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Man of Straw

(Das Kaiserreich #1)

3.80  ·  Rating details ·  3,075 ratings  ·  76 reviews
First published in 1918, "Man of Straw" is a sharp indictment of the Wilhelmine regime and a chilling warning against the joint elevation of militarism and commercial values. The "Man of Straw" is Diederich Hessling, embodiment of the corrupt society in which he moves; his brutish progression through life forms the central theme of the book.
Paperback, 304 pages
Published November 1st 1992 by Penguin Classics (first published 1918)
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Mar 08, 2020 added it  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Jan-Maat by: Ilse
The Child is father to the Man (view spoiler)

The Untertan (view spoiler)
Jan 18, 2015 rated it it was ok
Shelves: r-r, two-star, goodbye
Man of Straw is the best known novel of German author Heinrich Mann originally published in German under the title "Der Untertan" whatever that means. I'll have to go look it up, but it probably has nothing to do with the words "Man of Straw" because that seems to happen fairly often. It has been translated into English under the titles "Man of Straw", "The Patrioteer", and "The Loyal Subject", and obviously I got the "Man of Straw" copy. Heinrich Mann was a German novelist who wrote works w ...more
Dec 25, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Diederich is Trump, basically, except for the Kaiser-worship. Interesting indeed. Diederich needs the stupid sycophancy to make the rest of his odious character work, whereas Trump doesn't. Otherwise, it's all narcissism, misogyny, greed and moral vacuity.
Jan 09, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: free thinkers
Shelves: politics, literature
review of
Heinrich Mann's Little Superman
by tENTATIVELY, a cONVENIENCE - January 9, 2012

I learned about this author in the course of research for my movie Robopaths. I learned that his bks were burned by the nazis so I decided to read something by him & to check out any movies that might've been based on any bks by him. This lead me to taking Little Superman out from the library as well as the movie The Kaiser's Lackey as well as to my buying a used copy of the novel Man of Straw. &, Lo & Beho
Lucy Barnhouse
Wickedly funny, unflinchingly dark satire. Mann's gift for the telling detail is unerring, and his eye for the tragically absurd is sharp. Among other things, Der Untertan is a delicious parody of the "Bildungsroman," as we follow the protagonist from childhood to maturity and see him become increasingly determined, and increasingly powerful, without becoming less narrow-minded, cowardly, or unconsciously hypocritical. The near-explosive unease of a rigidly structured and rapidly changing societ ...more
Nov 26, 2016 rated it liked it
Man of Straw -- also translated as The Loyal Subject -- is a razor-sharp take-down of the upper middle class buffoons who fervently supported Kaiser Wilhelm --the same type of power-worshipping nativists who later embraced the Third Reich. The subject in question is Diederich Hessling, who spends his college years swilling beer with his frat brothers in their exclusive secret society, the "Neo-Teutons" (ha!), and avoiding any type of intellectual pursuits, while challenging anyone and everyone t ...more
Bill Wallace
Dec 17, 2018 rated it really liked it
Bitter, timeless satire -- it's honestly depressing to imagine how well Diederich Hessling would fare in modern America. Essentially the story of a dedicated follower of authority, especially when it results in profit, the protagonist would be right at home in a MAGA cap instead of the Wilhelmine mustache he affects. Mann is merciless in his portrayal of a man -- and to some degree a society
-- without principles wrapping himself in patriotism and, when it suits, religion while betraying friend
Mar 02, 2015 rated it really liked it
A searing indictment of Wilhelmine Germany. The German title, Der Untertan, translates literally as "The Subject," and it certainly describes the anti-hero of the piece, Diederich Hessling, who professes total, unthinking loyalty to his sovereign, Kaiser Wilhelm II. Hessling worships Power above all things, and if that power can be made to work toward his material advantage, so much the better. He relishes German military might, bemoans democracy, and wants women to concern themselves only with ...more
Jul 13, 2007 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
So, one of my guilty secrets is that I like the work of Heinrich Mann far better than that of his more successful, Nobel-winning brother. (OK: I'll make an exception for "Death in Venice", but doesn't it seem that everything else that Thomas Mann ever wrote - Buddenbrooks, Der Zauberberg, the dreadful "Felix Krull" - would have benefited tremendously by having its length cut in half?)
Henrik Uherkovich
Think someone easy to love and adore - think the exact opposite and you have Diederich Hessling (DH) - anything you despise and loath will be prominent part of his character: self-centred, phony, corny, crawling to the bigwigs and bullying the underlings and convinced being part of an elite of a so called Herrenrasse (master race, later to become nazi ideology)
Now imagine a 500 page biography of a person like that, because in fact the entire plot of this novel is nothing else than telling DH's s
Nov 08, 2018 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
I've no idea how to rate this book. I had to read it for school and hated every minute of it, but not because of the quality of the writing. The book is very well written and transmits the author's ideas very well, in my opinion. But that is precisely why I hated this book so much: the main character, Dietrich, who starts out as a decent human being (which is why his father despises him) gets involved with a fraternity in university, and transforms into the "ideal" man (ie. a moronic, testostero ...more
Oct 08, 2009 rated it really liked it
I would have given this book three and a half stars if I could of. It was a bit slow at times. It was written in 1918. It is the profile of a bougie german who managed to justify doing all sorts of horrible things. And it is a profile of Germany before the wars. Its amazing how little has changed. Still plagued with materialism, militarism, classism, religion, sexism, and reverence for authority. Its like only the fashions have changed in a century.
Elena Sala
Heinrich Mann’s DER UNTERTAN, (sometimes translated as THE LOYAL SUBJECT), was written between 1910 and 1913, and first serialised in a weekly magazine from January 1914 onwards. It was published in book form in 1918.

I stress these dates because this is really a creepy, prophetic novel. This is a book about Germany under the Kaiser, a merciless analysis of German society at the time and of the darker times to come.

Diederich Hessling, the protagonist, is the son of a man who owns a small paper fa
Jul 09, 2015 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: people interested in german history
Recommended to Anna-Lena by: my german teacher
I started this book to prepare for my A-levels (I'm german), because from reviews I gathered it would go very well with the revision I had to do for history (german nationalism in the 19./20. century, imperialism, WWI).

I did not finish it in time but that was not a problem, because the subject of nationalism and power structures in the Wilhelmine era is present from the very first page to the last and characterizes Diederich (glad we do not name our children like that anymore) throughout his lif
Jan 20, 2019 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
An amusing and prescient satire about the rise and cynical maneuvering of a servile proto-fascist in Wilhelminian Germany. At times, as Thomas Mann pointed out, the novel does descend into a “crude satire”, but on the whole, it’s a good source of historical insight into German politics of the time, which can probably be simplified into a battle between the liberalism of ‘48 vs. blood & iron nationalism of ’70 vs. labor movements of the late 19th century.

The book desperately needs a second Engli
The main of this novel is character a despicable man who believes he is always right and follows his blind love for the Kaiser wherever it takes him; breaking old friendships and connections along the way because he is feeling superior to them in all aspects. He's a follower that believes he is a leader and the first Untertan to his Kaiser.
Satirical, exaggerated, and very blatantly non-PC in parts, this is a very enjoyable read- despite or maybe because of a character it is impossible to like.
I read this as part of a course on German history through literature, and it was interesting to see how Germans lived in the late 19th century, as well as alot of the causes of World War I, which isn't taught as well as it ought to be in schools. My one complaint is that it is a long read, and you continually have to think things over since it is not from our era or culture.
Aug 01, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
A fantastic work of German literature. Prophetic, humorous, sharp-witted.

It took me absolute ages to read this but I am nonetheless grateful I persisted (even though there were many times when I got completely lost and didn't understand any references the author was making).
Lewis Weinstein
Feb 26, 2013 marked it as to-read  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: a-research
published in English as "Man of Straw."
Jan 18, 2020 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
First of all, I am aware of the fact that basically everything I am going to criticize about this, was the point of the book. Which makes it even worse in my opinion, because it's not like usually, when I dislike a book because the execution wasn't great. I hated this because everything about it, starting from its premise and intensions, was horrible to me.
Without a doubt, this was my least favorite book that I have read in my entire life.
I would have never picked it up voluntarily, since everyt
It was a year ago that I read an article in "Die Zeit", one of the biggest German weekly newspapers, that talked about books one should have read in their life. One of them is H. Mann's "Der Untertan", so when it was time for me to write up a "wishlist for Santa", a tradition my family doesn't want to stop having until the very last kid in our family has grown up completely, I added it.

The question I ask my past self here is: Why did you do that?
Only because books get recommended, doesn't mean t
Fernando Martinez
That book is actually fantastic.
Mar 12, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
absolutely loved it, no one's surprised
Apr 29, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: classics
A wonderful book full of problems of royal Germany and what will follow.
Rachel Ninnette
Stylistically, it is as dry as could be. The novel moves very slowly and there are virtually no likable characters nor are there interesting plot devices. At times it is quite moralistic, though when considering the subject-matter (the Imperial German society that paved the way for Hitler's bureaucratically realized atrocities), I wonder if such an approach is not uncalled for.
With regard to content, it is a fascinating look at Wilhelmine society as reflected by the impossibly vain, egotistic a
Mar 11, 2016 rated it liked it
Sizzling at times, Mann's literary powers get diluted either by way of a runny translation job (maybe?) or by falling into unnecessary plot tributaries that can only serve as social snapshots of the era.

But still it sizzles with ominous force. The correct prediction of the rise of nationalistic populism in the Weimar Republic is eerie, and unfortunately prescient in these early years of the XXIth century.

The slippery slope that leads to casual procedural shenanigans such as the Wannsee confere
Erjon 7
Aug 16, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Well the first 2 chapters were a perl,Psychological and more like a bildungsroman (reminded me of Thomas Mann style)! but after them the novel take another turn,let's say a political turn.Too much politics!!! if Thomas Mann was a philosophical,existencial and psychological kind of writer Heinrich Mann is more concerned with politics and social problems!Heinrich is a good writer of the Realistic type.
Mark Ott
Jan 28, 2013 rated it really liked it
So far, Diederich is a very interesting contrast of one person. one might even say he is somewhat bi-polar in his actions. Took me a while to find this book as I am reading it under the new title of "The Loyal Subject."
May 17, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I finally managed to finish it. It's a very good book but hard to read since you need to know a lot about the Kaiserreich, so I had trouble getting through it.
But the message about stolen authority was really interesting and I think it's a good book for my exam. I'll have a lot to talk about.
Jan 11, 2009 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: deutsch
Totally repulsive because of the main character, the whole setting makes my skin crawl. But it's a very good study of that era.
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A German novelist who wrote works with social themes whose attacks on the authoritarian and increasingly militaristic nature of post-Weimar German society led to his exile in 1933.

Born in Lübeck as the oldest child of Thomas Johann Heinrich Mann and Júlia da Silva Bruhns. He was the elder brother of Thomas Mann. His father came from a patrician grain merchant family and was a Senator of the Hansea

Other books in the series

Das Kaiserreich (2 books)
  • Die Armen

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