The Decision

Britta Böhler / Translated Jeannette K. Ringold

‘[A] serious book’
New York Times

‘thoroughly researched, carefully written and entirely plausible. It gives you the strongest possible sense that this is what Mann was thinking, and feeling, at this critical moment in his life’ 

‘an intriguing and admirable attempt to map the mental and intellectual journey that brought Mann from thinking he could not write outside of Germany to realizing, as he famously and defiantly put it, “Wo ich bin, ist Deutschland.”’ 
LA Review of Books

‘Böhler is at her best when exploring the trials of exile, the mixture of outrage, nostalgia and impotence with which Mann watches his chances of reclaiming his German life shrivel up. In efficient prose Böhler pleasingly combines the mundane and the exalted…The result is a very lifelike portrait’ 
Times Literary Supplement

‘a splendid novel […] Britta Bohler has written an important book, a beautiful creation. The Decision stands as a remarkable beginning of a literary career.’ 
New York Journal of Books


‘While Mann kept detailed diaries, they give only a sketchy account of this period, and Britta Bohler’s imagination fills the gaps of his inner life.’ 
Sydney Morning Herald

‘An artfully crafted and constructed book, from its musical movement-arrangement to the sheer amount of information about Mann Böhler packs into this relatively short novel.’ 
Complete Review

‘a masterful portrait of Thomas Mann’ 

‘Deploying a sonata-like structure (each day akin to a musical movement), this novel presents a snapshot of Thomas Mann at a crucial moment in his life.’
Compulsive Reader

‘a fascinating story’ 

‘a wonderful novel, an immersive and psychologically convincing account of Mann’s agony of decision’
Jildy Sauce

‘a novel that shows the greater struggle between good and evil’ 
Winston’s Dad blog

‘This book dares to give a promising insight into a critical moment in the life of Thomas Mann.’
Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung


It is 1936 and the German novelist Thomas Mann is faced with a seemingly impossible choice. Over the course of three days in Switzerlands he is tormented by indecision: whether or not to publicly denounce the Nazi regime in the Swiss press. To do so would be to choose exile, to abandon his readership in Germany and all hope of returning home. His books may be burned and his personal diaries – full of intimate confessions – used to discredit him. And yet, what would it cost him – as a man, as a writer, and as the father of a daughter who urges that ‘anyone who does nothing, participates’ – to remain silent?

These vital three days, scarcely covered in Mann’s otherwise meticulously kept journals, are compellingly imagined in a fictional portrayal that brings to life one of the twentieth century’s greatest writers.

BRITTA BÖHLER is a Dutch lawyer of German descent and was a member of the Dutch Senate between 2007 and 2011. She has handled some of the most controversial court cases of the last decade, representing Abdullah Öcalan, Ayaan Hirsi Ali and many others. The Decision is her first work of fiction.

Visit Britta’s website, here.

Follow Britta on Twitter @Britta_Boehler

JEANNETTE K. RINGOLD has been a literary translator for about 25 years. Her published translations include works of fiction by Anna Enquist (among them CounterpointThe InjuryThe Secret and The Masterpiece), Leon de Winter’s God’s Gym, Carl Friedman’s The Gray Lover and The Shovel and the Loom, and Marga Minco’s The Fall. Her translations of literary nonfiction include Undeliverable by Isaac Lipschits, A Floating City of Peasants by Floris-Jan van Luyn, A People Who Live Apart by Els van Diggele, and Saving the Children by Bert-Jan Flim.

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