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4.02  ·  Rating details ·  3,924 ratings  ·  180 reviews
Klaus Mann - Thomas Mann’s son - wrote MEPHISTO while living in exile from the Germany of World War II. In it he captures the Isherwood-like atmosphere of Nazi Germany while telling a satiric story about the rise to power of one man - a thinly veiled caricature of his own brother-in-law. The man is Hendrik Hofgen, a character actor who in his own life plays a bizarre part ...more
Paperback, 272 pages
Published December 7th 1995 by Penguin Classics (first published 1936)
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Average rating 4.02  · 
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 ·  3,924 ratings  ·  180 reviews

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Ahmad Sharabiani
Mephisto, Klaus Mann (1906 - 1949)

Mephisto – Novel of a Career is the sixth novel by Klaus Mann, which was published in 1936 whilst he was in exile in Amsterdam. It was published for the first time in Germany in the East Berlin Aufbau-Verlag in 1956.

This novel (a thinly disguised portrait of the actor Gustaf Gründgens), the Tchaikovsky novel Symphonie Pathétique and the emigrant novel Der Vulkan are Klaus Mann's three most famous novels. An award-winning 1981 movie was based on Mann's novel.

Jul 19, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: reviewed
I greatly underestimated this book. It's been sitting on my shelf unread for well over ten years. Now I really wish I had read it much earlier.

Klaus Mann had a talent for writing satire, and even just reading the first chapter of Mephisto leaves no question about why Mann had to emigrate and why the book was published in the Netherlands and elsewhere in 1936 but remained unpublished in Germany until much later - 1956 (in East Germany). In 1966 Mephisto became the object of a law suit that would
The appalling fall of Heinz Höfgen, or Hendrik Höfgen as he would have it, as he rises to the highest spheres of the IIIrd Reich. Mephisto gives a harrowing account on how the theatre actor debases himself and all he holds dear for the sake of fame and career.

As you begin reading the book, you can find it daring to open with a scene that could definitely close the book, the first chapter displaying the glaring falseness cementing the regime and the firm position Höfgen has managed to secure for
Constantinos Capetanakis
Jul 06, 2020 rated it really liked it
More like 4 1/2 stars. A powerful book, an exceptional film, an overlooked for long literary work.
lark benobi
Without a doubt the prose in this translated novel goes clunkety-clunk and sometimes stops altogether in a flurry of authorial interference on the page, written to make sure that I as a reader know what to think. But once i put all these objections in a box, what I'm left with is an extraordinary work, to be sure more historical artifact than novel, that captures a culture at the tipping point of losing its soul.

The metaphorical layers are perfect to the historic moment. It might at first feel
Would we make the same deal with the devil knowing what we know now about the Third Reich in order to have some luxury? Knowing what people are most people would. To gain everything and to lose your soul. Sacrifice for moral reasons is something we like saying but rarely do . The main character in Mephisto Hendrik Hofgen, knows what kinds of people that the Third Reich are but, make selfish justifications for his entanglement with the far right. Hendrik loses his wife, mistress, his friends from ...more
Feb 27, 2010 rated it liked it
Klaus Mann based his portrayal of the everyman evil that was responsible for the ease with which National Socialism seized control of everything German upon his brother-in-law, the actor Gustav Gründgens. Written during Mann's political exile in Czechoslovakia, Mephisto is a withering literary accusation blasted at the commonplace moral capitulation that enveloped German society in the early thirties and allowed itself to be stirred to a fever pitch of aggression.

Gründgens, thinly disguised in t
Christopher Saunders
Klaus Mann’s notorious 1936 novel about Hendrik Höfgen, a German actor who collaborates with the Nazis to advance his career. It’s a thinly disguised roman-a-clef for Gustaf Gründgens, head of the Prussian National Theater under Hitler through the patronage of Hermann Göring, who loved his portrayal of Mephistopheles in Goethe’s Faust. Mann (son of Thomas Mann) was Gründgens’ brother-in-law and, it’s claimed, his ex-lover; thus there’s a personal undertow to his satire of fascist conformity. (Gr ...more
Some of the most fascinating books I've read recently have been criticisms of 1930's era Germany, written before any countries were invaded or any insidious "Solutions" adopted as official state doctrine. Mephisto is a particularly scathing novel published in 1936 by Klaus Mann, the son of the celebrated Thomas Mann, after he was exiled to Amsterdam for...well, pretty much everything about the man demanded immediate exile by the regime. (For the record, he soon emigrated to the US where he joine ...more
Dec 31, 2011 rated it it was amazing
The title is a clue: the lead character, Hendrik Hofgren (with a "d" to make it distinctive, we learn early on that even his name is a lie and a part of his determined path upward) must choose between his integrity and his career.

It's the early 1930s. Hendrik is the lead actor in a small provincial theater in Germany. From barely a bourgeois (closer to a working class) background, he is determined to become a successful actor. This is the early 1930s: Hitler is about to come to power. Hendrik is
Mar 05, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favourites
Completely amazing. Maybe the best European novel about the rise of fascism in the 30s?
Philippe Malzieu
Apr 10, 2014 rated it liked it
In the good middle-class families, it was the kind of thing that we hid. And more, there was a very strong paternal image Thomas Mann, the statute of the commander. He made shade to his brother Heinrich, he crushed his son, Klaus. This one moreover was gay.
Klaus fought the Nazis in American army. He is committed suicide of despair in 1949.
I would ever have known him without the cinema. "Méphisto" is a Hungarian film of Isvan Szabo. I had seen it because Méphisto was played by Klaus-Maria Brandau
Nov 09, 2009 rated it really liked it
The dark and salutory tale of Hendrik Hofgen, an obsessive actor in pre-war Berlin who, when the Nazis come to power and his friends opt for resistance or flight, chooses to ingratiate himself with Goering when the latter enthuses over his performace as Mephistopholes in Faust. He is sucked into a corrupt and self-destructive world and realises too late that he himself has effectively sold his soul to the Devil. I read this after watching the German movie of the same name starring Klaus Maria Br ...more
Mephisto takes us deep into the mind of a cowardly, scheming, narcissistic, cruel, insecure, corrupt man. If you don’t want to spend time steeped in the perspective of a character like that, I totally understand, but I found I enjoyed it quite a bit—Mann both understands his main character but also so ruthlessly despises him that the effect is pretty interesting.

So who is this man? Hendrik Höfgen, smalltime actor turned Director of State Theatre, based on Klaus Mann’s brother-in-law. We watch hi
Rosemary Standeven
Jul 10, 2020 rated it it was amazing
One of my all time favourite books - I read it in German, and was going to write my thesis on it at university. The film is also amazing
Fie Sejr Ravn Jensen
Mar 28, 2018 rated it really liked it
Wow, this was a powerful read. Lately, I've been quite interested in the Weimar Republic & the days of the rise of nazism. It's so scary to read about, but it's also an interesting look into the very darkest parts of the human soul. This novel is above all a novel about power hunger & how you will sacrifice absolutely everything to stay on top - your dignity, your friends, your pride, your art & above all yourself. I cannot recommend this enough! The only reason for this not getting the last sta ...more
Stephen Durrant
Nov 16, 2020 rated it really liked it
A superb character study of a man without much character at all. Hendrik Hofgren is an actor of uneven talents, who becomes most famous on the stage for his portrayal of Goethe’s Mephisto. His political views are vague, and his sense of who he really is quite unstable—precisely the sort of person to somehow get caught up and ultimately to be made miserable by the treacherous political winds surrounding the early rise of Hitler. He identifies initially as a Communist but then slowly, perhaps inev ...more
Max Eastern
Mar 11, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Brilliant first chapter.
Feb 20, 2009 rated it liked it
Read for my book club; had seen the movie when it first came out (early 80s). I thought it was compelling with a well-paced story, but I didn't think the writing was particularly strong (though it might have been the translation). The characters were really well-drawn and though I had a sense of dread as the lead character shape-shifted to suit the politics of the time, I read along with a slight detachment. ...more
Sep 03, 2014 rated it it was amazing

An incredible spectacle of betrayal of self and the feeding of evil by simply dancing in its company. Mephisto is one of the few books that taps the human soul in a way that left me crying after putting the book down. The images are haunting and the almost glow in your mind after finish even a chapter.
Richard Thompson
Apr 10, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Mephistopheles is the devil, but here the reference is to the Mephistopheles of Goethe's Faust who is much more than a standard devil. In Goethe's hands, Mephistopheles is of course evil, but he is also smart, creative, witty, skeptical and charismatic. This is why Faust's Mephistopheles is the career and character defining role for the actor Hendrik Hofgen. Hofgen is charming and talented so despite his many serisous character flaws, he remains likeable until he finally gives in to his worst im ...more
Kobe Bryant
Oct 17, 2019 rated it liked it
I can't tell if its a rough translation or its not that good, but the concept is cool ...more
Tim Mitchell
Oct 17, 2016 rated it liked it
I first read Mephisto in the 1980s as part of my history degree and it's a book whose historical context remains greater than its literary value (hence the three star rating). As a published author, Klaus Mann is a relatively minor figure and Mephisto by far his best known work.

The plot features an actor, Hendrik Höfgen and his progress from provincial German theatre in the mid-20s to fame and popularity under the Nazi regime. To achieve this, he apparently sheds both his original ideals (eg hi
Ronald Morton
Feb 09, 2013 rated it really liked it
Shelves: german
Earlier this year I finally read Thomas Mann’s Doctor Faustus and was surprised when I came across this that his son had done a re-working of Faustus the decade before his dad wrote his. So, as I loved Doctor Faustus, I figured I give this a read and see how they compare. The short – and kind of oversimplified – answer is that they don’t compare favorably, mostly because it’s unfair to compare them at all.

I mean, they do, in many ways. Both are retellings of the Faust myth (the spoiler is super
Kimmo Sinivuori
Dec 17, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Klaus Mann’s Mephisto is one of the greatest novels of the 20th Century. It is a satire on par with Jonathan Swift’s Modest Proposal, it is a novel of great style on par with F. Scott Fitzgerald’s Great Gatsby and it is a tragedy above anything I’ve ever read.

Klaus Mann tells the story of a talented actor Hendrik Höfgren from his days in Hamburg during the Weimar Republic to becoming a Senator and the head of the State Theatre during the Nazi reign. Höfgren’s character was based on Gustaf Gründg
Jo Ann
Oct 18, 2007 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for:
Klauss Mann is Thomas Mann's son.Thomas Mann wrote Death in Venice,Tristan,Magic Mountain & Dr. Faustus. The apple doesn't fall far from the tree.
I love books about moral choice. Although I haven't picked this up since 1996, it is one of my favorite books.
How easily some learn to embrace what they once abhorred when it effects them personally.
Written in 1937 Mephisto gives a view of the rise of the Nazis before the subsequent Nazi mythology grew after the war.
It is a portrait of Mann's brother-i
Feb 19, 2012 rated it it was amazing
It's not that hard to understand why this book had to be published outside Germany and why it was banned by the Nazis. After all, it gives no flattering view on the rise to power by the brownshirts and the way people switched sides for their own benefit. Klaus Mann uses the carreer of Hendrik Höfgen and his blatant opportunism to describe the way people were willing to go along with the nazis just to make fame and fortune. Throughout the story the main protagonist has some inner, moral struggles ...more
May 07, 2008 rated it really liked it
Fascinating read, the Big Issues neatly weaved with the inter-texts. I felt it a bit structurally flawed -- maybe I just mean too predictable -- but really insightful. I think there's much more to the central character than the narrative presents; when the narrative steers towards presenting Hendrick as a cliché, a case study in the sort of lost soul that would sell himself to the Nazi regime, I think it seems to at the same time present something more than that.

Not to mention, I was shocked at
Jan 20, 2009 rated it really liked it
Very good book presenting a man making a career in diffcult time of Nazi rule in Germany in 1930s. It shows an artist that had to make a choice - accept the Nazi doctrine to keep the position on stage. Hendrik Höfgen becomes a character similiar to Dr Faustus from Thomas Mann's book Doktor Faustus (published in 1947 - 2 years before Thomas Mann's son, Klaus, commited suicide). ...more
Sabrina Chap
Jul 26, 2009 rated it liked it
I think the story behind this semi-biographic novel is more compelling than the story told here. I'm not sure if this is the translation's problem or not- I would damn well make sure I read a good translation of this- I read the edition of the book pictured. I feel that the author stumbled upon a great real life situation to test moral boundaries against, but this journey is detailed much better in the novel, 'I Served the King of England" by Bohumil Hrabal, a Czech writer detailing the same tur ...more
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Son of Thomas Mann, author of The Magic Mountain. In 1930s Klaus had to leave Germany because of Nazi regime. He wrote Mephisto and scandal around this book made him famous after his death.
Klaus Mann died in Cannes overdosing sleeping pills.

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101 likes · 17 comments
“„Der Propagandaminister -- Herr über das geistige Leben eines Millionenvolkes -- humpelte behende durch die glänzende Menge, die sich vor ihm verneigte. Eine eisige Luft schien zu wehen, wo er vorbeiging. Es war, als sei eine böse, gefährliche, einsame und grausame Gottheit herniedergestiegen in den ordinären Trubel genusssüchtiger, feiger und erbärmlicher Sterblicher. Einige Sekunden lang war die ganze Gesellschaft wie gelähmt vor Entsetzen. Die Tanzenden erstarrten mitten in ihrer anmutigen Pose, und ihr scheuer Blick hing, zugleich demütig und hassvoll, an dem gefürchteten Zwerg. Der versuchte durch ein charmantes Lächeln, welches seinen mageren, scharfen Mund bis zu den Ohren hinaufzerrte, die schauerliche Wirkung, die von ihm ausging, ein wenig zu mildern; er gab sich Mühe, zu bezaubern, zu versöhnen und seine tief liegenden, schlauen Augen freundlich blicken zu lassen. Seinen Klumpfuß graziös hinter sich her ziehend, eilte er gewandt durch den Festsaal und zeigte dieser Gesellschaft von zweitausend Sklaven, Mitläufern, Betrügern, Betrogenen und Narren sein falsches, bedeutendes Raubvogelprofil.” 3 likes
“The worst will happen. Think of me, children, when that day comes. I have foreseen it and predicted it. Our age is corrupt. It stinks. Think of me - I smelled it out. I am not deceived. I sense the coming catastrophe. It will be like nothing that has ever happened. Everything will be swallowed up, which will be no loss-except in my case. Everything that exists will fall apart. It is rotten. I have sensed it, tasted it and cast it away from me. When it comes, it will bury us all. I pity you children, for you will not be able to live your lives. Whereas I have had a beautiful life” 2 likes
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