||Heinrich Mann was born in Lübeck into a prominent merchant family. His father, Thomas Johann Heinrich Mann, owned a grain firm and oversaw taxes for Lübeck. Mann's mother Julia, née da Silva-Bruhns, came from a German-Portugese-Creole family.
Mann studied at a private preparatory school until 1889, and then worked as an apprentice to a bookseller in Dresden and as a publisher in Berlin (1891-92). After contracting tuberculosis, he spent some time in a sanatorium in Switzerland. The inheritance Mann received after the death of his father in 1891, allowed him to start his literary career. His first novel, IN EINER FAMILIE, appeared in 1893. In 1894 he moved to Munich, where he was the editor of Das zwanzigste Jahrhundert.
From the mid-1890s until World War I, Mann lived mostly in Italy and France. His novels from these years dealt mostly with social life in imperial Germany. IM SCHLARAFFENLAND (1900) was a satirical depiction of middle-class Germans. DIE GÖTTINGEN (1902) portrayed aestheticism and individualism in Europe at the turn of the century. Mann's best known novel is PROFESSOR UNRAT (1904, Small Town Tyrant), a story of a misogynist schoolmaster in Wilhelminian Germany, who falls in love with a seductive barefoot dancer Rosa Fröhlich. The novel has been filmed many times, but the most acclaimed version is Der Blaue Engel (The Blue Angel), which was directed by Joseph von Sternberg.
After 1910 Mann began to publish his trilogy DAS KAISERREICH (The Empire). Its first book, DER UNTERTAN, was banned during World War I, but appeared in 1918 and gained a huge success. The story followed the rise of the opportunist Diederich Hessling, whose father runs a small paper factory. At school Diederich bullies the only Jew in his class, and when the bystanders applause, he feels strong. "He was acting on behalf of the whole Christian community of Netzig. How splendid it was to share responsibility, and to be a part of a collective consciousness." Mann revealed through more or less grotesque characters the moral bankruptcy of the bourgeoisie and the weaknesses of German society under Wilhelm II. The second book, DIE ARMEN (The Poor), which revealed Mann's poor knowledge of Socialist theory, appeared in 1917, and the third, DER KOPF (The Chief), in 1925.
Mann's other works from the 1920s and early 1930s include MUTTER MARIE (1927), a novel about the mercenary schemes of a general's wife, and EIN ERNSTES LEBEN (1932), an exploration of contemporary German values. In DIE JUGEND DES KÖNIGS HENRI QUATRE (1935) and DIE VOLLENDUNG DES KÖNIGS HENRI QUATRE (1937) Mann painted a historically accurate portrait of the 16th century French king, the first of the Bourbon dynasty, who converted to Roman Catholicism but remained sympathetic to Protestantism, secretly supporting the revolt of the Protestant Netherlands against Spain.
In 1914 Mann married the actress Marie (Mimi) Kanová, they divorced in 1930. The Prussian Government called Mann to Berlin to the Academy of Arts and in 1931 he was elected to the presidency of the Poetry Section. He remained in the office until the beginning of the persecution of literature under the Nazi regime. After leaving Germany, Mann first lived in Prague and then near Nice. He wrote there his most ambitious novels based on the life of Henry IV, the French king who was known for his religious tolerance.
Mann moved in 1940 to the United States, but he hoped to return to Germany. His second wife, Nelly Kroeger, committed suicide in 1944. Mann spoke English poorly, and in Los Angeles he was supported mostly by his famous brother. In his last years Mann worked on his autobiography, EIN ZEITALTER WIRD BESICHTIGT (1945). He was awarded the German Democratic Republic's first National Prize and invited to become the president of East Germany's new Academy of the Arts. Mann died in Santa Monica on March 12, 1950, before he was able to assume his post.
As an essayist Mann moved from conservative middle-class opinions to a strong commitment to democracy and various forms of socialism. In his famous essay 'Zola' (1915), which celebrated the French author's political commitment, Mann formulated the role of the writer in society and indirectly attacked the exploitative attitudes of capitalists and industrialists which had led to World War I. With its reference to Thomas Mann, the work caused a temporary rupture between the brothers. Thomas, who was more conservative, had defended the war, and was offended. His reply, 'Betrachtungen eines Unpolitischen' (1918, Reflections of an Unpolitical Man) ,was a direct attack on Heinrich. Thomas, who had at first asserted the artist's need for independence from political concerns, eventually came to support many of Heinrich's views.