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Book 16: Germany (German) – Der Zauberberg = The Magic Mountain (Thomas MANN)

A simple young man travelled at the height of summer from Hamburg, his home town, to Davos-Platz in the Grisons. He went for a visit of three weeks.

[My translation]

So starts a laboured journey up into the Alps and down into the depths of the human condition. The Magic Mountain is a sort of utopia (or dystopia, since everyone there is sick!) set in a sanatorium in Switzerland. These Olympian heights give Mann (with his suitably encompassing surname) the chance to philosophise on many aspects of life and death. It’s like an Alpine Hotel California, or some weird religious cult (whose god is hypochondria), with the difference that here intellectual inquiry is fostered rather than quashed. Perhaps it’s closer to Hilton’s Shangri-La in Lost Horizon, at least it’s up in the mountains! It is a dense novel of ideas and seems to cover all the big questions like life, love, time and death. Nowadays it seems like no one likes to think about death and sickness, but they are inevitable facets of human existence and ignoring them won’t make them go away.

This is another fairly long work which took ages for me to get through. The long convoluted sentences made it somewhat difficult for me to read in German.


An easier read from Germany is Siddhartha (Hermann HESSE), one of my very favourite books. In a parallel with The Life of Brian and Jesus, at first it seems that Siddhartha is going to be the Buddha, until you find that the latter is another character in the novel. Its majestic prose is to die for.


Mann, Thomas (1875 – 1955), Der Zauberberg, Fischer Taschenbuch, 2008, ISBN 9783596901241