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Full text of "ModernGermanLiterature18801950"

THE  NOVEL  OF   IMPRESSIONISM                  313

and not by knowledge, is worlds away from the man of letters to
whom creation is a craft learned by rote and practised in tortured

This preoccupation with the problems of degeneration and dis-
ease culminates with Thomas Mann in his vast symbolic inter-
pretation of life: Der Zauberberg (1924), perhaps the most deeply
planned novel since Wilhelm Meister. Hans Castorp, the last scion
of a patrician family in Hamburg, comes on a visit to his cousin,
who is a patient at a sanatorium for consumptives at Davos; he
comes for three weeks, he remains seven years, and leaves the
place to fall in the Great War - rescued by a great cataclysm, re-
turned from dream to duty. The Magic Mountain is a symbol of
Europe before the First Great War; it is a questioning of all cul-
ture. The Magic Mountain is the world of the dead: the doctor
in charge is Rhadamanthus, all reckoning of time is lost, the in-
mates eat greedily (it is a life from copious meal to meal), and fall
in love, the diseased with the diseased. Hans Castorp is in love
with a Russian lady (Madame Chauchat): that is, the cultured love
beauty - but beauty is only the phosphorescence of a dead body.
This, again, is the old medieval view of life which we call dualism.
Life itself, Hans Castorp discovers, is the equivalent of death: for
life is a process of decomposition just as takes place in the body
after death; the only difference is that in life there is chemical
renewal.1 Disease quickens the greed for food and love: so does
culture. Hans is X-rayed: he sees his skeleton. But he keeps con-
sciousness of the world of duty; there is a contrast between the
bright daylight of the world of duty without and the soft moon-
light in which he lingers hallucinated; afar is manly dignity, on
the Magic Mountain there is Claudia Chauchat (like Vrou Werlt
of medieval days) *schlaffy wwmstichig und kirgiesenaugig\

In The Magic Mountain all the resources of modern psychology,
science, and criticism are massed and irresistibly brought into
action in support of the thesis. There is an almost impossible
delicacy in die use of psycho-analysis: e.g. sexual processes are
suggested by the moving up and down of a pencil in a case un-
consciously haunting the memory of a schoolboy, and there is
some play, very effective in the diseased effulgence of The M0g&
Mountain^ with the word Uebe as suggestive of two soft yielding

1 Der Tneb unserer Element* gebt wf Dewxydathn. Das Jusfen is
Qxydation. Novalis.