Matt's Reviews > The Magic Mountain

The Magic Mountain by Thomas Mann
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's review
Feb 20, 2008

it was amazing
bookshelves: fictions-of-the-big-it, worldly-lit, shattering, shaggy-monsters
Read in May, 2004

If you give this book a chance, and some long quiet hours with your full attention, you will be in the midst of incredible richness.

Wise, erudite, deeply engaged but titanically remote, grand, magisterial, ironic, cosmopolitan, comic in a sly gently mocking way.

They don't write 'em like this anymore. the title is onomatpoeic. The book itself is mountainous....some of the deepest philosophical prophecy on what the 20th Century was, and would become. The characters are allegorical, true, but the character sketches are limned with living detail which suggests more than just "smart guy= intellect" and "rowdy guy= passion" or whatever.

I hated this when I foolishly tried to dip into it as a sophmore in high school. You really gotta be a bit older, wiser, more patient and more ironically inquiring to get the full effect here.

This is one for the ages. Drink it slow and you're bound to find some of the more delcious textures this side of the big hoary giants which everyone already (supposedly) already knows by heart....
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Quotes Matt Liked

Thomas Mann
“It is love, not reason, that is stronger than death.”
Thomas Mann, The Magic Mountain

Thomas Mann
“A man lives not only his personal life, as an individual, but also, consciously or unconsciously, the life of his epoch and his contemporaries. He may regard the general, impersonal foundations of his existence as definitely settled and taken for granted, and be as far from assuming a critical attitude towards them as our good Hans Castorp really was; yet it is quite conceivable that he may none the less be vaguely conscious of the deficiencies of his epoch and find them prejudicial to his own moral well-being. All sorts of personal aims, hopes, ends, prospects, hover before the eyes of the individual, and out of these he derives the impulse to ambition and achievement. Now, if the life about him, if his own time seems, however outwardly stimulating, to be at bottom empty of such food for his aspirations; if he privately recognises it to be hopeless, viewless, helpless, opposing only a hollow silence to all the questions man puts, consciously or unconsciously, yet somehow puts, as to the final, absolute, and abstract meaning in all his efforts and activities; then, in such a case, a certain laming of the personality is bound to occur, the more inevitably the more upright the character in question; a sort of palsy, as it were, which may extend from his spiritual and moral over into his physical and organic part. In an age that affords no satisfying answer to the eternal question of 'Why?' 'To what end?' a man who is capable of achievement over and above the expected modicum must be equipped either with a moral remoteness and single-mindedness which is rare indeed and of heroic mould, or else with an exceptionally robust vitality. Hans Castorp had neither one nor the other of these; and thus he must be considered mediocre, though in an entirely honourable sense.”
Thomas Mann, The Magic Mountain

Thomas Mann
“We do not fear being called meticulous, inclining as we do to the view that only the exhaustive can be truly interesting.”
Thomas Mann, The Magic Mountain

Thomas Mann
“Tolerance becomes a crime when applied to evil.”
Thomas Mann, The Magic Mountain

Thomas Mann
“He probably was mediocre after all, though in a very honorable sense of that word.”
Thomas Mann, The Magic Mountain

Thomas Mann
“It is remarkable how a man cannot summarize his thoughts in even the most general sort of way without betraying himself completely, without putting his whole self into it, quite unawares, presenting as if in allegory the basic themes and problems of his life.”
Thomas Mann, The Magic Mountain

Thomas Mann
“Laughter is a sunbeam of the soul.”
Thomas Mann, The Magic Mountain


Comments (showing 1-4 of 4) (4 new)

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message 1: by s.penkevich (new) - added it

s.penkevich Fantastic review, I need to stop putting this one off!


Matt Thanks! Yeah, it's daunting, no doubt about it, but it will engulf you if you give it as much attention as you can. Mann looked long and hard into the 20th Century and we observed and described some ideas and trends whose reverberations are still being felt...


message 3: by Agnieszka (new) - added it

Agnieszka This is excellent review , Matt ! I think I'm old enough to finally get this one.I started with MM two or three times and ... always bogged down.


message 4: by Ken (new) - rated it 5 stars

Ken I read the first English translation 34 years ago. I don't know if I didn't enjoy it due to my youth or the poor translation, but now, at 66, I love it.


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