Thomas’s Mann’s THE MAGIC MOUNTAIN – my real-time review continued from HERE.
This is Part Six 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.
Snow – from “And yet Hans Castorp did progress.” up to the end.
The snow-immolation becomes a glorious youthful mirage of colonnades, statuary,,. a gate, but ending with this scene:
“Scarcely daring to venture, but following an inner compulsion, he passed behind the statuary, and through the double row of columns beyond. The bronze door of the sanctuary stood open, and the poor soul’s knees all but gave way beneath him at the sight within. Two grey old women, witchlike, with hanging breasts and dugs of fingerlength, were busy there, between flaming braziers, most horribly. They were dismembering a child. In dreadful silence they tore it apart with their bare hands—Hans Castorp saw the bright hair blood-smeared—and cracked the tender bones between their jaws, their dreadful lips dripped blood. An icy coldness held him. He would have covered his eyes and fled, but could not. They at their gory business had already seen him, they shook their reeking fists and uttered curses—soundlessly, most vilely, with the last obscenity, and in the dialect of Hans Castorp’s native Hamburg. It made him sick, sick as never before. He tried desperately to escape; knocked into a column with his shoulder—and found himself, with the sound of that dreadful whispered brawling still in his ears,…”
Much in this mirage, while, as part of his Schubertian Winterreise, Hans shelters by a mountain hay-shed in the engulfing snow, stems from the ‘hurly-burly’ of earlier circular arguments of life and death with Naphta and the organ-grinder, nay, hurdy-gurdy man (I suggest!) … but is anything resolved yet? Perhaps the circles and cycles (or in this book: ‘jumbling’) of polarisations of Night and Day, Life and Death etc continue forever (as ‘serendipitously’, a few hours ago, I have already noted in my concurrent real-time review of ‘Star-Kites’ here).
“He examined the hut, to get his bearings, and came to the conclusion that he had approached it from the same direction as before—namely, from the rear; and therefore, what he had accomplished for the past hour—as he reckoned it—had been sheer waste of time and effort. But there it was, just as the books said. You went in a circle, gave yourself endless trouble under the delusion that you were accomplishing something, and all the time you were simply describing some great silly arc that would turn back to where it had its beginning, like the riddling year itself. You wandered about, without getting home. Hans Castorp recognized the traditional phenomenon with a certain grim satisfaction—”
This has been an inspiring tranche of High Literature, as well as a ‘guazzabuglio’…
A Soldier, and Brave – up to “Hans Castorp promised to do so.”
Hans’ cousin Joachim returns from his military ‘colours’, as sickness has also returned, and I doubt if it ever went away. Mixed feelings are one thing about this event, but the book’s ‘jumble’ uniquely makes this a Golden Mean (cf Mozart and Freemasonry) as well as a vicious polarisation of two extremes of joy and sorrow, in both cousins, separately and together in multiple permutations. The irony is that the return from the ‘flat-land’ of army life to the ‘horizontal’ of the sanatorium is barely questioned… (News of Mme Chauchat being met novelistically during Joachim’s return journey). This is nothing if not a novel.
But now we (and they, or at least Hans) become involved in another Socratic dialogue ‘guazzabuglio’ of Naphta and Settembrini – the Jew and Jesuit combined in the former, and now we learn the latter is a Freemason and Proselytiser, and much is stoked here in separate conversations with Hans so far. Conversations about, among much else, Adam Weishaupt, transubstantiation, Templars, the alchemy or eucharism of both Catholicism and Freemasonry, as foiled by Hans’ Protestantism. This is the stuff of mind games as well as philosophy and religion that probably led, without deliberate consciousness of all these jumbled forces, toward or back from the First World War…a para-historical event that pre- and post-threads this book with one of my own long-term obsessions: Retrocausality [… and the Large Hadron Collider at Cern Zoo (another passive-aggressive clique or ‘Never let Me Go’ Sanatorium as that in this book?)….]
A Soldier, and Brave – from “It should be remarked that these Masonic conferences” up to end.
More Naphtine / Settembrine ‘guazzabuglio’ which Hans explicitly begins to ignore, so why should I pay any further heed to such a hodge podge of Goading Gods and Devious Devils? More serious things elapse meanwhile – a feeling for me of sadness, yet a sense of harmony with death that only literature can give you (in that I agree with Settembrini!).
(‘Eroica’, though, is misprinted as ‘Erotica’ in the physical book I hold in my hand! Or is it deliberate because of the character’s proneness to malapropisms? But how did that work in German?)
“Hans Castorp retained a clear memory of this gathering in the autumn sunshine, before the Kurhaus in the Platz, where they sat sipping cooling drinks; for it was just at that time he began to feel a secret concern about Joachim—though its ground was not one usually thought very important, being merely a sore throat and hoarseness, quite harmless afflictions, which yet appeared to Hans Castorp in a somewhat peculiar light—the same light, one might say, that he saw in the depths of Joachim’s eyes. Those eyes had always, we know, been large and mild, but to-day, precisely on this very day, had seemed to grow larger and deeper, with a musing, yes, we must even say an ominous expression, together with the above-mentioned light. It would have been false to say that Hans Castorp did not like the look of them; he did, only that it disquieted him.”
Joachim’s ‘short crossing’ is made from the ‘horizontal’ to who knows what new geometry beyond life’s flatland, after Hans had been seeking the illusive cat-and-mouse Hofrat for news of Joachim’s choking larynx et al, then Joachim’s by-passing the ‘October terminus’ (cf my earlier Forever Autumn) by heading towards his own season’s final ‘colours’….
Chapter VII – By the Ocean of Time
So far in this review I have managed to restrict myself to choice quotes from the book, together with my (eccentric?) commentary. I was tempted here to quote the WHOLE chapter! Anyone interested in the Relativities or Nature of Time, Life and Death, Empirical Synchronicity or Cause-and-Effect (cf my interest in Astrology explained in the concurrent review of ‘Star Kites’), the Effect on Time by walking along the sea shore, as I do everyday here in Holland-on-Sea, and various other factors affecting the book’s Plot and Hans’ feelings, the (coming?) return of the Chauchat, the death of Joachim, the Proselytising of Settembrini, yes, anyone thus interested should not fail to find this chapter and read it, if they read nothing else.
Also seminal to the Art of Fiction and the interaction between Literature’s narrative depiction of Life’s reality or dream and Music!…Life and Music and Time themselves!
EDIT: I did end up quoting the whole of this chapter HERE!
Well, I have confirmed before that this is my second reading of this mighty ‘Magic Mountain’ novel, the first one being around 1970 or 1971 (before anyone like me had even heard of the Margaret Thatcher who is about to be appropriately cremated this coming Wednesday), yet I cannot now recall the introduction into the plot of this startling Dutchman character called Peeperkorn (a character so well “SET-TLED” in a few deft paragraphs) – nor, incredibly, do I recall with whom he arrives at the ‘Never Let Me Go’ sanatorium and how the nature of that co-arrival affects our Hans. Without issuing a spoiler (who had even heard of ‘spoilers’ in 1970!), you surely must know who was Peeperkorn’s co-arrival. And the sexual mores of welcome and set-tlement over dinner, the withheld, unspoken jealousy and the pent up ownerships fighting each other mentally if not physically. Ah, but Peeperkorn is a ‘money magnet’, and it may not be either his ‘EROICA’ or his ‘Erotica’ that constitutes his attractions to our dear Clavdia! And even Wehsal now no longer carries Hans’ overcoat presumably because of the arrival of the gauchely gallant Mynheer…
What beautiful subtleties of literature all this is. Equally, what ground-breaking shocks can be wrapped up as subtleties!
“Clavdia’s entrance was noiseless, for Mynheer Peeperkorn closed the door behind her –“
THIS REAL-TIME REVIEW WILL NOW CONTINUE HERE.
Where to find my Magic Mountain review:
6. https://nemonymousnight.wordpress.com/485-2/ (this one)
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