Friday, August 14, 2009

The Magic Mountain (2). Thomas Mann.

Trans. H.T. Lowe-Porter Garden City, NY: International Collectors Library 1924 (1952).

Why Read It? Want to know what the hereafter will be like? In my opinion, Hans Castorp’s experience in the tuberculosis sanatorium was very much like the popular belief of life after death—life without time. On the mountain, time does not exist. Events repeat themselves. Experiences repeat themselves. The patients have satisfied appetites. All of the patients’ desires are met. Regularity and routine are the everyday, undeviating experiences. On the mountain, one floats over the real world down below, the world of accomplishment and achievement.

The basic plot of the novel is simple, but it requires 700+ pages to work it out. Hans Castorp decides to visit a tuberculosis sanatorium on the mountain for three weeks. He soon shows symptoms of the disease and spends seven years there. Cured, he returns to the world below to fight for the German army in World War I. During his stay on the mountain, he encounters a humanist and a traditional believer in Christianity and their various arguments about the meaning of life take up considerable pages of abstract thought. Castorp studies biology and therefore life and gradually begins to develop his own personality, rather than being in the shadow of other, stronger personalities who at first dominate him with their thought. RayS.

Sample quotes and ideas:

“Oh, what a schoolmaster…. He never leaves off setting you right—first by means of anecdotes, then by abstractions.” p. 201.

“Analysis as an instrument of enlightenment and civilization is good…but it is bad, very bad, in so far as it stands in the way of action….” p. 221.

“Time has no divisions to mark its passage, there is never a thunder-storm or blare of trumpets to announce the beginning of a new month or year. Even when a new century begins it is only we mortals who ring bells and fire off pistols.” p. 224.

“I represent the world, the interest of this life, against a sentimental withdrawal and negation, classicism against romanticism.” p. 248.

“By all means I am a humanist, because I am a friend of mankind, like Prometheus, a lover of humanity and human nobility. That nobility is comprehended in the mind, in the reason….” p. 248.

“Tut, living consists in dying, no use mincing the matter.” p. 265.

“…there may have been those who employed the hours of the rest-cure with some serious intellectual occupation, some conceivably profitable study, either by way of keeping in touch with life in the lowlands, or in order to give weight and depth to the passing hour, that it might not be pure time and nothing else besides.” p. 272.

“It seemed forbidden to life that it should understand itself.” p. 280.

“Dualism, antithesis, is the moving, the passionate, the dialectic principle of all spirit. To see the world as cleft into two opposing poles—that is spirit. All monism is tedious.” p. 374.

“The Orient abhors activity. Lao-Tse taught that inaction is more profitable than anything else between heaven and earth. When all mankind shall have ceased to do anything whatever, then only will perfect repose and bliss reign upon this earth.” p. 376.

“Democracy has no meaning whatever if not that of an individualistic corrective to state absolutism of every kind.” p. 399.

“…conceives of humanity not as a conflict between the ego and society but as a conflict between the ego and God, between the flesh and the spirit….” p. 404.

“No, death was neither specter nor mystery. It was a simple, acceptable, and physiologically necessary phenomenon; to dwell upon it longer than decency required was to rob life of its due.” p. 457.

To be continued.

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