Can we recognise the moment when talent is crushed by unrestricted ambition? How does it feel to serve evil and believe that evil in turn serves us? A story about the strong power of theatre over society and how its ethical message can be swiftly turned into a tool of propaganda. It shows how tricky it is to balance on the edge of a changing world and how easy it is to lose face behind a theatrical mask. The play is also a strong warning that we must never again succumb to instincts and hatred, even in a time of insecurity, fear and undermined trust in democracy.
The novel, a sarcastic depiction of the rise and birth of German Nazism, was first published in Mann’s native country only in 1956. It was turned into film by director István Szabó in 1981, which gained him worldwide popularity.