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Confessions of Felix Krull, Confidence Man: The Early Years Paperback – March 31, 1992
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Original Language: German
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Top Customer Reviews
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?
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.Read more ›
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.Read more ›
Most Recent Customer Reviews
Set at the end of the 19th century, this self-satisfied first person account, tinged with many a philosophical reflection on life in general, we learn how already as a beautiful... Read morePublished 4 months ago by Ralph Blumenau
I am amazed that most readers treat this as a finished novel. It is clearly a fragment. Only ten or so pages from the "end", Mann is introducing characters who would have... Read morePublished 11 months ago by Tony Covatta
I had tears in my eyes from laughing when I read this book.Published 13 months ago by Ron Grooteman
Felix Krull is born into a family of dwindling fortunes. His father - a producer of a terrible champagne - enjoys a hedonistic lifestyle that Felix plans to emulate, and his... Read morePublished 17 months ago by An admirer of Saul
Funny but one must adapt to mittel-Europa kultur of a bygone age in order to enjoy.
The reviewer happens to be an ancient mariner. Thus, adaptation fairly easy
At the outset, I will admit that Thomas Mann is my favorite author. His writings are exceptional and his life's story was remarkable (including escaping the Nazis in WWII and... Read morePublished on March 3, 2013 by D. Roberts