Confessions of Felix Krull, Confidence Man – Thomas Mann, orig. copyright 1954.
Publisher: Penguin Books (The book pictured is published by Random House)
Source: Given to me by Rikki at The Bookkeeper
Reason for Reading: Crazy Book Swap
This was my first encounter with Thomas Mann. I have long been meaning to read Death in Venice, but after my experience with Confessions of Felix Krull, Confidence Man, I am not so sure I will be rushing out to buy any other Mann works. The best way I can think to sum up this book, is to say that it is The Prince and the Pauper meets Frank Abagnale Jr. (think Leonardo DiCaprio in Catch Me If You Can)
Felix Krull is young, handsome, capable and well bread, or so he likes to tell us. As a child, he spent a great many hours playing dress-up with his godfather who, bringing costumes along to dinner, would dress Felix in every kind of outfit imaginable, from a Spanish bull-fighter to a German mountaineer. This is one of Felix’s fondest memories of his childhood. Since that time, Felix has very much enjoyed the idea of pretending to be things he is not. After the failure of his family’s sparkling wine business and his father’s death, by less than noble means, Felix’s family is left in a financial position that leaves Felix with an even greater desire to distance himself from reality. While away working in Paris, the young Krull has a chance encounter with a well-to-do, lovelorn marquis from Luxembourg who is in a predicament. The young marquis’ parents are trying to drag him away from his mistress in Paris by sending him on a world tour. Unwilling to abandon his love, the marquis enlists Felix to take his place on this grandiose tour-de-monde.
The story itself was halfway decent, but it was the writing style that caused me a great deal of grief. You see, Felix, the arrogant little SOB that he is, has a tendency to go off on these terribly tedious tangents, monologues of the monotonous, humdrum sort, you understand? He is only too aware of his own drivel and makes that clear to his readers in his haughty manner.
“Dreamer and idler! I hear the reader addressing me. Where are your adventures? Do you propose to entertain me throughout your whole book with such fine-spun quiddities, the so-called experiences of your covetous idleness…So far as ‘idleness’ is concerned, he will very soon see the inaccuracy of any such description and will, like a gentleman, withdraw it and apologize.” Page 71, Confessions of Felix Krull, Confidence Man
Who is this guy? I mean, really, me apologize? I had hoped that it was just poor translation that was causing me to yawn through the first one hundred pages of this book, but after such comments on the part of Felix, I think full credit must be given to the author and no other. After I got through the first third of the book, things started to pick up a little. For a good forty pages or so, the story actually became interesting. Then it dropped off again with more boring drivel. It picked up again about two-thirds of the way through only to take a serious dive shortly after, from which it never recovered.
Honestly, I was wanting to shoot myself after the first sixty pages and I know, for certain, if I had not been reading it for the Crazy Book Swap I would have scrapped it altogether. Even though I was dying for the book to end, clear through until it did so, I am glad that I pressed on with it. It is wrong for me to take such a harsh stance against this book, there were, after all, some great ideas in it. Even Felix’s monologues, on occasion, had a line or two that provided some tidbit previously unbeknownst to me. And, of course, the main theme of the story, taking a vacation from reality, was also attractive. Who hasn’t dreamed of donning the garb of a rich marquis and travelling the world all at another’s expense? In the end though, those points were not enough to make the book worthy of either re-reading or recommendation. (Sorry Rikki)
P.S. – There were several lengthy paragraphs written in French. They were not complicated, but if you don’t read French it might pose a problem for you.
Rating: Pretty Baaaaaahd