Not because it's Halloween but let's jump into the psychosexual drama of the Mann family. Gay though he was, Nobel Laureate Thomas Mann and his wife had six children. His wife and her brother Klaus had an affair, which Mann used in his novella Blood of the Walsungs about an incestuous twin brother and sister. The Manns named their first son after the wife's brother; that Klaus and his sister Erika had an affair, even though both were gay, as was a third sibling, Golo. When Erika, a popular actress, married a man, Gustaf, they honeymooned in the hotel where she and her girlfriend had stayed when the girlfriend was dressed like man. Klaus slept with Gustaf. Also, their father wanted to have sex with Klaus in high school:
Klaus became a successful novelist himself, basing one of his most famous books, Mephisto, on Gustaf. He had also written a play about an incestuous sister and brother. When he was forty-two, Klaus killed himself. His brother Michael, a professor at Berkeley, killed himself at fifty-eight. Two aunts, both Thomas's sisters, had committed suicide earlier, separately.
The whole strange brew is the subject of In the Shadow of the Magic Mountain: The Erika and Klaus Mann Story by Andrea Weiss, author of the book and documentary Paris Was a Woman). I haven't read it but I did read Colm Tóibín's 9,300 word review in the currect LRB. Tóibín is the perfect critic for the subject. Last winter, when I asked him what books he reads when he wants gay lives, he said James Baldwin and Thomas Mann's diaries.
As for Mann's psyche, Tóibín writes:
In Bluebeard’s Chamber: Guilt and Confession in Thomas Mann (2003), Michael Maar argued, however, that Mann was, for much of his life, especially with his family, his friends, and in his work, unusually open about his sexuality.
Instead, searching for secret elements in his fiction, Maar insisted that one theme impelled and nourished Mann’s imagination more than any other. He found image after image from the beginning to the end of his work of murder, blood, knives and sexual pleasure. He suggested that this was the key to Mann’s work and perhaps to his life. ‘We can venture,’ he wrote, ‘the thought experiment that if Thomas Mann had committed an actual crime and sought to give an account of it in his work, the work would not have taken a different form than it actually has.’ He suggests – almost convincingly – that in Naples, in the mid-1890s, when he was a very young man, Thomas Mann did something, or witnessed something, or was closely implicated in something that involved sex and murder. And that what he did, or what he witnessed, both maimed and energised him and made its way into the work of sixty years.