Born: 6 June 1875, Lübeck, Germany
Died: 12 August 1955, Zurich, Switzerland
Residence at the time of the award: Germany
Prize motivation: "principally for his great novel, Buddenbrooks, which has won steadily increased recognition as one of the classic works of contemporary literature"
Prize share: 1/1
Thomas Mann was a multifaceted author with a prolific output of fiction and novels. As the son of a merchant, he was expected to take over the family's grain firm in Lübeck, but like his older brother Heinrich, he chose to concentrate on writing instead. In 1905 he married Katia Pringsheim, and the couple had six children, three of whom also became authors. Thomas Mann opposed Nazism, and during the 1930s and 1940s, the family was forced into exile. He spent the later years of his life outside Zurich.
Thomas Mann shared the Nobel Prize primarily because of his breakthrough novel Buddenbrooks, published in 1901. It attracted a certain amount of attention since the prize was usually awarded for an entire body of work. The rationale also could be interpreted as a nod toward one of his later books, The Magic Mountain, a coming of age novel that along with Buddenbrooks is Thomas Mann's best-known work. Buddenbrooks, which in German was subtitled "a family's decline," is a family chronicle inspired by the author's own background in a north German merchant family.