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14 August 1995
Fiction & Literature; Modern & contemporary fiction (post c 1945); Classic fiction (pre c 1945)
A searing indictment of evil in Hitler's Germany. Hendrik Hofgen is a man obsessed with becoming a famous actor. When the Nazis come to power in Germany, he willingly renounces his Communist past and deserts his wife and mistress in order to keep on performing. His diabolical performance as Mephistopheles in Faust proves to be the stepping-stone he yearned for: attracting the attention of Hermann Goering, it wins Hofgen an appointment as head of the State Theatre. The rewards - the respect of the public, a castle - like villa, a uplace in Berlin's highest circles - are beyond his wildest dreams. But the moral consequences of his betrayals begin to haunt him, turning his dreamworld into a nightmare.
By:   Klaus Mann
Translated by:   Robin Smyth
Imprint:   Penguin
Country of Publication:   United Kingdom
Dimensions:   Height: 197mm,  Width: 133mm,  Spine: 18mm
Weight:   226g
ISBN:   9780140189186
ISBN 10:   0140189181
Series:   Penguin Modern Classics
Pages:   272
Publication Date:   14 August 1995
Audience:   General/trade ,  ELT Advanced
Format:   Paperback
Publisher's Status:   Active

Reviews for Mephisto

A literary curiosity: a novel written in 1936 by Thomas Mann's son that's been banned these last number of years in Germany as libelous. Mann's brother-in-law, his sister's husband, was the ostensible prototype for the book's Hendrik Hofgen, a provincial actor who, by the agencies of a dirty smile, some natural talent, and the moral backbone of an amoeba, is able to rise through the miasma of the German Thirties to the position of State Theatre Director for the Nazis, directly under the sheltering wing of Goring himself. That Hofgen keeps a black mistress, Juliette, who regularly whips him, that he's toyed with Communism in order to keep contact with those on the outs in case they eventually get in - none of this matters once he moves himself onto the Berlin Stage in Faust and gives the Nazis a Mephistopheles to love, a rascal whose evil is endearing. Now suddenly on the heights, Hendrik's a swine who means to stay there; denunciations, jailings, killing await those in his past who threaten his position with compromising memories. Mann is quoted in the publisher's introduction as having intended to analyze the abject type of treacherous intellectual who prostitutes his talent for the sake of some tawdry fame and transitory wealth - but the objective is clear enough from the texture of the writing; italicized invective and jeremiad breaks into the narrative, as though Mann couldn't hold back his rage and disgust. Not a calorie is spent on making Hendrik even a jot sympathetic or human: he's a monster plain and simple. Strangely, the fact that the book has an agreed-upon real-life skeleton makes it moderately compelling. As a novel, its harsh artless Expressionism leaves a clumsy mark; but as a knife-thrust into a real belly, the book fashions a genuine, albeit footnote-size, drama of passionate enmity. (Kirkus Reviews)

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