Ben Oliver

The Magician

05 December 2022

A fictionalised account of the life of German writer Thomas Mann, which spanned life under the Kaiser, the fall of Imperial Germany, the First World War, the rise of the Nazis, the Second World War and the creation of East Germany.

Tóibín picks a few vignettes to describe in intricate detail, rather than trying to write a biography. It’s a wonderful melding of research and creative writing, and while I had reservations about why you’d want to do such a thing, the end product works well as a novel.

The Magician reminds me of a well put together Hollywood biopic, albeit a high brow one. The ones that try to capture a whole life tend to fail. The ones that cherry pick a few moments and take the time to render them with emotion and humanity are the ones that work.