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That's what Dimitri Verhulst called 'The Magic Mountain' in the last episode of his TV series 'Made in Europe'.

A whole library can be filled with comments on and studies of The Magic Mountain.

In my modest opinion - a monumental book such as this demands some modesty - 'The Magic Mountain' is a wonderful treatise on the very idea of humanism. It is a classic bildungsroman, a coming-of-age story. Is it worth our while cultivating the mind against and amidst the obvious barbarism that is building up in the valley below, and that can stand for the dark side in human nature? Settembrini is passionately convinced.

Or should the whole idea be given up because it is an illusion to think that we can ever control our darker sides without strong (religious) authority? Naphta thinks so. Given his biography that might not be surprising. He thinks humanists are nothing but 'organ-grinders'. I find that very funny. Why does Mann use the cliché of the frivolous Italian for what seems to be his most serious character? Despite the seriousness of the themes there’s a lot to laugh in the book, which makes it somehow, and paradoxically … light.

Peeperkorn meanwhile is the one with the no-nonsense attitude of the businessman who attracts the real object of Hans’ desire: Mdme Chauchat, whom some say is the real anchor in the story. Settembrini and Mdme Chauchat are the ones who we know are still alive by the end of the book, though, just like Hans, it’s not very sure for how long. Given the numbers of casualties in the Great War Hans’ odds do not seem to be as favourable as Ludovico’s. Mdme Chauchat simply disappears. Mmmm.

The Magic Mountain to me is not just a book, it is an experience. Reading it is a bit of a project. The reader goes through the process of ‘philosophical’ maturing with Hans Castorp, Settembrini pulling him one way and Naphta the other. The central question is never answered because obviously everyone has to make a decision for themselves.

Some people will feel attracted to the elegant and highly entertaining discussions between Naphta and Settembrini that to others is nothing but a load of longwinded bull.

Hans Castorp's seven years in the sanatorium are a sort of microcosm of the development of western culture and ideas about humanity and civilization that according to many observers definitely perishes in the trenches of WW I.

I felt greatly rewarded for hanging on to The Magic Mountain’s long sentences for all of its almost thousand pages and shivered when I had to watch Hans Castorp disappear into the trenches. By that time he had become a dear friend.

Thomas Mann modestly suggest that you read the book twice. On second reading you will find that it is composed like a piece of music. That probably does not mean intro-verse-bridge-chorus. I intend to try and find out.

Reacties op: The Mount Everest of world literature

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De Toverberg - Thomas Mann
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