Wednesday, July 9, 2014

The Magic Mountain by Thomas Mann

This is one of the most wonderfully thought provoking books I've ever read. It took me several months to get through all seven hundred pages and then another month or two to finally commit some thoughts to print, and even then I couldn't begin to do its depth and scope any justice. There is so much going on within the layers of the story I can well imagine some devoted scholars spending years studying all the characters and themes. For me, though, it was a purely recreational endeavor; I just blissed out with the evocative writing, the beautiful Swiss Alps setting, and the cast of quirky charaters with their oddly funny sense of humor and lengthy existential musings and discussions. It had me thoroughly captivated well into many, many a night. It was remarkable. I loved it. The only thing that keeps me from giving it a perfect 5/5 stars, though, is the ending, which I found unnecessarily bogged down with "one more thing" and "one more character" as if the author did not want to stop writing. Perhaps I didn't *get* the ending? Totally possible, I don't know. What I do know is that I am eager to get to more of Thomas Mann's books. I have Buddenbrooks, Doctor Faustus, and Confessions of Felix Krull already on my TBR shelf, all out-on-a-limb purchases from a community fundraiser book sale last fall. So far so good, I'd say.

(back cover)
With this dizzyingly rich novel of ideas, Thomas Mann rose to the front ranks of the great modern novelists, ultimately winning the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1929. In The Magic Mountain, Mann uses a sanatorium in the Swiss Alps - a community devoted exclusively to sickness -  as a microcosm for Europe, which in the years before 1914 was already exhibiting the first symptoms of its own terminal irrationality.
To this hermetic yet intrigue-ridden world comes Hans Castorp, a 'perfectly ordinary' young man who arrives for a short visit and ends up staying seven years. For on the Magic Mountain, Hans will succumb both to the lure of eros and to the intoxication of ideas. Newly rendered into English by acclaimed translator John Woods, The Magic Mountain is a monumental work of erudition and irony, sexual tension and intelectual ferment, a book that oulses with life in the midst of death.


Debbie Rodgers said...

I've had the pleasure of reading The Buddenbrooks (for book club, which meant I had 60 days!). I don't recall that it had the deeply intellectual element that The Magic Mountain seems to have, but it spanned generations and was richly layered while it examined class & status in 19th century Germany. I think you'll enjoy it very much.

Trish said...

Yes, I've heard good things about that book. It's a time in history I find fascinating.