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Confessions of Felix Krull, Confidence Man: The Early Years (1954 original; edición 1992)
por Thomas Mann
Información de la obra
Confesiones del estafador Félix Krull por Thomas Mann (Author) (1954)
Unreliable Narrators (84)
German Literature (205)
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20th Century Literature (1,034)
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3.5 rounded to 4 ( )
Ein Hoch auf die Schelmenromane!
Thomas Mann tinkered with this book for almost fifty years, releasing excerpts from the work-in-progress from time to time starting in 1911, before publishing the definitive version of Part One in 1954. At that point he seems to have accepted that he wasn't going to write the remainder of the story: Part Two never got beyond a brief outline. Maybe a classic demonstration of the principle that comic fiction is much harder to write than serious intellectual stuff...?
Because, unlikely though that might seem if you don't know it, this is a picaresque comic novel. Of a sort, anyway. Mann conceived it as a kind of anti-autobiography, a parody of the worthy and self-important memoirs of a Great German Artist (he seems to have had Goethe in mind particularly, but a lot of the time it also feels as though he's mocking himself).
Felix Krull, born in the 1870s in a small town on the Rhine, has drawn the logical conclusion from his bourgeois, provincial German upbringing that the only way to get ahead in life is to lie, cheat and steal, whilst doing all you can to avoid getting tied up in human relationships. With a great deal of pompous prose and circumlocution, he tells us about his marvellous successes in life, most of which turn out to be defeats and humiliations by any objective standard. He fails high school, gets out of military service only by faking an epileptic fit, and earns a living hailing cabs outside theatres, pimping for a Frankfurt street-walker, and then working as a lift-boy and waiter in a Paris hotel. It's only in the final chapters that he achieves some sort of temporary glory, swapping lives with an aristocrat who prefers suburban bliss with his girlfriend to being sent on a world tour by his parents. And even there, the world tour has only got him from Paris to Lisbon by the end of Part One, and we have our reasons to suspect that he won't get much further.
There's quite a bit of sharp social observation along the way, as well as some moderately racy chapters where the lovely Felix is being pursued by would-be lovers of either gender, or is doing a bit of dilly-dallying on his own account. But there also some long digressions that seem to have slipped out from drafts of the Magic Mountain whilst the author wasn't paying attention, including a 20-page science lesson Felix gets from a fellow traveller in the restaurant car of the Lisbon express, which only seems to be there to feed the running joke about the way Felix grabs and relentlessly recycles every fragment of general knowledge that comes his way.
If you're after the racy memoirs of a (fictional) rogue this possibly isn't the best place to start, but it's definitely worth reading for the "other side of" Thomas Mann it exposes to us. Thomas Mann might have had his limitations as a comedian, but he still had plenty to say with this book.
After years of exploring the tension of the artist and the bourgeois, Mann's final act is to present the con man as artist (or vice versa).
A friend's review of this is: great first half, dull second half. My review is the exact opposite, which suggests that this is just about taste. The first half, for me, was a little too cutesy with the symbolism, as Krull discovers how much he enjoys acting, impersonating, and being praised for his beauty. Well done, but also (for me) hampered by the impossibility of doing anything new with the first part of life-stories. You'll be surprised to learn that Felix has a family, there is a crisis, he matures and strikes out to start life on his own. There is fun to be had with the threefold perspective of young Felix, narrating Felix, and implied author Mann, but to be honest, if you haven't had your fill of unreliable narrators at this point of history, I don't know what to say.
The second half, on the other hand, is a perfectly done 18th century picaresque, but in the early 20th century--and here the threefold perspective comes into its own, since the combination of modernist narrator and picaresque tale is something I, at least, haven't seen much of before (I don't count the pomo narrators in this category).
There's not much else to say. It's very funny, parts of it remind me of many other novels I have loved (a dash of Proust; a hint of Bassani; Mann's other works, of course). I, unlike my aforementioned friend, am very sad that he never finished it. This could easily have surpassed Buddenbrooks and the Mountain, simply because big serious novels are so rarely hilariously funny.
Also, I read somewhere that Mann modeled the narrative voice after Goethe's memoirs, which he found unbearably pompous. I enjoyed reading it much more once I could assume that the pseudo-aristocratic style really was meant to be mocked.
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Death in Venice ; Tristan ; Tonio Kroger ; Doctor Faustus ; Mario and the magician ; A man and his dog ; The black swan ; Confessions of Felix Krull, confidence man por Thomas Mann
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NUEVA TRADUCCIÓN DE ISABEL GARCÍA ADÁNEZ. Probablemente la novela mÁs juvenil jamÁs escrita por un anciano, es el mÁs perfecto ejemplo de la ironÍa que caracteriza buena parte de la obra de Thomas Mann. A tenor de esta concepciÓn estética de la vida, las trampas, los robos y las imposturas acaban no sÓlo por justificarse, sino incluso por constituir un estilo de vida de moralidad irreprochable. Thomas Mann legÓ a la posteridad una última novela desconcertante, irÓnica, burlona y probablemente una de las mÁs sagaces y divertidas de todos los tiempos, sin rebajar un Ápice su exigencia literaria.
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Sistema Decimal Melvil (DDC)833.912Literature German literature and literatures of related languages German fiction Modern period (1900-) 1900-1990 1900-1945
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