Der Zauberberg again







This book is the reason I went to Davos in Switzerland and stayed in an ex-sanatorium. I read it last year, it took me months, as there's quite a few long sections involving very drawn out political and philosophical arguments between two of the characters, which I found a struggle to get through at times. I have a kind of lock in my mind that doesn't let me skip bits when reading. Even if I manage to do it I find myself going back after half a page to fulfill my obligation. this must have been inherited from my mum, who taught me to play Scrabble and solve cryptic crosswords and is equally as pedantic as me.

The story is of a young idler from Hamburg who visits his consumptive cousin — resident of an alpine tuberculosis sanatorium — planning on staying three weeks, but ending up staying seven years. The Magic Mountain deals with the concept of time, how we humans perceive it, and also of the body and its construction and fallibilities. This paragraph (click picture for readable version), beginning "as he lay there above the glimmering valley...", struck me when I first read it and has haunted me since. Hans Castorp, the novel's protagonist with nothing but time on his hands, has been exhaustively studying human physiology and at the same time falling obsessively in love from afar with Clavdia Chauchat, a Russian fellow patient (who I could only picture as Tatjana Patitz, the 90s supermodel, something about the "Kyrgyz eyes" that Castorp goes on about). It amazed me the way this paragraph manages so deftly to shift from the almost abstract and completely universal workings of the body's cells (Humanity) to then travel physically outwards and narrow the description down to one particularly beautiful formation of cells (Her). Castorp just can't shake Clavdia from his head, every thought he has metamorphoses into her.

So because of all this I journeyed to the Alps to sit on my balcony, pretend I had tuberculosis and take in the air. I'm still not quite sure what the GAS album of the same name (Zauberberg is Magic Mountain in German) has to do with the book, but it made a perfect soundtrack to the train journey up the 1500 vertical metres to Davos Platz on a narrow gauge, tugboat-like train. Once I'd got there I had a short walk to the Schatzalpbahn, a funicular railway that took me up the final 300 metres to my hotel, this place.

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