Tonio Kroeger

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Tonio Kröger is a novella by Thomas Mann , published in 1903 , whose eponymous hero, who has unmistakably autobiographical traits, sees an irreconcilable contrast between artistry and bourgeoisie. It was created between December 1900 and November 1902.

First edition of the novella (1903)


First chapter

Tonio is the son of the grain wholesaler Konsul Kröger and his beautiful southern wife. From her he got the dark eyes and the sharp face to the south. The foreign first name comes from her brother, his uncle Antonio. Tonio Kröger lives in an old, gabled town on the Baltic Sea.

The fourteen-year-old impressed the blond, blue-eyed Hans Hansen, a fresh, simple and remarkably handsome boy. Tonio loves him, and he woos his friendship and affection. At the same time, Hans Hansen is Tonio Kröger's opposite in every respect, not just in appearance, but also in character - a hobbyist and athlete who loves “horse books”. Tonio, on the other hand, plays the violin, keeps a notebook with self-written verses, is moved by an episode in Schiller's Don Karlos and in his free time he lies alone on the beach and looks at the mysteriously changing surface of the sea. In school lessons his thoughts wander, he sees through the personal weaknesses of the teachers and their bad manners repel him. He brings home the "most pathetic grades". Tonio feels a stranger among the other students, the teachers secretly reject him. Hans Hansen, however, sees a certain superiority in Tonio, the ability to put difficult things into words.

Tonio envies Hans Hansen a little because of his uncomplicatedness, which earns him so much sympathy from others. Hans Hansen tolerated his friendship campaigns, but Tonio achieved nothing more with him. Ultimately, both remain strangers to one another, and Tonio suffers.

second chapter

The ballet master François Knaak from Hamburg comes to Tonio Kröger's close hometown as a dance teacher. The dance lesson takes place in turns in private houses, exclusively for members of the first families. Tonio Kröger also takes part. He amazes how this affected, self-indulgent François Knaak, "whose silky black frock coat hugs his fat hips so wonderfully", creates an effect. In his teachings he prefers to speak French "and no words describe how wonderfully he produced the nasal sound".

Sixteen-year-old Tonio fell in love with the blonde, blue-eyed Inge Holm. In the dance lesson, however, he doesn't dare to speak to her, and the cheerful, carefree Inge overlooks him.

In essence, Magdalena Vermehren is related to him, and she often falls down during dance lessons. From afar, with bowed head, she looks over at Tonio with her large, dark eyes. She is interested in his verses and has asked him twice to show them to her. In the women's choice, she approaches him.

“But what was that supposed to mean for him? He, he loved Inge Holm, the blond, funny Inge, who certainly despised him for writing poetic things. ”And Tonio's love mixed“ a jealous longing, a bitter, pressing pain, excluded from her and eternally alien to her to be."

third chapter

The father dies, the mother marries a virtuoso with an Italian name, whom she follows abroad. Tonio leaves his hometown and moves to Munich, where his mind sharpened and he began to see through the world and to mock its triviality: "What he saw was this: comedy and misery - comedy and misery."

“But since his heart was dead and without love, he got into the adventures of the flesh, descended deep into lust and hot guilt and suffered unspeakably in the process. […] So it came to the point that he, unsteady between blatant extremes, thrown back and forth between icy spirituality and consuming heat of the senses, led an exhausting life with distress of conscience, which he, Tonio Kröger, basically detested. "

During this time his artistry matured, his first unusual works were created and his name became a formula that denoted excellence in the literary public. From now on he can accept himself as a creator, but as a person he does not respect himself for anything. The chapter closes with Tonio Kröger's statement, "that one has to have died in order to be completely a creator."

Chapter Four

“But what is the artist?” Tonio Kröger, now over thirty and famous, has visited the painter friend Lisaweta Ivanovna in her studio and tries to answer this question in conversation with her. It's all about self-discovery.

The artist Tonio Kröger knows that feeling alone is not enough for artistic design. Only the calculated work of art developed in “cold ecstasies” can trigger emotions in the viewer. "Every real and sincere artist smiles at the naivety" that one can be guided in artistic production by one's emotions and not by cold calculation of effect. Coldness and loneliness separated the artist from humanity, the perfect artist is an impoverished person. He represents the human without participating in the human. Life in its seductive banality stands “as an eternal opposition” to spirit and art.

And yet - he confesses to Lisaweta Ivanovna - Tonio Kröger loves life! He confesses that he is drawn to the harmless, simple and lively, confesses a "furtive and consuming longing for the delights of the ordinary."

Fifth chapter

Tonio Kröger says goodbye to Lisaweta Ivanovna. He wanted to travel, to ventilate. He is drawn to northern spheres, to Denmark. At that time he lived in Munich. Like sea air and Scandinavian cuisine, which is very similar to his home. The names would also sound the same as at home. For example “a sound like 'Ingeborg', a harp strike of flawless poetry”. And he wanted to read the deep, pure and humorous books that were written there in their country of origin.

Lisaveta Ivanovna sees through him. When asked, he admits that his hometown is also on his route. "Yes, I'm touching my - my starting point, Lisaweta, after thirteen years, and that can get pretty strange".

Sixth chapter

He has arrived in his hometown with the narrow gables and pointed towers. Would anyone recognize him? No, nobody knew him anymore. The city tour leads him past Inge Holm's house. On Lindenplatz he pensively stands in front of the pretty villa where Hans Hansen was at home. When he enters his former father's house, he is amazed to find that a public library has been set up here. "People's library? thought Tonio Kröger, because he found that neither the people nor the literature had anything to look for here. "

At the hotel reception, Tonio Kröger's reserved demeanor aroused curiosity. When he is about to leave, a curious incident occurs. He has to answer questions from a police officer. He is believed to be a wanted con man and fraudster who is on the run from Munich to Copenhagen. Tonio does not have a passport with him! In his wallet there are only a few banknotes and the proof of a novella that is currently in print. "See!" Said he. “There is my name. I wrote this and now it will be published, you understand. ”And this kind of legitimation is actually accepted, Tonio Kröger can travel further.

Seventh chapter

Tonio Kröger travels to Copenhagen by ship.

“The Baltic Sea!” He experienced the sea of ​​his childhood. He spends the night on deck. At first he still looks at the heavily moving sea. Then he falls asleep. "And when the cold foam splashed into his face, it was like a caress while half asleep."

In Copenhagen he was seized by a strange mood: “And whatever the reason, while he was breathing the damp sea air in slow, pensive gulps, he saw eyes that were so blue, hair so blond, faces that were of the same kind and culture as he was watched them in the strange, wafting dreams of the night he had spent in his hometown. ”He travels on, abandoning himself to his intuition and arrives at the sea. In Helsingör he rents a room in the small bathing hotel Aalsgaard.

Eighth chapter

The quiet hotel life is interrupted when one day a crowd of day trippers arrives, among them is a young blonde couple who evoke wistful memories of Hans Hansen and Ingeborg Holm in Tonio Kröger. Tonio Kröger's former dance lessons are repeated in the evening under different circumstances: A ball is organized for the day trippers, which is commanded by a vain celebratory steward, “he commanded, by God, in French, and produced the nasal sounds in an incomparably distinguished way”. Tonio Kröger stands on the nightly terrace and watches those "who danced in the light". "And suddenly homesickness shook his chest with such pain that he involuntarily retreated further into the dark so that no one would see the twitching of his face."

If only he could have been like Hans Hansen, thinks Tonio Kröger, “living, loving and praising in blissful ordinaryness free from the curse of knowledge and creative agony! Start all over again? But it doesn't help. It would be like that again - everything would come back the way it came. Because some of them necessarily go astray, because there is no right way for them at all. ”-“ Yes, it was like then, and he was as happy as then. Because his heart was alive. But what had happened during all the time in which he had become what he was now? - solidification; Desolation; Ice; and spirit! And art! "

Chapter ninth

The final chapter consists of a letter to Lisaweta Ivanovna in which Tonio Kröger tells her the result of his introspection and self-discovery: “I am between two worlds, am not at home in any and as a result have a little difficult time. You artists call me a citizen, and the citizens are tempted to arrest me ... I don't know which of the two offends me more. The citizens are stupid; But you worshipers of beauty, whom you call me phlegmatic and without longing, should consider that there is an artistry so deep, so from the beginning and because of fate, that no longing seems to him sweeter and more sensitive than the delights of the ordinary ”.

He suspects a great career as an artist, suspects even greater fame. “What I've done is nothing, not much, next to nothing. I'll do better, Lisaveta - this is a promise ”. When he closes his eyes, he sees a swarm of shadows of human figures who beckoned him to include them in his work, "banish and redeem". He is very fond of you. But - his deepest and most stealthy love belongs to the blond and blue-eyed, the bright, lively, the happy, the amiable and the ordinary. “Do not scold this love, Lisaveta; it is good and fertile. There is longing in it and melancholy envy and a little bit of contempt and a whole chaste bliss. "


Tonio Kroeger

Tonio Kröger has made a name for himself as a poet in the literary world. Artistically gifted and able to “forge something whole in serenity”, however, he is inhibited when dealing with others. He realizes that he lacks a natural impartiality when he compares himself with those "who don't need the spirit", the uncomplicated, blue-eyed blondes with an appealing appearance. For him you embody a solid and sympathetic mediocrity. Tonio Kröger, who seems foreign to the Mediterranean, feels drawn to them and yet remains alone.

The awareness of being a stranger and a mere onlooker who tries in vain for friendship is also what touches him about Don Carlos , whose reading he tries unsuccessfully to make Hans Hansen attractive: “There is, for example, the passage The King has cried? where the king cried because he was betrayed by the marquis [...] But one understands so well that he cried, and I actually feel more sorry for him than the prince and the marquis put together. He is always so completely alone and without love, and now he thinks he has found a person and he betrays him ... ".

For Thomas Mann and his hero, the world is divided into two parts, spirit and nature, and that cannot be bridged. In the novella, literature stands for the spirit. Bourgeoisie means nature, life and impartiality, including erotic impartiality. Tonio Kröger, an intellectual, becomes an involuntary outsider because he recognizes and sees through more than others.

Hans Hansen and Ingeborg Holm

When they reappear Tonio Kröger at the Strandhotel, it is not the two "for whom he had previously suffered love", but strangers who correspond to Tonio Kröger's ideal of love. The text later makes it clear. "[...] Hans and Ingeborg. It was not so much because of individual characteristics and the similarity of clothing, as the force of the equality of race and type, this light, steel-blue-eyed and blond-haired species […] ”. They are doppelgangers, as well as the festival steward and a young woman who falls while dancing.

The terms “race” and “type” allude to Nietzsche's “blonde beast”, in which they stand for “the drives to life” and for “everything that was still strong and happy”. "The 'Blonde Beast' haunts my youthful poetry too, but it is pretty much stripped of its bestial character, and all that remains is the blondness together with the dullness."

Thomas Mann wrote in his letter of condolence to his sister Ilse on April 7, 1906, about his classmate Armin Martens, who died at an early age - the role model for Hans Hansen -: "You know what my first, freshest, most tender sensation was". And on March 19, 1955, five months before his death, Thomas Mann replied to a former classmate: “The name Armin Martens is not emphasized (probably on purpose) in your list, and yet he deserves a red underline. Because I loved him - he was actually my first love, and I was never given a more tender, blissfully painful one. Something like that does not forget, and it went on for 70 years full of content. It may sound ridiculous, but I treasure the memory of this passion of innocence ”. Even in puberty, Armin Martens' charm suffered considerable damage. “But I put a monument to him in the“ Tonio Kröger ”. […] It is also strange to think that the whole purpose of this human child was to arouse a feeling that one day would become a lasting poem ”.

Lisaveta Ivanovna

Tonio Kröger is friends with the painter Lisaweta Ivanovna (the name refers to the second murder victim from Dostoyevsky's "Guilt and Atonement"). He complains to her of his lack of talent for life. She is about the same age as Tonio Kröger, a little over the age of thirty and already slightly graying hair that frames a Slavic-shaped, "infinitely likeable face".
At the end of the fourth chapter, as it were the quintessence of his monologue - Tonio Kröger hardly allows her to speak in the studio talk - Lisaweta Ivanovna calls him a citizen on the wrong track, a “stray citizen”. This formula shows him his real nature and his suppressed self-acceptance. After a few seconds of silence, Tonio Kröger grabs his cane and hat, says goodbye and leaves. Tonio Kröger comments that Lisaweta Ivanovna saw through him with the words: “I'm finished.” Done with the appropriate word.


The Baltic Sea

Tonio Kröger's return as a leitmotif conveys the mood: the boy contemplates contemplation while looking at the sea. Homesickness of the now famous poet [chapter five]. As a stormy sea during the cruise, it stands for foreboding expectation. It is the background when Tonio Kröger sees the doppelgangers of his childhood and youthful love (Hans and Inge) again. While Tonio Kröger is writing the letter that concludes the novella, the sea rushes up, giving him hope and confidence.


Vaget (2001) thinks: "Tonio Kröger is not a completely satisfying story, but it is undoubtedly an important story". If one reads the novella as a self-analysis of the then 27-year-old Thomas Mann that has become literature and not as a paradigm of artistry, the novella is conclusive. The biographical interpretation suits Thomas Mann. His motto in life was: “The world knows me so that it will forgive me!” ( August von Platen ).


In 2000 Matthias Buck and Kay Link edited the story for the theater. The authors chose elements of narrative theater for their version in order not to have to squeeze the prose into dialogues and not to damage Mann's language. On November 16, Tonio Kröger staged the world premiere at the Thalia Theater in Halle, directed by Kay Link and furnished by the artist Thomas Locher.

radio play

In 2017 a radio play of the same name was released, directed by Leonhard Koppelmann , based on the radio play adaptation by Dr. Heinz Sommer.

References and comments

  1. ^ Georg Potempa: Thomas Mann Bibliography. The work . Cicero-Presse, Morsum / Sylt 1992, p. 136
  2. This refers to the passage quoted below in the section “Figures” under “Tonio Kröger”.
  3. Tonio Kröger's worldview corresponds to Schopenhauer's statements about “the intellectual aristocracy”.
  4. As in the "Buddenbrooks", the name Lübeck is not explicitly mentioned.
  5. template for the hotel already served in the Buddenbrooks Greenish Lord visited Hotel Stadt Hamburg
  6. "LERMA. The King has wept. DOMINGO. Wept? ALL at the same time, with sad astonishment . The King has wept?" (Schiller: Don Carlos 4th act, 23rd appearance )
  7. Thomas Mann: Outline of Life . In: Die Neue Rundschau , Volume 41, Issue 6, June 1930, pp. 741/742



Secondary literature

  • Dirk Jürgens: Tonio Kröger / Mario and the magician . Oldenbourg-Interpretationen, Vol. 116, Oldenbourg-Verlag, Munich 2013, ISBN 978-3-637-01550-0 .
  • Hermann Kurzke: Interpretation. Thomas Mann: Tonio Kröger . Reclam-Verlag, Stuttgart 2009, ISBN 3-15-950025-X .
  • Peter Paintner: Explanations on "Tristan", "Tonio Kröger", "Mario and the magician" . Bange, Hollfeld 1984, ISBN 3-8044-0307-7 .
  • Werner Bellmann : Thomas Mann: "Tonio Kröger". Explanations and documents. Through and supplemented edition. Reclam, Stuttgart 1998, ISBN 3-15-008163-7 .
  • Hans R. Vaget: Tonio Kröger . In: Helmut Koopmann (Ed.): Thomas Mann Handbook . Kröner, Stuttgart 2001, ISBN 3-520-82803-0 , pp. 564-568.
  • Tobias Kurwinkel: Apollonian outsiders. Configurations of Thomas Mann's "basic motif" in narrative texts and film adaptations of the early work. With an unpublished letter from Golo Mann about the making of the film adaptation “Der kleine Herr Friedemann” . Königshausen & Neumann, Würzburg 2012, ISBN 978-3-82604624-7 .
  • 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 .
  • Malte Herwig, Hans R. Vaget: Early stories 1893-1912 - commentary . S. Fischer, Frankfurt a. M. 2004, ISBN 978-3-10-048314-0 .
  • Marcel Reich-Ranicki : A story of the century: "Tonio Kröger" . In: Thomas Mann und die Seinen , DVA, Stuttgart 1987, ISBN 3-421-06364-8 .

The Wikipedia article Tonio Kröger is included in the bibliography "Thomas Mann Readers and Researchers" of the Free University of Berlin.

Audio books

Film adaptations

Web links