Back to Ze German Authors

If you know me at all, you know that Hermann Hesse is my favorite author. His last and greatest work Magister Ludi (The Glass Bead Game) [Das Glasperlenspiel] is my favorite book. I like his stories, I identify with his characters, I like his style.
In keeping with my love of Hesse, I have always meant to read Thomas Mann's work since he was a great friend and literary interlocutor to Hesse. In fact, in Magister Ludi Hesse names one of his characters "Thomas van der Trave," which is a veiled allusion to Mann, who grew up in a town on the Trave river in Germany. Van der Trave is one of the most enlightened and noble characters in Hesse's masterpiece.
Finally, I have made time for Thomas Mann. It was almost as if he made time for me, as I saw a wonderful hard back edition of his master work, The Magic Mountain, at a used book sale on campus. I have only read the first few chapters, but already I'm struck by wonderful passages such as this:

Two days travel separated the youth--he was still too young to have thrust his roots down firmly into life--from his own world, from all that he thought of as his own duties, interests, cares and prospects; far more than he had dreamed it would when he sat in the carriage on the way to the station. Space, rolling and revolving between him and his native heath, possessed and wielded powers we generally ascribe to time. From hour to hour it worked changes in him, like to those wrought by time, yet in a way even more striking. Space, like time, engenders forgetfulness; but it does so by setting us bodily free from our surroundings and giving us back our primitive, unattached, state. Yes, it can even, in the twinkling of an eye, make something like a vagabound of the pedant and Philistine. Time, we say, is Lethe; but change of air is a similar draught, and, if it works less thoroughly, does so more quickly.
-Thomas Mann, The Magic Mountain, trans. H.T. Lowe-Porter 1939, p. 4.

Contemplating the last few sentences has yielded extreme aesthetic pleasure for me. Mann's prose is enchanting. He evokes the image of the "primitive, unattached state" in order to make palpable the grandiosity of Space and Time. Whatever it is that Hesse and Mann have in common, it is most striking in passages like this one.

1 comment:

  1. should we make this book a club reading text for july sometime, or perhaps we could break it up and read it over the next several weeks?