Thomas Mann


Thomas’s Mann’s THE MAGIC MOUNTAIN – my real-time review continued from HERE.

This is Part Three of my Review.

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.


10 responses to “Thomas Mann

  1. Mounting Misgivings. Of the Two Grandfathers, and the Boat-ride in the Twilight.
    A substantive section where, in uncertain contoured relief with the many meal-time factors in his unrequited obsession for the Chauchat woman, Hans engages in debates about history, ethics, politics, aesthetics with Settembrini, with poles of thought paralleled by their two grandfathers, both as one and quite opposite. A whole society of polarised and fused thoughts (if thinking is the right word) crosses before our eyes, including the Asiatic and the European, as a template for our own times?
    “–these eyes of Clavdia [Chauchat], which had gazed so forbiddingly into his very face, and which so awfully resembled Pribislav Hippe’s in shape, expression, and colour that they fairly frightened him. Resembled was not the word: they were the same eyes.”
    “He had grown skilled in the handling of his rugs and the art of making a proper bundle, a sort of mummy, of himself, when lying on his balcony on cold days.”
    “He had his mouth open; Hans Castorp knew the words great-great-great were about to issue from it, the sombre syllables which always reminded him of places where one walked with bent head and reverent gait.”
    “Our hero, all heavy-headed as he was and organically preoccupied by the six course Berghof meal he had just eaten,…” (Cf Aickman’s Hospice)

  2. The Thermometer
    Another substantive section, where Hans discovers his cold, his temperature, has dealings with the Frau Director (with a patronising stye as well as style!) who sells him a thermometer, where Hans is eyed by the Chauchat woman as if she knows his business already (his paranoia?), but not necessarily paranoia in Hans’ case, but maybe it’s me the reader who has the paranoia, I guess, as my family nag me about my ‘night sweats’ and what they see as the need for me to see a doctor, and I feel I am being sucked into something that is more tangible than fiction just as Hans is being sucked into the sanatorium beyond his planned three weeks by simply having been there as a visitor (following his then physical investigation by the Hofrat). Grotesque, amusing with many Aickman-like scenes and feelings in this section, too, and please forgive the number of its passages that I need to quote below to give you a sense of what’s going on there (and here with me). The Synchronised Shards of Random Truth and Fiction. And, for those interested, I am simultaneously real-time reviewing (here) ONION SONGS by Steve Rasnic Tem, where ‘profound patience’ is one of its themes. Here, in the sanatorium, such profundity of patience seems to be the keynote of even coming close to a cure via fiction and its panacea or genuine cure! And so on to the “beatification” and the ‘golden seven minutes’ of our hero….


    “One night on his balcony (for he even took the evening cure out of doors now, like the rest) a sudden thought had struck him and he had got out of his comfortable chair to fetch pencil and paper.”

    “Maria [Hans’ favourite cigar], thank goodness, is her old self; for several days now, I have been able to get the aroma. But my handkerchief still becomes red from time to time when I use it—and this damned heat in my face, and these idiotic palpitations, I shall apparently have them up to the last minute.”

    “Especially he liked it in the evening, when with his little lamp on the stand beside him and his long-lost and now restored Maria alight between his lips he enjoyed the ineffable excellencies of his reclining-chair. True, his nose felt frozen, and the hands that held his book—he was still reading ‘Ocean Steamships’ — were red and cramped from the cold. He looked through the arch of his loggia over the darkening valley, jewelled with clustered or scattering lights, and listened to the music that drifted up nearly every evening for almost an hour. […] But Hans Castorp let ‘Ocean Steamships’ fall on the coverlet and gave himself up to the music; he contemplated with such inward gratification the translucent depth of a musical invention full of individuality and charm that he thought with nothing but hostility of Settembrini and the irritating things he had said about music—that it was politically suspect was the worst, and little better than the remark of Grandfather Giuseppe about the July Revolution and the six days of creation.”

    “”There ought not to be any talk about colds up here; that sort of twaddle belongs down below.” It was fearsome to see how she shovelled out this word with her lower lip.
    “You have a beautiful bronchial catarrh, that is plain” — again she made that curious effort to pierce him with her gaze, and again she could not hold it steady. “But catarrhs are not caused by cold; they come from an infection, which one takes from being in a receptive state. So the question is, are we dealing with a harmless infection or with something more serious? Everything else is twaddle. It is possible that your receptivity inclines to the harmless kind,” she went on, and looked at him with her over-ripe stye, he knew not how. “Here, I will give you a simple antiseptic—it may do you good,” and she took a small packet out of the leather bag that hung from her girdle.”

    “The attention of his table-mates was attracted: they wanted to know the cause of his caprice. Hans Castorp said carelessly that he had a little fever—really minimal: 99.6°.
    Then how altogether ludicrous it was to see them! They shook their fingers at him, they winked maliciously, they put their heads on one side, crooked their forefingers beside their ears and waggled them in a pantomime suggestive of their delight at having found him out, who had played the innocent so long.
    “Aha,” said the schoolmistress, the flush mounting in her ancient cheek, “what sort of scandal is this?”
    And “Aha, aha!” went Frau Stöhr too, holding her stumpy finger next her stumpy nose. “So our respected guest has some temperament too! Foxy-loxy is in the same boat with the rest of us after all!””

    “She began to talk about how fascinating it was to cough. It was a solid satisfaction, when you felt a tickling come in your chest, deep down, and grow and grow, to reach down after it, and get at it, so to say. Sneezing was much the same thing. You kept on wanting to sneeze until you simply couldn’t stand it any longer; you looked as if you were tipsy; you drew a couple of breaths; then out it came, and you forgot everything else in the bliss of the sensation. Sometimes the explosion repeated itself two or three times. That was the sort of pleasure life gave you free of charge.”

  3. Chapter V – Soup-Everlasting
    The mysterious element of Tem or Time, and now time speeds up for us as we hear about Hans staying on at the sanatorium, and then slows down, as we dwell upon our Death as a slow-motion luxury, illness as a comfortable preparation for that, the profundity of patience (like Tem’s Charles), being served the same Aickman-like mounds of food courses on an invalid tray in our room, wondering when we can return with our busy blood to the ‘flat land’ of busy life (while dreading the cure that might force us to do so!), the flatlands and uplands as the elisions and apostrophes of time, of some inverted version of the Hell/Heaven dichotomy? Me thinking aloud, rather than this book itself overtly thinking aloud…
    Love potions, moist spots, dusks indistinguishable from each other, the upland air good as well as bad for the luxury of death, being lost to life, but then Settembrini with his positive organ-grinder home truths about death and life being inextricable, Settembrini himself as the ultimate ‘silent sister’ thermometer…?

    “The night was the harder half of the day, for Hans Castorp woke often, and lay not seldom hours awake; either because his slightly abnormal temperature kept him stimulated, or because his horizontal manner of life, detracted from the power, or the desire, to sleep. To make up for their briefness, his hours of slumber were animated by extremely lively and varied dreams, which he could ponder on awaking. And if the hours of the day were shortened by their frequent division into small sections, it was the blurred monotony of the marching hours of the night which operated with the like effect. Then as dawn came on, he found it diverting to watch the gradual grey, the slow emergence of the room and the objects in it, as though by the drawing of veils; to see day kindling outside, with smouldering or with lively glow; and it was always a surprise when the moment came round again and the thump of the bathing-master on his door announced to Hans Castorp that the daily programme was again in force.”

  4. gh8
    Sudden Enlightenment
    Hans in Proustian obsession of unrequited love, faces Mme Chauchat within the close proximity of the X-Ray waiting room, actually hears her voice, and the perceived as well as inferred shape of her bones indeed is part of the obsession, the bodily structure as well as the envisioned oil-painting that Hans has heard is regularly being painted of her – and there is, also, of course, another meal-time obsessed observer that Hans observes observing her, with both painter (the Hofrat) and the other observing obsessioner being rivals of Hans that he shrugs off with difficulty.
    X-ray and oil-painting in stark relief, one long-term, the other a snapshot, as Hans and his cousin are also frozen skeletally, each a skull-in-waiting, but with Hans still waiting on
    “borrowing a lead-pencil”…

    “Even toward Joachim Hans Castorp felt a certain deference—not so much because he was the older inhabitant, his guide and cicerone in these new surroundings, as because he was unquestionably the more serious case of the two.”

    “It was Clavdia Chauchat who appeared thus suddenly in the little waiting-room. Hans Castorp recognized her, staring-eyed, and distinctly felt the blood leave his cheeks. His jaw relaxed, his mouth was on the point of falling open. Her entrance had taken place so casually, so unforeseen, she had not been there, and then, all at once, there she was, and sharing these narrow quarters with the cousins. Joachim flung a quick glance at Hans Castorp, afterwards not only casting down his eyes, but taking up again the illustrated sheet he had laid aside, and burying his face in it. Hans Castorp could not summon resolution to do the same. He grew very red, after his sudden pallor, and his heart pounded.”

    “Lenses, switch-boards, towering measuring-instruments, a box like a camera on a rolling stand, glass diapositives in rows set in the walls. Hard to say whether this was a photographic studio, a dark-room, or an inventor’s workshop and technological witches’ kitchen.”

    ” Behrens studied the spots and the lines, the black festoon in the intercostal space; while Hans Castorp gazed without wearying at Joachim’s graveyard shape and bony tenement, this lean memento mori, this scaffolding for mortal flesh to hang on. […] But a few minutes later he himself stood in the pillory, in the midst of the electrical storm,… […] The process of decay was forestalled by the powers of the light-ray, the flesh in which he walked disintegrated, annihilated, dissolved in vacant mist, and there within it was the finely turned skeleton of his own hand, the seal ring he had inherited from his grandfather hanging loose and black on the joint of his ringfinger—a hard, material object, with which man adorns the body that is fated to melt away beneath it, when it passes on to another flesh that can wear it for yet a little while. […] The Hofrat had seen the old as well as the fresh spots, and “strands” ran from the bronchial tubes rather far into the organ itself—“strands” with “nodules.” Hans Castorp would be able to see for himself later, in the diapositive which they would give him for his very own. The word of command was calm, patience, manly self-discipline; measure, eat, lie down, wake, and drink tea.”

    [Much above serendipitously relevant perhaps to the ‘Figure in Motion’ section just now of my concurrent Tem ‘Onion Songs’ review and my own prose piece: The Provenance of Souls.]

  5. os13

    Above is one side of my wife’s double-sided quilt that she made in 2009; we photographed it today when conveniently having lunch with the people to whom it was then given – as an image for me of “the x-ray anatomy” or bodily mandala of Hans in the following section, on his balcony, studying, against the light, his hand that was earlier x-rayed but now opaque like the aforementioned mysteriouss ‘opaque glass’ partitions of the balcony themselves.

    More discussions with “windbag and logic-chopper” and ‘organ-grinder’ Settembrini — amid the plasticity of time and of Hans’ ‘freedom’ in settling things about his extended stay-for-illness by epistle to his vaguely nearest and dearest elsewhere.

    “But the girl is ill,” he said. “She is seriously ill, without the shadow of a doubt — she has every reason for pessimism. What do you expect of her?”
    “Disease and despair,” Settembrini said, “are often only forms of depravity.”

    Settembrini: “Paradox is the poisonous flower of quietism, the iridescent surface of the rotting mind, the greatest depravity of all!”

  6. Whims of Mercurius
    I don’t know whether or not they call warm, sunny Octobers in the Swiss Alps an Indian Summer, then or now. Or whether some of the customs at the Sanitorium in this book presaged the euthanasia clinics of the 21st century… Just a notch beyond the ‘moribundi’ and the horizontallers and the half-lung club … and the Tarr & Fether type stealth by which Hans is being kept in this disengaging retreat by dint of making him an increasingly permanent patient instead of a visitor… But, in any event, the remarkable weather is a sort of trigger of disrupting the Proustian unrequitedness between him and Clavdia Chauchat, i.e with a cataclysmic(!) exchange of ‘Good Morning’ upon the extended curve of a sunny walk and the increase, later, in his own warm ‘curve’, so-called.
    All amid Hans’ delicious half-world of drugginess and reclinature, latterly with an October parasol…
    Perhaps, the organ-grinder is right, after all. Disease is Depravity. And Paradox a shocking sin.

  7. Encyclopaedic
    “These affairs then—in which, of course, the passage along the balconies, at the end of the glass partitions, played a considerable rôle—were rife in Berghof society, particularly among the fevered youth.”

    “Hans Castorp well remembered the mottled pallor of Joachim’s skin when, for the first and only time, he had innocently alluded to Marusja’s physical charms in the light tone he might have assumed at home. He remembered the chill withdrawal of the blood from his own face, the time he had drawn the curtain to shield Madame Chauchat from the sun; he knew that he had seen the same look on other faces up here, both before and since—”

    “People, not only at his own table, but at neighbouring ones as well, enjoyed seeing him flush and pale when the glass door slammed. And even this gratified him; it was like an outward confirmation and assertion of his inner frenzy, which seemed to him calculated to forward his affair, and encourage his vague and senseless hopes.”

    “We might almost go so far as to say that, as undigested food makes man no stronger, so time spent in waiting makes him no older. But in practice, of course, there is hardly such a thing as pure and unadulterated waiting.”

    “”Yes, yes,” he said, after a while. “Here is your identity card. Thanks very much,” and he handed the plate back to Hans Castorp over his shoulder, without looking.
    “Did you see the strands?” asked Hans Castorp. “And the nodules?”
    “You know,” Herr Settembrini answered him very deliberately, “my opinion of these productions. You know too that those spots and shadows there are very largely of physiological origin. I have seen a hundred such pictures, looking very like this of yours; the decision as to whether they offered definite proof or not was left more or less to the discretion of the person looking at them. I speak as a layman, but a layman of a good many years’ experience.””

    And there follows Settembrini being windbaggily didactic on what he sees as the positive aspects of the Enlightenment (Glow or Glare?), all of which Hans was polite about and I was bored! Settembrini’s own illness is his Stigmata of Humanism, I guess.

  8. Humaniora
    From the connoisseurship of wrapped cigar skin in discussion with the Hofrat, Hans and his cousin are invited (with Hans’ encouragement!) by the Hofrat to his private abode to view his oil paintings, including his portrait of Clavdia Chauchat of which Hans had heard rumour, much to Hans’ unrequited obsession. Talk, amid Turkish coffee, of canvas, paint thicknesses, fat, flesh, skin (like the onion layers of Steve Rasnic Tem’s co-resonant book that I am concurrently and fortuitously real-time reviewing?) – and like the beam Hans earlier diverted from Clavdia’s face in the refectory, he tries to reposition the portrait … for similar reason? And the mole where the breasts begin their cleaving… And the plasticityof the female form (like the plasticity of time?)…

    “It might be true that in other respects getting used to life up here had mainly consisted in getting used to not getting used to it.”

    “Frau Chauchat appeared ten years older than her age, as often happens in amateur portraiture where the artist is bent on making a character study. There was too much red all over the face, the nose was badly out of drawing, the colour of the hair badly hit off, too straw-colour; the mouth was distorted, the peculiar charm of the features ungrasped or at least not brought out, spoiled by the exaggeration of their single elements.”

    “What deceives you is the epicanthus, a racial variation, consisting in a sort of ridge of integument that runs from the bridge of the nose to the eyelid, and comes down over the inside corner of the eye.”

    “Hans Castorp sat in a leather arm-chair on castors, against which he had leaned Frau Chauchat’s picture.”

    “An artist who is a doctor, physiologist, and anatomist on the side, and has his own little way of thinking about the under sides of things—it all comes in handy too, it gives you the ‘pas’, say what you like. That birthday suit there is painted with science, it is organically correct, you can examine it under the microscope. You can see not only the horny and mucous strata of the epidermis, but I’ve suggested the texture of the corium underneath, with the oil-and sweat-glands, the blood-vessels and tubercles — and then under that still the layer of fat, the upholstering, you know, full of oil ducts, the underpinning of the lovely female form. What is in your mind as you work runs into your hand and has its influence — it isn’t really there, and yet somehow or other it is, and that is what gives the lifelike effect.”


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