Thomas Mann (born in 1875) emigrated from Germany in 1933; in that same year, the first part of his "Joseph and His Brothers" was published in Germany. He was a well known author by then.

On the other hand, Vladimir Nabokov (born in 1899, i.e. nearly 25 years younger) lived in Germany until 1937. That is, Nabokov could have known the works by Mann. Especially since Nabokov was a "west oriented" Russian novelist, i.e. he knew English and French literature well.

Does anybody know whether Nabokov did know works by Mann and whether they have influenced him in any way?

I like both of them very much, and it would fascinate me if one of them knew of or had influenced the other's works (or the other way around).

  • Nabokov's hatred of Mann was legendary. You can find references, oblique or straightforward, to Mann in many of Nabokov's novels. They are typically ruthless.
    – SAH
    Aug 7, 2018 at 20:09
  • Methinks about Nabokov's opinion of "Death in Venice" that, frankly, "the lady doth protest too much". It is clear to me that the great "Lolita" is Nabokov's answer to Mann's masterpiece. He takes its tragedy and metaphor and reflects it in his own funhouse mirror to make comedy and satire. Both works are brilliant.
    – Froster
    Jul 5, 2023 at 18:19

1 Answer 1


Apparently Nabokov did know of Mann's works. As documented in his Strong Opinions (which I found here and there via a Google search for "nabokov mann"), he held no high opinion of Mann:

Ever since the days when such formidable mediocrities as Galsworthy, Dreiser, Tagore, Maxim Gorky, Romain Rolland and Thomas Mann were being accepted as geniuses, I have been perplexed and amused by fabricated notions about so-called "great books." That, for instance, Mann's asinine "Death in Venice," or Pasternak's melodramatic, vilely written "Dr. Zhivago," or Faulkner's corn-cobby chronicles can be considered "masterpieces" or at least what journalists term "great books," is to me the sort of absurd delusion as when a hypnotized person makes love to a chair. My greatest masterpieces of twentieth century prose are, in this order: Joyce's "Ulysses"; Kafka's "Transformation"; Bely's "St. Petersburg," and the first half of Proust's fairy tale, "In Search of Lost Time.”

  • 1
    I suppose Kafka's "Transformation" is "Die Verwandlung" better known in English as "Metamorphosis" (Gregor Samsa turns into a giant bug).
    – user14111
    Jan 27, 2018 at 9:04

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.