"Buddenbrooks" is one of my favourite books ever. Thomas Mann is a very famous German Nobel Laureate and he has written a lot of books worth reading. Why I haven't read more novels by this fantastic author is beyond me. But this was a first step.
"The Magic Mountain". Even the title sounds enchanting. Who wouldn't want to step into it, even if it means you have to go through 1,100 pages to get to the end. I think this book deserves five stars just for the brilliant title which is as magical in the original as well as the translated title.
"The Magic Mountain" is a lot more philosophical as the "Buddenbrooks", it doesn't really give you more hope, though. The novel is classified as a "Bildungsroman", a work of formation and education. It might as well been an irony of it.
Thomas Mann lived during a very difficult time, He was born in 1875, so he was quite aware of the situation in Europe before the first world war and he also lived through the second one.
This novel is a great idea of putting all of Europe into a Swiss sanatorium, letting them find a solution out of the situation the continent is in. But they can't, can they? A bunch of lung sick people of all sorts of education, most of them quite rich, all of them busy with their own problem of dealing with their illness, trying to get better and get back into the "normal" world.
The authors words are both wise and beautiful, ironic and philosophical, historical and astoundingly contemporary.
Hans Castorp is a young man with money who seems to have a goal in life which is overthrown in one minute when he visits a cousin who has to stay in a Swiss sanatorium. As we imagine a stay in any sanatorium, it stars very slow, just like you might feel when you yourself have to be admitted to such a place. But it gets better, a lot better, I promise. It's amazing how someone at the beginning of the 20th century had so much insight into today's world. Probably because history doesn't change much.
The plot of the story is easily explained, there isn't a whole lot. But that doesn't make it uninteresting. On the contrary, the book is based on a whole lot of ideas. You won't read this book quickly but you will also not forget it quickly. It will stay with you for the rest of your life.
This is a fantastic book. Give it a chance.
From the back cover: "With this dizzyingly rich novel of ideas, Thomas Mann rose to the front ranks of the great modern novelists, winning the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1929. 'The Magic Mountain' takes place in an exclusive tuberculosis sanatorium in the Swiss Alps–a community devoted to sickness that serves as a fictional microcosm for Europe in the days before the First World War. To this hermetic and otherworldly realm comes Hans Castorp, an 'ordinary young man' who arrives for a short visit and ends up staying for seven years, during which he succumbs both to the lure of eros and to the intoxication of ideas. 'The Magic Mountain' is a monumental work of erudition and irony, sexual tension and intellectual ferment, a book that pulses with life in the midst of death."
Thomas Mann received the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1929 "principally for his great novel, 'Buddenbrooks', which has won steadily increased recognition as one of the classic works of contemporary literature".
I was lucky to be able to visit the Buddenbrook House in Lübeck, you can read about my experience here.
Read my other reviews of the Nobel Prize winners for Literature.