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Confessions of Felix Krull, Confidence Man: The Early Years Paperback – March 31, 1992

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 392 pages
  • Publisher: Vintage (March 31, 1992)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0679739041
  • ISBN-13: 978-0679739043
  • Product Dimensions: 8 x 5.4 x 0.9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 12 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (24 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #575,974 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

Language Notes

Text: English (translation)
Original Language: German

From the Inside Flap

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

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As it is, this is a delightful story with a profound subtext.
Mann wrote the book with one eye, as it were, on the great German picaresque novel by Hans von Grimmelshausen, _Simplicius Simplicissimus_.
L. Stearns Newburg
A good half of this book details his life of being someone he is not, but he starts out very much as an imitator.
David Brockert

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

52 of 55 people found the following review helpful By smarmer on April 29, 2000
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
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." This book recounts his early years, from early childhood, through his ingenious method of avoiding being drafted into the army, to his initial jobs. He avoids the army by appearing too eager to join, thus inducing suspicion regarding his mental stability. He works his way up by recognizing that having a good appearance and a willing attitude more than compensates for lack of experience or ability. Being a confidence man requires supreme self-confidence and Felix has that in abundance.
For me the pivotal scene is when Felix is taken to the theater by his father to see a play in which one of the father's old school chums is starring. Felix is captivated by the magnetic attraction between audience and star. This is made even greater by the back stage visit he and his father make after the show. The star turns out to be much shorter than he appeared to be, with reddish hair instead of black, and rough skin instead of the smooth skin he appeared to have. His manner is coarse, not like the refined character he portrayed. Topping it off, he is in need of continuous reassurance that he did a good job, whereas the character he played was supremely confident and poised. This is the key to Felix's realization that for most of the world illusion is reality, and that the illusionist needs the audience just as the audience needs the illusionist.
Whether Mann had a sequel planned is uncertain. We do leave Felix as a young man, wondering what his further adventures and potential growth might have been.
As it is, this is a delightful story with a profound subtext. Are there any people like Felix around today?
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25 of 25 people found the following review helpful By L. Stearns Newburg on November 22, 2003
Format: Paperback
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 and shows us the artist seen through the fun-house mirror of the artist-equals-con man metaphor.

A number of the themes of Mann's earlier novels are taken up here in humorous and ironic form, e.g., the rise of the artist through the decay of a respectable family (a theme in _Buddenbrooks_) is transmogrified into Krull's lineage from a good-but-dissolute family; in consequence, their respectability is more apparent than real, and as much an illusion as Felix Krull's career of deceit.

It may be that Mann intends that Felix Krull symbolically represents decay beneath his disguise (like the actor Mueller-Rose in the story), but the reader doesn't *feel* this is true. Krull might be the healthiest character in Mann's work, full of that zest for life that so wearied the bourgeois manque' Tonio Kroeger in Italy. Felix Krull isn't a "manque'" anything; a consummate actor on the stage of life, he is simply whatever or whomever he wants to be.

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.
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15 of 15 people found the following review helpful By mholesh on March 24, 2000
Format: Paperback
The Confessions of Felix Krull, published in the year of Thomas Mann's death, 1955,is a remarkable work of humor and satire. It is hard to believe that it was written by a man in his late 70's. The book had its origins in a fragment published by Mann long before, in 1909, even before Death in Venice, probably his most well known work, at least these days. Perhaps this accounts for the youthful humor mixed with a wisdom and tolerance that a man of the world like Mann attained after a long, eventful and thoughtful life.
Felix Krull is a charmer from the earliest age, a knowing manipulator of his surroundings and even his own body, able to induce fevers by self-will to avoid the boredom of school and bemuse his family doctor into acquiescence. Blessed by astonishing beauty that affects all that come into contact with him and fuels an arrogance and self-confidence that probably would not be tolerated in someone of lesser grace, he is able to insinuate himself up the social ladder into the most rarefied social circles of aristocratic Europe. Through his own wit and the vanities and susceptibilities of his victims, he brazens his way through the most delicate situations.
While it is not necessary to have a familiarity with Mann's life and other works to enjoy this book, such knowledge will add greatly to the fun. There are many autobiographical references and self-caricatures dispersed amongst the characters who knowingly or unknowingly are seduced by the irrepressible Felix and some of the observations and feelings that Felix describes are most definitely those that Mann himself strongly felt.
Recurring motifs throughout Mann's works find expression here. Most striking is the identification of Felix with the Greek god Hermes, here in his aspect of god of thieves.
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