Mario and the wizard

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Forte dei Marmi beach , located north of Viareggio on the Ligurian Sea , which Thomas Mann used as a template for his fictional Torre di Venere.

Mario and the Magician - A tragic travel experience is a novella by Thomas Mann , which was first published in 1930 in Velhagen and Klasing's monthly magazine and then published by S. Fischer Verlag. In psychological realism , Mann depicts the effects of a demon breakinginto fascist Italyusing the figure of the show hypnotist Cavaliere Cipolla . The story was in 1978 by Miloslav Luther filmed . In 1994 it served Klaus Maria Brandauer as a template for a film of the same name, but not true to the original .


The late summer vacation that the narrator spends with his wife and two children on the Tyrrhenian Sea in Fascist Italy are not only affected by the humid weather, but also from the start by an “uncomfortable atmosphere”. The tones of the “domestic middle class” tourists who dominate the beach life in the small Mediterranean town of Torre di Venere are too nationalistic and garish, so that the family soon feels that they are not as welcome here as they were in previous years.

In the Grand Hotel , she is not allowed to dine on the brightly lit veranda, as this is reserved for "our customers". On top of that, the hotel manager asks the narrator to change rooms because a lady from the Italian high nobility complained about the children's light, allegedly contagious cough. Instead of being evicted into the neighboring house, however, the family decides to move to the small, family-run Eleonora guesthouse run by Signora Angiolieri, who named her guesthouse after the famous Italian actress Eleonora Duse . But although everything is going to the satisfaction in the new accommodation, there is no longer any real holiday mood.

Further discrimination against German vacationers follows. When the eight-year-old daughter takes off her bathing suit on the beach and rinses it in the sea, inevitably seeing her naked for a short time, "thin as a sparrow", this allegedly contradicts public morals and caused a real tumult of indignation. A police fine is imposed on the family. In retrospect, the narrator regrets not leaving immediately. But as the off-season sets in and “human mediocrity and bourgeois crops” gradually clears the field, it is now calmer and more pleasant. In addition, a magician named “Cavaliere Cipolla” has announced himself, and the children's requests to be allowed to attend the performance could not be resisted. Although the performance does not begin until late in the evening and there are parental concerns, four tickets are still purchased in anticipation of a holiday highlight.

The event takes place in a large hall, “actually nothing better than a spacious wooden shack” that was used for cinema screenings during the high season. You get there by following the main street of the village, "which leads from the feudal to the bourgeois to the popular". Many fishermen, the boat rental company and also Mario, the waiter of the “Esquisito” café, have gathered in the standing room. Cipolla is a long time coming and only enters the stage with considerable delay: an elderly man and a smug cripple, his skull almost bald, his chest too high, his hump very deep, with piercing eyes and a "somewhat asthmatic, but metallic voice", with bad teeth and mustache, in a crooked magician's outfit with a white scarf, gloves and top hat, with a constantly burning cigarette in one hand and “a riding whip with a claw-like silver crutch” in the other. There is nothing on the stage but a small round table with a cognac bottle and a glass on it.

It quickly becomes clear to the narrator and his wife that Cipolla is less of a magician than a luminary in the field of hypnosis , "the strongest hypnotist I have ever seen". He orders a cheeky young fellow to stick out his tongue "strained and overly long". This leads to a little duel of wills, which the hypnotist confidently decides for himself. A palpable antipathy towards him becomes clear in the audience , but his rhetorical superiority and the “recognition of a professional ability that nobody denied” do not allow an open outbreak of resentment. Tricks like thought transference and cold reading follow ; Cipolla induces onlookers to perform certain actions and finds objects that they have hidden.

In the break that follows, the parents do not find the strength to leave the performance - also because of the children, who, after a short slumber, plead to be allowed to stay. As a further reason, the narrator gives the attraction of the "strange", which was already noticeable on the entire trip "on a large scale" and now also has an effect in this performance "on a small scale".

In the second part of the event, a young person is stiffened to a bench by hypnosis, an elderly lady talks about travel impressions from India in her artificial sleep, a military-looking gentleman can no longer raise his arm, and Ms. Angiolieri follows the wizard onto the stage in a willless state without her husband stopping her. Young people in the audience begin to dance at Cipolla's orders, and finally the entire audience joins the dance as if in a trance. The children amused themselves in their childlike innocence, although “this was nothing for children”, and the narrator once again expresses his regret that he and his family have not long since left the “oppressive” place.

At the height of the event, the juggler orders the dreamy waiter Mario to come to him. He diagnoses his melancholy as lovesickness and speaks to him about his secret love, the beautiful Silvestra. He puts Mario in a trance and suggests that his lover is standing in front of him, whereupon Mario kisses her - but actually the ugly Cipolla - on the cheek. When Mario comes to and realizes with horror and disgust the humiliating scene he was abused for, he storms off the stage. "Downstairs at full speed, he threw himself around with his legs torn apart, threw his arm up, and two flat, crashing detonations broke through applause and laughter." Cipolla, hit by two pistol bullets, collapses in the next moment and falls to the ground, where he lies motionless, “a tangled bundle of clothes and crooked bones”. A commotion breaks out. Mario is disarmed. When the narrator and his family push for the exit, the children ask: “Was that the end too?” Yes, a most fatal end with horror. "And yet a liberating end - I couldn't and can't help feeling it that way!"


The focus of the novel Mario and the Magician is the question of free will . Not only the numerous hypnotic successes of Cipolla address their limits, but also the behavior of the narrator, who actually wants to leave, but somehow feels a strange mixed feeling of fear, tension, admiration, curiosity and defies hatred over his own scruples. A young man who is determined by a card trick to resist the hypnotic arts and to enforce his own will against the will of Cipolla replies:

“You will ... make my job a little more difficult. Your resistance will not change the result . Freedom exists and will also exists; but free will does not exist, because a will that is directed towards its freedom runs into emptiness. You are free to draw or not to draw. But if you pull, you will pull correctly - the safer the more obstinate you try to act. "

- Th. Mann : 1930, p. 95.

The often formulated reduction of the plot to a mere fascism parable does not do justice to the work. The basic constituents of human action are described in the understanding of Thomas Mann's worldview, e.g. B. the seductibility to death and the longing for wholeness. Connections to the fascist movement of the 1930s can be seen here, which, on the surface, are to be sought in a seemingly similar mindset. In addition, today's research sees in Cipolla an ex negativo convincingly portrayed artist figure who balances out their physical overgrowth with extreme tension of will with dubious success and recognizes in this respect in Mario and the magician primarily a further variation of the typical Mann artist problematic.

In view of the fatal outcome of the novella, one could assume that Thomas Mann wanted to give the readers the advice to actively seek liberation in a dictatorship and, if necessary, to get rid of their demagogues with drastic means. In 1940 he wrote in “On Myself” about the effect he had seen in Germany: “The political-moralistic allusion, nowhere expressed in words, was well understood in Germany, long before 1933: understood with sympathy or anger, the warning before the rape by the dictatorial being, which is overcome and destroyed in the human liberation catastrophe of the end. "

Nevertheless, from an exchange of letters between Mann and the writer Otto Hoerth on June 12, 1930, other intentions are initially apparent: “As you are interested: The 'magician' was there and behaved exactly as I have described. Only the lethal outcome is invented: In reality, Mario ran away in comical embarrassment and the next day when he served us the tea again, he was extremely happy and full of objective appreciation for the work 'Cipollas'. Life was just less passionate than it was afterwards for me. Mario didn't really love, and the belligerent boy on the ground floor wasn't his happier rival. But the shots are not even my invention: When I told them about the evening here, my oldest daughter said: 'I would not have been surprised if he had shot him'. "

Mann clearly claims that he did not want to act politically with this work, but - perhaps unconsciously in retrospect - captured a piece of the fascist atmosphere of the time. In later letters in 1932, Thomas Mann did not rule out political allusions. In a letter from 1941 to Hans Flesch, I can only say that it is going far too far to simply see Mussolini masked in the magician Cipolla, but on the other hand it goes without saying that the novella decided a moral - has a political sense. "

With the end of National Socialism, the story was set to music in a modified form under the title Hypnose 1945 as a radio play.


  • Mario and the wizard. A tragic travel experience S. Fischer, Berlin 1930, 143 pp.
  • Rolf Füllmann: Thomas Mann: Mario and the magician. Interpretation. In: Rolf Füllmann: Introduction to the novella . Annotated bibliography and person index. Wbg (Wissenschaftliche Buchgesellschaft), Darmstadt 2010, ISBN 978-3-534-21599-7 , pp. 125-133.
  • Helmut Koopmann : Willing to lead and mass mood : Mario and the magician In: Volkmar Hansen (ed.): Thomas Mann. Novels and short stories. Reclam, Stuttgart 1993, pp. 151-185.
  • Jürgen Joachimsthaler: Politicized Aestheticism. On 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 the 65th birthday of Hubert Orłowski Frankfurt a. a. 2002, pp. 303-332
  • Thomas Mann: Buddenbrooks. Mario and the magician by Norbert Tholen. Krapp & Gutknecht , red a. d. Rot 2010, ISBN 978-3-941206-32-8 .
  • Wilhelm Große: Thomas Mann: Tonio Kröger / Mario and the magician . King's Explanations: Text Analysis and Interpretation (Vol. 288). C. Bange Verlag , Hollfeld 2011, ISBN 978-3-8044-1920-9 .
  • Roland Kroemer: Thomas Mann: Mario and the magician ... understand . Edited by Johannes Diekhans and Michael Völkl. Paderborn 2011, ISBN 978-3-14-022497-0 .
  • Dirk Jürgens: Tonio Kröger / Mario and the magician . Oldenbourg-Interpretationen, Vol. 116, Oldenbourg-Verlag, Munich 2013. ISBN 978-3-637-01550-0 .

Web links


  1. Velhagen and Klasings monthly books, Bielefeld and Leipzig (1930), booklet 8.
  2. The seaside resort of Forte dei Marmi , located about 30 kilometers south of La Spezia on the Ligurian Sea , where Thomas Mann spent his vacation in the summer of 1926, served as a model for Torre di Venere (German: Tower of Venus ) . He probably chose the name Torre di Venere in reference to the nearby Forte dei Marmi on a peninsula off La Spezia , the coastal town of Portovenere .
  3. ^ Hans-Christian Kossak : Hypnosis. Textbook for psychotherapists and doctors. Belz Verlag, Weinheim, Basel 3. Corr. Edition 1997. ISBN 978-3-8289-5270-6 , p. 420.
  4. Compare Thomas Mann's essay Brother Hitler .
  5. Ulrich Winter, Thomas Mann: "Mario and the Magician" . In: German concerns us , Heft 5 (2004), p. 1.
  6. This thesis and Thomas Mann's fundamental interest in this character figure is also supported by the fact that he was known to have been nicknamed "The Magician" by his family and identified with it so much that he only wrote his internal letters with "Z." drew.