Klaus Mann – A European-American Author

by Chiara Marotta (Author)
©2019 Monographs 330 Pages


Klaus Mann (1906-1949) was a prolific author who engaged in constantly different fields, from journalism to novels, plays and autobiographies. An exile in the United States, he had to reinvent himself as an Anglophone author.
This publication sets out to present a new portrait of Klaus Mann as a cultural mediator between Europe and America, starting from his own definition of himself as an American author of European tradition and cosmopolitan mentality. It primarily focuses on his lesser-known and unpublished works, including his second attempt at an exile journal, Decision, his American and German autobiographies, The Turning Point and Der Wendepunkt, and his attempts at incorporating American characters and plots into his fiction.

Table Of Contents

  • Cover
  • Title Page
  • Copyright Page
  • Acknowledgments
  • About the author
  • About the book
  • Citability of the eBook
  • Contents
  • A Note on the Text
  • Introduction
  • 1 Key Concepts
  • 2 Between Europe and America: A Bio-Bibliography
  • 3 A Writer in American Exile
  • 4 Literature Review
  • 5 Structure and Aims
  • Part I: Essays, Articles, and Decision
  • 1.1 Europeans in America
  • 1.1.1 Rundherum (1929)
  • 1.1.2 Escape to Life and The Other Germany (1939–1940)
  • 1.1.3 Distinguished Visitors (1940)
  • 1.2 Decision: A Review of Free Culture
  • 1.2.1 The Magazine
  • 1.2.2 Decision’s First Issue
  • 1.2.3 Concluding Remarks
  • 1.3 Whitman and Gide
  • 1.3.1 Walt Whitman
  • 1.3.2 André Gide
  • 1.3.3 Concluding Remarks
  • 1.4 “A German-Born Yank”244
  • 1.4.1 Life in the Army
  • 1.4.2 “Cities of Destiny, Cities in the News”256
  • 1.4.3 In Post-War Europe
  • 1.4.4 Lecturing in Europe on American Literature
  • 1.4.5 The Last Year
  • 1.4.6 Concluding Remarks
  • Part II: Novels, Short Stories, Plays, and Treatments
  • 2.1 Imagology and “Innere Exilgeographie”
  • 2.1.1 Imagology: Characters
  • 2.1.2 “Innere Exilgeographie”: Places
  • 2.2 First American Voyage, First American Stories
  • 2.2.1 Gegenüber von China (Short Story) and Das Leben der Suzanne Cobière: Negation of the Land of Opportunity
  • 2.2.2 Gegenüber von China (Play): American and European Youth
  • 2.2.3 Concluding Remarks
  • 2.3 Before Exile
  • 2.3.1 Abenteuer des Brautpaars and Katastrophe um Baby
  • 2.3.2 Treffpunkt im Unendlichen
  • 2.4 From European Exile to American Exile
  • 2.4.1 Symphonie Pathétique: Tchaikovsky’s Visit to America
  • 2.4.2 Mephisto
  • 2.4.3 In der Fremde
  • 2.4.4 Der Vulkan
  • 2.5 The American Years
  • 2.5.1 Billy Berman
  • 2.5.2 Union Now
  • 2.5.3 Distinguished Visitors
  • 2.5.4 Speed
  • 2.5.5 Inquiry
  • 2.5.6 Three Star Hennessy
  • 2.5.7 The Dead Don’t Care
  • 2.6 In the Army
  • 2.6.1 The Monk
  • 2.6.2 Reunion—Far from Vienna
  • 2.6.3 The Conquerors
  • 2.6.4 House Hollberg
  • 2.6.5 The Chaplain
  • 2.7 The Post-War Years
  • 2.7.1 Der siebente Engel/The Seventh Angel
  • 2.7.2 Windy Night, Rainey Morrow
  • 2.7.3 Fräulein
  • 2.7.4 The Last Day
  • 2.8 Concluding Remarks
  • 2.8.1 Places
  • 2.8.2 Characters
  • Part III: Autobiographies
  • 3.1 Proliferation of Autobiographies: An Introduction
  • 3.1.1 Kind dieser Zeit
  • 3.1.2 The Turning Point and Der Wendepunkt
  • 3.2 Translations, Versions, Metamorphoses
  • 3.2.1 Self-Translation: A Problematic Concept
  • 3.2.2 Self-Translation: The Turning Point and Der Wendepunkt
  • 3.3 Self-Translation: A Comparative Analysis Chapter by Chapter
  • 3.3.1 Prologue/Prolog
  • 3.3.2 Childhood and Youth (Chapters 1–5)
  • 3.3.3 “Rien que la Terre”/Rundherum
  • 3.3.4 Europe/Auf der Suche nach einem Weg
  • 3.3.5 Olympus
  • 3.3.6 The Writing on the Wall/Die Schrift an der Wand
  • 3.3.7 Exile/Exil
  • 3.3.8 The Volcano/Der Vulkan
  • 3.3.9 Decision/Entscheidung
  • 3.3.10 Der Wendepunkt
  • 3.4 Concluding Remarks
  • 3.4.1 The Turning Point through the Eyes of Its American Reviewers
  • 3.4.2 An Autobiography of Exile?
  • 3.4.3 Two Distant Points in Time and Space
  • Conclusion
  • Bibliography
  • Index

A Note on the Text

In order to facilitate a reading of the text, I have referred to the main works of Klaus Mann using the following abbreviations:

AG: André Gide and the Crisis of Modern Thought
AvP: Auf verlorenem Posten
BuA: Briefe und Antworten 1922–1949
C: The Chaplain. Apennin, Weihnachten 1944
DDC: The Dead Don’t Care. A Play in 3 Acts
DnE: Die neuen Eltern
EE: Speed. Die Erzählungen aus dem Exil
EtL: Escape to Life
KdZ: Kind dieser Zeit
FE: Maskenscherz. Die frühen Erzählungen
M: Mephisto. Roman einer Karriere
MBD: Mit dem Blick nach Deutschland
OG: The Other Germany
PGW: The Present Greatness of Walt Whitman
R: Rundherum
S: Speed
SA: The Seventh Angel. A Play in 3 Acts
SE: Der siebente Engel. Die Theaterstücke
SP: Symphonie Pathétique. Ein Tschaikovski-Roman
T: Tagebücher
TiU: Treffpunkt im Unendlichen
TLD: The Last Day. A Novel
TP: The Turning Point
UN: Union Now
V: Der Vulkan
W: Der Wendepunkt
WvM: Das Wunder von Madrid
ZD: Zweimal Deutschland
ZuK: Zahnärzte und Künstler

Complete bibliographical references can be found in the section Bibliography.

Texts referred to in this study include both published and unpublished materials. When the text available in print is a translation, I have referred to ←11 | 12→the unpublished original version. Therefore, when originally written in German (1931–1940), references to diaries are to the published version, but to the digitalized version when written in English (1942–1949). The same applies to articles and essays.

All unpublished materials are available online on the Monacensia-Digital Project website (http://www.monacensia-digital.de/) of the Monacensia-Literaturarchiv in Munich. Since single files often contain successive versions of the same text and apply two page-numbering schemes (one continuous, and one restarting with every section), I have adopted the continuous numbering system in order to avoid confusion, indicating the page number in brackets [n]; as it is on the website. The URL and the URN for each file can be found in the section Bibliography.

Since dates are essential to understanding, I have referred to the issues of Decision by year and month instead of by volume and issue, and, when possible, I indicated the date for each article, essay, novel, short story, or play.

The usage of certain words and concepts, such as “civilization”, “civilized world”, and “homosexual” reflects that of Klaus Mann. The same is true for the word “Negro” when translating from German, with no derogatory meaning. As for the words “exile” and “emigration”, when discussing authors who fled Germany during the Nazi regime “exile” is today preferred to “emigration”1, as “emigration” implies a voluntary and permanent move to another country.2 However, I have used both terms when discussing Klaus Mann. On the one hand, because they often occur in his works as synonyms; on the other hand, because Klaus Mann’s experience and self-perception cannot be limited to one or the other. While these two terms are accepted as self-definitions, the term “refugee” always implied for Klaus Mann, as it does in this study, a hetero-image, in keeping with the perceptions of Americans.

Unless otherwise specified, all translations are mine.

←12 | 13→

Soon he is talking rapidly, fluently. He moves his head quickly, tilting it from side to side like a bird, and frowning nervously whenever he cannot exactly express himself. Birdlike, he seems to be balancing upon the truth, as if upon a slender, unsteady twig. He is so anxious to say precisely what he means. He takes all conversation earnestly, no matter if the topic is light or serious, but always with ease and flexibility. He never lectures you. He listens, answers, discusses. His great charm lay in this openness, this eager, unaffected approach. His quiet, intimate laughter enlivened even the gloomiest subjects. For Klaus never had to pretend to be serious, to pull a long face, like a hypocrite in church. He was serious. He minded deeply, he cared passionately, about the tragedies and the great issues of his time—and he took for granted that you cared, too. I do not think I ever heard him utter an insincere remark. Insincerity is a form of laziness, and he was one of the least lazy people I have known.

Christopher Isherwood, “Klaus Mann”

←13 |
 14→←14 | 15→

1 For a summary of this critical debate, see Klein, Sonja: “Exil – Literatur – Exilliteratur. Eine Einführung”. In: Klein, Sonja/Singh, Sikander (eds.): Die deutsche Exilliteratur 1933 bis 1945. Perspektiven und Deutungen. WBG: Darmstadt 2015, pp. 7–17.

2 As already pointed out, for instance, in 1937 in Brecht’s poem “Über die Bezeichnung Emigranten” (“Concerning the Label Emigrant”) in Brecht, Bertolt: Die Gedichte von Bertolt Brecht in einem Band. Edited by Elisabeth Hauptmann. Suhrkamp: Frankfurt a.M. 1981, p. 718; Id.: Poems 1913–1956. Edited by John Willett, Ralph Manheim and Erich Fried. Routledge: New York 1987, p. 301.


1 Key Concepts

Klaus Mann was born in 1906, left Germany in 1933, lived in the United States from 1938 to 1943, became an American soldier in 1942 and an American citizen in 1943. He wrote predominantly, though not exclusively, in English from 1939 onwards. Three months prior to his death in 1949, he described himself “als amerikanischen Schriftsteller von deutsch-europäischer Tradition und weltbürgerlich-kosmopolitischer Gesinnung.”3 These lines offer a significant expression of Klaus Mann’s concept of identity and belonging which characterized him both as a man and as an author. According to this notion, identity is seen as a construction that embraces non-contradictory expansion as both a personal right and a challenge for the future of humanity.

This study sets out to present a portrait of Klaus Mann inspired by this self-definition. The aim is to highlight the bilingualism and biculturalism that are characteristic of the author through the reconstruction of the galaxy of his texts and editorial enterprises that dealt with America as a new homeland, as well as with European-American relations.

Three different concepts have been instrumental in ensuring an effective approach to Klaus Mann’s published and unpublished work, namely, mediation, cosmopolitan network, and outsideness.

I Mediation

From his earliest published articles, Klaus Mann never failed to dissociate himself from all forms of nationalism and to volunteer as a cultural mediator. His “calling”, together with his sense of belonging (and simultaneously his sense of not-belonging) everywhere and anywhere, kept him forever in movement, driving him to travel across and outside Europe, even long before his exile.

His first endeavors as a mediator originated from his conviction that French and German youths needed to communicate and share their experience of the post-World War I years, in order to collaborate in rebuilding the values which had ←15 | 16→collapsed as they came of age. He then tried to kindle young Europeans’ interest in American youth, since he was, once again, convinced that both cultures had to learn from each other. Once in exile, and especially once he came to the United States, he claimed the role of the mediator for himself with renewed motivation. To him, clinging to the past was not an option and cultural assimilation an error leading to self-destruction. Therefore, favoring exchanges and building bridges across cultures appeared to be the only valid alternative, and one which would turn his exile and past peregrinations into a valuable resource.4 However, with the sole exception of his years in the Army, his efforts were mostly met with indifference and, in the end, crushed by a hostile socio-political context.

This interpretative approach derives primarily from Klaus Mann himself, but was also inspired by Friedrich Albrecht’s “Klaus Mann der Mittler”.5 “Mediation” is here to be intended as a very broad term, encompassing interpersonal as well as intercultural relations. Furthermore, like any good mediator, Klaus Mann was able to connect different people across cultural divides, and thus to build pluralistic, international networks.

II Cosmopolitan Network

The first antifascist magazine created by Klaus Mann was Die Sammlung. Referring to its title, Karina von Lindeiner identified a “Prinzip Sammlung”6, which operated in everything Klaus Mann did.7 Similarly, “cosmopolitan networks” indicates here the tendency of the author to establish connections between himself and other individuals, so that he could associate and compare his actions and ideals with theirs:

←16 | 17→

Über den halben Erdball hinweg knüpfte er ein dichtes Geflecht persönlicher Beziehungen. Immer wieder verband er sich in seinen Werken auch mit historischen Figuren uns schuf so eine Lebensbühne, auf der er atemlos agierte.8

From the beginning, the networks Klaus Mann built around himself were transnational and they became increasingly so. Therefore, in his work, national identity becomes a more and more flexible and, at times, even abstract, notion.

As a result of the author’s cosmopolitan spirit, his work will not be analyzed specifically as “exile writing”.

III Outsideness

The first book Klaus Mann wrote entirely in English bore the title Distinguished Visitors. As stated in the preface, the book was intended as a contribution to the general trend of self-discovery and self-understanding that proliferated in the United States at the time. Seeing bookstores filled to the brim with books on American heroes and the American language, Klaus Mann set out to offer the American public:

A book dealing with visitors who came here for a little while, at various times in the life of this country, and looked about with detachment and curiosity, and sometimes with love, and went back to their own lives in their own countries with something of America, perhaps only their own translation of what they saw in their hearts.9

As is immediately evident, the book values the contribution and fascination of an outsider’s perspective on what is familiar, and thus, perhaps, invisible. Klaus Mann himself often willingly or unwillingly had to play the role he demarcated for his “visitors”. A positive re-evaluation of the outsider’s position is thus vital to someone who was himself considered an outsider, and contested as such, for most of his life.

In fact, with regard to Germany, those who had not fled the country repeatedly denied him the right to express himself on the subject of the homeland he had deserted. As the judges claimed when banning Mephisto from sale in Germany in 1971, no one was interested in what an emigrant had to say on something he ←17 | 18→had not experienced first-hand.10 Moreover, Klaus Mann continued to identify as American even after the end of World War II, writing articles on Germany from an American soldier’s perspective or for an American public.

His views on the United States were not easily accepted either, and some of his friends and acquaintances, like Eleanor Clark and Thomas Quinn Curtiss, accused him of thoroughly failing to grasp America’s true nature and of insisting on deluding himself on the subject.11 Indeed, this difference in intention and reception is evinced in his conception of his magazine, Decision, as an American magazine, when, according to Golo Mann:

New Yorker Literaten veröffentlichten wohl in ‘Decision’, vorausgesetzt, daß sie prompt bezahlt wurden; redeten aber für sich, daß dieser Deutsche wohl nicht der Rechte sei, ihre Stelle zu vertreten und eine amerikanische Zeitschrift zu edieren.12

Bakhtin named “outsideness” the distance in the process of self- and inter-comprehension between cultures and highlighted its importance:

Creative understanding does not renounce itself, its own place in time, its own culture; and it forgets nothing. In order to understand, it is immensely important for the person who understands to be located outside the object of his or her creative understanding—in time, in space, in culture. […] In the realms of culture, outsideness is a most powerful factor in understanding. It is only in the eye of another culture that foreign culture reveals itself fully and profoundly.13

Klaus Mann made “outsideness” the starting point for his observation of the world around him, as well as one of the central elements in the construction of his own persona.

←18 | 19→

2 Between Europe and America: A Bio-Bibliography

Klaus Mann only began addressing America as a topic after his first voyage to the United States in 1927–28. It is thus difficult to determine what his thoughts on America were, prior to that time. Certainly, he had by then been exposed to American movies and jazz bars in Berlin, had read Walt Whitman and Sinclair Lewis, and was aware of the ongoing debate on America as a model or anti-model for civilization.14 Still, like that of many of his contemporaries, his preoccupation with America had remained at best superficial.15

After the end of World War I, America had also been the magic land from where The Dial—“a bountiful demi-god on the other side of the ocean” (TP, p. 63)—sent the checks that helped his family survive financially:

It was a little Christmas-like when those handsome American checks arrived and Mielein [Klaus Mann’s mother, Katia Mann] got her bicycle out of the cellar and rode apace to Herr Feuchtwanger’s little bank. There she received a stunning lot of good, solid German inflation-cash for that flimsy stuff the Americans use as money. Mielein beamed and the Magician [Thomas Mann] smirked. Next Sunday we had a goose; and all of us got new raincoats. (TP, p. 63)


ISBN (Hardcover)
Publication date
2019 (August)
Exile Literature The Turning Point Exile Autobiography German Emigration Decision Self-Translation Mediation
Berlin, Bern, Bruxelles, New York, Oxford, Warszawa, Wien, 2019., 330 pp., 1 tables

Biographical notes

Chiara Marotta (Author)

Chiara Marotta studied Italian literature and European literary cultures at the University of Bologna and the University of Strasbourg. Her research interests include exile literature, autobiographical writing, and bilingualism.


Title: Klaus Mann – A European-American Author
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332 pages