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The Magic Mountain

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  • The Magic Mountain

    Der Zauberberg, by Thomas Mann. when i bought that book years ago , a lady in the bookshop noticed me carrying it to the till and annotated something like "donآ´t read the book if you have a disposition to hypochondria". didnآ´t exactly know what she meant back then, but when i read the book, i did :) .

    a massive symbolic novel, taking place at the verge of WWI in a swiss tubercolosis sanatorium. loads of snow, and also loads of ideas. a clash of world views that emerge from two supporting charakters. allusions and mannerisms from various national and cultural backgrounds interweaved on neutral mountain range ground. the main charakter turns into a spectator somehow, as the wall of ideas swallows everything. the tension is omnipresent and grows, as is indicated by the time that surpasses and the snow that falls and melts and falls again, yet remains strangely unclear...

    i wonder what significance this novel has for fantastic literature expecially (just imagine - Mannآ´s novel being one of that classics that are beyond dispute in literature, and the fantasy genre still in a shadowy existence and a state of non-observance.) at any rate, the subconcious influence seems to be much higher than the intended.

  • #2
    Der Zauberberg

    Kard,

    Interesting question(s) you raise. I'm not sure how much influence Mann's amazing
    novel has exerted on s-f or fantasy. There's a curious sense in which the book
    is itself a fantasy -- it's set it a sort of faeryland, where time seems to stand still
    while the world outside goes onward. Note that Hans Castorp, much like heroes
    in fairytales, spends 7 years on the mountain before returning to the "real" world.
    Note further that the years he spends on the mountain work a transformation on
    him through a sort of alchemy, as it were. At the beginning, he seems a simple,
    straightforward member of the bourgeoisie: an engineer, nearly the epitome of
    the prosaic. At the end, he's a synthesis of sorts of the artistic and philosophical
    currents through which he had to swim. Since he's tossed into the morass of
    WWI at the end, it's unclear if the synthesis is a successful one. ;)

    There's a lot of things going on in the book, as you allude to in passing. One of the
    central issues I thought was a Hegelian dialectic between Life and the forces of
    Thanatos. There's a curious thematic connection here with Mann's earlier humorous
    novelle, "Tristan." "Der Tod in Venedig" touches on the theme in a more tragic fashion.

    There are s-f writers who exhibit or acknowledged a debt to Mann's book.
    Fritz Leiber (one of my favorite fantasy writers) loved the book, read it several
    times, and visited Mann at his (then) home in Pacific Palisades to talk about it.
    Leiber himself often seems engaged in his more serious moments with the central
    question I wrote of above. Roger Zelazny makes more than a passing homage
    to Mann in his novelle, "He Who Shapes."

    The subject (and book) we're discussing is so immense, I don't really know where
    to go from here, because I'm not sure what issues precisely interest you. Others
    might also chime in, which would be welcome. I'm a devoted admirer of Mann's
    work, but I'm hardly an expert, to say the least, and definitely not the last word
    on the subject.

    LSN

    Comment


    • #3
      Just for the record: Michael Moorcock has voiced his admiration of Mann's works in various statements and interviews, probably on the old Q&A, too.
      Google ergo sum

      Comment


      • #4
        Originally posted by LEtranger
        Just for the record: Michael Moorcock has voiced his admiration of Mann's works in various statements and interviews, probably on the old Q&A, too.
        No doubt, but tell us, L'Etranger, what do you think of Mann's novel? And its
        influence on contemporary fantasy?

        Sie kأ¶nnen Deutsch lesen, if I remember correctly.

        LSN

        Comment


        • #5
          The old psychological problem, LSN, when you're obliged to read certain authors at school you hate them. Therefore out went Mann and Hesse, also as I hated being in this country, ... parents' decision, NOT MINE! And I couldn't relate at all to the world depicted in Zauberberg, ailing old Europe. The motivations of the people had nothing to do with my world, and in came Moorcock at pretty much that time. My wife has read them all, but THANK GOODNESS doesn't take part in MWM ...!

          Musil, Roth, Brecht, Kafka any time (except tonight )
          Google ergo sum

          Comment


          • #6
            Originally posted by LEtranger
            The old psychological problem, LSN, when you're obliged to read certain authors at school you hate them. Therefore out went Mann and Hesse, also as I hated being in this country, ... parents' decision, NOT MINE! And I couldn't relate at all to the world depicted in Zauberberg, ailing old Europe.
            Zauberberg shouldn't (I feel) be approached by readers until they've reached the age of
            maturity (whenever that is). I don't think it's a book to teach kids to enjoy literature,
            because it asks too much of the reader both in knowledge of the issues discussed as
            well as of people and the world.

            Some of Mann's stories might be a different matter entirely.

            I suppose I'm fortunate that I was required to read very little outside my
            technical fields, so I was permitted to follow mon plaisir instead of
            a curriculum list.

            The motivations of the people had nothing to do with my world, and in came Moorcock at pretty much that time. My wife has read them all, but THANK GOODNESS doesn't take part in MWM ...!

            Musil, Roth, Brecht, Kafka any time (except tonight )
            If you enjoy Der Mann ohne Eigenschaften, I'd think Zauberberg
            or Buddenbrooks would be your sort of thing. As for Joseph Roth,
            if you can tolerate the sometimes oppressively bleak Weltanschauung
            present in his books, I'd think Zauberberg and Der Tod in Venedig
            or Tristan would be a walk in the park.

            Kafka's an obvious choice, but I'm a little surprised at the inclusion of Bertolt
            Brecht in that list. He's primarily a dramatist and poet. Are you thinking of
            his book Drei Groschen Roman ?

            LSN

            Comment


            • #7
              Well, we read Hesse between perhaps 14,15 to 16 and some Thomas Mann around 17/19. That's not kids, but still very yioung. Much depended on the teachers.

              Bert Brecht - a dramatist and poet, yes of course, but you actually read more of his work than you get to see on stage. And I read a lot of drama. In the original languages, if concentration allows, or in good translations.

              In any case, tell me perhaps with which of Pynchon's you recommend starting with?
              Google ergo sum

              Comment


              • #8
                The subject (and book) we're discussing is so immense, I don't really know where
                to go from here, because I'm not sure what issues precisely interest you. Others
                might also chime in, which would be welcome. I'm a devoted admirer of Mann's
                work, but I'm hardly an expert, to say the least, and definitely not the last word
                on the subject.
                well, it is impossible to cover all the issues. what interests me especially is the philosophical dispute between Naphta and the other guy whose name escapes me at the moment and that contains all the tensions and diagreements between two intellectual models which could be described as "scholasticism versus modernism". what also fascinated be most was the connection to the further political development: it is like what happens on the magic mountain is a miniature world of what happend "down there" and what lead to the original european catastrophe. i am sure this is a main point of the literature critics, which i have not read at all.

                Just for the record: Michael Moorcock has voiced his admiration of Mann's works in various statements and interviews, probably on the old Q&A, too.
                the search function rules. i am curious if cross-reference to the forum is allowed.

                Robert Musil is not one of my favourites btw. he overdid it a little bit allusion-wise in my opinion, especially in Der Mann ohne Eigenschaften.

                Kafka is beyond dispute, of course. Der Proceأ? is the best novel of the 20th century. but he deserves his own topic :) .

                Comment


                • #9
                  Originally posted by LEtranger
                  Well, we read Hesse between perhaps 14,15 to 16 and some Thomas Mann around 17/19. That's not kids, but still very yioung. Much depended on the teachers.
                  I'm at a stage of superannuation where I consider anyone under the age of 30 as Kinder.

                  For Hesse, 14-16 is okay for some of the books. Not for Steppenwolf or
                  Glasperlenspiel, but most everything else, it would probably work. I recall how,
                  back in German Literature during undergraduate school, my professor, at 70+ years,
                  observed on the novel Demian, "Ladies and gentlemen, it is odd that this is a
                  book of your generation, because it was also a book of my generation." (Must be
                  imagined with a heavy Czech-German accent.) This was circa 1975. ;) I'm not that
                  taken with Demian and a lot of Hesse's Bildungsroman phase. A lot of Hesse
                  seems puأ©rile to me, but Glasperlenspiel has its good qualities.

                  As for Mann, I'm not convinced that 17-19 is old enough for Doktor Faustus,
                  Zauberberg, Lotte in Weimar, or the Joseph novels. I read Buddenbrooks,
                  Die Bekenntnisse des Hochstaplers Felix Krull, and all his stories and novelle
                  at around that age, and my enthusiasm for the books remains undiminished. I just
                  reread Felix Krull last year, and it's still a personal favorite.


                  Bert Brecht - a dramatist and poet, yes of course, but you actually read more of his work than you get to see on stage. And I read a lot of drama. In the original languages, if concentration allows, or in good translations.
                  I'm very fond of Brecht's plays, but I think I've only ever seen one of them
                  performed (Mutter Courage). Everything else must be read to be experienced,
                  I fear. If you like Brecht, I suspect you're partial to Peter Weiss's play, Marat / Sade
                  too.

                  Dأ¼rrenmatt used to be popular, but his reputation seems to have faded.
                  I really like Max Frisch, though, both his novels and his plays.

                  In any case, tell me perhaps with which of Pynchon's you recommend starting with?
                  You'd trust my recommendation?! Silly person! I'm a hopeless amateur in the matter of
                  literature -- a simple reader, and therefore of limited reliability, at best.

                  If you're genuinely curious about my POV, I'd say start with V or The Crying
                  of Lot 49
                  . I like Gravity's Rainbow, but I don't know if it's a good place to start.
                  Feel free to disregard; this is just my 10 centimes opinion.

                  LSN

                  Comment


                  • #10
                    Originally posted by kard
                    well, it is impossible to cover all the issues. what interests me especially is the philosophical dispute between Naphta and the other guy whose name escapes me at the moment
                    You're referring to Settembrini, I assume?

                    and that contains all the tensions and diagreements between two intellectual models which could be described as "scholasticism versus modernism".
                    It's basically a duel. It's also Thanatos versus Life, I thought.

                    what also fascinated be most was the connection to the further political development: it is like what happens on the magic mountain is a miniature world of what happend "down there" and what lead to the original european catastrophe.
                    You're correct, the sanitarium is a microcosm (that was the English word you were
                    searching for -- you're German, nicht wahr?) of the forces in the world outside.
                    This was very deliberately done on Mann's part. From things Mann said, I'm not so sure
                    the mythic / legend parallels (e.g., Castorp as Parzifal) were deliberately arrived at;
                    they appear to have been provided by his unconscious, which when pointed out he
                    regarded as an unexpected gift.

                    Of course, Mann was a subtle fellow, so it's difficult to be sure he was telling one
                    the whole story when he made a pronouncement on his works. Writers are like
                    that, of course, but Mann was given to evasiveness and indirection, as well as
                    irony.

                    i am sure this is a main point of the literature critics, which i have not read at all.
                    I have no idea if that is the case, but I wouldn't be surprised. If we found it, professional
                    literary critics probably noticed it around 1924. ;)


                    ...

                    Robert Musil is not one of my favourites btw. he overdid it a little bit allusion-wise in my opinion, especially in Der Mann ohne Eigenschaften.
                    His early novel Die Verwirrungen des Zأ¶glings Tأ¶rless is pretty good, too. That's
                    what Hesse tried to achieve in Untern Rad, but didn't. Musil wrote some good novelle,
                    too.

                    Kafka is beyond dispute, of course. Der Proceأ? is the best novel of the 20th century. but he deserves his own topic :) .
                    Indeed, whole libraries could be filled with the material written on Kafka's work.

                    LSN

                    Comment


                    • #11
                      Originally posted by L_Stearns_Newburg
                      Originally posted by kard
                      ...

                      Robert Musil is not one of my favourites btw. he overdid it a little bit allusion-wise in my opinion, especially in Der Mann ohne Eigenschaften.
                      (My emphasis)

                      Whoops! Sorry I misread this the first time. If you don't like Musil, no one can
                      make you like him. Chaqu'un أ  son goأ»t. I must admit I don't precisely see
                      what you mean by "overdid it a little bit allusion-wise," but you have the right
                      to your personal response, as we all do.

                      We could pick more "classic" and less controversial writers (e.g., Storm, Keller,
                      C-F Meyer, Mأ¶rike) and probably still not get general agreement on what
                      "tastes" good. ;)

                      LSN

                      Originally posted by LSN

                      His early novel Die Verwirrungen des Zأ¶glings Tأ¶rless is pretty good, too. That's
                      what Hesse tried to achieve in Untern Rad, but didn't. Musil wrote some good novelle,
                      too.

                      . . .

                      Comment


                      • #12
                        Originally posted by L_Stearns_Newburg
                        Originally posted by LEtranger
                        Well, we read Hesse between perhaps 14,15 to 16 and some Thomas Mann around 17/19. That's not kids, but still very young. Much depended on the teachers.
                        I'm at a stage of superannuation where I consider anyone under the age of 30 as Kinder.

                        As for Mann, I'm not convinced that 17-19 is old enough for Doktor Faustus,
                        Zauberberg, Lotte in Weimar, or the Joseph novels. I read Buddenbrooks,
                        Die Bekenntnisse des Hochstaplers Felix Krull, and all his stories and novelle
                        at around that age, and my enthusiasm for the books remains undiminished. I just
                        reread Felix Krull last year, and it's still a personal favorite.


                        Bert Brecht - a dramatist and poet, yes of course, but you actually read more of his work than you get to see on stage. And I read a lot of drama. In the original languages, if concentration allows, or in good translations.
                        I'm very fond of Brecht's plays, but I think I've only ever seen one of them
                        performed (Mutter Courage). Everything else must be read to be experienced,
                        I fear. If you like Brecht, I suspect you're partial to Peter Weiss's play, Marat / Sade
                        too.

                        Dأ¼rrenmatt used to be popular, but his reputation seems to have faded.
                        I really like Max Frisch, though, both his novels and his plays.

                        (....)

                        You'd trust my recommendation?! Silly person! I'm a hopeless amateur in the matter of
                        literature -- a simple reader, and therefore of limited reliability, at best.
                        Dear friend, I promise I'll pick up at least "Felix Krull" once more. It is, much like intensively respondinging on these boards, a question of time (Remember Goethe writing something along the lines of: Verzeihen Sie mir die Lأ¤nge, ich verfأ¼ge nicht أ¼ber die Zeit, einen kurzen Brief zu schreiben ...) really, and of auf vielen Hochzeiten tanzen.
                        Work, family, books, MWM, two hours driving each day, the Scotties and all that.

                        Certainly, those books should be read much later, but who at our schools would let an opportunity slip to methodically ruin kids' zest for culture, I ask you?

                        If you're genuinely curious about my POV, I'd say start with V or The Crying
                        of Lot 49
                        . I like Gravity's Rainbow, but I don't know if it's a good place to start.
                        Feel free to disregard; this is just my 10 centimes opinion.
                        LSN
                        Thanks for your humble point of view, I'll see what I get first, as I have more or less stopped buying new books. Just got an incredible copy of "The Vanished World" by Roman Vishniac (photographies of the Eastern European Jewish world between 1936 and 1938) on Ebay.
                        Funny, by the way, although POV is a term so familiar to me it crossed my mind it could (in a political context) be read as Prisoner of (his) Views.

                        A recommendation from me, a book that impressed me: The Royal Physician's Visit by Per Olov Enquist (Livlأ¤karens Besأ¶k ). If you haven't heard of it already, here's an intelligent description: http://www.rawbrick.net/book/104/the...ysicians-visit. The English version is probably easier to get and cheaper than the Swedish original. I read Der Besuch des Leibarztes in German and I'm sure there are adequate translations, I will look in Paris when I go there shortly.[/quote]

                        Regards,
                        L'E
                        Google ergo sum

                        Comment


                        • #13
                          Originally posted by LEtranger
                          Dear friend, I promise I'll pick up at least "Felix Krull" once more.
                          Really, you don't need to reperuse Felix Krull to please me. If the desire and
                          opportunity don't come together, you shouldn't ever read it. This is not a classroom.
                          There's no syllabus, and no required reading. ;)

                          Originally posted by L'Etranger
                          It is, much like intensively respondinging on these boards, a question of time (Remember Goethe writing something along the lines of: Verzeihen Sie mir die Lأ¤nge, ich verfأ¼ge nicht أ¼ber die Zeit, einen kurzen Brief zu schreiben ...)
                          Forgiveness isn't called for here, of course. Understood that our time is not our
                          own. As for your "kurzen Brief," no big deal. ;)

                          Originally posted by L'Etranger
                          really, and of auf vielen Hochzeiten tanzen.
                          Work, family, books, MWM, two hours driving each day, the Scotties and all that.
                          I won't ask about the wedding tanzen. It sounds as if you're heavily
                          committed. One wonders how you find the time to read MWM.

                          Originally posted by L'Etranger

                          Certainly, those books should be read much later, but who at our schools would let an opportunity slip to methodically ruin kids' zest for culture, I ask you?
                          I've observed that schools (american and franأ§ais and presumably german)
                          tend to force books on students without regard to whether the book is
                          appropriate to the age group. This is just the way things are. If we're
                          fortunate, we can go back and reread those books later, when we're able
                          to appreciate them. I liked George Eliot and Jane Austen a lot more at
                          22 than I did at 14, for example. I understood Dostoyevsky "differently"
                          at 25 than I did at 12. One of the pleasures of reading a book when more
                          "mature" is to laugh at how one misread it as a kid. :-]

                          Originally posted by L'Etranger
                          Originally posted by LSN
                          If you're genuinely curious about my POV, I'd say start with V or The Crying
                          of Lot 49
                          . I like Gravity's Rainbow, but I don't know if it's a good place to start.
                          Feel free to disregard; this is just my 10 centimes opinion.
                          LSN
                          Thanks for your humble point of view, I'll see what I get first, as I have more or less stopped buying new books. Just got an incredible copy of "The Vanished World" by Roman Vishniac (photographies of the Eastern European Jewish world between 1936 and 1938) on Ebay.
                          Funny, by the way, although POV is a term so familiar to me it crossed my mind it could (in a political context) be read as Prisoner of (his) Views.
                          "Humble" he says. I'm squirming slightly, not unaware of the slightly overbearing
                          nature of my pronouncements on this subject. I doubt it is worth 10 centimes.

                          Well, I hope I'm not a prisoner of my views or anyone else's. :-]

                          Originally posted by L'Etranger

                          A recommendation from me, a book that impressed me: The Royal Physician's Visit by Per Olov Enquist (Livlأ¤karens Besأ¶k ). If you haven't heard of it already, here's an intelligent description: http://www.rawbrick.net/book/104/the...ysicians-visit. The English version is probably easier to get and cheaper than the Swedish original. I read Der Besuch des Leibarztes in German and I'm sure there are adequate translations, I will look in Paris when I go there shortly.
                          If I can read the book pأ¥ Svenska, I'd prefer it. I've heard of the author but not of the book
                          until now.

                          LSN

                          Comment


                          • #14
                            I've been incommunicado for the last week (more or less) and haven't really
                            looked at MWM. I noticed that this topic seemed to die.

                            Unlikely I'll revive it, but I thought I'd post some broad comments on Mann's
                            novels.

                            The Mann novels everyone seems to read (if they read him at all) are
                            The Magic Mountain, Buddenbrooks, and Doctor Faustus.

                            I like all 3 of those books, and have reread them in the last year. It had
                            been a while. I found that my appreciation for Faustus grew a lot
                            on rereading, and I think it's a masterpiece. I'd forgotten how funny
                            the early novel Buddenbrooks is. There's a lot of ironic comedy and
                            observation, mixed with pathos. I'm not sure it qualifies as "tragedy,"
                            but whatever it is, it's a fine book.

                            I'm on record about my admiration for the comic picaresque novel,
                            The Confessions of Felix Krull, Confidence Man. I have mixed
                            feelings as to whether it's a good introduction to Mann's work, although
                            it certainly contains many of his major themes, transposed into burlesque.

                            A late Mann novel that is often overlooked is his historical meditation
                            on Gأ¶the, Lotte in Weimar. Mann identified with this author in
                            many ways, and his critical affection gives this book a warmer feel than
                            many of his other long novels.

                            Of his other books, I like Royal Highness, the Joseph tetralogy,
                            and his stories. His books of essays are extremely entertaining and
                            obviously the work of a sophisticated intelligence.

                            I'm not as taken by the novels The Holy SInner or The Black Swan,
                            but perhaps that's not the fault of the books.

                            If anyone else is an enthusiast for Mann's work, I'd be interested to hear
                            their reaction to the books.

                            Mann's elder brother, Heinrich, was also a major novelist. He wrote two
                            massive historical novels that I like a lot: Young Henry of Navarre and
                            Henry, King of France. The brothers were very different, but they're
                            one of the few examples of siblings that were major novelists. An interesting
                            case.

                            LSN

                            Comment

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