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The Magic Mountain Paperback – October 1, 1996
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From Publishers Weekly
New translation of Mann's classic novel.
Copyright 1996 Reed Business Information, Inc.
From Library Journal
One of the most influential and celebrated German works of the 20th century has been newly rendered in English by Woods, twice winner of the PEN Translation Prize. First published in 1929, Mann's novel tells the story of Hans Castorp, a modern everyman who spends seven years in an Alpine sanatorium for tuberculosis patients, finally leaving to become a soldier in World War I. Isolated from the concerns of the everyday world, he is exposed to the wide range of ideas that shaped a world on the verge of explosion. Considering what was to follow, the most poignant moment comes when Naphta, a Jewish-born Jesuit, defends the use of terror and the taking of life for the sake of an all-encompassing idea. Woods's work reads more naturally than the original translation, which, while faithful to the German, was stiff and forbidding. A necessary addition to any fiction collection.
Michael T. O'Pecko, Towson State Univ., Md.
Copyright 1995 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an alternate Paperback edition.
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Top Customer Reviews
The Magic Mountain is also very much of its era. It was exactly luxurious institutions like the Berghof, along with those big hotel-spas in which the rich lived as they moved indolently over the face of Europe, that became impossible after WW I. But as the Settembrini-Naphta debates make very clear, the pleasures of unearned wealth and of relative peace are more passionate than Enlightenment values can address. Given the luxury, the lassitude and the license granted by tuberculosis and its promise of an early death, sexual, aesthetic and even mystical concerns become prominent. Mann gives us a great wallow in the Dionysian and doesn't, I think, endorse the life lit by reason unequivocally, although he's more skeptical about attaching value to a moribund leisure class. Which is only to say that I'm finding The Magic Mountain unexpectedly relevant for thinking about the One Per Cent and the rest of us on the flatlands.
I read this book more than 20 years ago, as a teenager. Then, I read about a personal story, perhaps symbolic regarding the customs and ideas of Europeans of that time. I identified with the main character and his uneventful life, broken from its rhythm not of his own choice. I cried in the last page. Now I read this through an entire new lens, which might be superseded by another in 20 years' time. But what I perceive is the human conflict in the slow, predictable and boring life of the sanatorium, occupied by ill people from all over the world. The tension rises between a few, while the majority is slow to grasp the intensity and the fervor behind the ideas.
It is one of the most exasperating books on earth, some chapters you just want to end, and you think of giving up altogether - but then something happens, you keep going. Nothing fundamental has changed (isn't it true of most lives?), but there is just enough to keep the interest. The passage of time is the leitmotif, and it matters for the reader and narrator, but not to our hero, whose nails and hair grows, and that's how he notices time. You, as a reader, know that you are reading the masterpiece of a literary genius, and some paragraphs are indeed "literary". But most are just there because the narration, like the passing of time, does not recoil from the ordinariness that consists most of human life.
The unremarkable can be staggering in its constancy and ability to involve your whole being. You pay close attention to Hans Castorp's life and think: is he wasting it? What is the purpose after all, why did he love, why was he a friend, why anything if it all comes to...?
It turns out that The Berghof becomes a comfortable and dreamlike, totally enchanting place for Hans Castorp who finds himself unable to cut short his visit and return home to face the world as a young engineer. Instead, he becomes enamored of a charming aristocratic Russian lady, Madame Clavdia Chauchat, and the Magic Mountain itself. Moreover, it soon becomes obvious that Hans may also be infected with the tubercle bacillus, increasing the complexity of his situation and providing him with a valid reason to stay on the Magic Mountain. Castorp stays at the Berghof for seven years and only leaves to join the German army with the advent of World War I.
The novel provides a vehicle for Mann to discuss the advances and mysteries in medicine -- for example, the use of x-rays, which had only been discovered in 1895 by the physicist Wilhelm Conrad Roentgen, and Sigmund Freud's development of psychoanalysis and his theory of the unconscious. The novel also serves as a medium to describe complex personal inter-relationships and social interactions in society at large, and even more profoundly, the toll of diseases and human suffering, ultimately death and dying, as metaphors for man's existence, journey and final exit on this planet.
Simply, this is one of the best and greatest books of all times, and the Franklin Library edition is a collector's choice. Recommended without reservations with 5 stars.
Miguel A. Faria Jr., M.D. is an Associate Editor in Chief and World Affairs Editor of Surgical Neurology International (SNI). He is the author of Vandals at the Gates of Medicine (1995) and Cuba in Revolution -- Escape From a Lost Paradise (2002).
Most Recent Customer Reviews
Mann strikes me as a writer who, more than almost anyone else, has a foot planted equally in the 19th and...Read more
the feeling of the degenerate fin du siecle society and the feeling that the Great War was the consequence is palpableRead more