Original Research

The author, his work and his critics: an outline and evaluation of the controversy surrounding Klaus Mann’s Mephisto

C. von Maltzan
Literator | Vol 12, No 1 | a747 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.4102/lit.v12i1.747 | © 1991 C. von Maltzan | This work is licensed under CC Attribution 4.0
Submitted: 06 May 1991 | Published: 06 May 1991

About the author(s)

C. von Maltzan, University of the Witwatersrand, South Africa

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The novel Mephisto by Klaus Mann published in 1936 has more often than not been interpreted as a roman à clef. This paper examines the reasons why the novel was interpreted as such by looking at the relationship between Klaus Mann and Gustaf Gründgens on whose life the characterisation of the protagonist of the novel, Hendrik Höfgen, was based. The interpretation of the novel as a roman à clef had consequences for its publication record in Germany. Furthermore this paper critically assesses how and why critics reacted to the novel in a seemingly biased manner and what effect the reception of the novel had on Klaus Mann. In tracing these questions the main themes of the novel are discussed and compared to the film version by István Szabó of 1981. In outlining and evaluating the controversy surrounding Mann’s novel, the final section of the paper examines the reasons why the “Mephisto”-theme was met with such interest and enthusiasm in West Germany in the early 1980s.


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