History of Literature









Thomas Mann



 



Thomas Mann


 

 

Thomas Mann

German author

born June 6, 1875, Lübeck, Ger.
died Aug. 12, 1955, near Zürich, Switz.

Main
German novelist and essayist whose early novels—Buddenbrooks (1900), Der Tod in Venedig (1912; Death in Venice), and Der Zauberberg (1924; The Magic Mountain)—earned him the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1929.

Early literary endeavours
Mann’s father died in 1891, and Mann moved to Munich, a centre of art and literature, where he lived until 1933. After perfunctory work in an insurance office and on the editorial staff of Simplicissimus, a satirical weekly, he devoted himself to writing, as his elder brother Heinrich had already done. His early tales, collected as Der kleine Herr Friedemann (1898), reflect the aestheticism of the 1890s but are given depth by the influence of the philosophers Schopenhauer and Nietzsche and the composer Wagner, to all of whom Mann was always to acknowledge a deep, if ambiguous, debt. Most of Mann’s first stories centre in the problem of the creative artist, who in his devotion to form contests the meaninglessness of existence, an antithesis that Mann enlarged into that between spirit (Geist) and life (Leben). But while he showed sympathy for the artistic misfits he described, Mann was also aware that the world of imagination is a world of make-believe, and the closeness of the artist to the charlatan was already becoming a theme. At the same time, a certain nostalgia for ordinary, unproblematical life appeared in his work.

This ambivalence found full expression in his first novel, Buddenbrooks, which Mann had at first intended to be a novella in which the experience of the transcendental realities of Wagner’s music would extinguish the will to live in the son of a bourgeois family. On this beginning, the novel builds the story of the family and its business house over four generations, showing how an artistic streak not only unfits the family’s later members for the practicalities of business life but undermines their vitality as well. But, almost against his will, in Buddenbrooks Mann wrote a tender elegy for the old bourgeois virtues.

In 1905 Mann married Katja Pringsheim. There were six children of the marriage, which was a happy one. It was this happiness, perhaps, that led Mann, in Royal Highness, to provide a fairy-tale reconciliation of “form” and “life,” of degenerate feudal authority and the vigour of modern American capitalism. In 1912, however, he returned to the tragic dilemma of the artist with Death in Venice, a sombre masterpiece. In this story, the main character, a distinguished writer whose nervous and “decadent” sensibility is controlled by the discipline of style and composition, seeks relaxation from overstrain in Venice, where, as disease creeps over the city, he succumbs to an infatuation and the wish for death. Symbols of eros and death weave a subtle pattern in the sensuous opulence of this tale, which closes an epoch in Mann’s work.


World War I and political crisis
The outbreak of World War I evoked Mann’s ardent patriotism and awoke, too, an awareness of the artist’s social commitment. His brother Heinrich was one of the few German writers to question German war aims, and his criticism of German authoritarianism stung Thomas to a bitter attack on cosmopolitan litterateurs. In 1918 he published a large political treatise, Reflections of an Unpolitical Man, in which all his ingenuity of mind was summoned to justify the authoritarian state as against democracy, creative irrationalism as against “flat” rationalism, and inward culture as against moralistic civilization. This work belongs to the tradition of “revolutionary conservatism” that leads from the 19th-century German nationalistic and antidemocratic thinkers Paul Anton de Lagarde and Houston Stewart Chamberlain, the apostle of the superiority of the “Germanic” race, toward National Socialism; and Mann later was to repudiate these ideas.

With the establishment of the German (Weimar) Republic in 1919, Mann slowly revised his outlook; the essays “Goethe und Tolstoi” and “Von deutscher Republik” (“The German Republic”) show his somewhat hesitant espousal of democratic principles. His new position was clarified in the novel The Magic Mountain. Its theme grows out of an earlier motif: a young engineer, Hans Castorp, visiting a cousin in a sanatorium in Davos, abandons practical life to submit to the rich seductions of disease, inwardness, and death. But the sanatorium comes to be the spiritual reflection of the possibilities and dangers of the actual world. In the end, somewhat skeptically but humanely, Castorp decides for life and service to his people: a decision Mann calls “a leave-taking from many a perilous sympathy, enchantment, and temptation, to which the European soul had been inclined.” In this great work Mann formulates with remarkable insight the fateful choices facing Europe.


World War II and exile
From this time onward Mann’s imaginative effort was directed to the novel, scarcely interrupted by the charming personal novella Early Sorrow or by Mario and the Magician, a novella that, in the person of a seedy illusionist, symbolizes the character of Fascism. His literary and cultural essays began to play an ever-growing part in elucidating and communicating his awareness of the fragility of humaneness, tolerance, and reason in the face of political crisis. His essays on Freud (1929) and Wagner (1933) are concerned with this, as are those on Goethe (1932), who more and more became for Mann an exemplary figure in his wisdom and balance. The various essays on Nietzsche document with particular poignancy Mann’s struggle against attitudes once dear to him. In 1930 he gave a courageous address in Berlin, “Ein Appell an die Vernunft” (“An Appeal to Reason”), appealing for the formation of a common front of the cultured bourgeoisie and the Socialist working class against the inhuman fanaticism of the National Socialists. In essays and on lecture tours in Germany, to Paris, Vienna, Warsaw, Amsterdam, and elsewhere during the 1930s, Mann, while steadfastly attacking Nazi policy, often expressed sympathy with socialist and communist principles in the very general sense that they were the guarantee of humanism and freedom.

When Hitler became chancellor early in 1933, Mann and his wife, on holiday in Switzerland, were warned by their son and daughter in Munich not to return. For some years his home was in Switzerland, near Zürich, but he traveled widely, visiting the United States on lecture tours and finally, in 1938, settling there, first at Princeton, and from 1941 to 1952 in southern California. In 1936 he was deprived of his German citizenship; in the same year the University of Bonn took away the honorary doctorate it had bestowed in 1919 (it was restored in 1949). From 1936 to 1944 Mann was a citizen of Czechoslovakia. In 1944 he became a U.S. citizen.

After the war, Mann visited both East Germany and West Germany several times and received many public honours, but he refused to return to Germany to live. In 1952 he settled again near Zürich. His last major essays—on Goethe (1949), Chekhov (1954), and Schiller (1955)—are impressive evocations of the moral and social responsibilities of writers.


Later novels
The novels on which Mann was working throughout this period reflect variously the cultural crisis of his times. In 1933 he published The Tales of Jacob (U.S. title, Joseph and His Brothers), the first part of his four-part novel on the biblical Joseph, continued the following year in The Young Joseph and two years later with Joseph in Egypt, and completed with Joseph the Provider in 1943. In the complete work, published as Joseph and His Brothers, Mann reinterpreted the biblical story as the emergence of mobile, responsible individuality out of the tribal collective, of history out of myth, and of a human God out of the unknowable. In the first volume a timeless myth seems to be reenacted in the lives of the Hebrews. Joseph, however, though sustained by the belief that his life too is the reenactment of a myth, is thrown out of the “timeless collective” into Egypt, the world of change and history, and there learns the management of events, ideas, and himself. Though based on wide and scholarly study of history, the work is not a historical novel, and the “history” is full of irony and humour, of conscious modernization. Mann’s concern is to provide a myth for his own times, capable of sustaining and directing his generation and of restoring a belief in the power of humane reason.

Mann took time off from this work to write, in the same spirit, his Lotte in Weimar (U.S. title, The Beloved Returns). Lotte Kestner, the heroine of Goethe’s The Sorrows of Young Werther, his semi-autobiographical story of unrequited love and romantic despair, visits Weimar in old age to see once again her old lover, now famous, and win some acknowledgment from him. But Goethe remains distant and refuses to reenter the past; she learns from him that true reverence for man means also acceptance of and reverence for change, intelligent activity directed to the “demand of the day.” In this, as in the Joseph novels, in settings so distant from his own time, Mann was seeking to define the essential principles of humane civilization; their spacious and often humorous serenity of tone implicitly challenges the inhuman irrationalism of the Nazis.

In Doktor Faustus, begun in 1943 at the darkest period of the war, Mann wrote the most directly political of his novels. It is the life story of a German composer, Adrian Leverkühn, born in 1885, who dies in 1940 after 10 years of mental alienation. A solitary, estranged figure, he “speaks” the experience of his times in his music, and the story of Leverkühn’s compositions is that of German culture in the two decades before 1930—more specifically of the collapse of traditional humanism and the victory of the mixture of sophisticated nihilism and barbaric primitivism that undermine it. With imaginative insight Mann interpreted the new musical forms and themes of Leverkühn’s compositions up to the final work, a setting of the lament of Doctor Faustus in the 16th-century version of the Faust legend, who once, in hope, had made a pact with the Devil, but in the end is reduced to hopelessness. The one gleam of hope in this sombre work, however, in which the personal tragedy of Leverkühn is subtly related to Germany’s destruction in the war through the comments of the fictitious narrator, Zeitblom, lies in its very grief.

The composition of the novel was fully documented by Mann in 1949 in The Genesis of a Novel. Doktor Faustus exhausted him as no other work of his had done, and The Holy Sinner and The Black Swan, published in 1951 and 1953, respectively, show a relaxation of intensity in spite of their accomplished, even virtuoso style. Mann rounded off his imaginative work in 1954 with The Confessions of Felix Krull, Confidence Man, the light, often uproariously funny story of a confidence man who wins the favour and love of others by enacting the roles they desire of him.

Mann’s style is finely wrought and full of resources, enriched by humour, irony, and parody; his composition is subtle and many-layered, brilliantly realistic on one level and yet reaching to deeper levels of symbolism. His works lack simplicity, and his tendency to set his characters at a distance by his own ironical view of them has sometimes laid him open to the charge of lack of heart. He was, however, aware that simplicity and sentiment lend themselves to manipulation by ideological and political powers, and the sometimes elaborate sophistication of his works cannot hide from the discerning reader his underlying impassioned and tender solicitude for mankind.


Assessment
Mann was the greatest German novelist of the 20th century, and by the end of his life his works had acquired the status of classics both within and without Germany. His subtly structured novels and shorter stories constitute a persistent and imaginative enquiry into the nature of Western bourgeois culture, in which a haunting awareness of its precariousness and threatened disintegration is balanced by an appreciation of and tender concern for its spiritual achievements. Round this central theme cluster a group of related problems that recur in different forms—the relation of thought to reality and of the artist to society, the complexity of reality and of time, the seductions of spirituality, eros, and death. Mann’s imaginative and practical involvement in the social and political catastrophes of his time provided him with fresh insights that make his work rich and varied. His finely wrought essays, notably those on Tolstoy, Goethe, Freud, and Nietzsche, record the intellectual struggles through which he reached the ethical commitment that shapes the major imaginative works.

Roy Pascal

 

 

Doctor Faustus

Thomas Mann
1875-1955

Doctor Faustus tells the story of the rise and fall of the musician Adrian Leverkuhn through the eyes of his friend Serenus Zeitbloom. In this novel, Thomas Mann adapts the Faust myth to suggest that Leverkiihn achieves his musical greatness as a result of a pact with the devil. Interwoven with the narration of this bargain and its repercussions is an exploration of how and why Germany chose to ally itself with dark forces in its embracing of fascism through Hitler.
Doctor Faustus engages with the ideas of many European philosophers and thinkers, elaborating its own unique vision. Particularly brilliant are Mann's meditations on the evolution of musical theory over the course of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, including the advent of the twelve-tone system of Arnold Schon berg, the composer on whom Leverkuhn is partly based. Also in strong evidence is Mann's preoccupation with the ruthless demands of creative life. Leverkuhn suffers excruciating periods of pain, punctuated by short bouts of breathtaking genius. Many of the finest passages are those that explore the relationship between illness and creativity.
The novel's major achievement is its eloquent synthesis of complex ideas on art, history, and politics, as well as its elaborate meditation on the relationship between the artist and society. The final description of Leverkiihn's fate is tinged with the despair and isolation that Mann himself endured as he pondered the future of his native Germany from the vantage point of his exile in California.

 

 

Buddenbrooks

Thomas Mann
1875-1955

Buddenbrooks: The Decline of a Family is among the last and greatest achievements of the European realist novel.The book spans forty-odd years during the mid-nineteenth century.
Set in the Hanseatic city of Lubeck, it follows the fortunes of one of the leading families of the ruling merchant class. Its focus is on the growth of three siblings from childhood to mid-life. Christian Buddenbrook, lacking the self-discipline (or perhaps self-repression) required to become a businessman and soiid citizen, performs instead the self-destructive role of half-licensed fool. His elder brother Thomas adapts himself fully, but at great physical and psychological cost, to his position as head of the firm, Consul and Senator. Their sister Tony passionately values the prestige of the family, but her infelicitous adventures in love and marriage show that she is incapable of playing the dutiful daughter and wife. The final chapters are devoted to Thomas' son, Hanno, who inherits from his Dutch mother an exceptional musical talent and an estrangement from the masculine, public shows of the Hanseatic state. With Hanno, we realize, the Buddenbrook line will take a new direction, or come to its end.
The novel's tapestry of closely observed scenes is seemingly inexhaustible—among them are family feasts and arguments, deathbeds and childbirth, weddings, seaside holidays, schoolrooms, and ship-launchings. Mann's detailed analysis of the interplay between public and private self, and between a declining ethic of civic and commercial propriety and a new spirit of aesthetic self-cultivation, is remarkable, not only for its subtlety and objectivity, but for the wider historical resonances evoked by his characters and their fates.



BUDDENBROOKS
 

Type of work: Novel
Author: Thomas Mann (1875-1955)
Type of plot: Social chronicle
Time of plot: Nineteenth century
Locale: Germany
First published: Buddenbrooks: Verfall einer Familie, 1901 (English translation, 1924)
 

An expose of decadence in a materialistic society, this chronicle of a nineteenth century German industrial family follows its members from their peak of wealth and power into gradual decay and eventual ruin. Originally an exemplary family imbued with honesty, loyalty, and strong traditions, they succumb slowly but surely to decadence. Mann sees in a frail Hanno, the last of the Buddenbrook line, the culmination of a symbolic clash between the antithetical forces of art and life.

 

Principal Characters

Johann Buddenbrook (yo'han boo'denbrok), the stout, rosy-faced, benevolent-looking patriarch of the Buddenbrook family. He is the wealthy, successful senior partner of a grain-trading firm inherited from his father.
Johann (yo'han) Buddenbrook, Jr. (Jean, The Consul), his serious-looking, aquiline-nosed, blond-bearded first son by his second wife. Jean combines the sentimentalist and the businessman. He rejoices over a happy family gathering, worries about the alienation of his half brother, Gotthold, from the family, and then advises coolly that Gotthold's request for money be denied because of likely future results to both family and firm. Jean's pietism seems foreign to the other Buddenbrooks, whose religion is superficial and confined to conventional sentiments proper to people of their class.
Antonie (an'tone), (Tony) Buddenbrook, later Frau Grunlich and Frau Permaneder, Jean's oldest child. She has ash-blonde hair, gray-blue eyes, and finely shaped but stumpy hands. Impetuous in youth, she becomes conventional in maturity, but to her brother Tom she always remains a child in her reactions to the incidents in her life. She easily adapts herself to any situation; she is not humiliated by the dissolution of her marriage to Grunlich and is proud of the fact that she becomes a person of importance in the family. She adapts as readily to the breaking up of her marriage to Permaneder. As she develops a closer intimacy with her father following her first divorce, she recognizes and establishes closer ties with Tom after the death of their father. She sees the two of them as true Buddenbrooks, for their brother Christian does not really seem one of the family and young Clara remains an unimportant sister. The retention of dignity for both herself and the family becomes almost a religion with Tony.
Tom Buddenbrook, Jean's older son (modeled upon Thomas Mann's father). A quick-witted, intelligent, even-tempered boy, he becomes a strong, sturdy youth resembling his grandfather Johann. As he matures, he develops a stocky, broad-shouldered figure and a military air. His excessive clothes consciousness seems out of character for a Buddenbrook. An earnest, responsible businessman, he is proud of his burgher ancestry, and he contrasts his own desire to preserve the family name with the lack of imagination and idealism shown by Gotthold, his half brother. He is increasingly disgusted with Christian's business irresponsibility and his reputation as a strange kind of clown. He cannot forgive Christian's joking in public that all businessmen are swindlers. In his prime Tom is more aggressive than the earlier Buddenbrooks, but occasionally a little less scrupulous. His participation in public affairs and his interest in culture set him somewhat apart from his ancestors and his business associates. Early in his forties, he becomes increasingly aware that he has grown prematurely old, and he thinks more and more of death. At forty-eight he feels that death is stalking him. He dies not many months later following a fall in a snowy street after the partial extraction of a rotted tooth.
Christian (kris'tean) Buddenbrook, Jean's younger son. A born mimic, he is a moody, whimsical, sometimes extravagantly silly boy. As a youth he first betrays his weakness for pretty women and his deep interest in the theater. During an eight-year absence from home, principally in South America, he becomes lean and pallid, his large humped nose more prominent, his neck thinner, his hair sparse. Through association with Englishmen abroad he himself has grown to look like an Englishman. His self-absorption and his lack of dignity in his social manners disturb Tom Buddenbrook's sense of propriety. Christian becomes more and more a neurotic and a hypochondriac as he ages. After Tom's death Christian marries his mistress, who not long afterward has to put him in a mental institution. Like Tom's son Hanno, he symbolizes the decay of the Buddenbrook family.
Frau Consul Elizabeth Kroger (frou konsool' a-le'sa-bat kroe'ger) Buddenbrook, the wife of Jean Buddenbrook. A woman of the world and a lover of life, she becomes well known in her later years for her piety and her numerous charities. After a long life with her family, she dies of pneumonia.
Clara (cla'ra) Buddenbrook, the fourth and youngest child of Jean and Elizabeth. Hawk-nosed, dark-haired, and firm-mouthed, she is at times haughty. She marries Pastor Tiburtius, a minister from Riga, and dies childless a few years later.
Gotthold (got'hold) Buddenbrook, the elder Johann's unambitious son by his first wife. Having angered his father by a disapproved marriage and by becoming a shopkeeper, he is thereafter shunned by the family. He resents the favored treatment accorded his half brother Jean. After his father's death Gotthold retires and lives on the income from his inheritance and the sale of his shop. He dies at sixty of a heart attack.
Gerda Arnoldsen (gar'da ar'nold-sen) Buddenbrook, an aristocratic Dutch heiress who attends school with Tony. Her immense dowry later influences Tom's decision to marry her, though he declares to his mother at the time that he loves Gerda. The marriage is a happy one, but Gerda (perhaps modeled in part on Thomas Mann's mother), with her high degree of refinement, her detached nature, and her intense interest in music, remains somewhat a stranger among the Buddenbrooks.
Little Johann, or Hanno (han'no), Buddenbrook, the pathetic, sickly son of Tom and Gerda. He shares his mother's love of music and she thinks him a precocious genius. He dies in his teens of typhoid fever. Like his Uncle Christian, Hanno symbolizes the decadence of the family, and with his death the family itself comes to an end, for no male is left to carry on the Buddenbrook name.
Bendix Grunlich (ben'diks grun'Hsh), Tony's first husband, a well-do-do Hamburg merchant and a pink-faced, blue-eyed, golden-whiskered, obsequious flatterer and rascal. His bogus charm takes in Jean, who urges Tony to marry him despite her disgust for him. When his impending bankruptcy later leads him to seek money from Jean, Buddenbrook angrily discovers that Grunlich, even before marrying Tony, had unscrupulously capitalized on his supposed connection with the family. A divorce follows shortly after Tony's return to her parents' home with her daughter.
Morten Schartzkopf (mor'ten scharts'kopf), a charming, serious-minded, liberal-thinking but naive medical student whose brief romance with Tony is broken up when Grunlich reports to Morten's father a prior claim on Tony.
Alois Permaneder (a'lo-es per'ma-nader), Tony's second husband, a bullet-headed, walrus-like, fat-cheeked, man of forty, a Munich brewer. Vulgar in speech and desirous of an easy life, he gets no sympathy from Tony regarding his decision to retire from the brewing business to live on his income from rents and investments. After Tony finds him one night drunkenly forcing his attentions on Babette, the cook, she leaves him. When she seeks a divorce, he willingly agrees to it and returns her dowry because he has no need of it.
Erica Grunlich (a'ri-ka grun'Hsh), the daughter of Tony and her first husband. Tall, fresh-colored, pretty, healthy, and strong, she is occasionally inclined to melancholy moods. Her marriage, after the birth of a daughter, ends in disaster.
Hugo Weinschenk (hoo'go wln'shank), Erica's husband, a crude, pompous, self-made man, the middle-aged Silesian director of a fire insurance company. Convicted of unscrupulous business practices, he goes to prison. Upon his release and after a brief visit with the Buddenbrooks, he disappears.
Friederick Wilhelm Marcus (fre'derik wllhelm mar'kos), Jean's confidential clerk. After Jean's death he becomes a junior partner in the Buddenbrook firm. His conservatism counteracts Tom's occasional tendency to overstretch himself.
 

 

The Story


In the year 1875, the Buddenbrook family was at its peak. Johann had maintained intact the business and wealth he had inherited from his father, and the Buddenbrook name was held in high esteem. Johann's oldest son, Jean, inherited the business when old Johann died. Antonie, Jean's first child, was born in the family home on Mengstrasse. Tony was an aristocrat by nature and temperament. The next child was Tom, followed by Christian, who seemed peculiar in his manners from birth. Tom displayed an early interest in the Buddenbrook business, but Christian seemed indifferent to all family responsibilities.
Tony grew into a beautiful woman. One day Herr Grunlich came to call on the family. Because of his obvious interest in Tony, Jean investigated Griinlich's financial status. The headstrong girl, however, despised Grunlich and his obsequious manner. Having gone to the seashore to avoid meeting Grunlich when he called again, she fell in love with a young medical student named Morten Schartzkopf. Learning of Tony's interest in the student, Jean and Frau Buddenbrook hurried their daughter home, and Tony was too much bred with a sense of her family duties to ignore their arguments in favor of Grunlich when he asked for her hand. Her wedding date set, Grunlich received a promise of a dowry of eighty thousand marks. Grunlich, after taking his twenty-year-old bride to the country, would not allow her to call on any of her city friends. Although she complained in her letters to her parents, Tony resigned herself to obeying her husband's wishes.
Tom held an important position in the business which was still amassing money for the Buddenbrooks. Christian's early distaste for business and his ill health had given him the privilege of going to South America.
When Griinlich found his establishment floundering, his creditors urged him to send to his father-in-law for help. Jean Buddenbrook learned then of Griinlich's motive in marrying Tony; the Buddenbrook reputation had placed Griinlich's already failing credit upon a sounder basis. Actually, Griinlich was a poor man who was depending upon Jean's concern for Tony to keep his son-in-law from financial failure. Tony herself assured her father that she hated Griinlich but that she did not wish to endure the hardships that bankruptcy would entail.
Jean brought Tony and his granddaughter, Erica Griinlich, back to the Buddenbrook home. The divorce, based on Griinlich's fraudulent handling of Tony's dowry, was easily arranged.
Jean Buddenbrook loved his family dearly and firmly believed in the greatness of the Buddenbrook heritage. Tony was once again happy in her father's home, although she bore her sorrows like a cross for everyone to notice and revere. Tom had grown quite close to his sister, who took pride in his development and in the progress of the Buddenbrook firm.
Christian, having failed in his enterprises in South America, had returned home. His father gave him a job and an office which Christian hated and avoided. His manners were still peculiar and his health poor. Serious Tom handled the business as well as Jean, and he remained fixed in his attachment to family customs. When Jean died and left the business to Tom, Tony felt that the family had lost its strongest tie. Tom, too, was greatly affected by his father's death, but the responsibility of his financial burdens immediately became of foremost importance.
Because Christian could not adjust himself to Buddenbrook interests, the ever-patient Tom sent him to Munich for his health. Reports from Munich that he was seen often in the company of a notoriously loose actress distressed his family. Then Tom made a satisfactory marriage with the daughter of a wealthy businessman. Gerda, whose dowry added to the Buddenbrook fortune, was an attractive woman who loved music. Parties were once more held at the Buddenbrook mansion on Mengstrasse.
Tony returned from a trip with hopes that a man whom she had met while traveling would come to call. Soon, Herr Permaneder did call. He was a successful beer merchant in Munich. Tom and Frau Buddenbrook thought that Permaneder, in spite of his crude manners and strange dialect, would make a satisfactory husband for Tony. Fortified with her second, smaller dowry, Tony went to Munich as Frau Permaneder. She sent Erica off to boarding school.
Once again Tony wrote passionate appeals to her family complaining of her married life. Finally she came home, weeping because Permaneder had betrayed her by making love to a servant. Tom protested against a second divorce, but Tony insisted. Prevailing upon Tom to write to Permaneder, Tony was surprised to learn that her husband would not fight the proceedings, that he felt the marriage had been a mistake, and that he would return Tony's dowry which he did not need.
Tom and Gerda had produced a son to carry on the family name. Little Johann, or Hanno, as he was called, inherited his mother's love for music, but he was pale and sickly from birth. Tom tried to instill in his son a love for the family business, but Hanno was too shy to respond to his father.
The death of Frau Buddenbrook brought Christian, Tony, and Tom together to haggle over the inheritance. Christian demanded his money, but Tom, as administrator, refused. Infuriated, Christian quarreled bitterly with Tom, all the pent-up feeling of the past years giving vent to a torrent of abuse against the cold, mercenary actions of Tom Buddenbrook.
Tom was not mercenary. He worked hard and faithfully, but despite his efforts the business had declined much in the past few years because of economic changes. In poor health, he felt that sickly Christian would outlive him.
Although Tony found a fine husband for her daughter, even the marriage of Erica and Herr Weinschenk was destined to end in disaster. Herr Weinschenk was caught indulging in some foul business practices and went to jail for three years. Accustomed to public scandal, Tony bore that new hardship with forbearance. Erica also adopted her mother's attitude.
Suddenly, Tom died. He had fallen in the snow, to be brought to his bed and die, a few hours later, babbling incoherently. His loss was greater to Tony than to any of the others. Christian, arriving from Munich for the funeral, had grown too concerned over his own suffering to show grief over the death of his brother. Gerda felt her own sorrow deeply, for her marriage with Tom had been a true love match.
After the will had been read, Christian returned to Munich to marry the mistress whom Tom's control had prevented him from marrying. Soon afterward, Christian's wife wrote to Tony that his illness had poisoned his mind. She had placed Christian in an institution.
Life at the Buddenbrook home continued. Little Hanno, growing up in a household of women, never gained much strength. Thin and sickly at fifteen years old, he died during a typhoid epidemic.
So passed the last of the Buddenbrooks. From the days of the first Johann, whose elegance and power had produced a fine business and a healthy, vigorous lineage, to the last pitiably small generation which died with Hanno, the Buddenbrooks had decayed into nothing.
 

 

Critical Evaluation

Buddenbrooks was Thomas Mann's first novel, and it was a great success. It is still one of his most popular works and has enjoyed international fame. Though not as complex or problematic as his later novels, it develops most of the major themes that came to occupy him throughout his career. The work had originally been planned as a novella about the boy Hanno Buddenbrook, but in assembling the material, Mann found himself compelled to trace the story back four generations. Thus, the novel became a family chronicle with a broad social milieu, a type of novel rare in German literature, which has tended to concentrate on the Bildungsroman, or novel of development, a form that traces the growth of a single character. Buddenbrooks further departs from the tradition in that it reverses the emphasis on growth and development to concentrate on decay and decadence. In this, it represents a typical aspect of Mann's work, the fascination with the conflict between the life force and the death wish, especially as it appears in the artist type. Mann's artist figures are the product of robust bourgeois stock, families whose drive for work and achievement has led to prosperity and comfort. As the family, however, attains greater refinement and sensitivity, the life force slackens. At this stage, the artist figure appears, estranged from the bourgeois world and its values and curiously drawn toward disease and death. It is no accident that several of Mann's works take place in sanato-riums, or that typhus, syphilis, and tuberculosis figure prominently in his work.
The importance of this theme is perhaps best explained by the fact that it is essentially autobiographical, and Buddenbrooks is the most thoroughly autobiographical of Mann's novels. Every character in it can be traced to an actual prototype; the people of Liibeck were quite shocked when the novel appeared and protested what amounted to an invasion of privacy. The streets and houses, the seashore and the countryside were all identifiable as actual places, and the Buddenbrooks are, in fact, the Mann family. Yet Mann is obviously not Hanno, although parallels may be drawn—Thomas Mann was an artist, working in words rather than in music, and he rejected his family, a middle-class career, and the expectations of his community. He had left Liibeck for Italy, where, in fact, he began to write the Buddenbrooks chronicle. Thus, the stuff of the novel was intensely personal to him. Despite the autobiographical aspect, Mann has carefully structured the work so that the process of family decay proceeds in a clear and almost inevitable movement, by stages through the four generations, gathering momentum and expressing itself simultaneously in the business fortunes, physical characteristics, mannerisms, and psychological makeup of the four eldest sons, Johann, Jean, Thomas, and Hanno.
At each stage there is both a descent and an ascent.
Vitality and physical vigor decline and the business skill likewise is lost, as is evidenced by the steadily declining capital. This external decline, however, reflected even in such details as increasing susceptibility to tooth decay, is counterbalanced by an increase in sensitivity, an inclination toward art and metaphysics, and an increasingly active interior life. Johann may indeed play the flute—a necessary social grace for the eighteenth century gentleman—but he is not given to introspection. He lives to a ripe old age, and although he is an honest man, he has no scruples about the propriety of business and profit, and he has a sure sense of investment. His son Jean is far more concerned with moral principles, and business is no longer for him a natural drive but a responsibility. His health is diminished, and his life shorter, but his capacity for artistic enjoyment and religious emotion is greater. A tension between inner and outer begins to manifest itself, which becomes evident in Thomas. In him. refinement becomes elegance, and an inclination for the exotic manifests itself in his choice of a wife. Yet the strain of preserving his exterior form—a new house, high social position, and the fortunes of the business—show in his weakened physical constitution and in his attraction, late in his short life, to the philosophy of Schopenhauer, in which he sees the possibility of the dissolution of his embattled individuality into an eternal impersonal spiritual existence. Hanno, the last of the Buddenbrooks, dies while he is still a youth, his life filled with pain but rich in its inner creativity, expressed in his Wagnerian flights of musical composition. For Mann, Wagner was always linked with decadence and the death wish.
Many of the elements of this sequence recur in Mann's other works, especially his early works; the family is instantly recognizable. It is also clear that Mann is absorbed by the psychological development of his figures. The novel dwells more and more intensely on the inner states of the later characters. Hanno, the starting point of Mann's conception, retains a disproportionately large share of the novel's pages and remains one of Mann's most engaging and memorable creations. Yet it is also clear that Mann, for all of his understanding and sympathy toward the artistically inclined temperaments of the declining Buddenbrook family, drew a clear line between that sympathy and his own allegiance. Not only does he dwell on the increasingly difficult lives and demeaning deaths of the later characters—the eloquent and self-possessed Thomas collapsing and dying in a pool of filth on the street, Hanno's dying suddenly of typhus—but, in the case of Hanno, he also unequivocally attributes the death to a failure of the will to live. In one of the most remarkable chapters of the book, the narrator, who has generally retained his objectivity in chronicling the fortunes of the family, describes the course of a typical case of typhus, raising it to a mythical encounter between life and death:
At the crisis, the victim may either exert his will to live, and return, or proceed onward on the path to self-dissolution in death. Hanno, whose music has expressed this longing for release from the demands of life to which he is not equal, takes the latter course and dies. Here, any similarity between Mann and his characters ends. Although Mann as an artist felt himself estranged from the social world of the bourgeoisie, for him, unlike Hanno, art became the means by which he could retain his focus on life. Buddenbrooks may describe a family's loss of the will to live, but in so doing, it affirms the writer's most profound love of life.

 

 

 

Death in Venice

Thomas Mann
1875-1955

When renowned author Gustave von Aschenbach. with uncharacteristic spontaneity, travels to Venice his attention is captivated by a young boy whose blond curls and exquisite proportions seem to embody the Greek ideal of beauty. Watching Tadzic soon becomes the focus of Aschenbach's days; and then, of his existence. On board the ship to Venice, Aschenbach looks on with horror as a simpering old man with a painted face mingles with a group of young men. But by the close of the story, Aschenbach has become that man, as, intoxicated, he pursues Tadzio through the passages anc canals of an infected city. Death in Venice, as Manr maintained, is about the artist's loss of dignity, but Mann also examines the relationship between art and life. Aschenbach believes that with labor and discipline he can master life and even mold it into art. But Tadzio's Dionysus, inspiring unstructured emotion and unruly passion,forces him to recognize the fallacy of that conviction.The mythical elements of the novel offer a context for the portrayal of homosexuality. Written with subtlety and profound psychological insight, Death in Venice is a vivic account of what it is like to fall in love.
The novella was perhaps Mann's ideal artistic form (Death in Venice runs to a mere seventy pages from the first hints of foreboding to the final pathetic climax, this is a masterwork of its genre.



DEATH IN VENICE
 

Type of work: Novella
Author: Thomas Mann (1875-1955)
Type of plot: Symbolic realism
Time of plot: Early twentieth century
Locale: Italy
First published: Der Tod in Venedig, 1912 (English translation, 1925)
 

This novella of great psychological intensity and tragic power is permeated by the rich and varied symbolism of Mann's many conflicting themes—being and death, youth and age, sickness and health, beauty and decay, love and suffering, art and life, the German North and the Mediterranean South. The story of a middle-aged artist whose character deteriorates because of his hopeless passion for a young Polish boy, and whose death is the final irony of his emotional upheaval, Death in Venice examines under standingly and critically the solitary position of the artist in modern society and uses the infatuation with the boy to dramatize symbolically the narcissism which can be one of the fatal qualities of art.

 

Principal Characters

Gustave von Aschenbach (goo'staf fon a'shen-bach'), a middle-aged German writer. Small, dark, his bushy gray hair (thinning on top) is brushed back on his over-large head. His mouth is large, his cheeks lean and furrowed, and his prominent chin slightly cleft. He wears rimless gold glasses on his thick, aristocratically hooked nose, and his eyes are weary and sunken. A widower, he has one child, a married daughter. Precocious, Aschenbach early longed for fame, which he has achieved through several works acclaimed by the general public and the critics as well. He is not a born artist but has made himself one through rigorous discipline and unwavering dedication. A solitary man, he has only a superficial, limited knowledge of the real world. In cultivating his intellect he has denied his feelings. His passion for Tadzio is symbolic of his narcissism, which first degrades and then destroys him. Aschenbach is a symbol of the artist in modern society.
Tadzio (tad'tsi-б), a Polish boy of fourteen who possesses a perfect Greek classic beauty of face and form. To Aschenbach his beautiful head seems that of Eros and the boy himself the essence of beauty. When Aschenbach almost touches Tadzio and then draws back in panic, the action symbolizes the artist's fear of giving way to an emotion. Sometimes the artist sees in Tadzio the youth Hyacinth, who died the victim of the rivalry of two gods. When after many days Tadzio finally smiles at Aschenbach, the smile is that of Narcissus looking in the pool, and the artist whispers his love. Tadzio's is the last face the artist sees before he dies.
A Stranger. Thin, beardless, snub-nosed, red-haired, freckled, and exotic-looking, he seems to Aschenbach to be bold, domineering, even ruthless.
Another Stranger, an old man masquerading as a youth on an old, dingy Italian ship. He is flashily dressed, his face and eyes are wrinkled, his cheeks rouged, his brown hair and yellow teeth false, and his turned-up mustaches and imperial are dyed. He becomes disgustingly drunk before the ship reaches Venice. When Aschen-bach's desperate passion for Tadzio consumes him he, like the painted stranger, tries foolishly to hide his age.
A Strolling Player, a pale, thin-faced, snub-nosed, red-haired man of slight build whose singing is entertaining but obscene and who carries with him an odor of carbolic acid.
A Gondolier. Undersized, brutish-looking, an expert boatman, he is gruff and rude, and he disappears before Aschenbach returns with change to pay him. The gondolier represents Charon, and the artist's ride in the gondola portends his death in Venice.
 

 

The Story

Gustave von Aschenbach was a distinguished German writer whose work had brought him world fame and a patent of nobility from a grateful government. His career had been honorable and dignified. A man of ambitious nature, unmarried, he had lived a life of personal discipline and dedication to his art, and in his portrayal of heroes who combined the forcefulness of a Frederick the Great with the selfless striving of a Saint Sebastian he believed that he had spoken for his race as well as for the deathless spirit of man. At the same time, his devotion to the ideals of duty and achievement had brought him close to physical collapse.
One day, after a morning spent at his desk, he left his house in Munich and went for a walk. His stroll took him as far as a cemetery on the outskirts of the city. While he waited for a streetcar to carry him back to town, he suddenly became aware of a man who stood watching him from the doorway of the mortuary chapel. The stranger, who had a rucksack on his back and walking staff in his hand, was evidently a traveler. Although no word passed between the watcher and the watched, Aschenbach felt a sudden desire to take a trip, to leave the cold, wet German spring for the warmer climate of the Mediterranean lands. His impulse was strengthened by a problem of technique which he had been unable to solve in his writing. At last, reluctantly, he decided to take a holiday and leave his work for a time in order to find relaxation for mind and body in Italy.
He went first to an island resort in the Adriatic, but before long, he became bored with his surroundings and booked passage for Venice. On the ship, he encountered a party of lively young clerks from Pola. With them was an old man whose dyed hair and rouged cheeks made him a ridiculous but sinister caricature of youth. In his disgust, Aschenbach failed to notice that the raddled old man bore a vague resemblance to the traveler he had seen at the cemetery in Munich.
Aschenbach's destination was Lido. At the dock in Venice, he transferred to a gondola which took him by the water route to his Lido hotel. The gondolier spoke and acted so strangely that Aschenbach became disturbed, and because of his agitation he never noticed that the man looked something like the drunk old scarecrow on the ship and the silent stranger at the cemetery. After taking his passenger to the landing stage, the gondolier, without waiting for his money, hastily rowed away. Other boatmen suggested that he might have been afraid of the law because he had no license.
Aschenbach stayed at the Hotel des Bains. That night, shortly before dinner, his attention was drawn to a Polish family—a beautiful mother, three daughters, and a handsome boy of about fourteen. Aschenbach was unaccountably attracted to the youngster, so much so that he continued to watch the family throughout his meal. The next morning, he saw the boy playing with some companions on the beach. His name, as Aschenbach learned while watching their games, was Tadzio.
Disturbed by the appeal the boy had for him, the writer announced his intention of returning home. On his arrival at the railroad station in Venice, however, he discovered that his trunks had been misdirected to Como. Since there was nothing for him to do but to wait for his missing luggage to turn up, he went back to the hotel. Although he despised himself for his vacillation, he realized that his true desire was to be near Tadzio. For Aschenbach there began a period of happiness and anguish, happiness in watching the boy, anguish in that they must remain strangers. One day he almost summoned up enough courage to speak to the youngster. A moment later, he became panic stricken for fear that Tadzio might be alarmed by the older man's interest. The time Aschenbach had set for his holiday passed, but the writer had almost forgotten his home and his work. One evening, Tadzio smiled at him as they passed each other. Aschenbach trembled with pleasure.
Guests began to leave the hotel; there were rumors that a plague had broken out in nearby cities. While loitering one day on the piazza, Aschenbach detected the sweetish odor of disinfectant in the air, for the authorities were beginning to take precautions against an outbreak of the plague in Venice. Aschenbach stubbornly decided to stay on despite the dangers of infection.
A band of entertainers came to the hotel to serenade the guests. In the troupe was an impudent, disreputable-looking street singer whose antics and ballads were insulting and obscene. As he passed among the guests to collect money for the performance, Aschenbach detected on his clothing the almost overpowering smell of disinfectant, an odor suggesting the sweetly corruptive taints of lust and death. The ribald comedian also had a strange similarity to the gondolier, the rouged old rake, and the silent traveler whose disturbing presence had given Aschenbach the idea for his holiday. Aschenbach was torn between fear and desire. The next day, he went to a tourist agency where a young clerk told him that people were dying of the plague in Venice. Even that confirmation of his fears failed to speed Aschenbach's departure from the city. That night, he dreamed that in a fetid jungle, surrounded by naked orgiasts, he was taking part in horrible, Priapean rites.
By that time his deterioration was almost complete. At last he allowed a barber to dye his hair and tint his cheeks, but he still refused to see the likeness between himself and the raddled old fop whose appearance had disgusted him on shipboard. His behavior became more reckless. One afternoon, he followed the Polish family into Venice and trailed them through the city streets. Hungry and thirsty after his exercise, he bought some overripe strawberries at an open stall and ate them. The odor of disinfectant was strong on the sultry breeze.
Several days later, Aschenbach went down to the beach where Tadzio was playing with three or four other boys. They began to fight, and one of the boys threw Tadzio to the ground and pressed his face into the sand. As Aschenbach was about to interfere, the other boy released his victim. Humiliated and hurt, Tadzio walked down to the water. He stood facing seaward for a time, as remote and isolated as a young Saint Sebastian, and then he turned and looked with a somber, secret gaze at Aschenbach, who was watching from his beach chair. To the writer it seemed as though the boy were summoning him. He started to rise but became so giddy that he fell back into his chair. Attendants carried him to his room. That night the world learned that the great Gustave von Aschenbach had died suddenly of the plague in Venice.

 

Critical Evaluation

Thomas Mann is ranked with James Joyce and Marcel Proust as one of the greatest writers of the early twentieth century. Mann was born into a wealthy German family. He was awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1919. In 1933, he left Germany because of his opposition to Hitler and the Nazi party. He later came to the United States, where he taught and lectured. A scholar as well as an artist, Mann shows in his works the influence of such diverse thinkers as Friedrich Nietzsche, Arthur Schopenhauer, Richard Wagner, and Sigmund Freud. The problem of the artist's role in a decadent, industrialized society is a recurring theme in many of his works, such as Buddenbrooks (1901), Tonio Kroger (1903), Death in Venice (1912), and The Magic Mountain (1924).
Death in Venice, Mann's best-known novella, is a complex, beautifully wrought tale dealing with the eternal conflict of the forces of death and decay with man's attempts to achieve permanence through art. Mann portrays the final triumph of death and decay, but not before the hero, Aschenbach, has experienced an escape into the eternal beauty created by the imagination of the artist. The escape of the famous writer, Aschenbach, is accomplished, however, not by his own writings, but by the art of his creator, Thomas Mann. Form and order do finally impose themselves on the chaos of his life; corruption and death are transformed into the purity of artistic beauty. To accomplish this, Mann utilizes an elaborate technical skill in structure, characterization, and symbolism which establishes him among the great writers of Western literature.
The characterization of Aschenbach, the literary hero of his age, is subtle and complex. Author of prose epics, philosophical novels, novels of moral resolution, and aesthetics, Aschenbach has created the hero for his generation. He is aware that his success and talent rely on a basis of physical stamina as well as moral and mental discipline; his key word is durchhalten (endure). His work is a product of strain, endurance, intellectual tenacity, and spasms of will. He recognizes, however, that his writing has been to some degree a "pursuit of fame" at the expense of turning his back on a full search for truth. As the novella opens, Aschenbach, exhausted, finding no more joy in his craft, and aware of approaching old age and death, is faced with the fear of not having time to finish all the works he desired to write. Restlessly walking amid the beauty of the English Garden of Munich, Aschenbach is inspired to leave his relatively rootless life on a pilgrimage for artistic renewal in Venice, the perfect symbol of man's art imposed on nature's chaos. This journey motif begins with his glimpse of a stranger, a foreigner with a skull-like face and a certain animal ruthlessness, in a cemetery.
Arriving at the port of Venice, he discovers he is being taken out to sea, rather than into the city, by his gondolier, a figure whose physical description ominously echoes that of the stranger of the cemetery. The gondola itself is specifically compared to a black coffin. The trip, then, becomes the archetypal journey of life to death and of man into the depths of himself. Aschenbach discovers Venice, the symbol of perfect art in his memory, to be dirty, infected, corrupt, permeated by the odor of the human disease and pollution spread in the natural swamp on which the artifice is built. Aschenbach's own transformation to a "foreigner," one who belongs in Venice, is accomplished at an increasingly mad tempo after the moment when, turning his back on the possibility of escaping from Venice by train, he collapses at a fountain in the heart of the city. His death becomes almost self-willed; he dies not because of the plague, not because of his love of Tadzio, but because of his will to live and to create atrophy.
The exterior events of the story, which are minimal, can be properly explained only in terms of the inner conflict of the artist. To produce art, Aschenbach believes he must practice absolute self-denial, affirming the dignity and moral capacity of man in the face of a world of self-indulgence that leads to personal abasement. Yet the artist is also a man and, as such, has drives connecting him to the chaos of the formless elements of nature. This inner conflict is objectified in the boy Tadzio, who embodies all that Aschenbach has rejected in fifty long years of dedication to Apollonian art. As his desire for Tadzio becomes obsessive, disintegration sets in and death becomes irrevocable. Subconsciously. Aschenbach is choosing to pursue the sensual, Dionysian side of himself that he has always denied.
Mann uses dream visions to underline and clarify the subconscious conflicts of Aschenbach. Aschenbach's first hallucination of the crouching beast in the jungle is evoked by the glimpse of the stranger at the Byzantine chapel in Munich. This vision literally foreshadows the trip to Venice and metaphorically foreshadows the inner journey where Aschenbach discovers the jungle and beast within himself. The second vision on the beach in Venice, cast in the form of a Platonic dialogue, explores the interre-latedness of art, love, and beauty with the bestial in man. In a third major dream, Aschenbach is initiated into the worship of the Dionysian rite and finally glimpses "the stranger god" of sensual experience, of formless, chaotic joy, and excesses of emotion. The most striking vision occurs at the end of the novella, when Aschenbach. viewing the amoral beauty of perfection of form in Tadzio silhouetted against the amoral, formless beauty of the sea, accepts the promise inherent in the sea's chaos as the equivalent of the beauty produced by order and moral discipline. The reader assumes the vision to be objective reality until he is brought sharply and suddenly into the present reality of Aschenbach's dead body. Ernest Hemingway used this same technique later in his own novella-length study of death and art "The Snows of Kilimanjaro." Mann's use of natural, geographical symbols also underlines the central conflicts of the novella. Aschenbach identifies the discipline of his art with Munich, a city of northern Europe, and with the snowy mountains. These places are associated with health, energy, reason, will, and Apollonian creative power. Against them, Mann juxtaposes the tropical marshes, the jungle animal and plant life, the Indian plague, the sun and the sea, which are associated with Dionysian excesses of emotion and ecstasy in art. The beast, the jungle, the plague, the chaos lie within the nature of man and art just as clearly as do the mountain, self-denial, will, and reason, qualities which enable man to construct artifice upon the chaos of nature. Great art, Nietzsche says in The Birth of Tragedy, is a product of the fusion rather than the separation of the calm, ordered, contemplative spirit of Apollo and the savage, sensual ecstasy of Dionysius. This is what both Aschenbach and the reader discover in Mann's great work Death in Venice.

 

 

The Magic Mountain

Thomas Mann
1875-1955

The Magic Mountain opens with Hans Castorp making the journey from Hamburg to a tuberculosis sanatorium in the Swiss mountains. The first three weeks of what was supposed to be a temporary visit pass by achingly slowly. But Castorp is soon seduced by the repetitive, strangely enchanted existence of the patients. His imagination is caught by a series of vividly drawn characters who come to recuperate, and to die, on the mountain.
The novel belongs to the bildungsroman tradition, though Castorp's initiation is not into the world of action and events—the clamor of the approaching world war is consigned to somewhere below the quiet of the sanatorium—but into the world of ideas. Mann uses the debates between patients as a way of exploring the philosophical and political concerns of his time: humanism versus the very real threat of absolutism. Castorp must also struggle to understand what it means to fall in love in a place marked by illness and death—the Iroublingly intimate memento that Clavdia Chauchat confers upon her lover is an X-ray photograph of herclouded lungs.
The prospect of his return to the flatland is deferred, and as the weeks stretch into months and then Into years, time seems not to pass by at all. We experience with Hans Castorp the intensity of the formative moments—tragic, erotic, mundane, absurd—of his seven years in the sanatorium, all suspended in a heightened present.



THE MAGIC MOUNTAIN
 

Type of work: Novel
Author: Thomas Mann (1875-1955)
Type of Plot: Philosophical chronicle
Time of plot: 1907-1914
Locale: Davos, Switzerland
First published: Der Zauberberg, 1924 (English translation, 1927)

 

This novel, concerned with perspectives of history and philosophy in our time, is considered one of the great intellectual achievements of the twentieth century. Modern ideologies and beliefs are represented by characters such as the Italian humanist, the absolutist Jewish Jesuit, a German doctor, a Polish scientist, and the hedonistic Mynheer Peeperkorn.

 

Principal Characters

Hans Castorp (nans cas'torp), a young German of middle-class and commercial background. He is a sedate, sensible, correct young man, appreciative of good living, but without particular ambition or aspiration. This spiritual lack, Mann suggests, is allied to physical illness. About to enter a shipbuilding firm, Hans goes to make a three-week visit to the International Sanatorium Berghof, where his cousin is a patient. There he learns that he himself has contracted tuberculosis, and he spends seven years at the sanatorium. Spiritually unattached to his own time and place, he resigns himself rather easily to his new role as an inmate of the "magic mountain," where the spiritual conflicts and defects of modern Europe are polarized and where time and place are allied to eternity and infinity. His experience takes on the significance of a spiritual journey. He is exposed to a threadbare version of Western liberalism and rationalism (in the person of Settembrini); to the lure of irrational desire (in the person of Madame Cauchat); to Catholic absolutism and mysticism (in the person of Naphta, whose arguments with Settembrini make up a large part of the second portion of the novel). Finally (in the person of Mynheer Peeperkorn) he feels the attraction of a strong, vital personality that makes the intellectual strife of Settembrini and Naphta sound quite hollow. Lost in a snowstorm that quickly becomes a symbol of his passage through uncharted spiritual regions, Hans attains a vision of an earthly paradise and of blood sacrifice—the two opposed forces life has revealed to him—and he achieves a further revelation of the importance of goodness and love. Ironically, after he returns to the sanatorium, he forgets; the vision has literally led him beyond himself and his capacity. He now dabbles in spiritualism and, in a famous passage, also soothes himself with romantic music that, he feels, contains at its heart the death wish. It is a snatch of this music that Hans has on his lips when, at the conclusion of the novel, he is glimpsed on a battlefield of World War I.
Ludovico Settembrini (loo'do-fe'ko se'tem-bre'ne), an Italian humanist, man of letters, apostle of reason, progress, equality, and the brotherhood of man, as well as a fiery Italian nationalist. His case is incurable; no longer able to return to the land of action (a fact that has obvious symbolic connotations), he spends his energy in hollow eloquence and in ineffectual writing for the International League for the Organization of Progress.
Leo Naphta (la'6 naf'ta), an apostate Jew converted to Catholicism, educated by the Jesuits, brilliant in his defense of the immaterial, the spiritual, the authoritarian, the medieval. He gets the better of Settembrini in his many arguments with the Italian, but it becomes clear that Naphta's rigidity is essentially a form of death. Toward the end of the novel, having goaded Settembrini into a duel, Naphta turns his gun on himself.
Clavdia Chauchat (klaf'de-a кб-sha'), a Russian, married but refusing to carry a ring on her finger, wandering about Europe from sanatorium to sanatorium. Her manners are in many ways the antithesis of what Hans has learned to accept as ladylike; but that very difference seems to attract him once he has begun to lose his ties with Hamburg, and on a carnival night they consummate the passion she has aroused in him. She leaves the sanatorium for a time but returns in the company of Mynheer Peeperkorn.
Mynheer Peeperkorn (men'har pa'per-korn), an enormously wealthy, burly ex-planter. He is inarticulate (thus enforcing the difference between him, on the one hand, and Settembrini and Naphta, on the other), but exudes a strength of personality that engages the respect of Hans, who allies himself with the Dutchman. But Peeperkorn, feeling the approach of impotence, kills himself (another facet of nineteenth century individualism gone).
Joachim Ziemssen (yo'akh-fm zem'sen), Hans's cousin, soldierly, courteous, brave. A foil to Hans, he refuses to yield to the magic of the mountain, keeps track of time, anxious to return to the flatland so that he can pursue his career as a soldier. Though in love with an inmate, Marusja, he, unlike Castorp, refuses to yield to his passion. Finally he insists on leaving, though not fully cured, is gloriously happy for a while, but returns to the sanatorium to die.
Marusja (ma-roos'ya), a pretty young Russian girl, silently adored by Joachim Ziemssen.
Hofrat Behrens (hok'rat ba'rens), the chief medical officer at the sanatorium. His wife had died there some years before, and he stayed on when he found himself tainted with the disease. He is a mixture of melancholy and forced jocularity.
Dr. Krokowski (kro-kof'ske), a foil to Behrens. If Behrens represents the medical point of view, Krokowski represents the psychoanalytical.
Frau Stohr (frou stoer), a middle-aged woman who irks Castorp at the dinner table by her boring conversation, yet he welcomes her gossip about Clavdia Chauchat,
Miss Robinson, an elderly English spinster and table companion of Castorp.
Fraulein Engelhart (froi'lin ang'el-hart), a school mistress from Konigsberg, another table companion of Castorp.
Dr. Leo Blumenkohl (la'o Ыоо'тёп-кбГ), a physician from Odessa. The advanced stage of his illness causes him to be the quietest person at Castorp's table.
Herr Albin (har al'ben), a patient who, unable to take his illness philosophically, creates excitement by demonstrating suicidal intentions.
Tous Les Deux (too la doe), an old Mexican woman known by this name because her conversation consists of only a few French phrases which always contain the words "tous les deux."
Sister Bertha (bar'ta), formerly Alfreda Schild-knecht (al-fra'da shild'knasht), a talkative nurse who tries to explain her frustrations to reluctant Hans Castorp and Joachim Ziemssen.
Adriatica von Mylendonk (a-dre-a'ti-ca fon me'len-donk), the directress of the sanatorium, who surprises Castorp by her businesslike manner.

 

The Story

Hans Castorp had been advised by his doctor to go to the mountains for a rest. Accordingly, he decided to visit his cousin, Joachim Ziemssen, who was a patient in the International Sanatorium Berghof at Davos-Platz in the mountains of Switzerland. He planned to stay there for three weeks and then return to his home in Hamburg. Hans had just passed his examinations and was now a qualified engineer; he was eager to get started in his career. His cousin was a soldier by profession. His cure at the sanatorium was almost complete. Hans thought Joachim looked robust and well.
At the sanatorium, Hans soon discovered that the ordinary notions of time did not exist. Day followed day almost unchangingly. He met the head of the institution, Dr. Behrens, as well as the other patients, who sat in groups at dinner. There were, for example, two Russian tables, one of which was known as the bad Russian table. A couple who sat at the latter table had the room next to Hans. Through the thin partitions, he could hear them— even in the daytime—chase each other around the room. Hans was rather revolted, because he could hear every detail of their lovemaking.
There was another patient who interested him greatly, a merry Russian woman, supposedly married, named Clavdia Cauchat. Every time she came into the dining room, she would bang the door, an act which annoyed Hans a great deal. Hans also met Settembrini, an Italian, a humanist writer and philosopher. Settembrini introduced him to a Jew, Naphta, who turned out to be a converted Jesuit and a cynical absolutist. Because the two men spent their time in endless discussions, Settembrini finally left the sanatorium to take rooms in the village, in the house where Naphta lodged.
From the very first day of his arrival, Hans felt feverish and a bit weak. When his three weeks were almost up, he decided to take a physical examination. The examination proved that he had tuberculosis and so he stayed on as a patient. One day, defying orders, he went out skiing and was caught in a snowstorm. The exposure aggravated his condition.
His interest in Clavdia was heightened when he learned that Dr. Behrens, who liked to dabble in art, had painted her picture. Furthermore, the doctor gave Hans an X-ray plate of Clavdia's skeletal structure. Hans kept the plate on the bureau in his room.
He spent most of his free time with Joachim or with Settembrini and Naphta. The Italian and the Jesuit were given to all sorts of ideas, and Hans became involved in a multitude of philosophical discussions on the duration of time, God, politics, astronomy, and the nature of reality. Joachim, who was rather humorless and unimaginative, did not enjoy those talks; but Hans, since he himself had become a patient at the sanatorium, felt more at home and was not quite so attached to Joachim. Besides, it was Clavdia who interested him.
On the occasion of a carnival, when some of the restrictions of the sanatorium had been lifted, Hans declared his love for Clavdia. She thought him foolish and refused his proposal. The next day she left for Russia. Hans was in despair and became listless. Joachim grew even more impatient with the progress of his cure when the doctor told him that he was not yet well and would have to remain on the mountain for six more months. Wanting to rejoin his regiment, Joachim, in defiance of the doctor's injunctions, left the sanatorium. The doctor told Hans that he could leave too; but Hans knew that the doctor was angry when he said it, and he remained.
Before long Joachim returned, his condition now so serious that his mother was summoned to the sanatorium. He died shortly afterward. Clavdia Cauchat also returned. She had been writing to the doctor, and Hans had heard of her from time to time, but she did not return alone. As a protector, she had found an old Dutchman named Mynheer Peeperkorn, an earthy, hedonistic planter from Java. Hans became very friendly with Peeperkorn, who soon learned that the young engineer was in love with Clavdia. The discovery did not affect their friendship at all, a friendship that lasted until the Dutchman died.
For a time the guests amused themselves with spiritualist seances. A young girl, a new arrival at the sanatorium, claimed that she was able to summon anyone from the dead. Hans took part in one meeting and asked that Joachim be called back from the dead. Dr. Kro-kowski, the psychologist at the sanatorium, however, was opposed to the seances and broke up the sessions. Then Naphta and Settembrini got into an argument. A duel was arranged between the two dialecticians. When the time came, the Italian said he would fire into the air.
When he did so, Naphta became more furious than ever. Realizing that Settembrini would not shoot at him, Naphta turned the pistol on himself and pulled the trigger. Dying, he fell face downward in the snow.
Hans Castorp had come to the sanatorium for a visit of three weeks. That stay turned out to be more than seven years. During that time he saw many deaths, many changes in the institution. He became an old patient, not just a visitor. The sanatorium became another home in the high, thin air of the mountaintop. For him time, as measured by minutes, or even years, no longer existed. Time belonged to the flat, busy world below.
Then an Austrian archduke was assassinated. Newspapers brought the world suddenly to the International Sanatorium Berghof, with news of war declared and troop movements. Some of the patients remained in neutral Switzerland. Others packed to return home. Hans Cas-torp said good-bye to Settembrini, who was his best friend among the old patients, and the disillusioned humanist wept at their parting. Hans was going back to Germany to fight. Time, the tragic hour of his generation, had overtaken him at last, and the sanatorium was no longer his refuge. Dodging bullets and bombs in a frontline trench, he disappeared into the smoky mists that hid the future of Europe.

 

Critical Evaluation

The Magic Mountain, begun in 1912 but written largely after World War I, was actually planned as a novella, inspired by Thomas Mann's own brief stay at the sanatorium at Davos, Switzerland. In fact, his early novella "Tristan" lays much of the groundwork for the later novel. The Magic Mountain, however, grew in bulk and complexity to become a veritable mirror of European society in the period leading up to World War I. It lies directly in the tradition of the German Bildungsroman, or novel of development, which goes back to Goethe's Wilhelm Meister novels. In this genre, a relatively unformed character is exposed to manifold aspects of life and various influences, often quite conscious attempts to educate or mold his attitude. In a gradual process, his character achieves form, erroneous goals are cast aside, and the true calling and, more important, the right relationship to life are found. Hans Castorp is just such a character when he arrives from the flatlands for a brief visit at Berghof. Mann emphasizes his bourgeois background and the lack of firm convictions and direction in his life. For Mann, the North German type—Hans is from Hamburg—had always represented the solid, respectable middle-class life. Yet Hans is also something of a quester, curious and adventuresome in the spiritual and intellectual realm. He observes the new world of the sanatorium avidly and becomes involved with the personalities there, inquiring and holding long conversations. The narrative voice of the novel, as in most of Mann's works, has a certain degree of ironic distance, but the pace of the work is very much tied to Hans's own experience of events and temporal rhythms. The three weeks of his planned visit stretch out to seven years, and the work becomes the record of the growth of his character in a microcosm of European society.
Mann's style had developed out of nineteenth century realism, and he observes and describes reality lovingly and with minute care. Yet his work becomes increasingly symbolic in his major novels, and the structure of these novels becomes increasingly expressive of symbolic values. Thus, the character development of Hans reflects the problems of European thought as a whole, and the various ideas to which he is exposed represent various intellectual and spiritual currents of the epoch. Hans initially falls prey to a fascination with death, a dangerous attraction to the irresponsible freedom of the mountain world, the temptation to turn inward and to fall in love with sickness. He studies the illness whose symptoms he himself soon exhibits. He visits the "moribundi" and has long talks with Behrens and Krokowski, two of the doctors. Here life is seen as a process of decay, and even the intellect and the emotions are reduced to unconscious urges in the new psychology of Freud. Hans crystallizes these ideas in his feverish love for Clavdia Cauchat, who represents the Russian temperament—the urge to lose oneself, to give in to the emotions, to live life for the sake of life. She is contrasted to Settembrini, the Italian intellectual, educator, and humanist. He is an optimist, believing in the perfectability of man by reason, and he opposes the fascination with death that Hans manifests. Settembrini is again contrasted to Naphta, his intellectual opponent, an irrationalist, a Jew turned Jesuit, with a highly Nietzschean viewpoint. He is a pessimist, deriding Settembrini's optimism and ridiculing his arguments as inconsistent. Neither figure is meant to convert Hans; their arguments cancel each other, as does so much else in the novel. Hans finds his own position midway between the various opposing forces. This occurs primarily in the chapter "Snow." If the magic mountain is a timeless realm above the immediate concerns of the world, "Snow" is a hermetic world within that realm. Hans loses his way in a snowstorm, and exhausted, and in danger of death, he has a dream, a vision in which he sees juxtaposed an idyllic world of tropical paradise, peopled by gentle and happy folk, while in a temple there is performed a terrible ritual of human sacrifice. Here the two poles of human life are symbolized, and Hans's response is clear and decisive: Life is inseparably bound up with death, the horrible is real and cannot be denied; but for the sake of goodness and love, man must not grant death dominion over his thoughts.
It is following this chapter that the figure of Mynheer Peeperkorn dominates the novel for a time, a figure of great vitality, simple in his thoughts but of powerful personality, in love with his life force, yet terrified of losing it, who commits suicide finally rather than face decay. He, like the other figures, represents an aspect of contemporary European thought and attitudes. Indeed, his traits, like those of Settembrini and Naphta, were drawn from life, from figures known to Mann. Thus, the novel has something of the autobiographical and represents a stage in Mann's own thought. In the realm he has constructed, all these aspects—Bildtingsroman, intellectual autobiography, and symbolic portrait of the prewar era— merge. This is made possible in part by the very foundation of the novel, the mountain. The small community is elevated above the flatlands, in the rarefied Alpine air, remote from the problems of the world and the demands of everyday life. Time is dissolved, the rhythm of the novel moves from sequences of hours to days, weeks, months, and finally years, all rendered indistinguishable by the precise daily routine. In this world outside of time, Hans can grow, can hover between conflicting opinions. Here he has freedom, most essentially in the "Snow" chapter, where even space is obliterated. Yet in contrast to the earlier romantic outlook, this elevated position of freedom in isolation is not seen as a good thing, for though it provides an aesthetic space in which ideal development can occur, it is divorced from life, and life is the value which Hans's development leads him to affirm—life, with all of its horror as well as its beauty. The European world saw itself plunged into World War I, Thomas Mann saw himself jolted out of his apolitical aesthetic stance, and thus it is only fitting that Hans Castorp, too, must come down from the mountain to the world of time and action, even if only to be lost among the havoc of a world at war.

 

 
     
         
 

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