What was all the fuss about?

The novel as a sweaty triathlon with politics, philosophy and science where the bicycle, swimming trunks and the running shoe should be. Unlike Joyce and Proust, relatively easy to read. Mann, ever the burgher, never the bohemian, gives you a front seat view of the action. When things get strange, they are never unrecognisable. But you do need to stay awake to get through the lectures on duty and rationalism and Marxism and Eros and vitalism, each delivered by a different character with strange facial hair and an axe to grind.

Itself exhausted, yet moving relentlessly from minute to minute, week to week, and finally year to year, the Magic Mountain keeps it hero, the terminally dull Hans Castorp, virtually immobile in a tubercularlosis clinic high up in the Alps “before the Great War.” The clinic, of course is a metaphor for Europe and Castorp’s fellow inmates are Europes dispossessed; progressive radicals, reactionary Jesuits and cat-eyed Russians. Everyone is a patient. Everyone is a captive. Ditto the reader. The amazing thing about the book, however, is that, as a Munich woman wrote to Mann, “I was not bored by your novel, and with every page I read I was astonished that I was not bored”

If you don`t get bored, it will be despite Mann`s craftsmanship (laboured and teeth grindingly dull) and story telling technique (old fashioned and digressive), and because of his subject, which could not be more to the point in these strange times we currently live in: art, alienation and the apocalypse.

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