The Magic Mountain is #706 on the 1001 Books You Must Read Before You Die, and #9 on the Novel 100.
Finishing Thomas Mann’s “The Magic Mountain” means that I have read 10% of the 1001 Books You Must Read Before You Die. Okay, 9.99%. Still. I’ve read 100 of the best books ever written. According to some people, anyway!
I’ve been choosing short books for months now to help me reach my goal, so this 850 page clunker was daunting. It took me nearly two months to read, and I was glossing over some of the boring parts.
Yes, even great books have boring parts. My sister just finished “The Count of Monte Cristo” and now claims that every book written before 1940 has a bunch of boring , wordy crap in the middle. It does feel that way sometimes.
“The Magic Mountain” has a series of philosophical debates between two supporting characters. It was reminiscent of the asides in Atlas Shrugged. This is not a good thing. They come out of nowhere and leave you thinking “What?? What about the characters, what’s happening to them?”
The introduction (by one of my favourite authors ever, A.S. Byatt) addresses these issues. What happens to the characters isn’t really the point. This book is about personal discovery, it’s about Europe, it’s about time and space and sickness and health and on and on. I would have loved to write an essay on this book, you could pick any topic you wanted!
I *wanted* more of the love story, but the female lead sort of fades away near the end of the book. Apparently Thomas Mann himself said that you must read this book twice to truly understand it. I’m not sure if I’ll take him up on that.
For now, my big push for 100 of the 1001 books is done. Baby #2 is due in about two weeks, so the coming months are going to be about survival, in general, and in reading. I’m stepping away from goals and plans and will consider ANY reading to be great success. After baby #1, I didn’t read for six months. I’m hoping to keep reading and keep my sanity this time.
While I sit at home on sick leave, I’m reading another book about Germans, Half Blood Blues. I’ll get back to the list sometime, but till then, I’m reading what I want! FREEDOM!
I’ve leave you with some dirty talk, Thomas Mann style:
“The body, love, death, are simply one and the same. Because the body is sickness and depravity, it is what produces death, yes, both of them, love and death, are carnal, and that is the source of their great terror and magic… Consider the marvelous symmetry of the human frame, the shoulders and the ribs arranged in pairs, and the navel set amid the supply belly, and the dark sexual organs between the thighs… Let me take in the exhalation of your pores, and brush the down – oh, my human image made of water and protein, destined for the contours of the grave, let me perish, my lips against yours!”