellas, noted for their insight into the psychology of the artist and the intel
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Other Books in the Series

Joseph und seine Brüder (4 books)
  • Tales Of Jacob
  • Young Joseph
  • Joseph In Egypt
  • Joseph, der Ernährer

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“Umreti, to, naravno, znači izgubiti vreme i otići iz njega, ali to ujedno znači steći večnost i trajnu sadašnjost, a to znači pravi život. Jer suština života je sadašnjost i njegova tajna predočava se samo na mitski način, u vremenskim formama prošlosti i budućnosti.

Ni lepota nikad nije savršena, te baš zbog toga i podstiče sujetu.

Kome je mnogo dato, tome može mnogo i da uzme. Ako me Gospod učini bogatim, on može i da me pretvori u zemni prah i da me učini siromahom poput nekog pogorelca; jer njegova ćud je silna i mi nismo u stanju da spoznamo puteve njegove pravednosti.

Gledao sam gore, to zacelo stoji! Posmatrao sam kako svetlost zrači, kako veličanstveno promiče, i moje su se ognjenim sunčevim strelama pozleđene oči krepile na blagom sjaju noćne zvezde.

Ja može svako da kaže, ali ko to kaže, to je bitno.


Čovek mora da vodi računa čime će se ukrasiti, mora da pripazi da se ne odluči za ono što mu ne pristaje.

Videti ne znači imati. Ali videti znači hteti imati.

Ili je život opsena, ili je lepota opsena. Nećeš oboje naći sjedinjeno u stvarnosti.”
“(...) już jesteś głupi, że zmiłuj się Boże, głupi jak osioł, człowiek chciałby złoić ci skórę, a twoje myśli chodzą na czworakach z wywieszonym jęzorem (...)” 1 likes
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