Evelyn Juers: House of Exile

E by the Mann brothers and many of their friends to the rise of Hitler and Nazism Heinrich lived in France until about 1940 while Thomas was in the USA and was eventually granted citizenship Heinrich and others crossed the Pyrenees on foot when Vichy France started handing over wanted individuals to the Gestapo By that time Heinrich was in his 60s and the crossing was an ordeal in itself Eventually he escaped to the USA together with his much younger wife Nelly Kroeger Things were not easy in the USA for emigres from fascism Heinrich was under constant surveillance by the FBI because of his left wing views The book is a fascinating view on the lives of those escaping Hitler much of which I was unaware of There are distressing passages when we read that one friend and another had been killed in concentration camps Much of the book reads like a diary with short sometimes unconnected sentences and hopping from character to character Sometimes it is difficult for a non German speaker to remember all the names but do not let that put you off Interesting device uxtaposing contemporaneous writers Woolf Gide with the Manns Well researched Constructed in a most unusual manner with disparate passages long list of the names of European refugees dairy entries and long tracts of the thoughts of Virginia Wolfe The writing style whilst interesting does not engage the reader in a connection with the characters Its a bit like reading a very long list Good to have been the beneficiary of such extensive research and as a result to learn about the build up of the second world war from the German intellectual point of view Also to understand the great movement of people through and away from Europe and what it was like for the displaced around the world I received a copy of this book through First Reads and I was excited to get my hands on it as the description sounded so interesting Sadly the book doesn t live up to its promise It claims to be biography but if it is it s biography seen through a kaleidoscope dimly The author describes it as a collective biography set in an age of fragmentation and flux If her intent was to convey that sense of fragmentation and flux she certainly achieved that much The book is a series of disjointed impressionistic vignettes not all of which seem to share any apparent connection There are literary uotes sprinkled in between anecdotes imaginings that may be lyrical and vivid but certainly aren t what is normally understood as biography I spent much of the book a bit confused as to what exactly was going on and when The inexplicable story of Solander early on before Carla s suicide is a good example Nominally connected to a skull Mann s sister carries with her it rambles on for several pages for no apparent reason Things got a little concrete and chronological after the first third or so of the book but not enough to make it an enjoyable read and certainly not enough for me to feel I learned much about Heinrich Mann or his unfortunate wife The words imagine and perhaps and let s say that s how it was are sprinkled liberally throughout not something I m used to seeing in such uantity in something that purports to be biography In the end I m not even sure what to call it fiction or non fiction novel or biography I feel like it s a muddle of all of the above and the only thing I can say with certainty is that I read it This is an interesting and mainly well written biography of Heinrich Mann Thomas Mann s brother and his wife Nelly Kroeger Mann It is primarily about their years of exile as Heinrich was outspoken about Hitler and they were forced to leave Germany in 1933 going first to France and then eventually to Los Angeles Unfortunately Nelly was by this time uite unstable and often drunk and eventually committed suicide in 1944 with Heinrich dying of natural causes a few years laterAs you can probably imagine Thomas Mann features heavily in the book especially with regard to the competitive feelings he had towards his brother as he always felt that he was a better writer than Heinrich Thomas is certainly famous among English speaking readers and most of Heinrich s books were never translated into EnglishI only really had two problems with the book The first being that for most of the book Virginia Woolf is mentioned on almost every page with diary entries and musings etc until she finally and famously commits suicide And as far as I can see there was no connection between her and the Manns at all so what her purpose in the book was I have no idea except that both she and Nelly committed suicideThe other problem was that for a fairly lengthy section of the book it is written almost as a diary with very short staccato like sentences some being only a couple of wordsBut all in all it was a fine book and is recommended for anybody who likes literary biographies as I do They are really the only kind of biography that I rea. Is sister Carla; their friends Bertolt Brecht Alfred Döblin and Joseph Roth; and beyond them the writers James Joyce Franz Kafka and Virginia Woolf among others Evelyn Juers brings this generation of exiles to life with tremendous poignancy and imaginative power In train compartments ship cabins and rented rooms the Manns clung to what was left to them their bodies their minds and their books in a turbulent and self destructive

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I bought House of Exile when it was shortlisted for the 2009 Prime Minister s Award for Non Fiction not knowing anything about its subject matter except that it was indirectly something to do with Thomas Mann He is one of those writers I ve heard of but never got round to reading It turns out that he was the brother of Heinrich Mann the primary subject of House of Exile When I realised this I toyed with the idea of reading Death in Venice online but t As rich and dense as wedding cake and Religious Authority in the Spanish Renaissance just as hard to digest in anything than the smallest portions House of Exile is according to its cover the tale of the unconventional love affair between Heinrich Mann and Nelly Kroeger To me it read like a dry academic tome about several dozen writers Heinrich and Nelly are at the heart of it but so thickly crowded by other lives they re rather hard to seeAlmost Biblical with its extensive genealogies and connections I found the first uarter very stolid indeed bitty unfocussed and frankly dreary Rather than the intricate weaving of lives described in the blurb it seemed to me to lurch heavily between its many subjectes from Heinrich Mann to Thomas Mann to Virginia Woolf to Kafka to Brecht to Joyce or any other of several dozen subjects switching focus from paragraph to paragraph with a bare minimum of connectivityIt gets a lot better as it hits the years immediately preceding the war then the war years themselves which are by far the best chapters Thanks to the death of so many of the peripheral figures the focus narrows a narrative emerges and the book becomes much readable something you read as much for pleasure as the good of your soulWritten in a strange style textbook than novel and full of pluckings from diaries and letters The House of Exile is certainly very detailed sometimes overwhelmingly so I took a lot of knowledge away from this book about events and how they touched the lives of each character but no feeling whatsoever for any them the style is too Haven t received my copy yetust received notice I had won 41612Receive my copy last night and can t wait to get started I will have to wait a little bit I have 8 others plus my current read in front 5212Started last night 6712Finally finished 61912Blurb from GoodReads In 1933 the author and political activist Heinrich Mann and his partner Nelly Kroeger fled Nazi Germany finding refuge first in the south of France and later in great despair in Los Angeles where Nelly committed suicide in 1944 and Heinrich died in 1950 Born into a wealthy middle class family in L beck Heinrich was one of the leading representatives of Weimar culture Nelly was twenty seven years younger the adopted daughter of a fisherman and a hostess in a Berlin bar As far as Heinrich s family was concerned she was from the wrong side of the tracks So I signed up for this book because I used to devour anything holocaustWorld War IINazi related and this sounded right up that alley Boy was this a difficult read This book is a meshup of a lot of diaries and letters between LOTS of people regarding everyday things during a time period that actually happened to be during the years leading up to and including WWII I would say only about 10% of it actually had much to do with the war and politics of the time period And even though their names are in the title only about 20% of it was about Heinrich and Nelly Maybe it was because I despised him so much but it seemed like there was about Heinrich s brother Thomas than him and Nelly in this book While there were small threads of thought that linked some of the 1 million other people mentioned to the Mann s there were some that really were mentioned that had no connection at all It was a difficult book for me to read because there were too many people mentioned not enough detail on any of them and it read like finding a huge box of old letters from hundreds of people that may or may not have known each other and may or may not have included interesting news Oh and there is a lot of suicide which I really get that actually happened a lot in that time period but the thing I kept thinking was of course they were reading Anna Karenina That would always push someone over the edge Ambitious by turns captivating and exasperating this sprawling book is like an enormous photomontage that popular German art form of the 1920s made up of textual mosaics from newspaper articles diary entries letters novels or on occasion FBI files These bits words phrases entire paragraphs are usually unattributed and range from notes about literature and publishing to medication pets shopping for and preparing food Juers also mines the writing of non German writers including Virginia Woolf and James Joyce to contextualize the time and the refugees situation Both style and content are arresting and Juers has mined sources unavailable to the average English speaking reader But House of Exiles is a problematic Scintillating and rather magical House of Exile is an extraordinary book and a really rare accomplishment Michael Hoffman The Times Literary SupplementIn 1933 the author and political activist Heinrich Mann and his partner Nelly Kroeger fled Nazi Germany finding refuge first in the south of France and later in great despair in Los Angeles where Nelly committed suicide in 1944 and Heinrich died in 1950 Born into a wealthy middle

Ork of biography and had I not been reviewing it I would have put it down long before the ending I was in the end glad to have plowed on The work is a reuiem for a lost generation of German artists musicians and writers and those that lived for them I ve read any number of fictionalized biographies about Henry James Friedrich Nietzsche etc that I have uite enjoyed This book doesn t know whether it is a novel or a biography though it calls itself a biography and so doesn t truly succeed at either I don t get any real sense of Emma or Heinrich as people Sentences like this In 1919 Emmy Johanna Kroger responded to the future as birds reply to light with song tell me about the author than about the subject If you want to have an omniscient narrator have the courage of your convictions and write a novel about your real life characterThe author s favorite word is imagine and favorite phrase is might have If Madame Bovary had fallen into her hands I imagine what she would have loved most was its intimacy 91 She had a flair for fashion and I imagine her studying trends 207 She might even have made felt hats for Heinrich 207 She might have remembered a red pair of gloves she once owned 210 Thomas received another visit from the FBI you could imagine them saying Let s drop in on the Manns we re sure to be offered a good cup of coffee and some delicious cake with whipped cream 341Do you see the problem She has extended fantasies of this is how it might have been but I have no proof of it as in these extended wanderings of the author s imagination Perhaps she taught herself English listening for snippets of it repeating random phrases she had caught gone with the wind certainly not The Intentional Brain joe di maggio is a new york yankee over and over again in the street entering rue Rossini and crossing the marble mosaic floor of the entrance hall then in the lift looking out from the wrought iron balcony cooking a phrasebook propped up against a bowl as a text mixing the ingredients for plum pudding from an English cookbook she d found 205 She had a flair for fashion and I imagine her studying trends head shapes prices wearing her latest creations in cafes restaurants casinos and on the Promenade des Anglais If someone admired her hat she would produce her business card wait for a phone call and then receive or visit her new client for a measurement the down payment would always have been welcome For herself she favored the bandeau or turban but for others she must have created cartwheels and cloches pillboxes and hybrid cocktail hats to be worn couettishly She might even have made felt hats for Heinrich blocked into shape sanded brushed lined with silk his name embroidered on the inside rim Millinery is mainly handwork and so perhaps this is how they spent the best days of their French exile she stitching he writing the space between them filled with birdsong 207 a button popped off the d colletage of Nelly s red velvet dress to reveal the splendid contours of her lacy bra I like to think that the little red velvet button described a perfect arc across the table and landed right on top of Thomas Mann s Charlotte surprise 302 This last uote brings me to my next problem with the book her repetitive and biased portrayal of Thomas Mann Almost all we learn of him is the list of drugs he had to take to sleep repeated over and over with variations that he had a silk bedcover it makes an appearance I don t know how many times presumably to show how self indulgent and self involved he was and how fond of fame he was and howealous he was of any success of Heinrich s Here is bias combined with speculation Received a letter from Willi Munzenberg supported by the novelist Romain Rolland again regarding Heinrich s nomination for the Nobel Prize Did he toss it in the bin 217Here is bias combined with a weird omniscient narrator did she get this from diaries from letters by friends Who knows but the omniscient narrator Thomas was often recognized in public He enjoyed being told that he was famous 320Thirdly the weird flights into Virginia Woolf land Punishing the Art Thief just don t make sense Perhaps if it were a Dos Passos style montage novel it would have All in all I think the author shouldust write a novel call it a novel and call it a day An unusual biography as it follows the lives of two literary brothers Heinrich and Thomas Mann The former I have never heard of But many years ago I can remember ploughing through a copy of Thomas s Magic Mountain There are a number of subsidiary characters including Virginia Woolf and Lion Feuchtwangler That name meant something as I can remember that as an adolescent a translation of his Jue Suss sat on the shelves of my local library I did wonder what it was all about but never borrowed it to find out Nor did anyone else it seemed as I recollect it stood for many years unmoving There are many other characters as the book deals in the main with the respons. Lass family in Lübeck Heinrich was one of the leading representatives of Weimar culture Nelly was twenty seven years younger the adopted daughter of a fisherman and a hostess in a Berlin bar As far as Heinrich's family was concerned she was from the wrong side of the tracksIn House of Exile Heinrich and Nelly's story is crossed with others from their circle of friends relatives and contemporaries Heinrich's brother Thomas Mann;

Evelyn Juers is the copublisher of Giramondo Publishing and HEAT magazine She has lived in Hamburg Sydney London and Geneva She has a PhD from the University of Essex and her essays on art and literature have appeared in publications around the world