Anna-Maria Kellen Lecture
The Magician’s Mother: A Story of Coffee, Race, and German Culture
Thomas Mann so shaped the idea of “Germanness” in the twentieth century that, even in exile, he would claim that German culture was wherever he was. Yet this iconic German writer had a Brazilian mother—Julia Mann (1851-1923), née da Silva Bruhns—whose traumatic experiences of immigration profoundly influenced her son’s life and writing. While our reading of Thomas Mann’s work has been inflected by various parts of his biography—his attraction to men, his wife’s Jewish origins—the critical potential of his Brazilian background remains largely unexplored. In this talk, Veronika Fuechtner argues that this story radically alters the way we read not only Mann’s writing but also his place within German literature, ultimately undermining the notion of canonical German literature and its unspoken assumption of racial and cultural homogeneity.