Confessions of Felix Krull, Confidence Man: The Early Years

Confessions of Felix Krull, Confidence Man: The Early Years

by Thomas Mann

Thomas Mann's final novel recounts the strange and entranced career of the gifted swindler, Felix Krull, through his childhood and early manhood.

Krull is a man unhampered by moral precepts that govern the conduct of ordinary mortals, and this natural lack of scruple, coupled with his formidable mental and physical endowments, enables him to develop the arts of subterfuge and deception with astonishing success and to rise swiftly from poverty to affluence.

And so it is too with the women who encounter the irresistible Krull, for where Krull is, the normal laws of human behavior are in suspense.Originally the character of Felix Krull appeared in a short story Mann wrote in 1911.

Much later, he expanded the original story into a novel, managing to finish and publish Part 1, "The Early Years," of the Confessions of Felix Krull to great public success.

  • Language: English
  • Category: Fiction
  • Rating: 3.89
  • Pages: 384
  • Publish Date: March 31st 1992 by Vintage
  • Isbn10: 0679739041
  • Isbn13: 9780679739043

What People Think about "Confessions of Felix Krull, Confidence Man: The Early Years"

In writing Felix Krull, I wonder if Thomas Mann was trying to prove that after all his heavy-duty works he could still turn out a romantic comedy, although not the ordinary kind. Felix Krull takes place in 1895, a time when no one (well, no one but people like Bertha von Suttner), had any inkling of the imminent tragedies of the 20th century. Like Mann's other novels, this one employs lots of teases, to hook the reader. Felix works his way up, starting as an elevator boy in a grand hotel, then a busboy, and hits his stride as a waiter who serves a wealthy and frivolous clientele. Mann has a lot of fun with aristocratic pretensions as Krull easily assumes the identity of an aristocrat, gets an audience with the king of Portugal and is awarded a medal, so he can dress properly decorated for formal occasions. One of the jewels of the book is Krull's "letter home" to the woman who is supposed to be his mother after he switched identities with a real aristocrat who wanted to continue slumming in Paris with a show girl.

Mein hochgeschätzter, verehrter Felix Krull, ich schreibe Ihnen diese Zeilen unter dem Eindruck Ihrer Memoiren, die ich vor kurzem die Freude und das Vergnügen hatte zu lesen und die Sie in, wie ich finde, schelmischer Weise als Bekenntnisse betitelt haben. Die Tatsache, dass Sie außerdem mit dem Wort Hochstapler in Verbindung gebracht werden, will sich mir allerdings nicht unmittelbar erschließen, sehe ich doch in Ihren Ausführungen eine franke und unverhohlene Darstellung Ihres bisherigen Lebens, das nur in einigen wenigen und meiner Einschätzung nach marginalen Ereignissen etwas von Hochstapelei erahnen ließen. Ich vermute daher, dass nicht Sie es waren, die den Titel ihrer Biographie wählten, sondern vielmehr ein gewisser Thomas Mann, denn dieser Name taucht auf dem Titelblatt des Buches an der Stelle auf, an der ich eigentlich den Ihren erwartet hätte. All dies führt mich zu der Annahme, dass Herr Mann vielleicht auch nicht ganz ohne Einfluss auf die von Ihnen verfassten Memoiren gewesen ist, sehe ich doch an der ein oder anderen Stelle Formulierungen und Gedanken, wie sie durchaus auch von Herrn Mann hätten stammen können, soweit ich das, aufgrund meiner bescheidenen Kenntnisse seines uvres beurteilen kann. Bitte verzeihen Sie mir, wenn ich sogar soweit gehe und hier meine, zugegebenermaßen recht vage, Vermutung äußere, dass am Ende Thomas Mann selbst es war, der den endgültigen Text verfasst hat, und sich dabei lediglich auf ein von Ihnen vorgegebenes Exposé gestützt hat. Ich bin mir nach den obigen Ausführungen nicht mehr ganz sicher, ob Sie selbst es waren, oder eben Thomas Mann, der Ihr äußeres Erscheinungsbild als so überaus anregend beschrieben hat. Nach den Kostümierungen durch Ihren Paten, und den unterschiedlichsten Verkleidungen, die sich im Laufe der Zeit selbst angelegt haben, haben Sie hier nun offenbar die Möglichkeit gefunden, die ultimative Larve anzulegen, nämlich die eines anderen Menschen und ich muss gestehen, dass diese Ihnen zur vollen Ehre gereicht.

Mann was working on this when he died in 1955 Im sure this information is out there (Mann is significant enough of a literary figure, that like Joyce and Eliot and other titans of 20th century literature he is documented almost to the point of exhaustion) though Ive yet to run across it: I cant help but wondering what Mann intended for this book. I mean, 384 pages is not necessarily a short book, but it feels like Mann is just starting to hit his stride in the last 100 or so pages of the book his prose begins to become much more philosophical and poetic as Krull begins to travel and from a narrative perspective it feels like hes barely begun to document Krulls life as a confidence man; Krull is barely two months into his travels; and just around a year into having left home. I was worried starting this book that I would not like it as much without Woods as the translator, but Manns writing is as wonderful as ever here; Mann himself was too talented of a writer to overly suffer a lesser translation; so while this was not as good as the Woods stuff, it is an accomplished enough work that it shines through. But the real jewel of the book is the character of Krull himself; his narrative voice is a joy to read; he is funny, witty, and observant in a way that manages to disclose an overwhelming amount of details (as Mann loves to do) while always flowing at a brisk clip.

I'm thinking in particular of a scene that could have been cut from Dunces where Krull (a character very much like M. from Wes Anderson's film, The Grand Budapest Hotel--that is, a character whose sexuality has nothing to do with a desire for men or women, both of whom are equally at his disposal, but with his erotic appetite for romantic civility) is seduced by an older woman (a novelist) who calls him a slave in bed and wants him to call her a whore (imagine Don Quixote's reaction to something like this). Mann conceived of the book in 1905, published it as a short story in 1911, and attempted a novel the year before he died.

I think that my lost feeling might be attributed to the fact that the writing of Thomas Mann is confounding, and at least in the case of Felix Krull is dumbfounding.

Al final fue esta novela elegida porque me atrajo la sinopsis y el título. Lo que decía la listilla de la sinopsis es que la novela está inacabada, no tiene final, simplemente deja de haber páginas que leer.

I recently reread Confessions of Felix Krull, Confidence Man (The Early Years), Thomas Mann's last novel and a comic masterpiece. Felix Krull's confessions are filled with humorous episodes worthy of the Mann's story-telling mastery. Mann based the novel on an expanded version of a story he had written in 1911 and he managed to finish, and publish part one of the Confessions of Felix Krull, but due to his death in 1955 the saga of the morally flexible and irresistible conman, Felix, remained unfinished. Felix describes his impressions: "the atmosphere that lay over all, at once oppressive and solemnly joyous, a unique mingling of jest, blood, and dedication, primitive holiday-making combined with the profound ceremonial of death." (p 375) Each of these moments capture the sensation of Eros and Thanatos, pleasure and death, and form a counterpart to the often light-hearted way that Felix led his life as a confidence man.

I orginally read this in college while doing a course on Hesse and Mann.

See also: Serbian: Tomas Man Thomas Mann was a German novelist, short story writer, social critic, philanthropist, essayist, and Nobel Prize laureate in 1929, known for his series of highly symbolic and ironic epic novels and novellas, noted for their insight into the psychology of the artist and the intellectual.