Sunday marked what would have been the 103rd birthday of the eldest daughter of novelist Thomas Mann. Erika Mann, born November 9, 1905, was a writer in her own right, though her father’s fame overshadowed her own accomplishments in her lifetime. More recently, however, Andrea Weiss has restored Erika, and her brother Klaus, to their rightful places in the spotlight.
In the Shadow of Magic Mountain: The Erika and Klaus Mann Story is an intimate portrait of Mann’s two eldest children, who were unconventional, rebellious, and fiercely devoted to each other. Empowered by their close bond, they espoused vehemently anti-Nazi views in a Europe swept up in fascism and were openly, even defiantly, gay in an age of secrecy and repression. They were serious authors, performance artists before the medium existed, and political visionaries whose searing essays and lectures are still relevant today. And, as Andrea Weiss reveals in this dual biography, their story offers a fascinating view of the literary and intellectual life, political turmoil, and shifting sexual mores of their times.
In the Shadow of Magic Mountain was the lead review in the November 6 London Review of Books and has been praised by the late John Leonard in Harper’s and in the Times (UK): “A fascinating tale. Outside the pages of the Manns’ own memoirs and essays, or of Klaus’s deeply personal fiction, it’s hard to imagine it more sympathetically told.” To celebrate Erika’s birthday, dress in your finest androgynous fashions and read an excerpt from the book.