Yes, Thomas Mann was a genius writer, but he was also a disaster for his children

Kim Carsen, Florian Maiger and Ludwig Benderft in the Man Man Man dressSophie Ganjaf statue

magic mountain

When actor and theater director Steve Aerts, 34, started reading a few years ago in magic mountain (1924) by Thomas Mann, He Got Shocked. To his surprise, it turned out to be a very smart book. There were a lot of scenes where he had to chuckle.

At first, he saw reading the huge classical German writings as important to himself. But this task quickly became fun. He was captivated by the story of Hans Castorp, who went to a sanatorium in the Swiss Alps for three weeks, but stayed there for seven years.

Arts now calls it a “masterpiece”, a week before the premiere of the adaptation that he and Mary Fink (39), both members of the Antwerp theater company FC Bergmann, gave at the International Theater in Amsterdam, with Martin Heijmans as Castorp. “What surprised me most: In all of its outsized pretensions, the book also has something modest about it.”

He immediately passed the book on to Fink, who had a similar experience. I was struck by the author’s enthusiastic attempt to understand the world through Castorp’s eyes, as well as death and life. He went very far on this, in the long descriptions and dialogues. But, of course, his attempt is doomed to failure. I found this very impressive.

Steve Aerts.  Photo by Kelly Fober

Steve Aerts.Photo by Kelly Fober

fragile creatures

Unsuccessful attempts to unravel the mystery of life, this is how you can summarize the work of Fink and Ayertz at FC Bergmann. Often this consists of ambitious merrymaking, in which we see the searching person losing to higher powers. In 2018, they made the movie JR (after the already massive novel by William Gaddis), with a 14-meter-high apartment building as the backdrop, making dozens of actors gleefully. recently was sheep song About a sheep trying to become a human.

Fink: “Small, fragile creatures in a world so big. Isn’t that how we feel so much? We want to show the audience that he’s not alone in this.

It was clear that magic mountain to do the next project. As always, the duo made this decision impulsively. The fascination with the book was still quite recent at the time. Only later did they realize what they were getting into.

It’s time to freeze

Thomas Mann did not write a ready-made script in the least. The theater makers had to take care of this themselves. And that turned out to be quite confusing. “What doesn’t really help is that there isn’t much going on in the book,” says Ayrts. “It’s almost a thousand pages about people hanging out in a sanatorium. It’s about the experience of alienation when time comes to a standstill in a place where nothing happens—apart from talking and feelings and whining and whining.”

So the big question was: How do you translate a story with this immeasurable feeling into a performance of no more than three hours?

They find the answer in the performance scenography, a slowly transforming sanatorium, and the use of live music and video. Fink: “We are trying to create a dynamic performance around a life that stops. The camera plays an important role in this and acts as a stopwatch, indicating the changing rhythm of Hans Kastorp’s life.

Mary Fink.  Photo by Kelly Fober

Mary Fink.Photo by Kelly Fober


Although the performance stemmed from impulsive infatuation, the story has naturally gained some common ground with our times in recent times. At first there was the Corona period, which made the focus on health in the sanatorium localized. After all, all the characters are in some kind of quarantine, obsessed with disease and healing.

Then war broke out in Ukraine. Ertz: The book was set on the eve of World War I. It’s time to get on his last legs. You get the feeling that the people up there on that mountain somehow realize it’s brewing, but no one seems to want to see it. Until it’s too late and there’s nothing you can do about it. I find this shockingly well known now.

To me then, this book is about the complacency of the West, which for far too long has lived in slow fortune, high above the rest of the world. Suddenly, that spell broke, and now we were thrown into an all-out battle like children. How will we get out of that? Mann didn’t answer, but the question turned out to be prophetic.

According to them, this makes De Toverberg a timeless masterpiece and a genius author. “As a writer,” Artes asserts. I can’t say anything about what Man was like as a person. To find out, we’ll probably have to go to man man man


‘No, we have magic mountain Don’t read,” Kim Carsen, 26, and Florian Meijer, 30, say in unison.

They shouldn’t have done that at all because of their performance man man man, which they make with Ludwig Bindervoet in the Amsterdam troupe (formerly De Warme Winkel), where Myjer is part of the artistic core. It is not about the great author Thomas Mann, but about three of his six children. To be precise Erica, Klaus, and Gulu Mann, and the personal tragedies they experienced by living a lifetime in the shadow of the “Sorcerer,” as they call him with much disgust.

Ludwig Benderft, Florian Meijer and Kim Carsen, in a Man Man dress.  Sophie Ganjaf statue

Ludwig Benderft, Florian Meijer and Kim Carsen, in a Man Man dress.Sophie Ganjaf statue


Because, despite all the wealth and prestige the family has inherited through Mann’s success, it turns out it’s no fun being the son of this Nobel laureate. Genius has its price, too. Everything in the family revolves around the authorship of the father. Katya’s wife also had to keep BV Mann running. Children were especially useful as material for Mann’s novels.

At the performance, one of the children said that he once asked his father: “Do you love me?” The answer was, “I love my books.”

So it is not surprising that many children suffer from depression. Two committed suicide, including Klaus.

This fact fascinated Carsen and Meijer, who had previously given performances with literary themes, such as Bloomsburyfor the British Bloomsbury Group, and war and peaceAfter Tolstoy’s book. The relationship between art and family in particular attracted their attention. And you don’t necessarily have to read Thomas Mann’s work for that.

They read many children’s novels and memoirs, because everyone in that family eventually became a writer. Young writer Rindert Krumhout’s novels about Klaus Mann have also been a source of inspiration.

Florian Major and Kim Carsen.  picture

Florian Major and Kim Carsen.

Personal Photos

Major says the more they read, the more poignant it became. “This family is really food for psychologists.” The three spent an afternoon with a systems therapist in a family therapy session. Myjer: I had a doll from Klaus, Kim from Erica and Ludwig van Golo. Hence we had to comment on the different settings. Your family, as it turns out again, is the blueprint for the rest of your life. You will never lose the patterns you learn there.

One of the things they learned about Thomas Mann during their research was that he was a narcissist, and so were many of his sons. Carsen: That gave us a current view. Today’s society is becoming more individualistic. The more selfies you take, the more narcissistic you become. The Man family did too, just with the resources of time. They talk and write about themselves all the time. If they were alive today, they’d be a famous Insta influencer, sort of the Kardashian literary family, doing nothing but introducing themselves.

Carsen: I don’t have that motivation myself, but I recognize myself in those around me. It doesn’t seem healthy to me if everyone is always so focused on themselves. Just look at the guys. Nobody takes care of each other out there – and see how they end up.


Myjer admires the way Thomas Mann has shaped his life, as if it were a work of art in itself. “He made a choice at one point. He renounced homosexuality, wanted to marry a rich woman and have children. And everything worked out. Well, the people around him were not very happy with that, but the malleability of life, yes, I find that wonderful.”

In the end, Carsen cannot admire Mann. ‘I understand he wrote beautiful books. But the price is too high for me. Empathize with children. Then I think: I had no children after that. He could have really become an artist at that time.

Major: We watched the documentary light van Oeke Hoogendijk about the German composer Karlheinz Stockhausen. His daughter spoke. He said: It is strange that my father is present. He did incredible things. But for God’s sake, don’t let such people have children.”

at man man man We see, sometimes hilariously, how this can go wrong. How towering ambitions and vanities can poison a family. During a wine-filled evening, the trio continually angered the “wizard” and each other, like an exorcism that wouldn’t work.

Major: “Theatre is a safe place to show not only majesty, but ugliness of spirit, perversion and narcissism, and we hope we can learn something from that.”

magic mountain The premiere will take place on 16/4 at ITA, Amsterdam. Displayed there until 1/5. man man man By Toneelgroep Amsterdam Can still be seen until 6/5.

Thomas Mann, circa 1915. Image Corbis via Getty Images

Thomas Mann, circa 1915.Corbis Image via Getty Images

family drama

The life of Thomas Mann and his family is a rewarding resource for novelists. Rindert Krumhout’s Trilogy manAnd you were his hero And My father’s name† Focuses on the life of Jr. Klaus Mann. He committed suicide at the age of 43. Thomas Mann was on a lecture tour at the time, and did not want to interrupt her for his son’s funeral. Also appeared recently operator Irish writer Colm Toibin, a novel about Thomas Mann and his struggles with his sexual feelings, children, and emerging Nazism.

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