thomas mann's "the magic mountain"

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i'm thinking of reading this. someone wanna talk me out of it?

J.D. (Justyn Dillingham), Sunday, 26 March 2006 05:11 (eighteen years ago) link

seems like a good summer book.

Josh (Josh), Sunday, 26 March 2006 05:28 (eighteen years ago) link

i read the first page, flipped through a bit more of it, and it doesn't look unreadable. what scares me is the little bitty print.

J.D. (Justyn Dillingham), Sunday, 26 March 2006 05:56 (eighteen years ago) link

you could just hold it closer to your face.

Josh (Josh), Sunday, 26 March 2006 07:41 (eighteen years ago) link

If you just want to be put off TMM is long; Mann is never less than serious; it is intellectually demanding; it can be stodgy in parts.

All the same I'd encourage you to read it.

What other Mann have you read? If you haven't read anything you could start with shorter stuff to see if he appeals - Death in Venice is the obvious one, or Tonio Kroger or Mario and the Magician. All excellent.

Buddenbrooks is less great than TMM but maybe a more straightforwardly enjoyable read.

frankiemachine, Sunday, 26 March 2006 17:59 (eighteen years ago) link

i just read it a couple of months ago and definitely enjoyed it. i'd say go for it. to give full disclosure, though, i did skim a few of the philosophical argument chapters like the cretin i am.

dja, Monday, 27 March 2006 22:44 (eighteen years ago) link

I read this a few years back and I thought it was great.

qwpoi (maga), Wednesday, 29 March 2006 03:58 (eighteen years ago) link

you know, j.d., you could always read doctor faustus, it being shorter and also supposedly real real good.

but, as a mark against it: it is less about sitting around than 'mountain' is.

Josh (Josh), Wednesday, 29 March 2006 04:12 (eighteen years ago) link

i like the marlowe and goethe fausts a lot! and actually one of the things that makes me want to read TMM is that it's supposedly just about sitting around and talking - i kind of like books where 'nothing' happens.

i've decided to read "death in venice" first, and am now trying to settle on a translation.

J.D. (Justyn Dillingham), Wednesday, 29 March 2006 07:33 (eighteen years ago) link

Death in Venice is fantastic - possibly my favourite short story/novella.

I wouldn't necessarily describe Mann's Faustus as an easier read than TMM - I'm sure it is shorter but from memory it's still fairly long and arguably even more cerebral than TMM. I liked it a lot, but a big factor for me is the subject matter - I tend to enjoy novels about musicians.

Plenty of sitting around talking in TMM.

frankiemachine, Wednesday, 29 March 2006 08:17 (eighteen years ago) link

in 'norwegian wood' murakami's narrator takes 'the magic mountain' with him to read when he goes, uh, up into the mountains to visit his crazy girlfriend at the crazy place.

Josh (Josh), Friday, 31 March 2006 01:22 (eighteen years ago) link

Funnily enough I just finished "Norwegian Wood" and am now looking at copies of "Magic Mountain" because of it. I skimmed a few pages of the Woods translation and thought it inviting.

Arethusa, Monday, 3 April 2006 02:01 (eighteen years ago) link

I would certainly recommend the Woods translation over Penguin's Lowe-Porter translation. Not that I can vouch for the accuracy of either translation, but Woods' flows more naturally, thus giving a better feel for the humour and subtlety of the text.

Jimmy M (Jimmy M), Wednesday, 5 April 2006 18:33 (eighteen years ago) link

TMM is a wonderful wonderful book. Read it. After that, if you're a Tintin fan, you have to read Frederick Tuten's Tintin in the New World, which has Captain Haddock et al hobnobbing with Clavdia Chauchat et al. It's a great little book with a very circumscribed fan-base.

Beth Parker (Beth Parker), Wednesday, 5 April 2006 20:01 (eighteen years ago) link

that sounds amazing!

i wish herge had done a 90-page adaptation of "the magic mountain" starring tintin.

J.D. (Justyn Dillingham), Wednesday, 5 April 2006 22:34 (eighteen years ago) link

This is the next best thing!

Beth Parker (Beth Parker), Thursday, 6 April 2006 02:57 (eighteen years ago) link

[oh bother]

SPAM, Sunday, 16 April 2006 18:23 (eighteen years ago) link

That was weird.

Beth Parker (Beth Parker), Sunday, 16 April 2006 20:35 (eighteen years ago) link

Oh, it's been happening a lot lately.

This thread is now for registered users only.

Casuistry (Chris P), Sunday, 16 April 2006 21:25 (eighteen years ago) link

six months pass...
hey j.d. did you ever get back to this?

Josh (Josh), Sunday, 5 November 2006 04:54 (seventeen years ago) link

not yet, but i did read "death in venice" which was terrific.

J.D. (Justyn Dillingham), Sunday, 5 November 2006 23:39 (seventeen years ago) link

I thought it was a big bore. Lots of wrapping in blankets and not very profound conversations. I finished it, so I guess that says something, but I would never recommend it to anyone.

Mike Lisk (b_buster), Tuesday, 7 November 2006 17:26 (seventeen years ago) link

i'm just about to the end of hans castorp's planned three week visit to the berghof, which is about 160 pages in, and so far, j.d., i think you may find it plenty readable. (there is the possibility that it will flag somewhat, especially since i have been reading in the early part which is pushed along partly by anticipation of some change in castorp's self-denial. but the only part i've thought lost the quality of the rest of it, so far, was some of the digression during 'growing anxiety' about settembrini's father and grandfather, or more precisely, the paean to humanism etc. that followed it. and that not because i thought it was let's say philosophically or intellectually inferior to the earlier conversations - they seem to be about the same in that way - but the narrator's irony seems to have faltered, so that settembrini couldn't quite keep it up under his own power.)

best passages so far:
- the narrator's account of why hans is not mediocre, exactly
- the part about pribislav (sounds like 'pshibislav')
- the part about hans's little stratagems for running into m. chauchat

Josh (Josh), Friday, 10 November 2006 01:27 (seventeen years ago) link

nine years pass...

this is quite long

Treeship, Saturday, 10 September 2016 01:02 (seven years ago) link

Whatever, bro. I read 1079 pages of Joseph and His Brothers last week.

The burrito of ennui (Alfred, Lord Sotosyn), Saturday, 10 September 2016 01:09 (seven years ago) link

oh damn, deep cut

Treeship, Saturday, 10 September 2016 01:10 (seven years ago) link

i like it so far though. i think settembrini and behrens will come to philosophical blows eventually but am afraid i'll have to wait like 400 pages for that to happen.

i like how hans catsorp thinks he is the ultimate respectable bourgeois when he is actually a repressed weirdo voyeur perv

Treeship, Saturday, 10 September 2016 01:12 (seven years ago) link

He's an empty vessel who gets filled. He's like Leo Bloom in that respect.

The burrito of ennui (Alfred, Lord Sotosyn), Saturday, 10 September 2016 01:24 (seven years ago) link

bloom's receptivity is shown to be a unique/redemptive attribute though, even if he doesn't see it himself. idk about our hans. his openness doesn't cause him to feel empathy.

Treeship, Saturday, 10 September 2016 01:31 (seven years ago) link

Well, he learns from those two (and from poor dull cute Joachim).

The burrito of ennui (Alfred, Lord Sotosyn), Saturday, 10 September 2016 01:33 (seven years ago) link

three weeks pass...

Alfred did Hans have sex with Clavdia during Mardi Gras?

Treeship, Friday, 7 October 2016 01:11 (seven years ago) link

How else could he get the x ray? She said she kept it in her room.

Treeship, Friday, 7 October 2016 01:14 (seven years ago) link

Asking for a friend

I hear from this arsehole again, he's going in the river (James Morrison), Friday, 7 October 2016 01:17 (seven years ago) link

I don't remember. It might be in the French section.

The burrito of ennui (Alfred, Lord Sotosyn), Friday, 7 October 2016 01:17 (seven years ago) link

Hm, i think it's supposed to be implied, but I have a hard time picturing Hans going through with that without dying from an anxiety attack

Treeship, Friday, 7 October 2016 01:35 (seven years ago) link

Unless he's not as much of a naif as he seems to be and it's all part of his insufferable learned helplessness act.

Treeship, Friday, 7 October 2016 01:37 (seven years ago) link

Dude better hurry up and mature in these last 200 pages

Treeship, Friday, 7 October 2016 01:38 (seven years ago) link

two weeks pass...

fucking bleak ending

Treeship, Monday, 24 October 2016 00:20 (seven years ago) link

two months pass...

i'm about fifty pages away from the end. imo classic

who is extremely unqualified to review this pop album (BradNelson), Tuesday, 27 December 2016 05:48 (seven years ago) link

yeah, it's truly incredible.

Treeship, Tuesday, 27 December 2016 05:54 (seven years ago) link

wondering if clavdia and hans did it seems to be point-missing to a degree as hans' particular sensitivities and the movement of time in the sanatorium would suggest that any abrupt intimacy would be kinda like fucking, which is i guess why his later explanation to peeperkorn works ("why yes we were lovers, i asked to borrow her pen on mardi gras"). incidentally hans' affection strikes me as pretty queer in design, not just bc he confuses clavdia with a boy he loved in school.

who is extremely unqualified to review this pop album (BradNelson), Tuesday, 27 December 2016 05:54 (seven years ago) link

also peeperkorn is one of my fav characters in all of literature what a ridiculous person

who is extremely unqualified to review this pop album (BradNelson), Tuesday, 27 December 2016 05:55 (seven years ago) link

poor dull cute Joachim

kinda wish he were described like this at any point in the book

who is extremely unqualified to review this pop album (BradNelson), Tuesday, 27 December 2016 06:01 (seven years ago) link

what's everyone's favorite sections? mine is the deeply horrible dream hans has when he gets lost in the snow

who is extremely unqualified to review this pop album (BradNelson), Tuesday, 27 December 2016 07:16 (seven years ago) link

i love any of naphta's disquisitions but my favorite thing abt this book is the slow accumulation of method and ritual into like a totalized fugue. as if at its base instead of a "skeleton" of plot/narrative there's a really sick drone (in the musical sense) upon which all the modernist flourishes are built.

adam, Tuesday, 27 December 2016 13:29 (seven years ago) link

classic classic classic

Allen (etaeoe), Tuesday, 27 December 2016 14:18 (seven years ago) link

Which is better, this or Doctor Faustus?

Al Moon Faced Poon (Moodles), Tuesday, 27 December 2016 14:24 (seven years ago) link


The burrito of ennui (Alfred, Lord Sotosyn), Tuesday, 27 December 2016 14:29 (seven years ago) link

Joseph in Egypt was wondrous though.

The burrito of ennui (Alfred, Lord Sotosyn), Tuesday, 27 December 2016 14:29 (seven years ago) link

a really sick drone

schopenhauer called it 'will'

j., Wednesday, 28 December 2016 01:48 (seven years ago) link

TMM was the first novel I completed after a dry spell of, I don't know, like three years?

very avant-garde (Variablearea), Monday, 24 February 2020 21:32 (four years ago) link

You want density? Check out Joseph and His Brothers, the subject of another amazing experience three years ago.

TikTok to the (Alfred, Lord Sotosyn), Monday, 24 February 2020 21:33 (four years ago) link

Oo there's an Everyman Library edition.

very avant-garde (Variablearea), Monday, 24 February 2020 21:35 (four years ago) link

Lol at Brad’s laughter! What is going to happen...

Maybe I’ll keep chronicling my thoughts here. I do feel it’s kind of embarrassingly impressionable of me to have a brief heart/lung scare so soon after reading about the half-lung club. :| Joseph and His Brothers is on the list.

I’d like to hear more about how you relate to this book at some point Variablearea!

tangenttangent, Monday, 24 February 2020 21:45 (four years ago) link


very avant-garde (Variablearea), Monday, 24 February 2020 21:48 (four years ago) link

Probably not

very avant-garde (Variablearea), Monday, 24 February 2020 21:49 (four years ago) link

Lol at Brad’s laughter! What is going to happen...

if anything he crams more and more depth of meaning into every sentence as the book advances. when you get to hans "playing god" you'll see what i mean

american bradass (BradNelson), Monday, 24 February 2020 21:55 (four years ago) link

That is completely fair enough!! Sorry to pry. Still very interested in hearing everyone's thoughts about it in general as it unfolds. Recent notes have been shorter as typed on phone during journeys.

Chapter 2 - Of the Christening Basin, and of Grandfather in his Two-fold Guise
- Hans’ mother died of a sort of stroke whilst laughing when he was 5, and his father from something like pneumonia when he was 7, his father’s father a year and a half later of the same thing
- “something in the depth of his being responded to it” - to his grandfather’s collar. Indescribable pleasures. His grandfather is very refined and austere, which inspires Hans greatly. His grandfather smoked cigars. Identifies with him more strongly, though he is extremely old-fashioned even for the time
- Impressed by the artifice of everything. The trappings of life that distracts from death
- Of the Christening basin: “That great-great-great-great - what a hollow sound it had, how it spoke of the falling away of time, yet how it seemed the expression of a piously cherished link between the present, his own life, and the depth of the past!” - hereditary memory, ghosts in the nursery, intergenerational trauma, the transience of life. Closely connected to stories of his own and his father’s and grandfather’s infant lives.
- Hans wishes for the strange feeling of ‘recurrence in continuity’. A good candidate for therapy!
- A close family tie not infrequently skips a generation
- Everyday grandfather is superseded in Hans’ mind by a ‘pure’ grandfather depicted in a rather old-fashioned (medieval-style) painting of his grandfather in ceremonial attire. Formation of superego. Painting grandfather also presented on the day of his funeral - in his true guise
- At the age of 9, Hans is already a ‘connoisseur’ of death, and adapts by adopting a kind of detachment. It affects his ‘senses’ more than his ‘spirit’. He forms defences to survive. Tears no longer seem natural to him
- A solemn spiritual, dignified death vs profane, physical, ugly death, which is counteracted by flowers, which “prevent one from being conscious of it”, this other aspect makes his grandfather look like a wax doll - “a shell made of its own substance” - this makes it not sad. The removal of life, so the removal of feeling. Dealing with something hollow
- A fly touching his grandfather’s hand reminds him with embarrassment of a former schoolfriend who seemed to be gay
- Hans now dislocated to another new home

Chapter 2 - At Tienappels’, and of Young Hans’s Moral State
- Hans is sensible and no stranger to hard work, but also an aesthete - gives himself over to the pleasures of life
- He assimilates into his new wealthy life with the Tienappels with ease. An aesthetic front masking the pain of a childhood full of death
- An importance is ascribed to ‘his lot in life’, which is greater than considerations of personality - the past has played a bigger part in the development of his character than should have been the case
- He sees ‘no reason’ to exert himself mentally. There is a great sense of lack at his core
- A ‘laming of the personality’ occurs as a result of Hans living the life of his epoch and taking for granted without analysis his past life. He might be more predisposed to it out of a wish to avoid the traumas of his past - especially the more ‘upright’ he is - it permeates the spiritual, physical and organic!
- Chooses a profession in ship-building (instead of ship-painting) - constructing strong but ultimately permeable facades of vessels!
- Hans considers work the sole meaning of man, like then immortality projects of Terror Management Theory, but it does not agree with him. He likes free time and no obstacles - like a baby. He also realises deep down the hollowness of work, and the value of thought, daydreaming with his cigars - ‘dozing’
- His political morals as a young man are undecided and could favour either extreme. He is 23 at the start of his journey

Chapter 3 - Drawing the Veil
- The book is an attack on reason!
- Hans feels not rested but fresh - like that Bion thing about running for miles in one’s dreams. Waking state is not privileged over sleeping state
- The unconscious is so frequently referred to - reminds me of Anna Freud’s saying about how we almost never know the real reasons for doing anything we do
- Hans again feels shame and repressed excitement in proximity with sex

Chapter 3 - Breakfast
- The building is described as ‘porous’ - again the permeability and transience of human things
- Hans starting to become unstuck very early on. He clings to his defences (hat, stick, cigars etc) but his eyes water and his face is red
- The dining room is opulent. A feast for the senses
- Excitation in someone ‘homely’ seems offensive to Hans - link to grandfather’s special grandeur etc
- Hans jolted by a banging door - some unseen dread?
- Dr Behrens is not acclimatised to the air. His face is purple, his eyes water - signs of physical strain in those who open themselves to the elements
- Hans would be a ‘better patient’ than his cousin - it ‘takes talent'. Some people do not make 'good' candidates for analysis - at least, preparatory work is required. A lot of these thoughts are going to be heavily psychoanalytically skewed btw because that's how I am prone to reading most books and especially this one, my god! No idea if that's going to be borne out in the fullness of the plot or not though...
- Doctor is wild! Recognises Hans’ anaemia immediately. Preternatural ability to read him, like the analyst, but without any of the same restraint of character (just like irl)

Chapter 3 - Banter. Viaticum. Interrupted Mirth
- The narration is close third person, but extends slightly beyond Hans to his cousin as well - creates a weird omnipotence slightly outside the self (we can hear what Joaquim thinks of Hans etc)
- The appearance of life often turn quickly to death - the people coming down the hill full of liveliness and the woman’s lung whistling
- Hans is obsessed with cigars. Sometimes a cigar is just a cigar... He can’t stomach them up there, believes it connected with the heat in his face. Repressed sexuality? Links earlier with the memory of the boy at school. Drugs (cigars etc) seem hollow and lose their taste in the presence of a real cure
- Being ill and dying are not serious to them up there, “life is only serious down below”
- Why do they hide death at the sanitarium? When they are otherwise so open and exploratory??
- The description of death throes sends Hans into another fit of laughter

Chapter 3 - Satana
- Settembrini refers to them as being ‘sunk’ in depths - deeper into the ucs
- The impertinence of the well to dally in the world of the sick for however long they see fit. The obstinacy of what 'wellness' even is
- Equating work with Satan - a severe resistance to that which is contrary to infantile relating
- Rhadamanthus is a judge of the underworld - this is how Settembrini thinks of Dr Behrens.
- They share in common the vice of smoking cigars - they depress the doctor
- Malice is the beginning of enlightenment
- Settembrini harbours the notion of a ton of sinister clinicians. Believes Krokowski to be smutty! Strong mistrust of clinicians abusing power
- Described himself as a reactionary humanist and teacher. Battle between reason/humanism and psychoanalysis?

Chapter 3 - Mental Gymnastic
- The phenomenological experience of time is subjective. Different to the senses
- A sonorousness overcomes Hans as his stay increases. He wishes to lie down. Talk of a chair that Behrens has perhaps specially commissioned, not unlike Freud’s chair. The sanatorium prepares the spirit for the psychoanalytic encounter

tangenttangent, Monday, 24 February 2020 22:16 (four years ago) link

if anything he crams more and more depth of meaning into every sentence as the book advances. when you get to hans "playing god" you'll see what i mean

This is exciting! It's so rare to find something like this. There are so few writers I can think of who really pack that much profound thought in (Woolf... Idk, I probably need to read a lot more).

tangenttangent, Monday, 24 February 2020 22:18 (four years ago) link

Chapter 3 - A Word Too Much
- Chapters have strange time and space demarcations. They follow on from the previous point
- Chasing thoughts is ineffectual - they disappear if you try too hard to find them
- Of his palpitations, Hans says: “it is disturbing and unpleasant to have the body act as if it had no connexion with the soul” - psychosomatic manifestations. Hans very open to the idea of finding a psychic cause for the illness. Joaquin is not - always dismissive.
- ‘Mazurka’! That is the name of our record player
- Everyone goes pale or red at any mention of sensuality. Clearly some depraved things bubbling just under the surface
- Settembrini’s term for them ‘horizontallers’ - is meant negatively, a self-deprecating joke at their inactivity, but it suggests their closeness to both sleep and death, or the betweenity of their situation
- Hans’ body compels him to sleep - he is desperate to dream and draw out meanings not attainable in a waking state

tangenttangent, Monday, 24 February 2020 22:34 (four years ago) link

Chapter 3 - Of Course, A Female!
- I want to poll these chapter titles…
- Hans has the fantasy that everyone stayed in place in the dining hall as he slept. Omnipotent fantasy coming into play
- Frau Stöhr regales the table with stories of clandestine sexuality - the dining hall has uncanny and beastly properties
- Hans is drawn to the ‘heedless’ woman - drawn to those who can act with abandon, unlike him
- What does ‘blue Peter’ mean in this context?? Why does it cause Hans so much mirth?
- Blood from the mouth - physical ailments given less importance on the mountain

Chapter 3 - Herr Albin:
- Herr Albin acts recklessly. Chekhov’s gun (and knife) introduced
- The death instinct is in turmoil on the mountain, brought into greater relief against the feeling of timelessness. Herr Albin flippant about suicide - at peace with death as he ‘doesn’t count’ (being terminally ill)
- Hans relates to his story about the relief in no longer having to try at school. The giving up. And how this relates to death - the removal of shame, and how freeing it could be. A sense of pleasure in death is frightening for him

Chapter 3 - Satana Makes Proposals That Touch Our Honour:
- On the mountain, the healthy are the ones who are ignored. Like an abject heterotopia for the diseased othered of society to be accepted
- Talk of suicides at the sanatorium cause Hans disquiet to the point of wanting to leave
- Paranoid fantasies of Marusja laughing at him. Overcome by weariness. Without access to the resources of the sick, sleep is the only place his thoughts can be exorcised
- Entertainments in one ‘salon’ is purely visual - stereoscopes, zoetropes etc - the language of dreams. The images seem linked to Hans’ past and present (a schoolmaster chastising a boy etc)
- The links between body and mind, internal and external are beginning to disintegrate (or unintegrate!) for Hans. He doesn’t know his age or how he feels
- Settembrini entreats Hans to leave the mountain immediately, but Hans doesn’t see why. Needs the chains of signification to be broken - he is too rigid in his acceptance of reality, but yet not so much as Settembrini. A great Lacanian analysand! Neurotic
- He is feeling more miserable than ever in his life and “suddenly he was moved by a man extraordinary and extravagant thrill of joy and suspense” - the euphoria of real change! Or the possibility of it
- What is the “new, penetrating sense” of understanding why his cousin went pale at the mention of Marusja?
- In his dreams he runs from Dr Krokowski’s analysis and wakes up sweating! Settembrini and his rationalism also won’t be budged in dream - the two forces vying for primacy. Control and submission
- He dreams twice of the woman in the white sweater - free-association links her to a sense of abandon and unrefinedness; the joy of freedom, of death, with joyful shame - a thousandfold stronger than when awake! The force of energies spent on repression have been redirected

Chapter 4 - Necessary Purchases:
- Sublime landscape and shifts in weather echo internal states
- The binary opposites set up at the beginning of the novel are beginning to mingle - blurred boundaries between internal/external, hot/cold
- Settembrini is cynical about the cost of the establishment and the hierarchical control of the clinicians over the inhabitants of the sanitarium. He had a happy childhood, and perhaps this is why he finds it difficult to engage with the idea of the cure. His father liked the warm and he cannot understand or appreciate coldness - it has little to offer him
- Settembrini freaking out about Hans saying that there is an aesthetic inconsistency when disease and dullness are combined. Thinks he is mistaken to ascribe disease any air of dignity. Of course, Hans is fiercely protecting the memory of his grandfather. Settembrini rants on about progress and reason and enlightenment. Alludes to Hans being regressive - ‘backsliding’ - spiritually. Says the real tragedy is that a decaying body cannot hold a noble spirit
- Again Settembrini casts himself as a schoolmaster! He teaches through pedagogy. Hans hates him lol. Likes the beauty of his words but is very critical
- Settembrini torn between happiness at teaching Hans, and thinking ill of him for staying and submitting to the cure

tangenttangent, Wednesday, 26 February 2020 12:02 (four years ago) link

wait till Naphta and Settembrini duel on Mustafar!

TikTok to the (Alfred, Lord Sotosyn), Wednesday, 26 February 2020 12:12 (four years ago) link

:O That sounds against reason!

Chapter 4 - Excursus on the Sense of Time:
- The wrapping with the blankets creates a womb-like security. Something impermeable and safe
- “The unanalysable, the almost mysterious properties of his reclining chair” - Hans takes comfort in the safety of the incommunicado core. Something of the self is kept safe
- The strict timings of everything provide a secure, holding space. Uniformity makes the perception of time fall away, and therefore so too does consciousness. Monotony stretches out immediate time but makes bigger spaces of time disappear
- Older years pass quicker because “habituation is...a fatiguing of the sense of time”
- Change rejuvenates our sense of time and renews our perception of life. When we return from a holiday we adjust “more quickly to the rule than to the exception” and almost forget the holiday of the senses even existed
- I want to write these ideas into an essay about how The Magic Mountain teaches us to be a good analysand. How to be a ‘good’ candidate

Chapter 4 - He Practises His French:
- Hofrat has a very cavalier attitude towards the dying, the ‘moribundus’
- Hans is the ‘disinterested spectator’ - he holds himself as special by keeping himself apart from the group. Shelters himself from further envy of the group’s togetherness in this way
- ‘Tous-les-deux’ - both (her children, ill? Or something about a between state). When he speaks to her it comes out as ‘tous les dé’ - all the dice. Putting everything on the table, the risk of putting everything of life out there
- Hans feels in his ‘element’ when people are sad, when there is grief. A displaced experience of his own unfelt grief. Thinks a career of clergyman would have suited him. One of his chiefest defences involves using ‘dignity’ to defend from the reality of death. He can get near to it without internalising the losses he has experienced

Chapter 4 - Politically Suspect:
- Enjoying an outdoor concert every other Sunday - romance hinted at amongst all the young people.
- Settembrini considers music too abstract and against reason. Thinks it politically suspect for being able to go too easily towards or against progress. He’s a persuasive talker

tangenttangent, Wednesday, 26 February 2020 21:46 (four years ago) link

Chapter 4 - Hippe:
- Hidden attractions for both Madame Chauchat and Marusja, though they each remind him of someone different
- Krokowski’s course - ‘love as a force contributory to disease’. Is this critical of the limits and wilder reaches of psychoanalysis? Of its more chastising and controlling bent? Or is it simply the overwhelming effect of love on the body
- Hans goes alone for a morning walk to find freedom from the oppressiveness of the sanatorium (and of what it forces him to confront) and sings with pleasure, free-associating the words and music, until he is nearly faint and gives in to despair
- Hans mistakes his grandfather’s ‘dignity’ around illness, which was surely rather his attempt to shield his grandson from the trauma of illness
- Explores the landscape with child-like awe but also terrifying abandon. Takes the left-hand path…
- He ‘lets blood’ in the form of a nosebleed, but feels ‘no need’ to breathe and does so only superficially. Human meaning being removed, proximity to death is intoxicatingly close
- Hans is lifeless in the moment, alive in past memory. What I think about each self being alive in the present moment
- Of school colleague Hippe, “Hans Castorp was penetrated by the unconscious conviction that an inward good of this sort was above all to be guarded from definition and classification” - fear of homosexuality, protection of love. Resolved to inactivity about it until one day a brief conversation about a pencil - the apex of his life! This is who Chauchat reminds him of (any link to Charcot…?)
- He cries. He came on the walk to recall the memory (therefore not really escaping any of the strangeness of the sanatorium). The space allowed his unconscious thought to take hold. Self-analysis. Realises he must return to the ‘real’ psychoanalytic lecture and moves only with difficulty towards it. Freud’s layman’s analysis. Winnicott’s ‘the cook can be a therapist’

tangenttangent, Thursday, 27 February 2020 15:36 (four years ago) link

Next chapter - 'Analysis'! I'm scared about how this is going to go

tangenttangent, Thursday, 27 February 2020 15:37 (four years ago) link

Chapter 4 - Analysis:
- Dr Krokowski is poetic and erudite, but also very scientific; Hans feels as though he is hiding the ‘profane’ in plain sight and could get away with saying anything in this way. “He demolished illusions, he was ruthlessly enlightened”, he “made an impression profoundly otherworldly” - the distance of psychoanalysis from much of lived reality
- Speaks of the unreliability of the feeling of love, which made up of many impulses, mostly perverse. That because we don’t see the whole of love as perverse, we justify the ‘perversity’ of the attendant impulses; normative defences urge this conformity to a ‘valid and irreproachable whole’.
- Others do not arrive at this ‘whole’, and in these people the force of a) the compulsion to love, and b) the shame and disgust (and chastity) working against it is too intense compared with bourgeois standards. According to Krokowski, this ends in the triumph of chastity, love being suppressed by fear and a desire to be pure (or in Hans’ case, ‘dignified’). Puts me in mind of part-object relating, of patients between neurotic and psychotic states (classically speaking), of an unresolved Oedipus complex (or navigation of the ‘third’ to be more contemporary), which would fit with the liminality of the mountain and the extremes of the love experienced
- Hans thinks Krokowski is a vision of the conflict he describes!
- Krokowski’s dramatic reveal is that “Symptoms of disease are nothing but a disguised manifestation of the power of love; and all disease is only love transformed”. Truly, repressed instincts can clearly be linked to illnesses, but not in this extreme! Dangers of absolutism in psychoanalysis at the time. Susan Sontag’s writing on consumptive illness
- Follows that Hans has been feeling iller on the mountain the more he was wrestled with love feelings
- Hans meditates on Madame Chauchat, is drawn in turn to the more perverse associations with dirtiness and unrefinedness, and illusions of desire perpetuated in her see-through sleeve. He decides it must be immoral for a woman who is diseased and therefore not fit to be a mother to arouse desire. He thinks attraction of this kind is equally as pointless for procreation as his affection for Hippe, but the comparison surprises him.
- Krokowski looks like ‘Christ on the cross’. He is a sacrifice for the sins of the sanitorium. Also signals the cult-like religiosity and guru-ness psychoanalysis can sometimes be inflected with. Indeed, it seemed he “was making propaganda for psycho-analysis”, spoke of the redeeming power of the analytic, the bringing of light into the unconscious transforming ‘abnormalities’ into conscious affect… This bespeaks the difficulties of proselytising about belief!
- Audience follows him like the Pied Piper. Hans wilfully considers himself healthy still at the end of the lecture

Chapter 4 - Doubts and Considerations:
- Behrens doesn’t own the sanatorium. It is overseen by ‘higher powers’ - a corrupt cultural superego?
- Hans speculates that one who has suffered (as Behrens has) is perhaps well-placed to help others who also do, but wonders if one who is ailing can securely care for others
- Krokowski’s room in is the ‘basement’ (descending steps into the unconscious)
- A twilight prevails in Krokowski’s inner sanctum compared to the bright white of the corridors - like Bion’s ‘penetrating beam of darkness’ (for repressed objects to emerge in a vacuum)

Chapter 4 - Table Talk:
- Hans realises his tremor is partly ‘the outward expression of his inner stimulation’
- Fräulein Engelhart cheers on Hans’ fascination with Madame Chauchat. Wouldn’t be surprised if Hans ends up involved with her
- Plays a game with her where he displaces his own infatuation over Madame Chauchat onto Engelhart, and also vice versa. The novel explores nice bisexual tensions
- ‘Questionable situations’ disgust Hans. His superego is loosening its grip on the id, but Hans’ ego is still wary. He wrestles with instinctual expressions of desire and feels contempt towards them
- “In a state of mind when music particularly appeals” - love, being closer to infantile relating, brings back a joy over that which is separate from language
- Has he contrived an infatuation to explain the otherwise inexplicable beating of his heart? To gain peace from deeper concerns?

Chapter 4 - Mounting Misgivings. Of the Two Grandfathers, and the Boat-ride in the Twilight:
- Hans and Madame Chauchat form a telepathic link - primordial telepathy
- The physical and social ‘gulf’ between the two represents the force of Hans’ defences, instilled by a strong traditional superego (the ‘painting’ grandfather)
- His love becomes the meaning for his stay. Is this an avoidant strategy? Or a working through? Reminds me of that transference paper about patients in love being impossible to treat
- Down below is a ‘plain’, a ‘flatland’ - somewhere where affect is hidden and people aren’t given to such destructive flights of the senses
- As an internal guardian figure, Settembrini beats Behrens for seeming more secure and sound of mind. He is very outward-looking (if not at all inward). Knows much of the world and society. Reminds Hans that progress is not just material
- Settembrini and Hans’s grandfathers both wore black up to death - one (a revolutionary) to mourn his nation, the other to celebrate traditionalism - Hans is struck by how different they are. But both created a gulf between themselves and ‘the evil present’. Just as Hans is doing with his love
- The two grandfathers represent the two worlds - past and future
- Settembrini states that technical progress draws people together. That the world is organised by perpetual conflict between opposing forces: tyranny and freedom, superstition and knowledge etc. East the former, West the latter. Prides triumph to the West, to the enlightenment of ‘rational advance’. The Asiatic principle must be crushed, starting with Vienna! Home of psychoanalysis
- Love Hans’s muted responses to Settembrini’s ramblings!
- Concludes from it all that the waking man has an advantage over the sleeping and dreaming! Ignores his misgivings about S in waking life, runs from him in sleep. Forces his instinctive disagreement down and engages him to find a balanced view, but more and more gladly feels his dreams taking him in the other direction
- Love works against rational forces. Hans wrapped in “the mist and moonbeams” of the eastern heavens. An eastern philosopher

tangenttangent, Sunday, 1 March 2020 19:35 (four years ago) link

does anyone know what's up with the temperatures in this book? they all seem pretty normal - like ppl getting worried about 99.7 or even 98.7 not being a great temperature. of course 98.6 is the ideal human range and not a sign of illness. so i'm not sure - is this a historical thing (like maybe they thought the numbers should've been lower?), a climate thing (maybe they *should* be lower in the mountains), a hypochondriac thing? i did some google research but i couldn't turn anything up.

Mordy, Tuesday, 3 March 2020 17:20 (four years ago) link

they’re using celsius why because in europe

||||||||, Tuesday, 3 March 2020 18:00 (four years ago) link

that's ridiculous

Mordy, Tuesday, 3 March 2020 18:01 (four years ago) link


tangenttangent, Tuesday, 3 March 2020 22:30 (four years ago) link

I too made my way up the mountain again, and started re-reading this work of marvel. No chance I'll catch up with you tt, but it's been a joy reading your thoughts and tidbits so far.

What edition are you reading? For once, I'm reading a German-Dutch translation. It feels a bit more archaic in a way my English copy isn't, but it suits it.

Le Bateau Ivre, Wednesday, 4 March 2020 07:43 (four years ago) link

You might catch me up! Time has a way of distorting itself, after all! How long ago did you read it? I wonder what will strike you anew second time round.

My translation is by H. T. Lowe-Porter. I can imagine an archaic translation would be fitting! I’ve been surprised by the extent of differences in translation I’ve seen thus far. I wish I had more day.

tangenttangent, Thursday, 5 March 2020 14:25 (four years ago) link

I put Mordy’s question about temperature to a science teacher yesterday and she had no better clue as to why they’re considered so high. The mystery persists...

tangenttangent, Thursday, 5 March 2020 14:29 (four years ago) link

I just bought this book in German and English because they were both like a dollar on Kindle. I don't read German very well at all but the English translation I have is so bad that I think I'll try to struggle through the German one with a dictionary. I'll let y'all know how it goes (probably very badly.)

The fillyjonk who believed in pandemics (Lily Dale), Monday, 16 March 2020 01:44 (four years ago) link

A fresher one got published in the nineties.

TikTok to the (Alfred, Lord Sotosyn), Monday, 16 March 2020 16:32 (four years ago) link

reading this book now couldn't be timelier

Mordy, Monday, 16 March 2020 16:51 (four years ago) link

feel like the world is taking a rest cure

Mordy, Monday, 16 March 2020 16:51 (four years ago) link

"This is the typical mode of experience of someone lost in a mountain snowstorm, woh never finds his way home," he thought as he struggled along, the phrases emerging in tattered, breathless fragments - discretion forbade his putting it more explicitly. "Someone hearing about it later imagines how ghastly it must have been, but forgets that illness - and my present situation is more or less an illness - batters its victim until they get along with one another. The senses are diminished, a merciful self-narcosis sets in - those are the means by which nature allows the organism to find relief. And yet you have to fight against such things, because there are two sides to them, they're really highly ambiguous. And your evaluation all depends on which side you view them from. They mean well, are a blessing really, as long as you don't make it home; but they also mean you great harm and must be fought off, as long as there is any chance of getting home--" (475)

Mordy, Sunday, 22 March 2020 23:14 (four years ago) link

Passion -- means to live life for life's sake. But I am well aware you Germans live it for the sake of experience. Passion means to forget oneself. But you do things in order to enrich yourselves. C'est ça. You haven't the least notion how repulsively egoistic that is of you and that someday it may well make you the enemy of humankind." (p. 585)

Has anyone written about the ways tmm anticipates WW2, prefigures it (or leads away from it) and similar ideas about the German type/personality as Mann saw it and Nazism? I do have this Mann essay on brother Hitler i have yet to read but i'm interested in critical/scholarly work on the theme too if anyone can recommend it?

Mordy, Saturday, 28 March 2020 19:31 (four years ago) link

“Guazzabuglio” what a word

Mordy, Saturday, 28 March 2020 19:50 (four years ago) link

Wehsal as proto-incel

Mordy, Saturday, 28 March 2020 20:46 (four years ago) link

You're way ahead of me (I'm at page 280 or so), but googling I've not found what you are after specifically. There are some jstor hits about Mann and anti-semitism, and Mann and the rise of fascism (which he strongly denounced).

Myself I'd be intrigued to see how WWI crept in the book, since he worked on it from 1912 to 1924. But I'm not far in enough to see the influence of WWI come to the fore, however obliquely, I think.

Still immensely enjoying the book btw.

Le Bateau Ivre, Sunday, 29 March 2020 10:31 (four years ago) link

one year passes...

An ok essay on Mann in the New Yorker (Alex Ross) though I never got on with The Magic Mountain, and I don't see that he was that much of Modernist, as I understand it. V good discussion of his Diaries (which need a reissue) and "Reflections of a Nonpolitical Man" is sold by Ross discussing just how far apart from a lot of his work it is.

xyzzzz__, Sunday, 23 January 2022 15:40 (two years ago) link

Notes is a...weird fucking book. I read its NYRB edition last May and had a few thoughts.

So who you gonna call? The martini police (Alfred, Lord Sotosyn), Sunday, 23 January 2022 15:56 (two years ago) link

two years pass...

“What then was life? It was warmth, the warmth generated by a form-preserving instability, a fever of matter, which accompanied the process of ceaseless decay and repair of albumen molecules that were too impossibly complicated, too impossibly ingenious in structure. It was the existence of the actually impossible-to-exist, of a half-sweet, half-painful balancing, or scarcely balancing, in this restricted and feverish process of decay and renewal, upon the point of existence. It was not matter and it was not spirit, but something between the two, a phenomenon conveyed by matter, like the rainbow on the waterfall, and like the flame. Yet why not material—it was sentient to the point of desire and disgust, the shamelessness of matter become sensible of itself, the incontinent form of being. It was a secret and ardent stirring in the frozen chastity of the universal; it was a stolen and voluptuous impurity of sucking and secreting; an exhalation of carbonic acid gas and material impurities of mysterious origin and composition. It was a pullulation, an unfolding, a form-building (made possible by the overbalancing of its instability, yet controlled by the laws of growth inherent within it), of something brewed out of water, albumen, salt and fats, which was called flesh, and which became form, beauty, a lofty image, and yet all the time the essence of sensuality and desire. For this form and beauty were not spiritborne; nor, like the form and beauty of sculpture, conveyed by a neutral and spirit-consumed substance, which could in all purity make beauty perceptible to the senses. Rather was it conveyed and shaped by the somehow awakened voluptuousness of matter, of the organic, dying-living substance itself, the reeking flesh.

u go girl

ledge, Monday, 22 April 2024 12:32 (two months ago) link

Heavy stuff, fellas

xyzzzz__, Monday, 22 April 2024 16:02 (two months ago) link

two weeks pass...

What a weird, mysterious, confounding, magical book. Part of the magic (for me) was how it sustained my interest over 1200 pages despite having absolutely no plot to speak of and lengthy sections of extremely abstruse argumentation. I loved the ruminations about time, the highly satirical treatment (no pun) of the sanitorium, Hans' hallucination in the snow, some of the weirder tangents on the body, physics, etc. The Naptha & Settembrini stuff worked as a reductio ad absurdum of the art of rhetoric but was hard to take seriously as political argument, Naptha's positions especially were opaque, bewildering, and where understandable, hard to credit as a serious position in this day & age.

ledge, Friday, 10 May 2024 10:12 (two months ago) link

I'm currently reading, on page 260!! No spoilers!! But thanks for reviving, will want to discuss

glumdalclitch, Friday, 10 May 2024 10:24 (two months ago) link

i feel like joachim when he first welcomed hans to the sanitorium.

ledge, Friday, 10 May 2024 10:25 (two months ago) link

Haha. Also, this is, like the Decameron, a quintessential covid lockdown novel, but best to read now after the fact, in order to better process the experience.

glumdalclitch, Friday, 10 May 2024 10:27 (two months ago) link

which translation are you reading?

ledge, Friday, 10 May 2024 10:33 (two months ago) link

Johnny Woods

glumdalclitch, Friday, 10 May 2024 10:36 (two months ago) link

I'm cheap so I got a nugatorily priced ebook of the Lowe-Porter. There's a few clunkers ('covered with historic mould' at the start nearly put me off the whole thing, in the Woods it's 'covered with the patina of history') but it's mostly fine. If I ever re-read (maybe? Mann says I should!) I'd certainly get the Woods.

ledge, Friday, 10 May 2024 10:47 (two months ago) link

I read both, prefer Woods because he makes un-Manns Mann.

the talented mr pimply (Alfred, Lord Sotosyn), Friday, 10 May 2024 11:44 (two months ago) link

He's a Mann's Mann?

glumdalclitch, Friday, 10 May 2024 12:36 (two months ago) link

two weeks pass...

Finished yesterday. Some unfocused, uninformed thoughts:

I liked it a lot, despite the fustiness and conservatism of the author. Ultimately, it stands above whatever irritating personality and prose traits he has ("if it may be permitted to say so" and similar tedious add-nothing windbaggery) because he does have the patience to allow the work to unfold and to take on mythic dimensions; perhaps the ultimate lesson/design is tolerance, of himself, his own past conservative views, of time, of storytelling mannerisms, of German heaviness, of distractions - which ultimately add up to something much bigger, a mountain of details and small timeless or timebound moments in a life. This is also the magic, as well as the passing and varispeeding of time.

I'm guessing Naptha is Mann's way of dealing with the German revolution of 1918–1919, but as I'm sure many others have noticed, he actually seems to be more of a prototype Nazi in myriad ways. I don't fancy going into this too much, and I'm glad ILX isn't the kind of place where some fool will try to make connections between the Spartacists and the Nazis, so anyway I'll leave that one there. But from the brif background reading I've done, it seems Naptha may represent some of Mann's former views, and possibly he is trying to reconcile himself with some of Settembrini's through the writing of the novel. In any case, they are both highly memorable characters, and sometimes exceedingly strange, not always to Mann's credit (a communist Jesuit medievalist anarchist? Uhh, yeah okay) but obviously Mann's frequently stated point is that opposing categories are often not antinomies, and it seems he is approaching a Wittgensteinian position regarding language meaning there. In the mountain retreat, and in the mud of warfare these categories dissolve in utter meaningless anyway. It's often been stated, including in this thread, that this is a "novel of ideas", and I sincerely hope that that isn't Mann's ultimate intention or designation, because then I would think less of it. The old romantic vs bourgeois, West vs East, secularism vs religiosity guff we are often subjected to isn't developed in an interesting way, and is often embarrassing, outmoded (even for 1924 imo), or worse. I think, I hope, that Mann may have intended this, as it's often spouted by characters who don't seeem that in touch with the modern world and are ridiculous jumbles of caricatures. The only ideas that really mean a damn to me in this book are those about time, and the "genius of illness", which is what will stay with me, apart from the memory of being up there on the mountain with Hans and the other guests.

And that experience is the real heart of the book for me, the time spent with these guests, who are wonderfully well portrayed and tolerated.
I like very much that there was no overarching plot, that absolutely nothing came of the Chauchat romance, or anything else that was hinted at.
Hans' philanthropic vists, the gramophone...
It just all fizzled out, and to the extent that this is a pioneering book of modernism as I've seen said, it's that realism that makes some sense for that.

Special mentions: Han's skiiing expedition will stay with me, though the vision of the "healthy robust young Hellenes" was scarily like Nazi propaganda again. Helpful of Mann to illustrate the existing soil the Nazis planted in.

glumdalclitch, Thursday, 30 May 2024 22:09 (one month ago) link

I believe Mann initially felt like both Naphta and Settembrini had their points but as the writing progressed he got more firmly on Settembrini's side - I remember when I read it Settembrini struck me as a fbpe liberal, just the kind of guy who has vague fuzzy notions about brotherhood between peoples and who will get swallowed alive by the nazis.

Daniel_Rf, Friday, 31 May 2024 09:54 (one month ago) link

This piece is more on Musil but it gives a but more on what German language writers were up to then.

xyzzzz__, Friday, 31 May 2024 10:31 (one month ago) link

Great posts all, making re-read parts of MM (which I found very boringly written), though as I posted above I am more inclined to read his "Reflections.."

xyzzzz__, Friday, 31 May 2024 10:33 (one month ago) link

Ultimately, it stands above whatever irritating personality and prose traits he has ("if it may be permitted to say so" and similar tedious add-nothing windbaggery)

I like these asides! they're obviously tongue in cheek, and often a deep vein of irony.

I've been reading 'The Magic Mountain: A Study of Thomas Mann's Novel' by Hermann John Weigand. (Available for free on the Internet Archive: ) - it suggests that it's a bildungsroman with Hans standing in for Mann himself, and, despite the constant assertions of his mediocrity, thanks to his unique character and upbringing he is able by the end to become a 'genius of experience'. Putting it like that makes Mann sound like an egomaniac lol, I'm sure it's more nuanced really. It also goes into the forebears of the novel, the 'genius of illness' especially is an idea which seems to have a rich history in german literature.

I absolutely agree the heart of the book is Hans and the guests and the sanitorium - just enjoying it on a surface level. The gentle lampooning of the sanitorium is wonderful - a place full of people suffering from an infectious disease, that as a healthy person you can just visit, and hang out with them. All the rituals, the rest periods, the enormous meals! And how trustworthy is Behrens? Obviously TB is real and most of the guests are genuinely afflicted. But his pre-antibiotic treatments are obviously largely ineffective and I think we are meant to be somewhat sceptical of his diagnoses as well. Just how unwell is Hans really?

Supposedly you can take all the guests to be allegories of the various countries / powers of the prewar period. I'm sure some people would have fun getting into that - especially contemporaneous readers. And though Settembrini and Naptha are great characters their ideas are mostly flim-flam, the ideas about time (and how they're expressed, the medium matching the message) are the ones that stuck with me.

ledge, Monday, 3 June 2024 10:50 (one month ago) link

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