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The Magic Mountain by Thomas Mann
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The Magic Mountain (original 1924; edition 1928)

by Thomas Mann

MembersReviewsPopularityAverage ratingConversations / Mentions
5,59386769 (4.25)4 / 337
Member:P_S_Patrick
Title:The Magic Mountain
Authors:Thomas Mann
Info:Hardback, 1954, Secker and Warburg, 716 pages
Collections:Your library, Favorites
Rating:****1/2
Tags:German Literature

Work details

The Magic Mountain by Thomas Mann (1924)

  1. 50
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    Steppenwolf by Hermann Hesse (caflores)
  3. 31
    Ulysses by James Joyce (roby72)
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    Scarred Hearts by Max Blecher (mousse)
    mousse: La narración se basa en las experiencias del autor, aquejado de tísis osea, en el sanatorio de Berck, en la costa francesa.El ambiente en el sanatorio y las relaciones entre los pacientes son similares.
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    Every man a murderer by Heimito von Doderer (gust)
    gust: Ook een bildungsroman met een middelmatige jongeman als hoofdpersonage.
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English (62)  Spanish (9)  French (3)  German (2)  Swedish (2)  Danish (1)  Dutch (1)  Portuguese (1)  Hungarian (1)  Italian (1)  Russian (1)  Hebrew (1)  Catalan (1)  All languages (86)
Showing 1-5 of 62 (next | show all)
Thomas Mann warns the reader in the beginning that "Der Zauberberg" will not be a quick read. But he promises to entertain. It took me five months to read in small bites. Like many readers, I often felt it went on too long, but that is part of the point Mann is making about the nature of time. And in the end he does entertain with an array of engagingly eccentric characters that come and go in the life of the Sanatorium. Once I finished the book, I missed them, and they came back to haunt me.

Not sure how to write a review of Der Zauberberg with something of value added to what others have written. Other reviews have included the important plot elements and themes. All pretty monumental: the relativity of time, illness as metaphor, life and death, civilian life vs. military duty, forebodings of catastrophe, repressed desire, liberal humanism, revolutionary philosophy, East vs. West, Apollonian vs Dionysian world views, music as a dangerous influence, paranormal experiences, dreams and visions as a special reality, it's all in there. Einstein, Freud, and Marx all get a workout, without the names ever being mentioned. So instead of a comprehensive review, a few details perhaps:

Mann loves the new technologies becoming available in the early 20th century. His intensely detailed and poetic description of an ordinary record player is enchanting even today after it has been superseded by newer technology. And he loves the concentric grooves of the record itself. Later I saw a photograph of him watching a record play,and his whole body language shows how he is entranced. His family called him "Der Zauberer", the magician. But his magic was possible because he himself is susceptible to the magic in ordinary things.

And what he does with ordinary x-rays, never using the common German word based on the name of the inventor Roentgen. It's Lichtbild, or some other substitute identification. Hans Castorp is horrified and enchanted by the process of looking into the body and seeing the heart. Castorp treasures an x-ray of the lungs of the woman he loves. That's a bit creepy, and adds to the erotic Venusberg mood of the mountain top hospital.

I think Mann may have studied the savage news photos coming out of World War I. They were circulated widely not just in newspapers, but as millions of postcards with scenes of battlefields and destruction. I have no documentation that Mann was fascinated by them, just a little internal evidence. There is a fleetingly weird and incongruent glimpse of cannibalism in one of Castorp's otherwise idyllic visions when he is dazed out in the snow. Disturbing photos of cannibalism were circulated after the Russian Revolution, part of an attempt to solicit international aid. And the concluding scene of the novel seems based on these postcard depictions of battlefields, and possibly early documentary film footage.

Nature has its magic: the snow storm is the favorite scene for most reviewers. For me the waterfall scenes are the most beautiful, and the waterfall plays a role at several pivotal moments: when newly arrived Castorp has a nosebleed by the waterfall and decides he must be ill somehow too. When Peeperkorn delivers a rant no one can hear because of the noise of the rushing water, but it doesn't matter that no one understands, because his words never make sense anyway...but the rant precedes his suicide.

Beyond the weird magic of ordinary things and the spell cast by nature, there is the entertaining magic of different personalities. Each character seems to have an attribute like classic gods and Catholic saints. Marusja, the woman that Castorp's cousin is in love with, is always giggling into an orange-scented handkerchief. Frau Stoerr mutters one malapropism after another, to great effect. Castorp's love interest, Clawdia Chauchat has a number of attributes: poorly manicured hands, letting doors slam, touching the back of her head to smooth her hair. He is initially put off by these characteristics, and gradually they become part of her seductive charm. Mann plays with these attributes, setting little traps that spring shut later in the story. When his beloved Clawdia returns, Castorp anticipates hearing the door to the dining room slam behind her, but for once it doesn't. She's accompanied by a new lover, Peeperkorn, who holds the door for her. The non-slam ushers in the dramatic confrontation between the two men, leading to the lover's suicide, Clawdia's second departure, and Castorps recovery from an imaginary illness.

Mann plays constantly with language. Ordinary words are introduced and then recombined in extraordinary ways. Rest treatments are a Liegekur, two common words made into something odd. Joachim is obsessed with military duty, and his attribute is devotion to military service or Dienst. Out of this Mann comes up with Liegedienst...obligation to rest at designated times. Ordinary things start to seem weird, and odd things seem to be accepted reality. Some kind of alienation. He likes to take the common term for something and translate it root by root into German, so he doesn't use Psychoanalyse, instead he writes Seelenzergliederung...again alienation and a bit of magic.

Once I finished the book, reality started to look a bit unreal. Ordinary things took on abstract meaning, even getting a fever seemed like a moral question that required extensive examination. And I can hear Settembrini and Naphta commenting on the things I buy at the grocery store. These unreal characters have taken on a life of their own off the page. ( )
3 vote ElenaDanielson | Mar 17, 2014 |
Sometimes it feels like the book unfolds in real time, it took me an age to read it. But that is not to say I didn't enjoy it. OK, maybe enjoy is too strong a word. It was slog, but a worthwhile one. Many of the characters are the stock figures one meets in traveller's tales, but they are well drawn and there are some comic moments. There is a great scene of a skier caught in a snowstorm. and according to some the entire novel is encapsulated in that one chapter. The loving detail with which a gramophone is described when it arrives at the sanatorium was given added poignancy when I discovered that Mann spent his Nobel Prize winnings buying one himself. The novel really plays with time - the seasons do not play out in order, and like the old stories of a traveller caught fairyland three weeks turn into seven years. ( )
  dylkit | Feb 3, 2014 |
It took me 6 months to finish this book of 800 pages, but I enjoyed it very much even without an urgent drive to turn the next page. My favorite passages concerned our hero Hans Castorp’s love for the exotic Russian consumptive Clawdia Chauchat—something of a cougar romance since he is a young visitor to the mountain sanatorium where the mature Clawdia is a patient. Also appealing were the disputes between Jesuit demon-philosopher Naphta and Freemason-humanist Settembrini (not so much their intellectual machinations as their rivalrous relationship). Hans’s skiing escapades were also enjoyable as was his encounter with “great man” Mynheer Peeperkorn—esteemed for his limited life experience and expansive emotional nature.

Everyone in the cast of characters functions as an individual while also playing a role as social type from the era (turn of the 20th century). Many are taken to represent mythic qualities as well. Tuberculosis itself plays a role beyond the obvious function of affliction and untimely killer: Disease seems to become a sort of refuge for those characters who cannot tolerate other aspects of their lives. It may well destroy them, but it provides an opportunity to step outside certain social constraints—a chance that many on the magic mountain seem to value and crave.

I found the ending of the book disappointing, a trade-off of one affliction for another with little agency involved, but won’t spoil the read for others with too much detail. This is a fascinating and in many ways delightful novel that deserves to remain on our shelves today.
( )
  AnesaMiller | Jan 17, 2014 |
There is no plot; little character development; and you'll never get a straight answer if you ask "is detail x just realism, or is it a symbol?" The whole book is infuriating, boring, pointless and occasionally offensive. In these ways, it's like all the best books in the world, provided you think that books are about ideas as much as they're about stories. So, if Dostoevksy strikes you as a ninny too intent on telling a good tale; or if everything in Proust seems to be just too obvious and clear; or if Henry James' late period novels exasperate you by getting to the point so quickly and with so little subtlety, you should definitely pick this up. I can't wait to have the time to re-read it, although even then I'm sure I'll come away feeling inadequate. ( )
  stillatim | Dec 29, 2013 |
To summarize this book in a few lines. Young man visits cousin in TB Sanitorium, in Davos, Switzerland, for three weeks and ends up contracting the disease himself and spends 7 years there. Maybe not the most exciting plot, but magnificently written, really capturing the setting and essence of the characters. ( )
  charlie68 | Nov 5, 2013 |
Showing 1-5 of 62 (next | show all)
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» Add other authors (69 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Mann, Thomasprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Byatt, A.S.Introductionsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Caro, HerbertTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Castelló, DavidTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Fonseca, GonzaloIllustratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Giachetti-Sorteni, BiceTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Hawinkels, PéTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Kaila, KaiTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Lowe-Porter, H. T.Translatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Marques, BernardoCover designersecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Mattson, EllenAfterwordsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Wallenström, UlrikaTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Winter, G.A. vonAfterwordsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Woods, John E.Translatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Курелла, В.Translatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Станевич, В.Translatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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Die Geschichte Hans Castorps, die wir erzählen wollen, - nicht um seinetwillen (denn der Leser wird einen einfachen, wenn auch ansprechenden jungen Mann in ihm kennenlernen), sondern um der Geschichte willen, die uns in hohem Grade erzählenswert scheint (wobei zu Hans Castorps Gunsten denn doch erinnert werden sollte, dass es seine Geschichte ist, und dass nicht jedem jede Geschichte passiert): diese Geschichte ist sehr lange her, sie ist sozusagen schon ganz mit historischem Edelrost überzogenund unbedingt in der Zeitform der tiefsten Vergangenheit vorzutragen.

An unassuming young man was travelling, in midsummer, from his native city of Hamburg to Davos-Platz in the Canton of the Grisons, on a three weeks' visit.
The story of Hans Castorp, which we would here set forth, not on his own account, for in him the reader will make acquaintance with a simple-minded though pleasing young man, but for the sake of the story itself, which seems to us highly worth telling - though it must needs be borne in mind, in Hans Castorp's behalf, that it is his story, and not every story happens to everybody - this story, we say, belongs to the long ago; it is already, so to speak, covered with historical mould, and unquestionably to be presented in the tense best suited to a narrative out of the depth of the past.
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0679772871, Paperback)

In this dizzyingly rich novel of ideas, Mann uses a sanatorium in the Swiss Alps--a community devoted exclusively to sickness--as a microcosm for Europe, which in the years before 1914 was already exhibiting the first symptoms of its own terminal irrationality. The Magic Mountain is a monumental work of erudition and irony, sexual tension and intellectual ferment, a book that pulses with life in the midst of death.

(retrieved from Amazon Mon, 30 Sep 2013 13:20:29 -0400)

(see all 3 descriptions)

A sanitorium in the Swiss Alps reflects the societal ills of pre-twentieth-century Europe, and a young marine engineer rises from his life of anonymity to become a pivotal character in a story about how a human's environment affects self identity. In this dizzyingly rich novel of ideas, Mann uses a sanatorium in the Swiss Alps, a community devoted exclusively to sickness, as a microcosm for Europe, which in the years before 1914 was already exhibiting the first symptoms of its own terminal irrationality. The Magic Mountain is a monumental work of erudition and irony, sexual tension and intellectual ferment, a book that pulses with life in the midst of death.… (more)

(summary from another edition)

» see all 4 descriptions

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