Thomas’s Mann’s THE MAGIC MOUNTAIN – my real-time review continued from HERE.
Any commentary from my reading will eventually appear below in the comments to this post as and when I have read each chapter or section.
Chapter I – Arrival
“Before them rose a low, projecting, meadow-like plateau, on which, facing south-west, stood a long building, with a cupola and so many balconies that from distance it looked porous, like a sponge.”
…porous like the lung (“rhonchi in the second intercostal space”) of the cousin of young life-starter Hans Castorp? A cousin whom Hans is travelling to visit for 3 weeks in the mountain sanatorium, engagingly conjured up as a timeless ‘genius loci’ already… An intriguing start after changing trains at “Rorschach, in Swiss territory.”
“What! You lie out on your balcony at night, in the damp?”
Hans settles into his room, finding the radiators cold, with a most disturbing description of one of the nearby patient’s cough. A build up… Indeed it is already slightly reminiscent of Robert Aickman’s great story ‘The Hospice’ with which I intend to compare this book, if found to be appropriate. I see the next section is entitled ‘In the Restaurant’…
In the Restaurant
“…she suffered from shyness as from a disease, and ate all her meals in the restaurant, with a book.”
A section of Hans meeting the well-characterised Dr Krokowski, the “dining-room girls”, she who said “diseased for deceased”, the relegation he found in himself from cigar to cigarette, sleeping in a bed where someone had died the night before (understandable, I guess, in a sanatorium) and some strange dreams of his own.
“The food was excellent asparagus soup, stuffed tomatoes, a roast with vegetables, an exceedingly well-prepared sweet, cheese, and fruit. Hans Castorp ate heartily, though his appetite did not turn out quite so stout as he had thought. But he always ate a good deal, out of pure respect, even when he was not hungry.”
“They lolled in their chairs, they flung themselves back and laughed so hard that they shook; and they began to hiccup at nearly the same time.”
Aickman in attendance?
Someone has mentioned elsewhere in connection with my previous post that in the final quote Mann seems to be using ‘lolled’ in its modern English sense from internet and text speak. I think that person forgot that this is an English translation from the original German – and also by a translator who died in 1963!
Chapter II – Of the Christening Basin, and of Grandfather in his Two-fold Guise
The 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!”
Hans’ backstory – with the primary influence of his grandfather, one an ‘interim’ version and another that in the painting on the wall or laid out in deathly repose, a touchingly effective portrait regarding large collars,the palliation by flowers of the corpse both spiritually and olfactorily! He died, as did his son (Hans’ father), from lung inflammation…
At Tienappels’, and of Young Hans’s Moral State
“So he grew up; in wretched weather, in the teeth of wind and mist, grew up, so to say, in a yellow mackintosh, and, generally speaking, he throve.”
More of Hans’ backstory – with his uncle and weak-chested cousin whom we saw (earlier but later in time) being visited by Hans in the mountain sanatorium, the place which I remember being central to this massive novel. Hans is dubbed ‘mediocre”, even lazy, but following the three week visit to his cousin, he is due to become a shipping engineer…
“…the confusion of the yards, the mammoth bodies of great ships, Asiatic and African liners, lying in dry-dock, keel and propeller bare, supported by props as thick as tree-trunks, lying there in monstrous helplessness, swarmed over by troops of men, like dwarfs, scouring, whitewashing, hammering; there were the roofed over ways, wrapped in wreaths of smoke-like mist, holding the towering frames of rising ships,…”
Chapter III – Drawing the Veil
“The balcony ran across the house and was divided into small separate compartments by opaque glass partitions, which did not quite reach to the balustrade.”
Back or forward to the present day, Hans tussles with the thin walls between his and his neighbours’ room in the sanatorium, a noisy couple who disturb his sense of propriety – against which he needs to muster “a seemly obscurantism”….
We also learn that he “loved music from his heart; it worked upon him in much the same way as did his breakfast porter, with deeply soothing, narcotic effect, tempting him to doze.”
NB: From this point on, I do not intend, in my review, to continue reciting the audit trail of the novel’s events, but merely quote my favourite brief passages together with light touches upon the theme and variations that will, I am sure, thread this re-reading of mine after forty plus years.
From this point, my own comments will be in italics while quotes from the book will be in non-italics.
“…early breakfast was taken seriously up here.
There were pots of marmalade and honey, basins of rice and oatmeal porridge, dishes of cold meat and scrambled eggs, a plenitude of butter, a Gruyere cheese dropping moisture under a glass bell. A bowl of fresh and dried fruits stood in the centre of the table. A waitress in black and white asked Hans Castorp whether he would drink coffee, cocoa or tea. She was small as a child, with a long reddish face -”
“Then he began eating rice with cinnamon and sugar, his eyes roving over the table full of other inviting viands, and over the guests at the six remaining tables, Joachim’s companions and fellow victims, who were were all inwardly infected, and now sat there breakfasting.”
“…drinking tea the colour of blood.”
“…he loathed the slamming of doors,…”
We meet the sanatorium head Hofrat Behrens, who seems to sense tuberculosis in our ‘hero’…?
Banter. Viaticum. Interrupted Mirth.
“‘I don’t understand it,’ Hans Castorp said. ‘I never can understand how anybody can not smoke — it deprives a man of the best part of life, so to speak — or at least of a first-class pleasure. When I wake in the morning, I feel glad at the thought of being able to smoke all day, and when I eat, I look forward to smoking afterwards; I might almost say I only eat for the sake of being able to smoke –‘”
“A tall young girl in a green sweater, with untidy hair and foolish, half-open eyes, brushed past Hans Castorp, nearly touching him with her arm. And as she did so she whistled — oh, impossible! Yes, she did though; not with her mouth, indeed, for she did not pucker the lips, but held them firmly closed. She whistled from somewhere inside,…”
As a result of taking the above photo of the book INTRUSIONS by Robert Aickman specifically for this real-time review, I found incredible reason to write THIS earlier today and, with regard to its BUSY BLOOD aspect, I have just synchronously read this passage as spoken by Hans to his cousin in the current section of the Mann:
“I feel convinced it is connected with this damned heat I feel all the time in my face. I have suffered from it ever since I got up. I feel as though I were blushing the whole time, deuce take it! Did you have anything like that when you first came?”
There is also talk of a priest dealing with a dying patient who sounded as if she were screaming and kicking from a cellar, having tantamount, for me, transformed into her own bed!
“…his stand-up collar, with rounding corners, was rough on the edges from frequent washing.”
“‘Herr Settembrini – I beg your pardon. No, you are mistaken. Really I am not ill. I have only come on a visit to my cousin Ziemssen for a few weeks, and shall take advantage of the opportunity of a good rest –‘
‘Zounds! You don’t say? Then you are not one of us? You are well, you are but a guest here, like Odysseus in the kingdom of the shades? You are bold indeed, thus to descend into these depths peopled by the vacant and idle dead –‘”
“In short, I feel a sense of oppression — and for some reason or other, my cigar this morning hasn’t the right taste, something that as good as never happens to me…”
“He advised me to follow my cousin’s regimen entirely: to lie out on the balcony a good deal –”
“…where the goddess has a bosom, she has a cross.”
“– for a path is always longer the first time we traverse it –“
The heat of busy blood returns to increasingly effete Hans after the relativity-timing of the taking of his cousin’s temperature on the balcony and the reader also wondering which characters at breakfast are beginning to emerge as significant in Hans’ life here. Do lung disease and eccentricity go hand in hand, I ask rhetorically.
A Word Too Much
“It was rather a misnomer to speak of the village, since scarcely anything but the word remained. The resort had swallowed it up, extending furrther and further towards the entrance of the valley, until that part of the settlement which was called ‘Dorf’ passed imperceptibly into the ‘Platz.’ Hotels and pensions, amply equipped with covered verandahs, balconies, and reclining-halls,…”
Amost all the shops sell thermometers!
“…Hans Castorp went on, and laid his hands like a lover on his heart, ‘if I only knew why I have palpitations the whole time – it is very disquieting; I keep thinking about it. For, you see, a person ordinarily has palpitations of the heart when he is frightened, or when he is looking forward to some great joy. But when the heart palpitates all by itself, without any reason, senselessly, of its own accord, so to speak, I feel that’s uncanny, you understand, as if the body was going its own gait without any reference to the soul, like a dead body, only it is not really dead — there isn’t any such thing, of course — but leading a very active existence all on its own account, growing hair and nails and doing a lively business…'”
“‘Yes, yes,’ Joachim said, sighing. ‘It is the same thing, I suppose, as when you have fever — there are pretty lively goings on in the system then too,…'”
The busy blood again…?
The two cousins talk of some of the other patient-guests, eg Mazurka or, rather, Marusja, and the lady with the rose tea, Miss Robinson… and of the ‘horizontallers’.
Of Course, A Female!
“…the gong sounded.”
The meal is dinner, it and its people brilliantly conveyed via Hans, implying some sexual intrigues not dissimilar to those in ‘The Hospice’ by Aickman. The noise of the dressing-gong prefigured that of the glass door to the dining-room being slammed …by, as it turns out, a Frenchwoman named Chauchat who (I cannot actually remember for certain) I suspect is to become important: a disungulate or drogulus so far, but now fleshed out wondrously by a masterful paragraph. Talking of glass doors, Hans returns to the loggia (another word for the balcony) with the ‘opaque glass’ partial-partitions. But what is opaque glass? I can understand transparent or translucently frosted, but opaque?? Just as opaque as the expression ‘Blue Peter’ that vaguely summons up for me a mass of foulnesses as emitted by another patient’s mouth or other of his orifices for which purpose he temporarily leaves the meal, we’re told. The mind boggles.
PART TWO OF THIS REVIEW WILL NOW CONTINUE HERE.
Where to find my Magic Mountain review:
1. https://nullimmortalis.wordpress.com/13219-2/ (this one)
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