The first volume of Robert Skidelsky's Keynes biography (John Maynard Keynes - Hopes Betrayed 1883-1920, Macmillan, 1983, 447p) covers the famous economist's life until the end of World War I. We follow him from his birth in Cambridge into a community of dons, to his studies at Eton and King's College, to his becoming a member of the Apostles, to his appointment as a Fellow of King's after a short but influential position as a civil servant in the Indian Office, to his return to civil service at the Treasury during the war.
Keynes's father, Neville, appears as a fascinating character:
From childhood Maynard was convinced he was ugly, which might have "contributed to the periods of depression - 'natural sadness' Maynard called them - which Geoffrey remembers in a brother who was 'normally cheerful, witty, and full of self-confidence'." At Eton he had his first sexual experiments with boys. When he moved to Cambridge in 1902 he soon was elected to the Apostles and became a close friend with Lytton Strachey. Two years later their "friendship almost broke up soon after it had started, over competition for the affection of a young Trinity freshman called Arthur Lee Hobhouse":
But Keynes great love was Duncan Grant, Lytton's cousin and a painter, eighteen months younger than him. The start of their affair coincided with Keynes's return to Cambridge in 1908 and lasted until 1910, although they remained friends thereafter. "Maynard found no one to take Duncan's place in his life. Franky Birrell slept with him 'for old time's sake'; and there were pick-ups."
This volume also includes interesting pages on Bloomsbury. The group was 'founded' in 1905 and had strong ties to the Apostles.
After the end of the war, Keynes started penning what was to become The Economic Consequences of the Peace. The book was published in December 1919. It was to become an international best-seller and one of the most influential books of the twentieth century:
But all this is for the following volume...
Michael Hofmann, in the TLS, destroys Andrea Weiss's In the Shadow of the Magic Mountain - The Erika and Klaus Mann Story (University of Chicago Press, 2008, 302p). After punching in the face another book about Thomas Mann's relatives, House of Exile - The Life and Times of Heinrich Mann and Nelly Kroeger-Man (Evelyn Juers, Giramondo, 2008, 384p) while concluding that it is "an extraordinary book, and a really rare accomplishment," he writes that Andrea Weiss's book is, "in that British sense, rather ordinary and not at all rare. (...) I wonder whether Thomas's and Katia Mann's two oldest children are worth writing books about..." Hofmann describes Thomas Mann's children as "disappointing, mainly miserable children (they were probably happiest when children, but they made wretched adults), two of whom killed themselves (one asked to be buried as far from his father as could be managed within the confines of the same cementary), and not one of whom could be said to have successfully quit the nest, or the long, finger-pointing shadow of their father, whom they called 'the magician' or 'Z' for short." About Erika he writes: "Her claims to fame were a trip round the world with Klaus in 1927-8." While "Klaus Mann, the critic Marcel Reich-Ranicki has said, was triply afflicted: he was gay, he was addicted to drugs, and he was the son of Thomas Mann." Brecht, Auden and Wescott made jokes about him. Then, "It's as though our own age's sense of entitlement had been laid over the already rampant sense of entitlement of Erika and Klaus in Weiss's crude psychologizing and blundering, half-literate phrase making." Wow!
Hofmann is a German-born poet who writes in English and a translator of texts from German.