Thursday, December 15, 2011

Mann, Thomas: The Magic Mountain

The Magic Mountain is a dizzying book, drawing on sources as wide as WWI armarments, opera, and psychoanalysis to weave a Kafkaesque world of inaction, impotence, and absurdity. Mann is confronting the cultural failure that led to Europe’s collapse and WWI through the conduit of Hans Castorp, a young man who, feeling no particular need to start his bourgeois adulthood, spends a total of seven years at a sanatorium to cure his tuberculosis, which in all likelihood does not exist. He finds himself at the crossroads of European thought and social life with an inability to choose any path. He serves as the sounding board between two self-identifying intellectuals who are both unpleasant and ineffectual. He falls in love with a woman he can never have and who shares nothing in common with him. He seems unimpressed by the psychoanalysis lectures given to him. Nothing satisfies him and so he does nothing until the very end, and when he does choose the consequences are ironic and telling.

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