Doctor Faustus

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First edition in Europe in 1947

Doctor Faustus . The life of the German composer Adrian Leverkühn, told by a friend is a novel by Thomas Mann . It was written between May 23, 1943 and January 29, 1947.

Superficially, this older work is an artist 's novel based on the Faust myth . In addition, there is an "epoch novel", a Munich social novel, a novel on the role of music or the poetic attempt to reproduce music with language, and an art-theoretical essay whose remarks and sentences are spread throughout the book. Above all, however, the multi-layered text is, according to Thomas Mann himself, a life confession, a self-deprecating parody of both the style and the main theme of its author: the artist's problems that determine his entire work, the gap between the aesthetic spirit and bourgeois life. Self-ironic also in that there is hardly a critical thought that [the] book does not think about itself.

Even as a young man, Thomas Mann had the plan to write a Faust novel. However, he only put this plan into practice after completing his "Joseph" tetralogy . The theme of the novel is the so-called “German tragedy”: The novel is about the cultural-historical and intellectual-historical roots of National Socialism . The romantic-irrational thinking is presented again and again, which in Thomas Mann's view ultimately led to National Socialism: In the conversations of the student Adrian Leverkühn with his fellow students, which are characterized by " Wandervogel " romance, in the reactionary, anti-human and anti-civilization speeches of the Dr. Chaim Breisacher and in the "arch-fascist" (according to Thomas Mann) discussion groups with Dr. Sixtus Kridwiss. Against this background, the life's fate of the gifted, but humanly cold Adrian Leverkühn is described. Leverkühn's personal tragedy is related to the tragedy of the German people, the pact with its inner devil is paralleled with the alliance of evil that Germany has entered into - although it remains open what Thomas Mann means by this evil: Adolf Hitler personally, National Socialism in general or, even more broadly, any thinking that is hostile to humans and civilization in general.


Doctor Faustus tells the life of the composer Adrian Leverkühn from the retrospective perspective of his friend Serenus Zeitblom, who began to write with the biography on May 27, 1943 and in his notes on Leverkühn's life and his productions he kept reporting and commenting on the events of the war years 1943 to 1945 incorporated. With this trick of relating a fictional biography and contemporary history, Thomas Mann parallels the fate of Leverkühn with that of Germany.

Adrian was born in 1885 on the Buchel farm in Oberweiler near Weißenfels . He has two siblings, Georg and Ursula, with whom he is on friendly terms but at a distance. His mother Elsbeth Leverkühn is an undemanding woman. Despite her charming, strikingly warm mezzo-soprano voice and her latent inner musicality and although as a simple peasant woman she picks up an old guitar every now and then, plucks a few chords and hums small melodies , she never lets herself into the actual singing . So Adrian, together with his brother and his friend Serenus, had his earliest musical experiences with the stable maid Hanne, who instructed the three to sing canons together .

Leverkühn's father, who in his free time devotes himself partly to scientific and partly to alchemical experiments, ensures that his two sons are trained by a private tutor. Adrian soon turned out to be so talented that the teacher, when Adrian was eight years old, confessed that he could no longer teach him anything. From now on Adrian attends the grammar school in the (fictional) Kaisersaschern an der Saale near Merseburg and Naumburg , from which his childhood friend and later biographer Serenus Zeitblom comes. He lives there with his uncle, a music dealer known far beyond Kaisersaschern, in whose extensive warehouse Adrian got to know many musical instruments.

In addition to his school education, he is now receiving piano lessons from the cathedral organist Wendell Kretzschmar. From then on, he will remain his musical mentor. On the basis of several original, but only weakly attended music lectures by Wendell Kretzschmar, the reader gains a lasting impression of Kretzschmar's musical competence. The curious rhetoric and the frequent stuttering obstacles of the presenter do not detract from his charismatic effect. From him Adrian finally also received lessons in organ playing and composition.

After graduating from high school, however, Leverkühn did not study music, as was generally expected, but theology . But he stopped attending the lectures in Halle after the 4th semester in order to now turn to studying music, which he started in Leipzig at the beginning of the winter semester of 1905 , where Wendell Kretzschmar has since been appointed as a lecturer. Leverkühn also attends philosophical lectures and receives his doctorate in this subject .

In addition to this external intellectual and artistic development, Leverkühn also went through an internal spiritual development during his stay in Leipzig. In particular, contact with a prostitute ("Esmeralda"), whom the composer apparently met by chance, has the effect - as Leverkühn's secret notes later reveal - that he feels more and more drawn to the devil. The call “hetaera esmeralda”, which Leverkühn incorporates into his works as a sequence of tones “heae-es”, becomes an expression of this temptation. In order to achieve musical genius and to be able to write new musical works that burst the old classical harmony, Adrian von Esmeralda deliberately allows himself to be infected with syphilis despite their warning and thus pays his tribute to the devil.

After completing his studies, Adrian Leverkühn first moved to Munich for nine months and then spent almost two years in Italy . This is also where the encounter with the devil , documented in the estate records, takes place - whether as a feverish fantasy or real, remains open. Leverkühn has to bequeath his soul to the devil and renounce any love if it warms . For this he will be given the artistic genius for 24 years that is required to create fundamental musical innovations. And the devil keeps his word. By 1930 Leverkühn had succeeded in creating numerous novel compositions, and his name became famous among connoisseurs. However, his work is repeatedly interrupted by the severe migraine attacks that Leverkühn has suffered from since childhood.

After returning from Italy, Adrian Leverkühn moved into quarters for the rest of his life on an old farm in the (fictional) Pfeiffering near Garmisch-Partenkirchen , but maintained social ties with his urban friends. In Munich, meanwhile, in the apartment of the graphic artist Sixtus Kridwiß, elitist, culture-critical gentlemen's evenings are regularly held, at which the violence-glorifying philosophy of Sorel and his recently published work Réflexions sur la violence are discussed. Serenus Zeitblom also takes part, although he is frightened by the inhuman and anti-democratic aestheticism preached there and most of the guests are extremely unsympathetic to their inhuman arrogance and racist smugness. Nevertheless, he believes that he cannot do without the art-theoretical information of that Kridwiss circle and turns a good face into a bad game because he recognizes a parallelism to the musical ideas and ambitions of his friend Leverkühn in its criticism of tradition and the destruction of conventional art forms.

Rudolf Schwerdtfeger, a charming concert violinist, succeeds in overcoming Leverkühn's detachment and reluctance to make contact with stubborn trust. Leverkühn even composed his own violin concerto for him, yielding to his persistent wooing and pleading. In the end, his relationship with Schwerdtfeger became so close that he was the only one who, along with chronicler Serenus Zeitblom, was granted the privilege of being able to use a duel with Leverkühn. But Adrian has to part with Rudolf if he wants to keep the devil's word. So he develops an infamous plan. He sends his friend as a suitor to a new mutual acquaintance, Marie Godeau, a young French-Swiss theater illustrator, in order to have Adrian propose to her. It comes as expected from Leverkühn (who not only recognized Marie's inclination for Schwerdtfeger, but also encouraged it to the best of his ability): The courted girl, according to Zeitblom, an extremely likeable young girl with the most beautiful black eyes in the world , decides for the fun-loving advertiser, not for the silent client. Until then, however, the gallant Schwerdtfeger had a relationship with a married woman, the eccentric Ines Institoris, who now becomes Leverkühn's tool by abandoning her lover, taking revenge on him and killing the faithless Rudolf in cold blood with five pistol shots.

After the death of his friend, Adrian Leverkühn withdrew more and more from social life. When his sister Ursula fell ill, he brought her youngest son, the five-year-old Nepomuk (also called Nepo and Echo by his family members ), to Pfeiffering so that he could recover from the measles he had just survived in the healthy Upper Bavarian country air . Not only Leverkühn, but also the whole village immediately felt a deep affection for the hearty child, who exuded an elf-like charm. Although Adrian repeatedly forces himself not to let his affectionate nephew get too close and too often, even this restrained chaste love seems to go too far for the devil. He sees the contractually agreed prohibition of love violated and takes Adrian the child by letting it die in excruciating pain of a purulent meningitis .

In 1930 Leverkühn's deadline expired, and Hell is stepping into its rights, as the novel's finale shows in a startling way. Leverkühn friends invited to them from the just completed his first score completely in twelve-tone technique written oratory Dr. To play Fausti Weheklag . His bizarre linguistic behavior, his sluggish diction, his ancient German and his numerous slip of the tongue reveal more and more how much he is now mentally and psychologically disturbed. At first, the audience reacted with astonishment to his life confession, which he sent ahead of his piano performance and in which he accused himself of godless pride, lustful fornication and insidious murder. First upset, then outraged, you finally escape from the house and leave. Only his closest friends remain. When Leverkühn finally sat down at the piano pale as death, he collapsed after the first dissonant chords and lost consciousness. After waking up from a prolonged coma, he no longer recognizes his friends. His spiritual life is extinguished. He is taken to a mental hospital. After completing the diagnostics, his mother takes care of her son at home. In the beginning he rebels one last time against this incapacitation with a failed suicide attempt, but then accepts his dreary fate and remains the most manageable child for the remaining ten years of his dawning life .

main characters

Serenus Zeitblom

As the narrator and author of the biography, Zeitblom wants to remain in the background. His purpose in life is the careful observation of Leverkühn. So it happens that he pays relatively little attention to his own life (marriage, birth and growing up of his children, the professional career as a high school professor). Despite his repeatedly emphasized reserve, objectivity and modesty, it becomes clear between the lines that he is well aware of his own importance and is proud of his humanistic education. Certain feelings of rivalry and jealousy towards other friends of Leverkühn are also familiar to him. Despite the coldness that comes from Adrian and frightens the Zeitblom, he, himself a musician, remains fascinated by Adrian's personal impact and understands the epochal significance of his compositions.

With the beginning of the Nazi era, Zeitblom withdrew from professional life. He is thus a credible, admittedly fictional example of internal emigration . After the collapse of the Nazi regime, this term had become a justification for stooping in the oven . (Thomas Mann in the diary on September 20, 1945)

Thomas Mann carefully has his novel written by an “author” who constantly complains about his lack of talent and repeatedly loses the thread in the story. An example for many: “Oh, I write badly! The desire to say everything at once floods my sentences, drives them away from the thought they started to write down, and makes them seem to lose sight of it for a long time. I do well to take the criticism from the mouth of the reader. But this rushing and getting lost of my ideas comes from the excitement into which the memory of the time I am dealing with “- says Zeitblom at the beginning of chapter 34. Nowhere else in literary history is the popular game with the fictional narrator meant more seriously than here. For by having the chronicler Serenus tell the demonic fable in his brave humanist and pedagogical way, Thomas Mann indicates that the subject - and thus the time to which it belongs - has outgrown the traditional spirit of the story. Doctor Faustus is the novelist's certificate of abdication and Serenus Zeitblom is the pseudonym of silence.

Adrian Leverkühn

Leverkühn is an intellectually determined character who secretly suffers from his lack of human warmth (cold motive). The personal address "you" has only survived between him and his childhood friend Zeitblom. The handsome violinist Rudolf Schwerdtfeger was able to wrest it from him later. However, Leverkühn's trust, who has pledged to renounce love in his pact with the devil, maneuver Schwerdtfeger into a deadly conflict.

Leverkühn has an urge to be creative. But with his cold he needs disinhibition, hellish fire , as Thomas Mann calls it in one of his self-comments, in order to become artistically productive. Leverkühn's coolness contrasts with a peculiar, disconcerting lust for laughter that overcomes him when he sees through involuntary comedy. This tendency, the more an unruly ridicule than laughter, and his arrogance have the devil early attention to let him how this later (in the 25th chapter, the devil talking telling) Leverkühn.

Adrian Leverkühn is a different member of the devil than Faust in the Volksbuch of 1587 and in Goethe's poetry. The search takes the place of the urge for knowledge, subjectivity and freedom in Leverkühn after the "breakthrough" to the genius, the rigorous pursuit of objectivity and order, a math-based creativity, from spiritual coldness in a daring world renewed sense leads and the music / art from its harmony and repetition compulsion redeemed , the modern world is finally obsolete in view of the resignation of bourgeois norms and absurdity. It is not only in this aspect that Thomas Mann's character Adrian Leverkühn touches upon Friedrich Nietzsche's character traits. The diabolical price for this intellectualization of art is Adrian Leverkühn's withdrawn life in complete solitude, his inability to live in a lively community, for real friendship (Zeitblom, Schwerdtfeger) and true love (Esmeralda, Marie Godeau). Even his self-sacrificing affection for the little boy Echo ends tragically: despite, and precisely because of, Adrian's care, Adrian succumbs to fatal meningitis, an inflammation of the brain, similar to the syphilitic cerebral decomposition of Adrian's mind.

Rüdiger Schildknapp

The translator Schildknapp, a sporty-looking figure, has been a close confidante of Leverkühn since his time in Leipzig, and he gladly accepts favors (including financial ones). Even though, for some inexplicable reason, he always refuses to help when he is urgently needed and likes to postpone or omit pending tasks with the phrase: “You should actually”. But his imitation of the English style in clothing and demeanor gives him a sympathetic eccentricity that is also popular with women. With small purchases from gentlemen's outfitters, they benevolently improve the bachelor's elegant, but here and there worn clothes. The composer spent two years with Schildknapp in Italy, near Palestrina , where Thomas Mann stayed for two years with his brother Heinrich Mann . Thomas Mann used his Munich friend Hans Reisiger as a template for his literary portrait.

Leverkühn and Schildknapp share their idiosyncratic sense of humor. Together they can burst into outbursts of laughter and cheerfulness, even where others see no reason for it. Alluding to these excesses of laughter and because they have the same eye color, the biographer and childhood friend Zeitblom Schildknapp calls the “equal-eyed man”, a dubious constant companion that Leverkühn is the only one who can endure around him. Schildknapp embodies “the shadowy specter of self-decay. As a mere translator, he is also the specter of sterility: the impossibility of producing one's own. "

Rudolf Schwerdtfeger

With him, Thomas Mann portrays his childhood sweetheart Paul Ehrenberg. Schwerdtfeger is violinist and first violinist in the Munich Zapfenstößer Orchestra . He plays his instrument precisely and cleanly, albeit with a small tone . In company he impresses with the amazing skill of being able to whistle the most difficult melodies with virtuosity. The good-looking Rudi, a “flirtatious nature”, succeeds in getting emotionally very close to the shy Leverkühn with “indestructible and a lot of personal charm”. He asks Leverkühn to compose a violin concerto especially for him. He wanted to “incorporate” it so that he could play it in his sleep, “and cherish and nurture it in every note like a mother, because I would be mother to him and you would be the father - it would be like a child between us, a platonic child. ”So the trusting Schwerdtfeger to the Teufelsbündner Leverkühn - without knowledge of his love prohibition, the condition of his genius. Leverkühn cannot avoid Schwerdtfeger's advertising. He actually composes the requested concert, dedicates it to Rudolf and, contrary to his custom, appears for its premiere.

With his turn to Schwerdtfeger, Leverkühn broke his contract with the devil. For ingenuity and fame, he again submits to the conditions of the devil's pact and sends Schwerdtfeger to his death by making him his suitor.

The Senator Rodde

The senator resembles Thomas Mann's mother Julia Mann in many ways . After the death of her husband and the sale of his trading company, Senator Rodde had turned her back on her hometown Bremen and moved with her two daughters to the art city of Munich, whereby in addition to the art business, the "curiosity for greater moral freedom" for the choice of the future Place of residence may have played a role. Now living in much more modest circumstances, she at least maintains a kind of salon in which she is host to a small group of artists and educated people. The Munich protagonists of the novel belong to this circle.

Ines Rodde, Helmut Institoris

Ines is the daughter of the widowed Senator Rodde. The fictional biographer Zeitblom describes her as not without feminine charm with her heavy hair, with her small, dimpled hands and her elegant youth. He also hints at the other side of her being, "in her emotional frailty, with her curtained gaze full of distinguished grief, her slanted neck and her too weak and precarious roguish pricked mouth."

Of "patrician descent" but without a dowry, she marries the inherently wealthy private lecturer Dr. Helmut Institoris, who, in his art-theoretical lectures on the Renaissance, raves about everything that is strong and ruthless, but is not a force of nature himself. Rather small, speaking softly and lisping, tender and nervous, he is a regular at a sanatorium for rich people in Merano.

From the loveless marriage, which is only led as a bourgeois facade, three children emerge, whom Ines Institoris lets her nannies raise. Even before the marriage, she was fascinated by the “boyish woman's favorite” Rudi Schwerdtfeger, whom she now makes her lover. From then on she leads a double life, but despite all the passion, this relationship cannot fill its emptiness, especially since Rudi only reciprocates her love “out of gentlemanly duty”. Ines becomes a morphinist. When Schwerdtfeger finally, arranged by Leverkühn, wants to marry someone else and move to Paris, Ines shoots the faithless lover when he goes home on the tram after his successful Munich farewell concert, thereby sealing her own bourgeois fate.

Incarnations of the devil

Faust (with Mephisto) in Leipzig, where Adrian Leverkühn is shown by a tour guide, "speaking devilishly", not to an inn, but to a brothel.

In Chapter XXV the devil appears personally and reveals himself. But before and afterwards he is also present. Thomas Mann, following a mythological topos from Greek antiquity, lets him borrow the outer form of several marginal characters from the novel. Incarnations of the devil are

  • the stutterer Wendell Kretzschmar as a seducer to music;
  • the founder of the sect Ephrata Cloister Beißel as a proselyte maker with the help of music. His choir in the prayer room imitated delicate instrumental music. It was sung in falsetto, with the singers barely opening their mouths or moving their lips. It was something like irresistible siren singing that "hovered angelically over the heads of the assembled" , "unlike anything human, unlike any known church chant" . Anyone who has heard it once can no longer withdraw from it and wants to hear it again and again;
  • the theology professor Kumpf in Halle, who also becomes a Luther parody when he throws the roll at the devil he thinks he sees in the corner of the room;
  • the private lecturer Schleppfuss with his lectures in which he demonizes the sexual;
  • the limping servant in Leipzig who leads the unsuspecting Leverkühn, who is still a stranger to the city, to a brothel;
  • the prostitute in the “Spanish jacket” with whom Leverkühn knowingly becomes infected with syphilis;
  • the intellectual cross-driver Chaim Breisacher, an ideological pioneer of fascism;
  • the American scholar Mr. Capercailzie (English capercaillie; an allusion to “Anderer Teil D. Johann Fausti Historien” from 1593, in which the devil calls himself “capercaillie”). Capercailzie undertakes a deep sea voyage in a diving ball with Leverkühn and later explains to him the monstrous dimensions of space (Chapter XXVII). It remains to be seen whether Leverkühn's narrative is a deliberate fooling around or whether he is amused about past hallucinations;
  • the international music agent Saul Fitelberg (chap. XXXVII), who wants to convince Leverkühn in a cheerful interlude from his self-chosen seclusion to concert appearances in the big world, starting in Paris. There musical fame arises from the scandal, or it is made in three or four salons, in which Leverkühn has to show himself, however. For the departure, Fitelberg offers, jokingly alluding to Goethe's Mephistopheles, to spread out his "magic cloak" . Leverkühn refuses, and this time the devil withdraws without having achieved anything.


Both the locations where the novel takes place and the people have real archetypes (Thomas Mann even went so far as to change the number of the tram in which Schwerdtfeger was shot from 1 to 10 after a woman from Munich told him after a reading had drawn attention to the error).

To the people

  • “Adrian Leverkühn does not mean anyone. He bears no resemblance to any living or deceased composer, and like his person, his works are also fictitious, ” said Thomas Mann in a letter of February 19, 1949 to Fritz Weil. Compared to the rest of the novel's staff, Leverkühn has some traits in common with his author: the strict work discipline, the will to succeed, the lack of natural ease, the brittle stiffness in interpersonal relationships, but also the lust for laughter that devotedly caring for him Women (Meta Nackeday and Kunigunde Rosenstiel, with whom Ida Herz is portrayed), the affection for a favorite child (Nepomuk has his role model in Thomas Mann's grandson Frido Mann ) and the lifelong imprint of the city in which one spent the youth (“ Where we are is Kaisersaschern ”/“ Lübeck as a spiritual way of life ”) . - Leverkühn's intellectual genius is similar to that of Ludwig Wittgenstein , his biography in many ways that of Friedrich Nietzsche , whose demand ( preached by Zarathustra ) for a bold life is already indicated by the surname Leverkühn . This intended parallelism even goes so far that Thomas Mann, for example, took almost literally Paul Deussen's memories of Nietzsche (1901) from the report that the young theology student Adrian gives about his visit to the brothel .
  • Adrian Leverkühn's theology and philosophy studies in Halle and his participation in the “theological connection Winfried” is a tribute to Paul Tillich , to whom Thomas Mann was connected since his exile in the USA; Tillich also studied theology and philosophy in Halle and enthusiastically told Thomas Mann about the discussion rounds and the hikes of his Christian association “ Wingolf ”.
  • Leverkühn's debut work "Meeresrauschen", committed to musical impressionism and ironicized by Leverkühn himself as a "root treatment" on something that has already survived, is possibly set in parallel to Arnold Schönberg's string sextet Opus 4 Verklierter Nacht , which the man in the diary wrote on June 26, 1946 and 21. January 1947 characterized accordingly as "sounding beautiful", but "too insubstantial".
  • Dr. August Anton Leverkühn was (in addition to Krafft Tesdorpf and Konrad Hermann Wilhelm Fehling, who were appointed in the will ), Thomas Mann's official guardian after his father's death.
  • Thomas Mann's own mother and his two sisters Julia and Carla appear in the novel as widow Rodde and their daughters Ines (also called Heinrich Mann's fiancée) and Clarissa in the novel.
  • Behind the figure of Rudolf Schwerdtfeger hides the Dresden Paul Ehrenberg , for whom Thomas Mann had developed a strong affection.
  • Annette Kolb can be recognized in Jeanette Scheurl, the poet with the sophisticated sheep face .

To the places

  • The scene of the events of the fictional Pfeiffering is the Upper Bavarian Polling near Weilheim (which is called Waldhut in the novel ). The “Doktor-Faustus-Weg” established there in 2007 touches all of the locations mentioned in the novel.
  • The fictional city of Kaisersaschern , whose medieval character had an impact on Adrian Leverkühn for a lifetime, has many features of Thomas Mann's hometown Lübeck . However , in terms of geographic location, Kaisersaschern corresponds to Naumburg and in some details of the description it is also recognizable in relation to this city. In his correspondence, Thomas Mann had repeatedly reported the excitement with which he had written the novel. This is likely to be related to the German atmosphere, which he evokes in his writing and which may hide homesickness. The novel ends with the words "my fatherland" . Thomas Mann saw a kind of biographical rounding in the work on the old age novel. He also achieves this by depicting Lübeck again with Kaisersaschern (without naming it explicitly), as he had already done in the youth work «Buddenbrooks» . “Where we are is Kaisersaschern,” Leverkühn told his childhood friend Zeitblom, when they had long left their hometown behind. As the most prominent representative of emigration, Thomas Mann told the world on arrival in American exile: “Where I am is Germany” . Kaisersaschern symbolizes Germany more than Leverkühn.

About the Faust fabric

With his version of the fist material, Thomas Mann adhered mainly to the people's book . The thesis, however, that Goethe's work Faust was not of decisive importance for Thomas Mann's novel is controversial.

The talk of the devil is based on a vision that Thomas Mann had in his youth during a stay in Italy and that has already been processed in Buddenbrooks and the Zauberberg . As a further source of inspiration, Thomas Mann cited the encounter with the devil by Dostoyevsky's Ivan Karamazov in The Brothers Karamazov . The devil's talk in the 25th chapter of Doctor Faustus lies in the middle of the novel (the novel has only 47 chapters, but a postscript is added, the 34th chapter consists of three parts, so that 49 chapters with the 25th in the center and is of central importance: It is an art talk and a pact scene in one.

With the numerous citations and "plagiarism" (Goethe, Nietzsche, Dostoevsky, Brecht, Schoenberg, Adorno, etc.) whose Thomas Mann in Doctor Faustus served, he will not last and the exhaustion of art and the obsolescence of the ingenuity demonstrated a Deficiency that makes the work of the modern artist so unspeakably difficult that it demands superhuman strength and for Leverkühn can only be overcome with the help of the devil.

To music theory

Although the novel deals with the decline of Germany during the Second World War , in which it was written, and key war episodes are explicitly addressed (e.g. the 1944 invasion, but not Auschwitz), the music plays a central role , especially the twelve-tone music that Adrian Leverkühn is said to have founded (see below). According to Thomas Mann's self-commentary, music is a paradigm for art in general.

For the novel project, Mann studied musicological textbooks and biographies, including those on Mozart , Beethoven , Hector Berlioz , Hugo Wolf and Alban Berg . His musical experiences had more to do with listening to his favorites Wagner and Brahms, he lacked expertise, especially in contemporary music. That is why he got in touch with composers like Igor Stravinsky , Arnold Schönberg and Hanns Eisler in order to receive instruction in composition .

Stimulated and illuminated by the initial stage of inflammatory brain destruction, Leverkühn invents twelve-tone music , on his own and without knowing about Arnold Schönberg . In his self-comments, Thomas Mann calls the serial technique the devil's work and fears with amusement: “Schoenberg will end my friendship with me” . In fact, the novel led to a rift between Thomas Mann and Arnold Schönberg. He felt hurt, spied on and betrayed and defended himself publicly. The fact that Thomas Mann, of all people, had worked with TW Adorno only made matters worse, because Schönberg had always had an aversion to his greatest apologist. The comment added by Thomas Mann on the last page from the second edition, in which Schoenberg is expressly given priority in twelve-tone music, could not really improve the once burdened relationship.

However, the most important advisor to Thomas Mann was the musician, composer, music sociologist and philosopher Theodor W. Adorno . The devil's music-theoretical utterances in the devil's chapter come almost literally from Adorno's philosophy of new music , with his permission. In other ways too, Thomas Mann was guided by handwritten drafts by Adorno. He changed many parts of the novel after extensive discussions with his helper. Thomas Mann called Adorno "his real secret advice". Mann's musical deficits are evident from some of the mistakes in the novel. Because he z. B. in Adorno's handwriting could not decipher the word "own weight", the formulation of the "joint weight of the chords" found its way into the novel. The lapse has been corrected in the new critical edition . In addition, the arbitrariness of the secretaries and typesetters, who often simply replaced words they did not understand with others, were corrected. After the first edition, Thomas Mann, in collaboration with Erika Mann, shortened the text because he feared that the music-theoretical parts would be too long for readers. A number of connection errors occurred because references to the omissions were not changed. These errors are not corrected in the new edition either.

Peter Benary found the following interpretation error: "Even the sensitive utterances of Thomas Mann" (and Adorno) "in his" Doctor Faustus "basically misunderstand the theme" in its idyllic innocence "" (Arietta theme in Beethoven's last piano sonata ), "if he the main motif is chanted with »Heavenly Blue«, »Liebesleid« and »Wiesengrund«, because [the tone sequence]   Ar2.pngis not dactylic (- ‿ ‿), but anapaestic   (äst ‿—) [like "Symphony"] to be chanted. "

The musical-philosophical part of the novel must be seen as a coproduction by Mann and Adorno. After Mann's death, this led to conflicts with Erika Mann, who, through selective publication of diary excerpts or letters, did everything possible to negate Adorno's part in the work, since from her point of view this collaboration touched the nimbus of the "magician". This affected Adorno deeply. Thomas Mann had foreseen this, he noted that he did not mind that Adorno's share would be known, but that there was already "trouble with the women" because of it (Katja and Erika Mann are meant). The emergence of Doctor Faustus was also motivated to put Adorno's part in the right light, but this did not help to finally clarify the matter. Adorno's share was only proven beyond doubt through the published correspondence between Adorno and Mann.

To the history

Documentary and historiographical information from Luther's time and the Thirty Years' War were part of the preparation of the novel, as were Grimmelshausen and collections of proverbs from the Middle Ages. In Mann's The Origin of Doctor Faustus , Chapter X shows that he also dealt with the atrocities in the concentration camps of the Third Reich and was in contact with Heinrich Eduard Jacob in this regard . He called the book his "life confession": "Zeitblom is a parody of myself. In Adrian's mood there is more of my own than one should believe - and should believe."

To syphilis

Leverkühn hopes to be “genius through illness” and becomes infected with syphilis . Until penicillin was discovered, syphilis was a common disease that was transmitted through sexual intercourse. It manifests itself in various organ systems, but especially in the central nervous system. “Genialisation through illness” is a literary motif of the fin de siècle and of the decadence culture that emerged in this epoch, but cannot be scientifically verified. Friedrich Nietzsche fell ill with syphilis, fell into mental derangement in the late stages of the epidemic and died after a long illness. Thomas Mann used Nietzsche's résumé as a template for his fictional character Adrian Leverkühn.

Thomas Mann's medical advisor was the physician and writer Martin Gumpert .

Impact history


A connection to fabric and motifs can be found in Hans Wollschläger's novel Herzgewächse .


In Hans Werner Henze's 3rd Violin Concerto , written in 1997, there is an explicit reference in the three movement titles:

  • Esmeralda. do not rush, dance comfortably
  • The child echo: Adagio - Tempo giusto
  • Rudolf S .: Andante - Più mosso

In 1952 Hanns Eisler published the libretto of his opera Johann Faustus . This opera is based on the puppet show, but was also influenced by conversations with Thomas Mann while he was writing Doctor Faustus. After fierce political disputes in the formalism dispute in the GDR, Eisler's opera remained a fragment.


In 1981/82 the novel was the template for the film of the same name by Franz Seitz (production, screenplay, direction). Jon Finch played Adrian Leverkühn, Hanns Zischler played the Serenus Zeitblom and André Heller played Satan. Other roles included: Margot Hielscher , Hans Korte , Herbert Grönemeyer , Marie-Hélène Breillat and Lothar-Günther Buchheim ; Christoph Schlingensief was a camera assistant.

radio play

The novel was implemented in 2007 by Hessischer Rundfunk and Bayerischer Rundfunk in cooperation with the International Ensemble Modern Academy (IEMA) as a 10-part radio play production with a total length of 774 minutes. Editing: Leonhard Koppelmann, Hermann Kretzschmar, Manfred Hess; the music was composed by Hermann Kretzschmar and directed by Leonhard Koppelmann .

Text editions and versions

First bibliophile edition, published in the USA: 50 numbers. and sign. Expl plus 8 number. and sign. Expl. A -H.
  • Doctor Faustus. The life of the German composer Adrian Leverkühn, told by a friend (Stockholmer Ges.-Ausg.), Bermann-Fischer, Stockholm 1947 (772 pages).
  • Doctor Faustus . The life of the German composer Adrian Leverkühn tells about a friend. 1-7 Th. Suhrkamp, ​​Berlin / Frankfurt am Main 1947 (806 pages).
  • Doctor Faustus. The life of the German composer Adrian Leverkühn, told by a friend (Large commented Frankfurt edition. Works, letters, diaries. Volumes 10/1 and 2).
    • Volume 10/1. [Text volume]. Ed. U. text-critical through. by Ruprecht Wimmer. S. Fischer, Frankfurt am Main 2007 (741 pages).
    • Volume 10/2: Commentary by Ruprecht Wimmer. S. Fischer, Frankfurt am Main 2007 (1266 pages).


  • Doctor Faustus. Audio book. Read by Gert Westphal (22 CDs). Deutsche Grammophon, ISBN 3-8291-1457-5 .
  • Doctor Faustus. Radio play. Editing: Leonhard Koppelmann, Hermann Kretzschmar, Manfred Hess. Music: Hermann Kretzschmar. Director: Leonhard Koppelmann. Production: Hessischer Rundfunk / Bayerischer Rundfunk in cooperation with the International Ensemble Modern Academy. With Hanns Zischler, Werner Wölbern, Mathias Habich et al. (10 CDs), Hörverlag, Munich 2007, ISBN 978-3-86717-075-8 .

Secondary literature

  • Thomas Mann: The Origin of Doctor Faustus . Novel of a novel. Fischer Taschenbuch, Frankfurt am Main 2001, ISBN 3-596-29427-4 .
  • Hannelore Mundt: "Doctor Faustus" and the consequences. Art criticism as social criticism in the German novel is 1947 . Bouvier, Bonn 1989, ISBN 3-416-02159-2 .
  • Erich Heller : Thomas Mann. The ironic German. Suhrkamp, ​​Frankfurt am Main 1975, ISBN 3-518-36743-9 .
  • Hubert Orłowski : Predestination of the Demonic. On the question of bourgeois humanism in Thomas Mann's "Doctor Faustus" . Wydawnictwo Naukowe UAM, Poznań 1969.
  • Jochen Schmidt : Thomas Mann: Decadence and Genius. In: Jochen Schmidt: The history of the genius thought in German literature, philosophy and politics 1750-1945 . Volume 2, Darmstadt 1985, pp. 238-277.
  • Hans Wißkirchen , Thomas Sprecher (Ed.): "And what will the Germans say ??". Thomas Mann's novel Doctor Faustus . Dräger, Lübeck 1997, ISBN 3-925402-75-6 .
  • Hans Hilgers : Serenus Zeitblom. The narrator as a fictional character in Thomas Mann's “Doctor Faustus”. 2nd Edition. Lang, Frankfurt am Main et al. 1997, ISBN 3-631-31966-5 .
  • Christian Albrecht : Interpretation of Protestantism and Protestant legacy in Thomas Mann's novel "Doctor Faustus". In: Journal for Theology and Church. 95 (1998), pp. 410-428.
  • Andreas Urs Sommer : The myth-critical "Erasmus view". Doctor Faustus, Nietzsche and the theologians. In: Eckhard Heftrich , Thomas Sprecher (Ed.): Thomas Mann Yearbook. Volume 11. 1998, pp. 61-71.
  • Jürgen Joachimsthaler: Politicized Aestheticism. To Th. Mann's “Mario and the Magician” and “Doctor Faustus”. In: Edward Białek, Manfred Durzak , Marek Zybura (eds.): Literature in the witness stand. Contributions to German-language literary and cultural history. Festschrift for Hubert Orłowski's 65th birthday. Frankfurt et al. 2002, pp. 303-332.
  • Eva Schmidt-Schütz: “Doctor Faustus” between tradition and modernity. A source-critical and historical reception study of Thomas Mann's literary self-image . Klostermann, Frankfurt am Main 2003, ISBN 3-465-03212-8 .
  • Christoph Gödde, Thomas Sprecher (Ed.): Thomas Mann - Theodor W. Adorno . Correspondence 1943–1955. Fischer, Frankfurt am Main 2003, ISBN 3-596-15839-7 .
  • Werner Röcke (Ed.): Thomas Mann - Doctor Faustus 1947–1997. Bern et al. 2004, ISBN 3-03910-471-3 .
  • Hans Rudolf Vaget : Magic of the soul. Thomas Mann and the music . Fischer, Frankfurt am Main 2006, ISBN 3-10-087003-4 .
  • Heinrich Detering , Friedhelm Marx , Thomas spokesman (eds.): Thomas Mann's "Doctor Faustus" - new views, new insights . Klostermann, Frankfurt am Main 2013, ISBN 978-3-465-03813-9 .
  • Maurice Blanchot : Thomas Mann. Encounters with the demon . Edited and translated from French by Marco Gutjahr. Turia + Kant, Vienna / Berlin 2017, ISBN 978-3-85132-839-4 .


  1. Thomas Mann assumed it was his last work. See his letters of July 9, 1944 to Peter Flamm and Martin Flinker; on July 10, 1944 to Ludwig Lewisohn.
  2. December 15, 1947 to Erich von Kahler
  3. ^ On October 11, 1944 to Agnes Meyer
  4. ^ On July 14, 1948 to Friedrich Sell
  5. On the art essay in Doctor Faustus
  6. ^ On June 25, 1948 to Peter Suhrkamp
  7. See Erich Heller: Thomas Mann. The ironic German. Suhrkamp, ​​Frankfurt am Main 1975, pp. 307-351.
  8. The motif of the "cold" is one of the central motifs in Doctor Faustus .
  9. According to the text of the large commented Frankfurt edition (GKFA). Other editions have May 23rd instead.
  10. The devil's talk in chapter 25 of the novel is considered to be the central episode of the novel.
  11. The most hated of the guests is the poet Daniel Zur Höhe [sic], to whom Thomas Mann (partly with identical wording) already placed a negative memorial as a representative of the George circle in his story The Prophet .
  12. The finale corresponds to Kretzschmar's music lecture in Kaisersaschern.
  13. ↑ In terms of language and composition, this scene follows the historical Faust book of 1587.
  14. See Erich Heller: Thomas Mann. The ironic German. Suhrkamp, ​​Frankfurt am Main 1975, p. 322 f.
  15. Karlheinz Hasselbach, Oldenbourg Interpretations, Volume 24, Doctor Faustus, ISBN 3-486-88625-8 .
  16. See Erich Heller: Thomas Mann. The ironic German. Suhrkamp, ​​Frankfurt am Main 1975, pp. 320 and 328 f.
  17. Jochen Schmidt: Thomas Mann: Decadence and Genius . In: Jochen Schmidt: The history of the genius thought in German literature, philosophy and politics 1750-1945 . Volume 2, Darmstadt 1985, p. 268.
  18. "What he perpetrates on Rudi is a premeditated murder demanded by the devil" writes Thoman Mann about it in the "Origin of Doctor Faustus" in Section IV
  19. Chapter XXIX
  20. However, there were deities there who interacted with mortals in the form of fellow men or gave them instructions (e.g. Zeus in the appearance of Amphitryon with his wife; Athena in the form of a mentor to Telemachus).
  21. See the background chapter below .
  22. See Erich Heller: Thomas Mann. The ironic German. Suhrkamp, ​​Frankfurt am Main 1975, p. 327.
  23. Cf. on this and for the following example Erich Heller: Thomas Mann. The ironic German. Suhrkamp, ​​Frankfurt am Main 1975, p. 312.
  24. ^ Eva Schmitz-Schütz p. 196. in the Google book search
  25. Heinz J. Armbrust, Gert Heine: Who is who in the life of Thomas Mann ?: a dictionary of persons. Verlag Vittorio Klostermann, 2008, ISBN 978-3-465-03558-9 , p. 279.
  26. cf. z. B. Helmut Koopmann: Devil's Pact and Hell's Journey. Thomas Mann's Doctor Faustus and the demonic field of music in the backlight of German classical music . Goethe Society Munich 2009.
  27. cf. z. B. Eva Bauer Lucca: "Come up with old love and friendship". Goethe's footsteps in Thomas Mann's Doctor Faustus (PDF; 147 kB). March 5, 2005.
  28. See Erich Heller: Thomas Mann. The ironic German. Suhrkamp, ​​Frankfurt am Main 1975, p. 315.
  29. Chapter XLVI speaks of a concentration camp near Weimar and also of the “smell of burnt human flesh”, but this also ignores the Holocaust.
  30. ^ On September 28, 1944 to Agnes E. Meyer
  31. Despite the reading error, the formulation chosen by Thomas Mann can definitely be ascribed a certain authenticity. Compare the statements by Dieter Borchmeyer in the edition of the Frankfurter Allgemeine from October 17, 2009, p. Z3.
  32., article from November 30, 2007
  33. Peter Benary, Rhythmics and Metrics
  34. ^ On June 25, 1948 to Peter Suhrkamp
  35. ^ Letter of October 21, 1948 to Paul Amann, quoted from Mateotti, ISBN 978-3-638-74442-3 , p. 115.
  36. Lüthy, Christoph: Bohren am Zahn der Zeit (non-fiction book review in the FAZ from January 15, 2001, accessed in September 2015)
  37. Data entry at
  38. hr2: radio play "Doctor Faustus"
  39. The correspondence provides important information about Adorno's participation in the conception of the fictional musical work of Adrian Leverkühn as well as Thomas Mann's poetological approaches.

Web links