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The Brazilian roots of Thomas Mann

September 7, 2012 No Comment

culture  The Brazilian roots of Thomas Mann

Mann in his youth. Photo from the New York Public Library Archives/Wikipedia

Arguably one of last century’s greatest authors, Nobel laureate Thomas Mann might seem, at first, extremely rooted in the culture of his native Germany. Books like “Death in Venice” and “Doctor Faust”, offer a deep, and frequently critical analysis of the German soul.

What few know is that Mann’s mother, Júlia da Silva Bruhn, was born in the historical city of Paraty, in the coast of Rio, daughter of German and Portuguese immigrants. Her father owned several sugar plantations. She was not exposed to the German language till the age of six, when her father sent her to Lübeck, in Germany, after the death of her mother.

There is abundant evidence of her influence in her two sons, Heinrich and Thomas, writings. Both created characters inspired by her, referring to her South-American blood and passionate artistic temperament. But some authors believe Júlia had also a devastating influence over her children, including two girls that committed suicide. One of this authors is Marianne Krull, who wrote a psychological analysis of the Manns that points out that the mother’s exile inspired the boys to write. Another author, Brazilian João Silvério Trevisan, wrote “Ana em Veneza”, a novel heavily inspired in Júlia Brunhs’ life, based in some extensive research. He describes her exoticism, her laughter, her shiny eyes and flirts, the unconventional ways of a tropical girl in a severe Lutheran land – a profile that created in her children a certain instability and a morbid desire to experience and retell human dramas.

P.S. – And better late…Happy September 7th!



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