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Biography

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Overview (2)

Born in Lübeck, Schleswig-Holstein, Germany
Died in Santa Monica, California, USA

Mini Bio (1)

Heinrich Mann, German novelist and the elder brother of Nobel-Prize winner Thomas Mann, is most famous in the English-speaking world for his novel "Professor Unrat" that was turned into the successful 1930 movie "Der Blaue Engel" ("The Blue Angel"). Mann once enjoyed a considerable reputation in German literary circles, but many of his novels and practically all of his essays are unknown to most anglophones as they remain untranslated. He remains of interest as his work details a people enculturated under an authoritarian regime in their struggle to achieve and sustain democracy.

Mann was born in Lübeck on March 27, 1871, the first child of Senator Thomas Johann Heinrich Mann and his wife Julia da Silva-Bruhns. Descended from grain merchants and born into the patrician class, Mann started his writing career as an essayist with a determinedly conservative point of view. Eventually, he evolved into a well-known proponent of democracy and socialism.

Mann's education consisted of attendance at a private preparatory school until 1889. Leaving school, he went to work as an apprentice for a Dresden bookseller, but failed at the job. He moved to Berlin in 1891, where he became a published writer. In 1892, he contracted tuberculosis and was cared for in a Swiss sanatorium. Mann, who published his first novel in 1893, became financially independent upon the death of his father.

The next year, Mann moved from Berlin to Munich along with his mother and the rest of the family, and took the post of editor of "Das zwanzigste Jahrhundert." Mann preferred living in France and Italy to Germany, and he spent most of his time in those two countries until the outbreak of World War I.

His early novels were social satires of the German bourgeoisie that showed the society's resistance to democratic ideals. In 1904, he published the novel he is most famous for, "Professor Unrat" ("Professor Garbage"), which details the moral, social and physical decay of a pompous prep school teacher romantically obsessed with a nightclub singer. Josef von Sternberg's 1930 German- and English-language movies based on the novel, "Der Blaue Engel" and "The Blue Angel," made a star out of Marlene Dietrich, who played the bewitching chanteuse Lola Lola.

Mann's 1912 novel "Der Untertan" ("The Patrioteer") features an amoral, manipulative and opportunistic businessman, Diederich Hessling, who uses patriotism to get ahead and winds up as a simulacrum of the Kaiser. An indictment of the militarism and nationalism of prewar Prussia, it was banned by the German government during World War I. Mann used a gallery of grotesques to elucidate the moral weakness and the lack of personal responsibility of the bourgeoisie under the German Empire of Kaiser Wilhelm II. As a youth who bullies the sole Jew in his school, Hessling believed "[h]e was acting on behalf of the whole Christian community of Netzig. How splendid it was to share responsibility, and to be a part of a collective consciousness."

Mann's essay on the great French naturalist novelist "Zola" (1915), satirized Germany and Prussian militarism and blamed World War I on capitalist exploitation and the plutocracy. "Zola" disrupted Mann's relationship with his brother Thomas, who at that time was more conservative than Heinrich. Thomas Mann supported Germany's participation in World War I, and he wrote his own essay in 1918 that directly attacked Heinrich. Thomas Mann's contemporaneous credo was that an artist should be independent and not dabble in politics. The estrangement between the brothers proved only temporary, and eventually, the four years-younger Thomas came to support many of Heinrich's opinions.

As he progressed as a novelist, Mann became firmly committed to the idea of the didactic power of art. He dedicated himself during and after the post war revolutionary period of 1918-19 to teaching Germany about democratic values through his writing. He became popular during the Weimar Republic when the ban on "Der Untertan" was lifted in 1918, and it was republished to great acclaim. The novel, plus "Die Armen" ("The Poor") in 1917, and "Der Kopf" ("The Chief") in 1925, make up Mann's "Das Kaiserreich" ("The Empire") trilogy.

The Prussian Government appointed Mann to the Academy of Arts in Berlin, and in 1931, he was elected the Poetry Section president. In 1933, Mann published "Der Hass" ("Hate"), a novel with the premise that the hate perpetrated by fascism would trigger the Gotterdammerung of civilization. After the Nazis solidified power, he was removed from his post and declared persona non grata due to his novels criticizing German authoritarianism, militarism, and nationalism.

Mann went into exile, first in Prague, Czechoslovakia, and then in Nice, France. While living on the Côte d'Azur, Mann wrote a novel based on French King Henry IV, a promoter of tolerance. It was this king, known as "Henry the Good," who ended the religious civil war racking 16th century France by issuing the Edict of Nantes, which allowed Protestants to openly practice their religion.

After the Nazi conquest of France, Mann fled to Spain, crossing the Pyrenees Mountains on foot at the age of 69. From Spain, he immigrated to the United States, eventually settling in Santa Monica, California with his second wife, Nelly Kroeger. His friends had arranged a one-year contract for him at Warner Bros., but he was hobbled by a poor command of English. After the contract expired, Mann had financial difficulties for the rest of his life. He had lost his German and French audiences and the royalties his book sales in Europe had generated, and he became financially dependent on friends and family, including Brother Thomas.

In California, Mann hobnobbed with other German exiles, including Bertolt Brecht. He was virtually unknown in America, his reputation eclipsed by that of his brother. Compounding his difficulties in America, his second wife, who was afflicted with mental illness, committed suicide in 1944.

Mann published his autobiography in 1945, and shortly before he died, had accepted an offer from East Germany to become head of their newly reconstituted Academy of Arts in East Berlin. Mann was not able to actually take over the post, as he died in Santa Monica on March 12, 1950. He was cremated and his ashes interred at the Academy in East Berlin.

- IMDb Mini Biography By: Jon C. Hopwood

Spouse (2)

Nelly Kroeger (1939 - 1944) ( her death)
Marie (Mimi) Kanová (1914 - 1930) ( divorced) ( 1 child)

Trivia (4)

Wrote mainly political/social engaged novels and essays.
Brother of writer Thomas Mann
Father of Leonie Henriette Maria Mann (1916-1986) and grandfather of Jindrich Mann (b. 1948) and Ludvik Mann (b. 1956).
Writer. Emigrated to France in 1933 and later to the US in 1940. Since 1949 president of the 'Deutsche Akademie der Kuenste' in East Berlin, GDR.

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