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In this extraordinary collection of short stories, Thomas Mann uses settings as diverse as Germany, Italy, the Holy Land and the Far East to explore a theme which always preoccupied him: the two faces of things. Thus, in A Man and His Dog and Disorder and Early Sorrow, small domestic tempests become symbolic of the discordant muddle of humanity. In The Transposed Heads and The Tables of Law the demands of the intellect clash with the desires of physiology - an idea developed more fully in The Black Swan, where body and spirit are tragically out of harmony. Written between 1918 and 1953, these stories offer us both an insight into Mann's development of thought and also some impressive literature from these interesting times.
Thomas Mann was born in 1875 in Lubeck, of a line of prosperous and influential merchants. Mann was educated under the discipline of North German schoolmasters before working for an insurance office aged nineteen. During this time he secretly wrote his first tale, Fallen, and shortly afterwards left the insurance office to study art and literature at the University of Munich. After a year in Rome he devoted himself exclusively to writing. He was only twenty-five when Buddenbrooks, his first major novel, was published. Before it was banned and burned by Hitler, it has sold over a million copies in Germany alone. His second great novel, The Magic Mountain, was published in 1924 and the first volume of his tetralogy Joseph and his Brothers in 1933. In 1929 he was awarded the Nobel Prize for literature. In 1933 Thomas Mann left Germany to live in Switzerland. Then, after several previous visits, in 1938 he settled in the United States where he wrote Doctor Faustus and The Holy Sinner. Among the honours he received in the USA was his appointment as a Fellow of the Library of Congress. He revisited his native country in 1949 and returned to Switzerland in 1952, where The Black Swan and Confessions of Felix Krull were written and where he died in 1955.