Maxine's Reviews > Doctor Faustus

Doctor Faustus by Thomas Mann
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's review
Apr 26, 11

it was amazing
Read from April 22 to 25, 2011

Thomas Mann's Doctor Faustus is actually three stories told simultaneously: the first, is the biography of composer Adrian Leverkuhn who trades his soul to the devil for 24 years of brilliant music, the second is the story of Germany's own pact with the devil leading to WW II and all its horrors, and the third is about music, an art perfectly suited to reflect the German soul. The story is also told from different timelines.Leverkuhn's story is told from the beginning of the 20th century to his collapse in 1930, the year Hitler comes to power and then his death in 1940, when Germany is enjoying her greatest victories.The narrator , Serenus Zeitblom, begins writing the biography in 1943, when it is apparent that Germany has lost although she continues to fight. Often, Zeitblom, Leverkuhn's lifelong friend and a humanist, breaks from the earlier story to talk about the present war and the impact it is having on Germany. He finishes the book in 1945 when the war is ended and Germany has to face her sins and honour the outcome of her pact with the devil.

At the time Doctor Faustus was written (1947), Mann was living in the United States, having left Germany before the war and spent the war years doing propaganda work for the Allies. The book explains the German psyche which led inevitably to the war. It also reflect's Mann's own sorrow, regret, and horror at what has happened to his beloved country. However, this is not an apologia but a ringing indictment of the German bourgeoisie which, having foreseen what was to come , not only chose to accept it but, in fact, embraced it.

This is not an easy book. In fact, I can honestly say it was one of the hardest I haver read. It is not a book to be read in one sitting but in chunks. I had to stop frequently to think through what Mann was saying, to analyse and digest his words. In many ways, the book played havoc with my emotions: I was variously sympathetic, intrigued, infuriated and horrified by the characters and events. In the end, i felt, with Mann, a sense of overarching sorrow at what Germany had wrought not only to the rest of the world but to herself. This is one of the most brilliant books I have ever read about the insanity of war.
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message 1: by Bahiyyih (new)

Bahiyyih Nakhjavani Thank you for this. I am reading the book now and experiencing every one of these same emotions. What a brilliant and terrifying achievement. You wonder who Mann made his pact with, to be able to write it...

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