The life of the German composer Adrian Leverkühn is told by his friend – a doctor of philosophy Serenus Zeitblom. Having been born in 1883, he graduated from high school campus Kayzersasherna, then university, became a teacher of classical languages and acquired family.
Adrian Leverkühn is two years younger. Early childhood he has spent in his father's estate, near Kayzersashern. The whole lifestyle of the family with two more children, embodies integrity and a strong commitment to traditions.
In Adrian woke apparent ability to the sciences, and he is given into the high school. In the city he lives in the house of his uncle, who keeps a music store. Despite a brilliant success in school, the boy differs by slight arrogance and secretive nature and loves privacy.
At the age of fourteen Adrian is interested in music and on the advice of his uncle begins to take lessons at the musician Wendell Kretzschmar, who, despite the severe stuttering, reads exciting public lectures on the theory and history of music and teaches young people the fine musical taste
After finishing high school, Adrian studies theology at the University of Halle, where Zeitblom moved as well. There the teacher of psychology of religion Shlepfus teaches his students the theory of real magic and demonic presence in human life. Watching Adrian in society of the born in the same year Zeitblom is increasingly convinced of his unusual nature.
Leverkühn continues to maintain contact with Kretzschmar and, when the last is invited to the Conservatory in Leipzig, he goes there too. He got disappointed in theology and is now studying philosophy, but he tends more and more to the music. However Kretzschmar believes that the atmosphere of the institution such as a conservatory could be fatal for his talent.
On the day of arrival in Leipzig Adrian instead of an inn is brought in some brothel. A girl with almond-shaped eyes approaches young man and tries to pat his cheek, but he rushes away. Since then, her image does not leave him, but he waited a year before deciding to find her. He has to go for her in Bratislava, but when Adrian finally finds he girl, she warns that is sick with syphilis; but he insists on intimacy. Back in Leipzig, Adrian resumes classes, but soon is forced to seek medical attention. Not bringing the end of treatment, the doctor suddenly dies. Trying to find another doctor also ends unsuccessfully, the doctor was arrested. Young man decides not to treat.
He starts to work passionately. The most significant of his works of that period is a song cycle on poems by romantic poet Brentano. In Leipzig Leverkühn gets acquainted with the poet and translator Schieldknapp who persuades him to make opera libretto to Shakespeare's play "Vain efforts of love."
In 1910 Kretzschmar gets the post of chief conductor at the Lyubeksk theater and Leverkühn moved to Munich, where he rents a room at the widow of Senator named Roddy and her two adult daughters - Inese and Clarissa. The house parties are regularly arranged, and there are many new friends of artistic public, especially talented young violinist Rudolf Schverdtveher. He consistently seeks friendship with Adrian and even asks him to write a violin concerto. Soon Schieldknapp moves to Munich as well.
Finding no calm Leverkühn goes to Italy together with Schieldknapp. Hot summer they spent in the mountain village of Palestrina. There he is visited by a man and woman Tseytblom. Adrian works hard on the opera, and Tseytblom finds his music extremely strange and innovative.
Here with Leverkühn happens an episode details of which are revealed much later in his musical notebook by Serenus Zeitblom. The devil himself visits him and tells about his involvement in the secret illness of Adriana and relentless attention to his fate. Satan promises Leverkühn the prominent role in the culture of the nation, the role of herald of a new era, which he called "modern era of barbarism." The Devil says that when Adrian deliberately infected himself with this ugly disease, he made a deal with the forces of evil, since then it comes to timing and in twenty-four years, Satan will call him. But there is one condition: Leverkühn should give up love forever.
In the autumn of 1912 friends come back from Italy, and Adrian takes a room in a mansion near Munich which he has noticed earlier, during his country walks. This place reminds him the farm of his parents. Here start to come his friends and acquaintances from Munich.
After finishing the opera Leverkühn again enjoys writing vocal pieces. Because of its innovations they are not welcomed by the general public, but are performed in many Philharmonic in Germany and bring the author fame. In 1914 he writes a symphony "Wonders of the Universe." World War began does not affect Leverkühn, and he continues to live in the mansion and still works a lot.
Meanwhile Inese Roddy marries a professor named Ynstytorys, though burns of unspoken love for Schverdtveher, what she confesses to the author herself. Soon she gets into the contact with a violinist, suffering however the conscious inevitability of separation. Her sister Clarissa also leaves her native town to devote herself to the scene, and Mrs. Roddy moves and settles near Leverkühn, who at that time starts to work on the oratorio "Apocalypse". He wants to show the humanity with his demonic music the feature to which it approaches.
In the spring of 1922 Clarissa Roddy returns to her mother. Having gone through the creative collapse and catastrophe hopes for personal happiness, she ends commits a suicide by drinking poison.
Leverkühn finally listens to Schverdtveher and dedicates a concert to him, which has noisy success. Repeating its performance is held in Zurich, where Adrian and Rudolf get acquainted with theater artist Marie Rotsi. A few months later she arrives in Munich, and after a few days the violinist asks Leverkühn to make their marriage possible. He reluctantly agrees and admits that he himself is a little in love. In two days later all know already about the engagement of Rudolf and Marie. The wedding should take place in Paris, where the violinist has a new contract. But on the way from his farewell concert in Munich he meets death from the hands of Inése Roddy, who in a fit of jealousy shoots him right in the tram.
A year after the tragedy is “Apocalypse” finally performed. The concert is a sensational success, but by virtue of a deep sincere depression the author is not present. The composer continues to write great chamber while maturing the plan of cantata "Cry of Doctor Faustus."
In the summer of 1928 to Leverkühn is brought for a stay his younger five-year-old nephew. Adrian wholeheartedly gets attached to the charming and gentle kid. But in two months later the boy falls ill because of meningitis and in a few days in dies. Doctors can do nothing.
The next two years are for Leverkühn years of intense creative activity: he wrote his cantata. In May 1930 he invites friends and acquaintances to hear his new work. About thirty guests come, and then he confesses that everything created by him in the past twenty four years is the business of Satan. His spontaneous attempts to violate the prohibition of love (friendship with a young violinist, intends to marry or even love for the innocent child) lead to the death of all of them, that is why he finds himself not only a sinner but a killer. Most of the guests leave.
Leverkühn begins to play the piano, but then falls to the floor, and when he recovers the consciousness, the signs of madness are shown. After three months of treatment at the clinic his mother takes him home, and she looks after him like after a little child. When in 1935 Zeitblom comes to congratulate a friend on the fiftieth anniversary, he does not recognize him, and in five years later the brilliant composer dies.
The story alternates with author’s notes about contemporary Germany, dramatic arguments about the tragic fate "of a monster-country," the inevitable collapse of nations, which decides to put itself above the entire world; the author curses the power that destroyed its own people under the slogans of its prosperity.