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The Magic Mountain (1924)
by Thomas Mann
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Really evoked the feeling of seven years of life wasted in much less time, so on that level it was a success. No great insights into its main subjects: people, nature, philosophy. Constant, incessant, unending repetition grates the nerves. ( )
This is not an easy read, but fulfilling all the same. Realizing from that beginning that this book was just a giant metaphor, I spent most of it trying to figure out what was being symbolized. Was this showing the conflict between east and west, is it a commentary on the decline of religion and a effects a cold hearted humanism? Everyone is going to come to their own conclusions, I suppose. I know what it meant for me.
Again, this was a bit of a slog, two month of being happy if I managed to get through 10 pages. Having said that, It was well worth it.
Not an easy read. I don't recommend it. But, it wasn't a waste of time, either. The experience of illness is relevant to my life so I had a personal reason to stick it out.
I actually liked the main character, Hans Castorp. I think Mann captured the essence of a regular person (in his world). I was fascinated by the changes that he experienced over his time on the mountain. I also admired his quest for knowledge that he never would have been able to experience if he hadn't been Ill.
I also have a disabling chronic illness. The points about time and our experience of it was the most interesting part of the narration of life on the mountain. Time, when spent in days without variability, slows to a painful plodding that feels like it is the only thing you have ever done and ever will do. But, from the other side, time warps the opposite. Without markers of passing time or stopping time to appreciate and celebrate with people you care about, upon reflection time disappears. Entire decades can be swallowed this way. Everything feels as if it has nothing to do with you.
It is sad that from the time that Castorp spent time on the mountain up to the time I have been ill, not much has changed. We still don't include ill folks in the larger community or celebrate with them. The non-personhood Castorp "achieves" by the final phases on the mountain is completely familiar to me.
I haven't quite processed the ending. It felt tacked on and abrupt, but I do think Mann used it intentionally to show how war destroys even the farthest reaches of civilization. It was disorienting in all ways to all people. It certainly fit the times when Castorp finally came down the mountain to the war all around him. I imagine it was similar to what Mann and his contemporaries felt about experiencing WWI
There are great chunks of this book that were impenetrable to me. The prose was very dense and I couldn't find many cues to keep my attention as I read.
However, those are probably the sections that best mimic my own experience with chronic, disabling disease. Much of it is a rush of blurred thoughts, ideas, sensory impressions that I can't recall in any meaningful way.
I loved that the Castorp, was curious and developed his intellect while convalescing. He dove into topics with enthusiasm and made an effort to expand his intellectual horizons even though his physical horizons were limited. He is aware that he can't expect to apply this knowledge if he returns to the rest of the world. Regardless, he found joy in the learning process and he pursues a deep understanding of subjects.
One thing that I have a big beef over, though is a pivotal conversation that marks a key plot point but was left in the original French. Of course, Mann wrote in German, but as a European polyglot, he switched languages if he needed a particular effect.
However, in this novel, this scene is untranslated from French and it was extremely clumsy to use Kindle's Google translate interface to read. No lie, I'd have just given up on the book if I reached that scene and had no way to know what happened. Thanks to Kindle for allowing me to have a crappy translation instead of nothing. It was very clumsy, though.
Overall, I am glad that I chose to read this second book from Mann. I might even try his Joseph books... or not. These two books are a lot like practicing piano scales. I am glad I did the practice, but the process is almost not worth it.
Guy goes up a mountain to visit his sick cousin in a sanatorium and almost never comes out again, and when he does it's just to go die in a war. In the meantime, he meets all sorts of characters there. There's lots of death. So upbeat, this one.
Yeah, no. Not my jam. Or at least not my current kind of jam. I get that there's a lot of unpacking that could be - and probably should be - done here, but I just wasn't in the mood to work for a meaning right now. Maybe if I had encountered this one at a more impressionable age? Say, when I was a college lit major? And it would have helped to have a tweed jacket wearing prof (preferably a cute one, and let's give him some sort of accent) telling me how to suss out the Hidden Truths in here. Then I would have loved it.
Thomas Mann ist ein konservertiver Dekadenz-Poser vor dem Herrn.
Ganz cool schildert er noch auf Seite 993, dass seine neue Zigarrenmarke "Rütlischwur" einen bläulichen Leibring habe, fügsam und mild im Charakter sei und mit gleichmäßig sich verzehrender schneeweißer, haltbarer Asche.
Der letzte Satz, eine Frage ob aus dem Weltfest des Todes (der 1. Weltkrieg) einmal die Liebe steigen wird? Es wurde daraus der 2. Weltkrieg. Ist es Zufall, dass die zersetzende Kraft im Roman, die Figur Naphta (Die Vorlage war scheinbar Georg Lukács) Jude war?
Trotzdem großes Kino. Vor allem der Lebensstil Castorps im Vergleich zur heutigen 0,5 sek. Videoschnitt-/Waren-/Werbewelt.
Belongs to Series
Belongs to Publisher Series
Bibliothek des 20. Jahrhunderts (Dt. Bücherbund) (Mann, Thomas)
I corvi [Dall'Oglio / Corbaccio] (192-193)
Fischer Taschenbuch (800)
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Is contained in
International Collector's Library Classics 19 volumes: Crime & Punishment; Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea; Mysterious Island; Magic Mountain; Around the World in 80 Days; Count of Monte Cristo; Camille; Quo Vadis; Hunchback of Notre Dame; Nana; Scaramouche; Pinocchio; Fernande; War and Peace; The Egyptian; From the Earth to the Moon; Candide; Treasure of Sierra Madre; Siddhartha/Steppenwolf by Jules Verne
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Wikipedia in English (2)
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.
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Melvil Decimal System (DDC)833.912Literature German literature and literatures of related languages German fiction Modern period (1900-) 1900-1990 1900-1945