The Magician by Colm Toibin is magic, dark magic, but magic nonetheless. Thomas Mann was the son of a wealthy man in a small German town, he rose to be one of the most respected authors of the last century, winner of the 1929 Nobel Prize for literature. Mann lived in troubled times, through two world wars. As a young man, he was fiercely proud of his German heritage, but the wars would wear that away. Forced to flee Hitler’s Germany, he settled for a while in the USA. Mann lived a long life, raised 6 children, and experienced tumultuous world events. Toibin gives an intimate portrayal of Mann, anchoring his story with the novels Mann wrote. Book lovers will relish this brilliant account of the life of one of literature’s greats.— Deon Stonehouse
A New York Times Notable Book, Critic’s Top Pick, and Top Ten Book of Historical Fiction
Named a Best Book of the Year by The Washington Post, NPR, Vogue, The Wall Street Journal, and Bloomberg Businessweek
From one of today’s most brilliant and beloved novelists, a dazzling, epic family saga set across a half-century spanning World War I, the rise of Hitler, World War II, and the Cold War that is “a feat of literary sorcery in its own right” (Oprah Daily).
The Magician opens in a provincial German city at the turn of the twentieth century, where the boy, Thomas Mann, grows up with a conservative father, bound by propriety, and a Brazilian mother, alluring and unpredictable. Young Mann hides his artistic aspirations from his father and his homosexual desires from everyone. He is infatuated with one of the richest, most cultured Jewish families in Munich, and marries the daughter Katia. They have six children. On a holiday in Italy, he longs for a boy he sees on a beach and writes the story Death in Venice. He is the most successful novelist of his time, winner of the Nobel Prize in literature, a public man whose private life remains secret. He is expected to lead the condemnation of Hitler, whom he underestimates. His oldest daughter and son, leaders of Bohemianism and of the anti-Nazi movement, share lovers. He flees Germany for Switzerland, France and, ultimately, America, living first in Princeton and then in Los Angeles.
In this “exquisitely sensitive” (The Wall Street Journal) novel, Tóibín has crafted “a complex but empathetic portrayal of a writer in a lifelong battle against his innermost desires, his family, and the tumultuous times they endure” (Time), and “you’ll find yourself savoring every page” (Vogue).
About the Author
Colm Tóibín is the author of ten novels, including The Magician, winner of the Rathbones Folio Prize; The Master, winner of the Los Angeles Times Book Prize; Brooklyn, winner of the Costa Book Award; The Testament of Mary; and Nora Webster, as well as two story collections and several books of criticism. He is the Irene and Sidney B. Silverman Professor of the Humanities at Columbia University and has been named as the laureate for Irish fiction for 2022–2025 by the Arts Council of Ireland. Three times shortlisted for the Booker Prize, Tóibín lives in Dublin and New York.
Praise for The Magician
—Philip Pullman, author of the His Dark Materials trilogy
“In this novel of huge imaginative sympathy, Toibin delves into the rich interiority of the German novelist Thomas Mann.”
—New York Times, 100 Notable Books of 2021
“A masterly evocation of the life and times of the great German writer Thomas Mann, showcasing his relations with his contentious family and his intensely private sexual yearnings.”
—New York Times, Best Historical Fiction of 2021
“This subtle and substantial novel imagines the life of Thomas Mann, the Nobel Prize-winning author of “Death in Venice” and “The Magic Mountain,” among other classics.”
—The New York Times, Critics’ Top Books of 2021
“With its intertwined portraits of a deep, complicated writer and a world that changed beyond recognition in his lifetime, The Magician should appeal to history buffs as well as literary mavens.”
—NPR.org, Books We Love: 2021
"It’s hard not to talk about Colm Tóibín’s latest novel, The Magician, in the loftiest of terms, as something staggering, or dazzling, or an achievement... If you’re willing to give yourself over to the vast and stunningly realized world that Tóibín conjures around Mann, you’ll find yourself savoring every page."
—Vogue, Best Books to Read in 2021
“Extensively researched and lyrically wrought…a complex but empathetic portrayal of a writer in a lifelong battle against his innermost desires, his family and the tumultuous times they endure.”
—Time, Best Books of Fall 2021
"The Magician recaptures a literary giant... Toibin’s symphonic and moving novel humanizes [Mann]… Maximalist in scope but intimate in feeling… The great theme of Toibin’s novel, as in much of Mann’s fiction, is decline — of manners and morals, of families, of countries and institutions.”
—Dwight Garner, The New York Times
“The Magician is a work of huge imaginative sympathy…quite thrilling… It takes a writer of Toibin’s caliber to understand how the seemingly inconsequential details of life can be transmogrified, turned into art.”
—Jay Parini, The New York Times Book Review
“Mr. Tóibín wields a dramatically stripped-down prose style, one that emphasizes silence and stillness as much as dialogue and action. Its effect is cumulative, and its epiphanies, when they come, are all the more powerful after so much restraint… What Mr. Tóibín’s exquisitely sensitive novel gets right, in a way that biography rarely does, is its acknowledgment of unknowability. The Magician has one of the most sublime endings I’ve come across in a novel in a long time.”
—Donna Rifkin, The Wall Street Journal
“An incisive and witty novel that shows what good company the Nobelist and his family might have been… The Magician is Mann-sized, but it canters along not only on the strength of Tóibín’s graceful prose, but also because the reader can hardly wait for the next bon mot from a family member or guest.”
—Dennis Drabelle, The Washington Post
“The Magician, Colm Tóibín’s new novel about Mann, resists the shallow gestures of Hollywood biopics, reaching for something mainstream film couldn’t get at, or wouldn’t bother with. How does an artist create, and can a true artist live as the rest of us do?”
—Rumaan Alam, Vulture
“Tóibín's Mann [is] more interesting than the mere facts of his admittedly larger-than-life story… the book gets its momentum and heft from the way these experiences intersect with the larger world, in particular, the way Tóibín has Mann making sense of them, in his life and in his art.”
—Ellen Atkins, The Minneapolis Star-Tribune
“Powerful… The Magician masterfully weaves together Tóibín’s take on Mann’s personal and interior life with the creation of his major works… a remarkable dual portrait of Germany’s history in the 20th century and of a great, internationally famous writer… a stirring paean to literature and music… Tóibín does a particularly sensitive job depicting the Manns’ long, successful marriage… a magnificent achievement.”
—Heller McAlpin, The Christian Science Monitor
“You don’t have to be a Thomas Mann fan to be gripped by the account of his life that author Colm Tóibín delivers in his new novel… Toibin is at home in Mann’s contradictions… his biggest triumph is in getting to the heart of Mann’s dilemma,”
—Michael Upchurch, Seattle Times
“An intimate portrait of Thomas Mann… Tóibín uses a novelist’s tools to present a picture of Mann as a full human figure with darkness and depth… In The Magician, Tóibín presents a rare view into the making of serious art and, in the process, shows he is a powerful magician himself.”
—Chicago Review of Books
“An ode to a 20th-century genius and a feat of literary sorcery in its own right.”
“Compelling… This is an enormously ambitious book, one in which the intimate and the momentous are exquisitely balanced…Tóibín has fashioned an epic.”
“The Magician is magic! Tóibín is, of course, a literary heavyweight… Some writers are able to hover above the world of fact and enter that place where spirit and substance do merge. Tóibín has proven again that he is such a writer.”
—Fredericksburg Free-Lance Star
"As he did with Henry James in 2004’s The Master, Tóibin blends the factual with the imagined to conjure the rich inner life, and repressed sexuality, of a man 'whose gift is unparalleled and whose life is driven by a need to belong and the anguish of illicit desire.'"