Sunday, December 08, 2013

On wanting an "I finished The Magic Mountain" bumper sticker

Finished The Magic Mountain. Highly recommended, but yes, a medal would be appreciated - if you get one for 26.2 miles, one would seem appropriate in this context as well.

-If you live in a remote, snowy wilderness resort-that-isn't, set apart from the world geographically and in other respects (but reachable by train, with a village not too far), with gourmet meals and rigidly assigned tables, and an international community with lots of Russians and Germans, you're bound to find certain aspects of the book... relatable. Of course, where I live, rather than this being tuberculosis sufferers and their guests, it's people who are unusually good at math and their families. And the visits are for more predetermined amounts of time. So it's not actually the same thing at all.

-Oh, to have been bourgeois back in the day, when that meant living off investments and swaddling yourself with blankets.

-Who doesn't picture Clavdia Chauchat as Natalia Vodianova? Herr Settembrini: Adrien Brody? That's all I've got for the moment. Despite snippets of physical description, I never did picture Hans Castorp, which is maybe the point.

-From the department of plus ça change, plus c'est la même chose, yes, hilarious, the pseudoscience behind a rest cure at a sanatorium. But! All this quackery in the name of ridding the not necessarily ill of "toxins" sounds not unlike today's juice cleanses. The invention of antibiotics didn't change as much as one might think.

-From the department of you never really finish your dissertation, Thomas Mann had a Jewish wife, whose own sanatorium stint inspired this novel. And the novel has Jewish angles like whoa, which I had to try not to write term papers about in my mind while reading. Obviously Naphta was Jewish - no big reveal there. And then there's Frau Levi with the "ivory complexion" and I believe further discussion of Jews' pallor. That Hans Castorp is - in his ineffectual way - an anti-anti-Semite is kind of surprising. And then, on a more abstract level, there's the conflation of cosmopolitanism with illness, which is and isn't about Jews. (See also: Paul Bourget's Cosmopolis.)

-My pea-brain couldn't make sense of certain philosophical aspects of the novel, as well as certain references I'd no doubt have nodded along to knowingly if I'd paid more attention in Mr. Gern's English class.


Petey said...

Recommendations for Customers who just read The Magic Mountain:

- The excellent recent movie version of A Dangerous Method.

- 2666

(Personally, when I first read the The Magic Mountain, I immediately re-read it, but that may not be to all tastes.)

Petey said...

FWIW, while I didn't get a bumper sticker or medal for finishing the book, I did have volunteers handing me sports drinks every 50 pages or so during the second half of the book...

CW said...

I got sick part way through the book and had a fairly high fever during the last half. It all seems like a strange dream now.

Petey said...

"I got sick part way through the book and had a fairly high fever during the last half."

Older copies of the book were infected with consumption germs by the publisher to give readers a more "full experience". It seems as if you may have gotten one of those copies.

(The FDA put a stop to this a few years back.)