Thomas Mann’s “THE MAGIC MOUNTAIN”

Thomas Mann’s, “The Magic Mountain” is a tour de force, a masterpiece, a novel whose uniqueness and imagination left me breathless. The translation by John E. Woods from the original German to English is as good as it gets: a work of art in and of itself. The novel is just over 700 pages, but if one was to do a normal word count the book would easily be closer to 1,000 pages. After reading about half the book, I decided to read just 20 pages a day and to savor the brilliance and to give my full attention to every word and paragraph.

The hero of the book, if one wants to call him a hero, is Hans Castorp. There is nothing extraordinary about Hans. If nothing else, he is simply an ordinary young man as the narrator frequently reminds the reader. He goes to visit his cousin in a sanatorium who is suffering from an ailment which is keeping him away from his dream of rejoining his regiment and moving up the ranks. Hans’ original plan of a three week visit turns into a 7 year stay, most of his own doing with the comfort that he has been diagnosed with a minor ailment that could naturally turn deadly.
The sanatorium, high in the Swiss Alps where the ‘air’ is very much part of the treatment, is no ordinary sanatorium, but is more like living at the Plaza Hotel: 5 gourmet meals a day, alcoholic beverages available just for the asking, lovely rooms… each with a balcony… after all, the air is part of the cure. And of course, its own cemetery for those poor patients who failed to be cured; their bodies wrapped in a blanket, placed on a sleigh, send down the snow covered mountain and directly into their graves.
The patients, more like guests, are from all over Europe, a few from America, and even a gentleman from Mexico. The place is so great that many of the patients, even after being declared cured and released, come back on their own in six months or a year. If all this sounds too good to be true, take my word for it, it’s not… just ask our hero Hans.
Mr Mann has given us an array of characters that make the characters, “In One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest,”look totally normal. In essence, they represent the countries that will soon be entering into Word War 1. He exposes the reader to ideas, theories, God, and science that are so deep and meaningful, that once you stop laughing, you are left with questions that we are still asking ourselves one hundred years later.
The only other novel that I can use as a comparison to this masterpiece is “One Hundred Years of Solitude,” and yet I don’t even know if that is an apt comparison. “The Magic Mountain” is so unique, so gloriously imaginative and creative, that it stands mighty tall alongside the greatest novels of all time.51NRB+D4XtL._SX319_BO1,204,203,200_

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