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Confessions of Felix Krull, Confidence Man: The Early Years [Paperback]

Thomas Mann
4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (16 customer reviews)
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Book Description

March 31 1992 Vintage International
Recounts the enchanted career of the con man extraordinaire Felix Krull--a man unhampered by the moral precepts that govern the conduct of ordinary people.

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Customer Reviews

Most helpful customer reviews
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Mann in a humorous vein Nov. 22 2003
This picaresque novel of adventure by the writer of such
ponderous masterpieces as The Magic Mountain is one of my
favorite books.
Many readers who come to it after Buddenbrooks or Tonio Kroeger
note the parallels Mann felt existed between the artist and
the confidence man. In Tonio Kroeger, the eponymous central
character has an encounter in his home town where he's mistaken
briefly for a con man. In the earlier story, it's an incident
full of irony. In Felix Krull, Mann turns that theme on its
head and plays it as a burlesque.
The elegance and suavity of the writing, captured well by
the Lindley translation, are both a pleasure to read, and
an analogue for the well-oiled confidence skills of the
first person narrator. It's helpful to remember that we
are being told "true confessions" by a man who has made
his way in life by taking people in.
Another feature of the work, not often commented on, is
the element of parody. Mann wrote the book with one eye,
as it were, on the great German picaresque novel by
Hans von Grimmelshausen, Simplicius Simplicisimus. Krull's
travails, talents, and successes are at times a humorous
transposition of those in Grimmelshausen's work.
Because the book was started back in 1911, and reflects on
a period 20 or more years earlier, it's a historical time
capsule of sorts. This might annoy some readers; for others,
it grants the work a certain period charm.
Finally, we should remember that the work is incomplete. This
was intended to be the first part of a full-dress fictional
memoir. Had he lived longer, Mann might have written 2 more
Read more ›
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5.0 out of 5 stars A much lighter side to Thomas Mann April 22 2003
In this, the last of Thomas Mann's novels, we see him relaxing, letting his hair down, so to speak. Gone are the philosophical debates of Magic Mountain, the complicated musical discussions of Doctor Faustus, and even the attitude toward decline and decay from Buddenbrooks. This is a book about Felix Krull, a young man who learns early on that life is what he wants it to be. He becomes a 'confidence man,' someone who changes his name frequently and acts in a 'role' of an identity not his own.

The intriguing thing about Krull is that he is every bit the artist. He is an actor through and through, so good at his trade that he actually becomes (even in his own mind) the character he is portraying. The only difference is that his stage is the world at large. Throughout Felix's early years he deceives various people, steals from a couple of them, takes advantage of others. But Felix is not your typical conman. He seems not to want to hurt anyone, and often goes out of his way to be fair to people. The schemes he does pull he does not consider to be necessarily wrong--in fact, he sees himself acting in an acceptable way. His justification for this is that he is made of 'finer clay' than other people.

In Felix we see many of Mann's other characters--Hans Castorp (in his education at the museum in Lisbon), Tonio Kroger (in his musings on the price and toll of being an artist), even Christian or Hanno Buddenbrook in a sense (what they may have been under other circumstances, without familial pressure). Certainly, anyone familiar with Mann's works will notice that most of the themes of this book are familiar, and have been used in other works as well. There really is nothing groundbreaking in Felix Krull--it is rather an enjoyable novel, especially for fans of Mann, that is easy to read and has some good insights in it. It is not his best work, but it is certainly worth the time to read it.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Herr Mann's Amusing,Whimisical Side! May 14 2002
Many readers associate Tom Mann with being super-erudite,solemn, and a tough read. Check out this book, and you'll learn this great author could be tongue in cheek, hilarious, and downright boisterous. Even more amazing is that he started this novel as young man (though an astoundingly successful and famous one after the phenomenal Buddenbrooks,published at the age of 26!), ands finished it 40 plus years and 2 world wars later, when in his 70's! A young man out to make his mark in the world evades the draft, frolicks with various high class ladies, learns the ins and outs of some mean European city streets, and generally proves himself a rogue of extraordinary powers! There are bits of the standards Mann philosophizing, comments on the Greek Gods,etc, but that is to be expected from this incredible genius of a writer. But for all those Mann doubters out there who stumbled over say, DEATH IN VENICE, MAGIC MOUNTAIN, FAUSTUS etc. give this a try, since this only proves the tasty froth on this vast and distinguished literary cake by the GREATEST 20th Century Author!!!
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4.0 out of 5 stars comes in like a lion, goes out like a lamb Oct. 7 2000
By A Customer
Thomas Mann as a writer definitely had his strong points, as no one really needs to be told, but his strongest point is probably the way he uses language. Some feel that he is overly descriptive and tends to drag things out a bit too much, like henry miller who called him a "great fabricator", but aside from all this, reading Mann is a unique experience. Now, Felix Krull is labeled a "con man extraordinaire" on the back cover of this book, which is fine if it is meant in the old fashioned, acting like an aristocrat way... but for people, like me, who expect a bit more "con" to the "game" the book is a disappointment. This of course, is no fault of Mann's...just do not be misled by people telling you this is a story of a con man. To make this brief, Felix is a person who finds it increasingly difficult do discern between reality and the illusory, making it hard for him to "find himself". This idea culminates near the end where for about 50 pages the "con" is definitely "on". The first half of this book is immensely entertaining, and it carries some passages that would jump out at anybody as fabulous. The second half for the most part, carries a different method of telling the story, as we get less and less of Felix's entertaining interjections...but it still keeps its magnificence due to Mann's incredible gift of flat-out "story telling". The end is strange to say the least, and there is a section where there is a letter of about thirty pages that is written in the dullest, victorian, aristocratic, "proper talk" that, at least for me, was ferociously boring; causing the story to lose a lot of the steam it had built up getting to this point. Read more ›
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Most recent customer reviews
4.0 out of 5 stars Delightful!
This is a wonderfully eloquent autobiography of a wonderfully arrogant young man. It's so artful and creative, you'd think it was nonfiction. I highly recommend it. Read more
Published on Oct. 21 2003 by Daniel
3.0 out of 5 stars Witty, but Lacking Other
The story follows the career of a young man, naturally embued with a handsome frame, a fine mind, and little in the way of morals. Read more
Published on July 9 2001 by Ken Williams
4.0 out of 5 stars One Part Flaw Two Parts Masterpiece
This book is like an ocean liner holed beneath the waterline at several points but with effective bulkheads. Read more
Published on July 29 2000 by Captain Cook
5.0 out of 5 stars A small masterpiece about the reality of illusion.
Those who know Thomas Mann for his weightier books will be surprised to see how light this short novel is.
Felix Krull is a "Con Man. Read more
Published on April 29 2000 by smarmer
5.0 out of 5 stars A Clever and Subtle Masterpiece
The Confessions of Felix Krull, published in the year of Thomas Mann's death, 1955,is a remarkable work of humor and satire. Read more
Published on March 24 2000 by mholesh
2.0 out of 5 stars 2 stars for anyone else, for Thomas Mann this is a 5
This was the first book I ever read by Thomas Mann, and I was proud and amazed that I'd gotten through the whole thing. In fact I still am. Read more
Published on March 23 2000
4.0 out of 5 stars Felix Krull
The best way to escape one's own lot in life is to re-invent one's life as a far more interesting character, and thus does Felix Krull embark on his adult life. Read more
Published on Jan. 13 2000 by Bob Dunning
5.0 out of 5 stars A masterpiece of urbanity and wit.
Felix is a gentleman of the highest order; one who possesses a philosopher's intellect and a romantic's instinct. Read more
Published on June 3 1999
5.0 out of 5 stars nihil humanum alienum est
A novel of fluff and levity by the German master brooder? - hmmmm... Well, not exactly. It's just that, as he also has his protagonist and "anti-hero" Felix Krull quote... Read more
Published on Feb. 22 1998
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