The Fiction of Humanity

Michael Beddow

Reconstructions: Der Zauberberg


[Note: After Michael's passing in 2019, this page disappeared from its original web location at I later retrieved it from the Wayback Machine and placed it here on the DDB site. Unfortunately, I was unable to retrieve the associated CSS files, and thus the plain white appearance. (Charles Muller)]

Anyone hoping to find in Thomas Mann's Der Zauberberg (The Magic Mountain) (1924) the ‘representation of an arduous journey out of inwardness into social activity’1 is in for a disappointment. When we first encounter the hero, Hans Castorp, he is well integrated into society, on the verge of a practical career in engineering, and generally thought by his contemporaries to be ‘obviously on the way to important positions in life’ (p. 54).2 What is supposed to be a three-week visit to his cousin at a Swiss tuberculosis sanatorium turns into a stay of vastly longer duration. In his own words (or rather, those of the song memorably set by Mahler) he becomes ‘lost to the world’ (p. 823), progressively abandons all contact with what he and most of the other patients contemptuously call the ‘Flatland’, and makes of the Mountain his new ‘home’ In this ‘home’, with its distinctive ‘Lebenshaltung’ – both a way of life and an attitude to life (p. 581) – he abandons himself to a ‘phlegmatic passion’ (p. 824) for Clavdia Chauchat, a Russian patient who seems to embody the antithesis of all that he has previously lived by. He is exposed also to the ‘logomachy’ (p. 820) that rages between two ‘discursive natures’ (p. 564): Settembrini, the liberal advocate of technocratic progress, and Naphta, the ‘conservative revolutionary’ (p. 636); and he finds it all ‘worth listening to’ [hörenswert] (p. 140 & passim) though not every reader will agree. He explores the frontiers of current knowledge in biology, physics and psychology, and dabbles for a while in the occult. And in a place where suffering and death, though omnipresent, are emphatically not talked about, he resolves to take them seriously (p. 412), as indeed he has to, when he must cope with the death of two

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people for whom, in his ‘phlegmatic’ way, he has come to feel strong affection: his cousin Joachim; and the ‘powerful though rather blurred personality,’ (p. 765), Mynheer Peeperkorn.

On two separate occasions in the course of his long sojourn on the Mountain, Castorp seems to be granted a kind of insight which draws together all his disparate experiences and reflections, focuses them into what might form the basis of an imperative that could send him away from the Mountain, back to the world, enriched by his ‘adventures in the flesh and the spirit’ (p. 994). Yet this imperative is never quite formulated, let alone acted upon. During his early months on the Mountain, when its ‘magic’ was producing what looked like an ‘alchemical sublimation’ (p. 705) in his nature, Castorp looked with disdain upon certain inmates of the sanatorium ‘who, as was generally admitted, were not ill at all, and who were living here completely of their own free will, under the official pretext of having a slight infection, but in reality merely because they were enjoying themselves and found the way of life of the patients congenial’ (p. 413). In the final years of his stay, however, Castorp himself has come to resemble the people he once so despised, except that he hardly seems to be ‘enjoying himself’ much. Outwardly dishevelled, inwardly apathetic, more or less ignored by the medical staff, certain for years past that there is no clinical reason for remaining on the Mountain, he is one of those who are ‘there for good, long since past knowing where else he might go, no longer capable of even conceiving the thought of returning to the Flatland’ (p. 982).

So his seven years in the Berghof have taken him from contented, if slightly lackadaisical social integration, through a phase of intense questioning and feverish discovery, to a final state of almost vegetable torpor in which he seems of no use and of no interest to himself or to anyone else. What saves him from malingering away the rest of his existence in this condition is not any sort of insight arising from his experiences of

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those seven years, but the impact of a purely external event, the ‘thunderclap’ of the outbreak of the First World War, which ‘bursts the Magic Mountain asunder’ (p. 984) and sends the inhabitants of the sanatorium, Castorp among them, scurrying back to their native lands ‘like an antheap in panic’ (p. 988). He finds himself ‘released from the spell, redeemed, liberated, not by his own resources, as he had to admit to himself with shame, but thrown out by elemental external forces, which were concerned with far more important things than with his liberation.’ (p. 988). A dubious liberation it is too, for he is released on to the Flanders battlefield where, the narrator surmises in taking leave of him, he will probably meet his death.


This apparently rather inconsequential story is offered to us by the garrulous narrator with the claim that it is ‘eminently worth telling’ (p. 9). To see the sense of that claim we have to consider the cultural temper of the age in which it was primarily addressed. Although first conceived as a Novelle in 1912, the bulk of Der Zauberberg was written in the immediate post-war years, and the climate of those years shaped the finished whole into which the portions written before 1914 were eventually subsumed. 3 Like Agathon and Wilhelm Meisters Lehrjahre, the founders of the tradition with which Mann was consciously engaging in shaping Der Zauberberg, 4 Hans Castorp's story was an attempt to bring the peculiar resources of prose fiction to bear upon the problem of human nature. By an irony of intellectual history, the predicament from which Mann's novel emerged had come about through the collapse of precisely that model of the natural world which both Wieland and Goethe felt to be a threat to humane values. The mechanistic understanding of nature which, throughout the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, had held unchallenged sway in the physical

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sciences and made numerous sallies into other domains of knowledge, was comprehensively dismantled in the space of a few decades. From the establishment of Newtonian science until the last years of the nineteenth century, the physical universe was believed to be made out of a finite number of atoms, imagined as solid, indestructible irreducible particles. This conception was shaken by the discovery of radioactivity in the mid-1890s. The work of Rutherford, Planck and their associates in the first decade of the twentieth century was drawn together by Bohr into a new model which envisaged atoms, not as indestructible solids, but as complex configurations of more elementary charged particles in what was very largely empty space. Even those elementary particles were deprived of what little substantiality they might still be imagined to possess after Einstein's General Theory of Relativity defined the theoretical equivalence of matter and energy. By 1919 Rutherford had transmuted nitrogen into oxygen and observed a loss of energy in the system, experimentally disproving two cardinal notions of nineteenth-century science: the immutability of elements and the conservation of energy. The reliably substantial universe of classical physics, built of solid particles whose behaviour was entirely governed by the laws of mechanics, had been dissolved. In its place, the new physics presented a reality no longer composed of fixed entities that could be labelled in ordinary language and pictured as objects essentially like those of ordinary experience, but of elements which could be adequately encompassed only by mathematical equations expressing sets of relationships. Any attempt to express the fundamental nature of the physical world other than through the relational language of mathematics meant resorting to terms from ordinary language which had to be recognised as convenient provisional fictions if they were to be anything other than misleading. Scientific knowledge, identified in the nineteenth century as the domain of ‘hard’ facts and
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plain, no-nonsense certainties, had in the space of a few years become a region in which the gulf between fundamental reality and common-sense notions of what is real and true had grown almost unbridgeably wide. Twentieth-century science had become powerfully subversive of precisely the sort of matter-of-fact outlook which science in the nineteenth century was generally held to underpin. As the Gifford Lecturer for 1927 told his audience, ‘the external world of physics has thus become a world of shadows. In removing our illusions we have removed the substance, for indeed we have seen that substance is one of the greatest of our illusions.’ 5 The good citizens of Edinburgh were probably none too upset about what the Cambridge mathematician and astronomer who was addressing them had to say, for Arthur Eddington was already regarded as doubtless brilliant within his field but regrettably subject to ‘unsound’ and somehow improper speculations about matters which were none of a scientist's business. But in nations inclined to take intellectual matters rather more seriously – Germany, for example - the impact of the new physics began to be widely felt outside the narrowly scientific domain in the immediate post-war years, as Der Zauberberg testifies.

While the revolution in physics was taking place, radically new psychological notions and methods were being developed by Freud and the various psychoanalytical schools which grew from his work. Here too, ideas formulated around the turn of the century passed into broader intellectual currency in the years after the First World War. Freud himself, as has often been observed, had a strong allegiance to mechanical models of explanation; but the effect of his work and that of his disciples and rivals was to undermine existing certainties about mental and emotional life in the same way that contemporary physicists were dissolving the mechanical picture of the external world. The notion that the self

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was not an irreducible entity, but a complex construction, a nodal point in a network of interacting primal forces, the shifting product of an often highly unstable equilibrium between those forces, corroded the reliable subject of human experience as envisaged in the nineteenth century, just as the new physics was breaking down the reliable objects of that experience.

The reception of the new physics and the new psychology by German-speaking intellectuals in the first quarter of the present century was shaped by two factors peculiar to the German situation, one philosophical, the other political. Revolutionary as the new theories of matter and of consciousness may have been within the disciplines in which they emerged, there was a sense in which they had already been speculatively anticipated by a particular variety of that philosophical Idealism which was as much the common coin of German intellectual life in the nineteenth century as Rationalism had been in the first three-quarters of the eighteenth century. To see the nature and the effects of that anticipation, we must look briefly at the origin of German Idealism in the work of Kant, and at the way it was decisively re-shaped by Schopenhauer and Nietzsche.

Kant's philosophy grew out of the same quandary as the fiction of Wieland and the thought of Herder: the manifest explanatory power of Newtonian physics, the intellectual attractiveness and yet also the moral dubiousness of assimilating man's spiritual and emotional life to the mechanical model of nature. Kant attempted to show how Newtonian physics could offer the definitive account of the workings of the physical universe, without giving a true picture of fundamental reality. To accomplish this ambitious enterprise he created a new philosophical tool, a type of argumentation he termed ‘transcendental’. Transcendental argumentation proceeds basically as follows. We start by drawing up as complete and yet as economical an inventory as we can manage of the essential and invariant features of our

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experience of the world. Then we scrutinise this phenomenology of experience and ask: what must be the case in order for our experience to have these essential and invariant features? Or, to put the question in Kant's own rather cumbersome terminology: what are the conditions of the possibility of such experience? Kant concluded that, in order for us to have anything we could possibly recognise as experience of the world, it is essential that we experience ourselves as coherent, individuated subjects apprehending an external nature governed by what amount to the laws of Newtonian science. In other words, whatever external reality may be fundamentally, noumenally, like, and whatever we ourselves are fundamentally like, if we are to have any experience whatsoever we must appear to ourselves to be coherent~ individual subjects perceiving what appears to be the kind of world described by classical physics. Given the necessary and inalienable characteristics of our experience, as revealed by transcendental arguments, we have no way of discovering what underlies these appearances; for that is unexperienceable and therefore unknowable.

The history of German philosophy in the century or so after Kant is largely the story of thinkers deeply impressed by the cogency of Kant's delimitation of possible experience and knowledge, and yet convinced that they have found a way through to knowledge of noumenal reality which is not barred by Kantian strictures. Perhaps the most important strand of post-Kantianism is that represented by Schelling, Fichte and Hegel, especially the latter, who combined impulses from Kant's method with elements from the ideas of Herder into a system which, via Feuerbach and Marx, has quite literally made history. But, for our present purposes, it is the strand of Idealism initiated by Schopenhauer that matters most. To see what Schopenhauer did to Kant's thought we need to grasp that Kant, when he argued that anything that could count as an instance of human experience

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had to involve a coherent, individuated self perceiving a structured external world, was not intending to imply that noumenal reality is in some sense the opposite of phenomenal reality, that fundamental reality is entirely unstructured, noumenal subjectivity an eternal flux, the external world a boundless chaos. It migbt be thus; but, on Kant's arguments, it might just as well be the case that the noumenal self and the noumenal world are to some degree quite like what they appear to be phenomenally, with the mind's structuring activities being to that extent supererogatory. There is just, Kant insists, no way of knowing, so there is no point in pursuing the matter, at least not by the means of speculative philosophy. But Schopenhauer, like Nietzsche after him, is gripped by the intuition that noumenal reality is the opposite, in the sense just outlined, of phenomenal experience, that individuation, time, space, causality are structures imposed by the mind upon an underlying chaos, a chaos which can, however, be known by a route which bypasses the structuring activities of ordinary consciousness. And in effect he tries to transform this intuition into a demonstration that will stand up to post-Kantian critical scrutiny by making a significant alteration to the practice of transcendental argumentation (though he sets up an elaborate argumentative apparatus to cover his tracks and suggest he is doing something rather different).

Kant had tried to ensure that in compiling his phenomenology of the essential features of experience he included only purely formal features. Schopenhauer draws up his inventory of experience in a much less rigorous manner, incorporating two substantial features which, when fed into the process of transcendental argument, produce results very different from Kant's in one crucial respect: they claim to offer knowledge of what noumenal reality is, like. To Kant's phenomenology of the subject, Schopenhauer adds the promptings of a ceaselessly striving will; to his repertoire of the essential features of the

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experienced world he adds the dynamism of nature. Ask what must be the case for experience to be as Schopenhauer thus describes it, and the answer is that the world can be seen under two aspects: Representation (Vorstellung) more or less corresponding to Kant's account of phenomenal reality; and as Will, Schopenhauer's doctrine of what noumenal reality is like, an eternal, formless, ceaselessly dynamic cosmic appetite, inexorable, inexhaustible, insatiable, using the illusory world of time, space and individuation to serve its endlessly futile pursuit of self-gratification.

Nietzsche adopted Schopenhauer's account of the fundamental nature of reality, but reversed, or tried to reverse, his predecessor's evaluation of what that account contained. Schopenhauer believed that it was possible, and supremably desirable, to escape individuation, bondage to the Will and the sufferings which they brought: temporarily, through art; and maybe eternally through radical and absolute self-abnegation, the way of the Saint. Nietzsche denied that there was any such escape from the all-pervading Will to Power, and claimed that those who advocated such ways of ‘release’ as Schopenhauer proposed were in truth merely exercising their Will to Power in their own way. For, although according to Nietzsche all specifiable ‘reality’ was illusory, all selfhood a deceptive construction, all ‘truths’ merely expedient fictions, there was still room for a ‘transvalued’ scheme of values, which assigned supreme worth to those illusions, constructions, fictions which collaborated most fully with the metaphysical Will to Power by fostering the most energetic and ruthless affirmation of an intrinsically senseless existence. So like other varieties of Idealism, Nietzsche's thought asserted the illusoriness of what common-sense observers took to be their real selves and the real world: what marked it off from other kinds of Idealism was the claim that the reality underlying phenomena was a cosmic energetic flux, an all-sustaining, all-devouring dynamism of which the entities

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that made up the world of ordinary experience were but fleeting and fragile objectifications.

It should now be plain why, to people versed in Nietzsche's thought, the developments in physics and psychology which began to reach public attention just after the First World War seemed like experimental confirmations of Nietzsche's speculative conclusions. Here, after all, were physicists apparently saying that substance was merely a transient mode of energy, psychologists reducing the self of everyday experience into a secondary product of the interaction of instinctual, impersonal forces: this looked to some like scientific confirmation of Nietzsche's account of reality, and perhaps even a sanction for his scheme of values. In another time or another place, such a line of thought might well have remained the prerogative of a relatively few harmless cranks; but in the Germany that emerged from the Great War it possessed real and ominous political potential.

This potential derived from two facets of German political life: one perennial, the other acute in the immediate post-war years. In general, German political thought, like that of other Continental countries, has been marked by an assumption that, before a desirable scheme of political organisation can be worked out, it is necessary to establish a specific doctrine of human nature, which the political order would then be expected to express or to realise. The outcome has all too often been what have been termed ‘positive’ conceptions of political liberty, in which the sovereign power is given the right, or even the duty, of so regulating the lives of citizens that they are brought, by coercion if need be, to live a truly human life according to the lights of the prevailing ideology. 6 The belief has been, in other words, that political theory and practice should ideally derive from philosophical anthropology, which in its turn rests on a general theory of what fundamental reality is like: ontology and politics are thus brought into

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close relationship, something which, for excellent reasons, is repugnant to Anglo-Saxon minds, but which is nonetheless very much a part of European history, as well as of continental political philosophy. This endemic linkage between politics and ontology meant that the crankiness of those who saw in Nietzsche's account of reality a scientifically validated world-view would almost inevitably acquire a political dimension, and a baleful one at that.

But in normal circumstances, political cranks are no more dangerous than philosophical ones. The trouble was that the circumstances in Germany in the aftermath of the First World War were notoriously very far from normal: it was a period of social and political turmoil unlike anything the nation had known since the Thirty Years War two-and-a-half centuries earlier. The Russian Imperial rulers had fallen in 1917, followed within a year by the collapse of the Austrian and German Empires. Soviet Russia was presenting itself as the exemplary implementation of a model of social organisation which, just a short time before, had had no existence outside the minds of thinkers widely regarded as utopian eccentrics. More than once in the chaotic months following the abdication of the Kaiser in November 1918 it seemed that the Bolschevik system was on the point of being adopted in Germany as well. From its earliest beginnings, the Weimar Republic was permeated by an atmosphere of provisionality. As it staggered from crisis to crisis and government to government amid ever increasing violence from the private armies of both Right and Left, the feeling that the establishment of some other form of political organisation was just around the corner was rife – among the supporters of the Republic's constitution themselves, as well as among its many and various enemies. Here was a perfect opportunity for the idealogues of ‘dynamic’ politics, who based a programme of self-proclaimed fanaticism, unbridled violence, the ruthless pursuit of power for its own sake, upon a loosely Nietz­-

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schean ontology, to fill out the vacuum created by the disintegration of established political and intellectual structures.

This is the turbulent and threatening climate which Der Zauberberg was shaped to engage with. From his earliest published stories of the second half of the 1890s, Thomas Mann had shown a sustained fascination with the psychological, moral and artistic implications of Nietzsche's thought. These first stories reveal a grotesqueness of character and incident which is both matched and accounted for by an ostentatiously cynical narrative stance. The narrator's attitudes and techniques express a sense that the events being related reflect a reality which renders sympathy and moral evaluation completely out of place, because the characters are at the mercy of forces beyond their control or comprehension. The stories intimate that the way the characters behave, whether as destroyers or victims, is dictated by factors which are neither personal, nor social, nor environmental, but impersonal, irrational, instinctual, irresistible. It is a world in which whatever autonomy of consciousness or will the characters may think they possess is unmasked as a sham, a construction by which individuals try to defend themselves against an inimical reality within as well as around them. The quality of character and incident represented in his fiction, and the nature of the narrative tone, underwent far-reaching changes as Thomas Mann matured as a writer. But the basic pattern of an underlying chaotic, dynamically destructive reality kept in precarious check by fragile and vulnerable constructions remained the groundwork of his outlook throughout his life. Thomas Mann's understanding of the political implications, in particular, of this abiding commitment to a Nietzschean ontology was altered dramatically in the immediate post-war years as he was working on Der Zauberberg, a process which has been penetratingly and exhaustively retraced elsewhere. 7 But it is essential to grasp that the new

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political commitment – to Social Democracy and the Republican constitution – was indeed based on persistent adherence to a Nietzschean form of Idealism, for only then can we understand how and why Thomas Mann attempted to follow Goethe (and therefore without knowing it, Wieland) in bringing prose fiction to bear upon the problem of locating authentic humanity. Der Zauberberg is the literary expression of an intuition that, fundamentally, existence is as Nietzsche described it, an intuition which the narrative is designed to intimate and support. At the same time it is the expression of a sense of urgent need, at a decisive moment in European history, to sever the links between ontology and morality, between ontology and politics, to reconstruct a vision of man against the pressure of what is fundamentally real, to form and assent to a set of fictions chosen to express and preserve values now deprived of whatever substantial roots they were once thought to have. The result can easily strike an unsympathetic reader as a wantonly eccentric, even if impressively exacting performance, rather like knocking away the foundations of a building, watching it fall down, then trying to rebuild it on empty air, holding it up by the sheer force of one's sense of what a lovely building it was. And it is all too likely that we shall indeed be unsympathetic readers, unless we give sufficient weight to the novel's cultural origins.

We may not find the ontology expressed in the novel either attractive or plausible; and in any case, we may not feel in much need of persuasion that it is a bad thing to link ontology and morality, let alone ontology and politics. But the fact remains that Thomas Mann did find the ontology plausible, and did feel the force of the claim that morality and politics should have an ontological foundation; and in both respects he was culturally representative. ‘Oh, if I were you I wouldn't be starting from here’ says the Irishman in the joke when asked for directions to a particular place: a remark whose helpfulness is in inverse proportion to its truth. It may well be the case that Thomas

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Mann and the German nation whose distinctive cultural and intellectual positions he represented were at an unfortunate starting point for the goal he wanted to reach. But that makes his attempt to undertake and persevere in the journey all the more fascinating and admirable. 8


‘Realistic fictions’, Professor Stern observes, ‘are erected on firm ground which reveals no epistemological cracks, and ... when such cracks appear, they are not explored but transformed into the psychology of characters: realism doesn't ask whether the world is real, but it occasionally asks what happens to persons who think it isn't.’ 9In this sense, Der Zauberberg is the antithesis of a realist fiction. It shows us a hero who has never previously thought to question the reality of the world he lives in being brought to do so by an ever-accumulating body of experiences, offered to him on terrain which proves to be riddled with epistemological crevasses; and our guide to this treacherous landscape, the ever-present narrator, takes such a delight in pointing out these hazards that we may be forgiven at times for wondering whether he is not hoping to lure us into jumping down them rather than help us steer a safe course. The sober, no-nonsense engineer is transformed into a dedicated Idealist, and this conversion to Idealism is represented unequivocally as a discovery of truth, albeit a truth that is highly problematic in its implications.

The Hans Castorp who arrives at the sanatorium, expecting shortly ‘to return home exactly the same person as he was when he set out, and to pick up his life again at the very same point where he had been obliged to leave it for a moment’ (p. 12) is someone who takes the world he has grown up in and where a highly practical career awaits him as ‘absolutely given’, its reality and sufficiency being for him ‘a matter of course (selbstverständlich)’ (p. 50). The temper

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of his existence may, the narrator surmises, have been coloured by the fact that at some level of awareness he has asked what is ‘the ultimate, more than personal, absolute sense’ of the ‘exertions and activities’ which his culture enjoins upon him, and received in reply ‘only a hollow silence’ (ibid.); but he has not as a result become ill at ease in his given world, nor been led to doubt its essential reality. On the contrary, whatever inner reservations he may have on this account actually make his accommodation to given reality all the more agreeable, since they allow him to conform to an existence dominated by the work ethic without feeling obliged to take adherence to that ethic to inconvenient extremes.

But then the Mountain's magic begins to work on him. He has previously located his identity by reference to his past and future in the society of the Flatland: he was an engineering graduate about to enter industry. From his very first exchanges with Joachim on the way to the Berghof, however, Castorp is being initiated into a sphere in which the linear, goal-oriented time of the Flatland has been replaced by a cyclical, goalless, essentially static quality of time where little serious regard is paid either to past or future as the outside world understands them. Everything about life in the Berghof Sanatorium benumbs any sense of leaving behind a definite, irretrievable past and moving into a new, different, open future. At first, Castorp views the Mountain with the eyes of the Flatland: as an uninitiated newcomer he finds everything that happens is something novel and unexpected. Before long, though, he comes to know all the parts of the sanatorium routine, so that soon everything that occurs has already happened in much the same way at least once before during his stay, whether it is the meals every few hours, the daily regulation stroll, or the fortnightly concert. He begins to experience his existence as a kind of perpetual present, with not even the sequence of the seasons to provide a sense of time passing:

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in the high Alpine climate all kinds of weather appear haphazardly throughout the year. The narrative associates Castorp's loss of temporal orientation with feelings of vertigo (pp. 257, 752, 753, 754), a sense of dizziness like one he recalls from childhood when he was shown the ancestral silver bowl in which so many generations of his family had been christened (p. 36), and which overcame him at his first realisation of what a different world the Mountain represented (p. 14). The association of dizziness and timelessness is so constant that we are liable to overlook its slight oddity; for one might just as well expect initiation into a timeless mode of being to bring feelings of tranquility, calm, stability. Not in this novel, however. Castorp's dizziness is produced by tremors in the unstable epistemological ground in which he has hitherto placed absolute reliance. Time as experienced in the Flatland, the novel will contrive to intimate, indeed perhaps all time whatsoever, is an illusion. But, like the other illusions Castorp will come to penetrate, it bridges over an otherwise ‘bottomless’ abyss (p. 926). When Castorp is confronted with another challenge to his epistemological categories, in the form of occult phenomena he can neither deny nor explain away, the narrator actually uses the image of an earth-tremor to evoke his response: ‘the ground’, we read ‘ …swayed beneath his feet, and a kind of nausea, – a slight sea-sickness came over him’ (p. 913; and cf. p. 925). Castorp is being thrown off balance because the terrain on which he has previously taken a comfortable stand is breaking up under his feet.

The first clear sign of what is happening to him comes through a conversation he has with cousin Joachim on the morning of his first full day at the Berghof. He finds himself embarking on some reflections about the nature of time, to Joachim's slightly embarrassed amazement and to his own surprise, ‘for he was certainly not in the habit of philosophising, and yet he felt the urge to do so’ (p. 95). This urge, precursor of so much to come, is stimulated

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by Joachim's harmless remark that he likes taking his own temperature ‘because it makes you notice what a minute really (eigentlich) is’ (ibid.). Castorp objects, seizing on the word ‘eigentlich’, which, he insists, cannot be applied to time: ‘time isn't ‘really’ anything at all (die Zeit ist doch überhaupt nicht ‘eigentlich’)’ (ibid.). If an interval seems long, then it is long, and vice versa. Joachim is unimpressed: there are clocks and calendars, he says, and when the end of the month arrives, it arrives for everyone, no matter what they feel like. Yes, Castorp counters, but that is because everyone has agreed on an essentially arbitrary system of clock time as a convenient fiction for regulating human affairs. The existence of a regularly flowing, objectively determinable time is something ‘we assume for the sake of order . . . and our measures are in the end mere conventions’ (p. 96). As a piece of philosophical activity this exchange is not impressive, nor is it meant to be: Castorp is, after all, very much a newcomer to such trains of thought. Beyond the new reflective urge of which the dialogue is the first symptom, the passage is significant because of the object of these early questionings - the notion of a time that is linear, indifferent to subjectivity, and also straightforwardly ‘real’, which is one of the foundations of the Flatland ethos; and also because of the pattern by which Castorps investigations develop, a pattern which will become very familiar as we follow his story further. Starting with something he has previously never paused to think about, he pursues what is ‘really’, fundamentally the case, only to find that the sort of answer he has always presumed must be available to such questions in fact evades him. Here, his questionings take him into a vicious circle, in other instances they will lead him into infinite regressions or, most ominously of all, into regions where such truths as may be glimpsed are profoundly subversive of the things he had hoped to ground more firmly through his intellectual quest. He has to settle for the acceptance of conventions,
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fictions of practical value but problematic validity. What is time, what is life, what is love, and – the question that subsumes all the rest – what is man? All these questions, and more like them, will be placed before us in and through Hans Castorp's story; and in each case, the kind of answer intimated will have the same precariousness, will emerge as a more or less arbitrary fixing of what remains an elusive flux.

The chief inspiration of Castorp's questionings is his love for Clavdia Chauchat. 10There is here an attraction of opposites at a purely personal level: the laxity of manners (it is her habit of letting doors slam which first draws her to Castorp's attention) fascinatingly suggesting a laxity of morals (although she is rumoured to have a husband ‘somewhere beyond the Caucasus’ there is no wedding ring on her perhaps slightly grubby hand). All this is the antithesis of Castorp's fastidious propriety. Even as his infatuation with her nears its height, he is conscious of ‘deep gulfs’ separating her way of life (Existenz) from his (p. 202), and he has ‘a sense of superiority which he was neither able not willing to set aside’ whenever he considers her ‘nature and existence (Sein und Wesen)’ (p. 203). But that is all part of the appeal. Yet Castorp's involvement with her is as much a philosophical as an emotional adventure: or rather, the full emotional significance of what she means to him derives from the challenge which her ‘nature and existence’, together with his response to them issue to his sense of what is real, important and true. This challenge arises in part through Castorp's own reflections on his feelings, their origin and import; but it is enlarged and focused through the intervention of Settembrini.

From the start, Clavdia reminds Castorp of someone. But the part of his past she recalls is lost to his conscious mind (though it does enter into a dream) until he is suddenly overcome with a fit of giddiness on a mountain walk and finds himself ‘transported back to a former time and place

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so powerfully, so completely and utterly, that time and space were abolished (bis zur Aufhebung des Raumes und der Zeit)’ (p. 169). Now he grasps that he has met and loved Clavdia before, in the form of Pribislav Hippe, a fellow schoolboy whom he admired at the age of thirteen. This recognition is subversive of a good deal of Castorp's assumptions. In the longer term, the discovery that in some sense Clavdia is Hippe (not just someone who resembles him) will form part of a larger pattern of the dissolving of experiential categories; the immediate consequence is that Castorp is led into a chain of questions which we overhear him pursuing with the same rather laborious but tenacious spirit that marked his musings on the ‘reality’ of time. He ponders the puzzling irrationality of the fact that the most compelling erotic attraction he has so far known has been exerted on him by another boy and by a seriously sick woman. Common sense tells him that the function of sexuality is to ensure the propagation of the species; so what is the sense of his being so strongly drawn towards a woman who is so unpromising a mate in terms of the production of healthy offspring? ‘That a man should take an interest in a sick woman - there was after all certainly no more rationality in that than…, well, than there had been in his former silent fascination with Pribislav Hippe’ (pp. 182-3). Yet these feelings are undeniably real: an aspect of experience that runs counter to rational ordering. ‘Irrational love brings inspiration (die unvernünftige Liebe ist genial)’ he will finally tell Clavdia, as he takes stock of all he has gained (but also, of all he has lost) through succumbing to its spell. It brings inspiration, produces an ‘alchemical transformation’ of the initially unprepossessing material of this simple young man (pp. 826-7) because it breaks through that identification of reality with common-sense categories in which Hans Castorp had once been held: ‘held’ in the sense of ‘sustained’ as well as ‘constrained’, so that the liberation is deeply problematic.

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The breaking-down of the categories Castorp has so far unthinkingly identified with reality, fostered by his feelings and the reflections they induce, is considerably furthered by the attempts of Settembrini to reinforce them. For the Castorp who arrived at the Berghof, the work-ethic, the commitment to practical, no-nonsense aims, was quite simply a way of life. Settembrini, however, presents him with this way of life transformed into an elaborated ideology. The difference is of enormous import for what happens to Castorp, for, whereas a way of life is just something to be lived, an ideology is something to be assented to and adopted - and therefore also, possibly, dissented from and rejected. An ideology is the object of intellectual and moral enquiry, of experiential testing. ‘Placet experiri’: Castorp learns the tag from Settembrini, and he learns, too, of the possibility of making the tag into a lived maxim, much to the disquiet of his mentor. When he got off the train at Davos, Castorp thought he was just an engineer on holiday; but, before long, Settembrini is telling him that he is ‘the representative of a whole world of work and practical genius’ (p. 85). Which sets Castorp wondering whether he really does ‘represent’ what Settembrini claims, and whether he wants to do so. He finds it difficult to share the Italian's enthusiastic belief in the ‘self-perfection’ of mankind through the systematic ‘organisation’ of technological progress (pp. 341-2). ‘Do not lose yourself to alien influences !’ (p. 345) Settembrini implores Castorp, the influences he has in mind being above all the ‘Asiatic principle’ he sees embodied in Clavdia Chauchat (p. 340). Castorp, though, is by no means sure that the influences emanating from Clavdia are any more ‘alien’ to his nature than the doctrines Settembrini insists that it is his professional duty to espouse. Made aware of Clavdia, not just as a sexually alluring individual, but as an embodiment of an alternative set of priorities and attitudes, Castorp tries to find out which of the alternatives has a better claim to his allegiance.

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Settembrini is repeatedly exhorting him to serve ‘life’; but what is life? Presumably the life sciences ought to have an answer, if anyone has, so Castorp orders a small library of biological, biochemical and medical text books and sets to work studying them, inspired by the ‘image of life’ in the shape of Clavdia, who is ever-present to his imagination as he reads and makes notes (p. 385). He does not gain the sort of enlightenment available from the volume on ocean steamships which his new reading material displaces. Instead of hard facts, definite answers to the definite question that guides his studies, he enters a realm where not only knowledge, but the actual intended objects of knowledge themselves, seem hopelessly elusive. No one knows, he is forced to recognise, just what ‘life’ is, even in a strictly scientific sense. Such answers as do emerge are very different in character to the solutions to technological problems with which he has up to now been involved. ‘What was life? – It was the existence of what could not really exist (das Sein des eigentlich Nicht-sein-Könnenden), of something which, in this complicated and feverish process of decay and renewal, just about managed to balance, agonisingly, ecstatically, upon the needle point of existence’ (pp. 384-5). But the elusiveness of ‘life’ is not the most disconcerting of the discoveries Castorp makes in his venture into sciences hitherto beyond his ken. Passing from biochemistry to modem physics (rather too ‘modern’ in one sense, as will be discussed below, (p.281), he realises that substance itself dissolves under the investigator's scrutiny, for the atom is ‘such a miniscule primitive and transitory concentration of something immaterial, not yet material, but already resembling matter – namely energy – that it could hardly be thought of as already or still material, but had to be envisaged as something half way between the material and the immaterial’ (p. 395). Where classical physics placed the reliably solid and substantial ultimate constituents of nature, Castorp finds the brink of a ‘yawning

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abyss’ of immaterial forces underlying the world of common-sense perception, depriving it of its claim to ultimate reality.

So it is his scientific reading that inclines him to look upon the world given in everyday experience as a secondary construction, under which lies the ultimate reality of immaterial forces. His conversion to someone ‘whose basic outlook bore the stamp of philosophical Idealism’ (p. 510) is complete. During the carnival celebrations, he can turn the tables on Settembrini by addressing him as a ‘representative in this place and at my side’ (p. 302) before choosing to turn aside from what Settembrini ‘represents’ and go to ‘know and possess the genius loci’ (p. 486) in his night with Clavdia Chauchat.

Acquaintanceship with Naphta, following on Clavdia's departure, exposes Castorp to a discursive exponent of the ‘spirit of the place’: just as Settembrini transformed Castorp's former way of life into an ideology, so now Naphta articulates the alternative ethos which has proved so attractive to Castorp, gives it a philosophical foundation, draws out its moral and political implications. The components that make up Naphta's philosophy are as apparently heterogeneous as the formative influences which help account for it (pp. 608-18). A good deal of Naphta's terminology is borrowed from Hegel (Absolute Spirit), Marx (Dictatorship of the Proletariat) and Christianity (Original Sin, Redemption). But this is Hegel without the emergent rationality, Marx without the economic causality, and Christianity without divine or human love: it is not, in other words, Hegelian thought, Marxism or Christianity at all. The core of Naphta's philosophy, underneath these loosely affixed extraneous labels, is an epistemological programme derived from Nietzsche, linked to a political programme characteristic of the radical extreme Right in early twentieth-century Continental politics. Naphta insistently denies the claims of the common-sense categories of knowledge and experience to correspond with what is

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fundamentally real, not because he wants to delimit the sphere in which those categories can be used as tools of thought, but because he is determined to expose that sphere as the domain of falsehood and inauthenticity. In his view, the ‘metaphysical assumption, that the forms by which our cognition is organised, within which the phenomenal world presents itself, time, space and causality, are real conditions (Verhältnisse) existing independently of our cognition’, represents ‘the most barefaced impudence that the mind has ever been exposed to’ (p. 960). Cognition, he claims, is organised, not just by categories common to the operation of all minds, but above all by the will of the knowing subject. He mocks Settembrini's belief in ‘pure’, ‘objective’ knowledge: in all knowledge, he counters ‘there is invariably present a belief, a world-view, a regulating idea, in short: a Will’ (p. 550). For Settembrini's pursuit of objective truth, therefore, Naphta substitutes. in unmistakeably Nietzschean fashion, the battle of rival wills, the struggle for power, as the inalienable mode of human existence. Here, his epistemological stance shades into a political programme. Contemporary Western civilisation, he argues, is built, like the liberal humanistic values it espouses, on the false identification of common-sense categories with absolute truth. The erroneousness of that identification, he alleges, is now making itself felt in a deep malaise within that civilisation, a growing, if subliminal, longing for something radically different, more expressive of the dynamic powers beneath the precariously structured surface (pp. 528; 554-5; 701). He sees his mission, and that of those who share his insights, as the comprehensive and systematic sowing of doubt, so that the malaise will become heightened and focused into destructively violent dissent from all that liberal civilisation stands for, seeing that ‘it is only out of radical scepticism, out of moral chaos, that the Unconditioned will emerge, the sacred Terror which the age is in need of’ (p. 969). Fanatical self-proclaimed Reac­-
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tionary activism (p. 561); ‘Conservative Revolution’ (p. 636); radical Collectivism enforced by systematic terror (pp. 528; 554-5; 701): this, Naphta declares, is where we shall and must be led once we have penetrated the illusions of philosophical Realism. It is a contention that can be queried at two points. We can ask: is Naphta's epistemology valid? And: are the moral and political consequences he draws from that epistemology as inevitable as he claims? It would be simple to dispose of Naphta's position by answering ‘no’ to the first question and ignoring the second. But the novel suggests that such simplicity would be too cheaply bought. Instead, it takes the more exacting course of intimating that fidelity to experience demands that the first question be answered in the affirmative, yet insisting that the second question may and must still be answered in the negative.

In essential respects, the narrative is calculated to underpin Naphta's epistemology, to show us a world that can only be properly accounted for by a Nietzschean derivative of Idealism; that is, by a description of a world of precarious, fictional structures which attempt to contain an underlying dynamic chaos. Three levels interact to achieve this: the character and content of some of Castorp's most important experiences; certain reflections and comments by the garrulous narrator; and the emerging metaphoric, synchronic character of the text's underlying structure, which has metaphysical implications.

The way that Hans Castorp's experiences and explorations in his first months on the Mountain lead him to adopt an Idealist outlook, long before he meets Naphta, has already been discussed (above, pp. 243-50); and it was apparent that this conversion was portrayed as compatible with, indeed to some extent inspired by, impeccably attested scientific knowledge. The ‘abolition’ of space and time as he relives an incident from his childhood has also been mentioned as an instance of an experience which Castorp feels he can only properly describe in language

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which violates ordinary categories of identity, location and temporal succession. He tells Clavdia of his love for her, ‘cet amour qui m'a saisi à l'instant, où mes yeux t'ont vue, ou, plutôt, que j'ai reconnu, quand je t'ai reconnue, toi, – et c'était lui, évidemment, qui m'a mené à cet endroit’ (p. 475).11 To do justice to what has happened to him, Castorp has to speak of the two encounters, the two persons Hippe and Clavdia, as one; and the implication is that it is ultimately the force embodied in the two persons – embodied, also, in ‘this place’ – which is one. There is an even more radical subversion of ordinary notions of personal identity in Hans Castorp's vision in the snow. He sees what he knows must be a Mediterranean shore, even though he has never visited the Mediterranean. ‘Nevertheless, he was remembering it. It was indeed, in some strange way, a recognition’ (p. 678). And he makes sense of this ‘recollection’ by talking of a metaphysical ‘common and anonymous’ consciousness underlying individuated identity: ‘from time to time the Great Soul of which you are only a tiny fragment (Teilchen) dreams through you.’ (p. 684), he muses. And lest we think that such ideas are merely a symptom of Castorp's semi-delirious state, they are later introduced with the authority of the narrator in order to account for the occult phenomena which Castorp witnesses, phenomena attributed to the influence of ‘obscure strata of the collective soul (lichtlose Seelenschichten der Allgemeinheit)’ (p. 918). Then again, the most dramatic of those phenomena, the apparition of Joachim summoned by the medium, is given features suggesting that it derives from a realm beyond appearances in which time and place have no validity. Joachim appears, not in the splendid uniform of the prewar army in which he was buried, but in the drab battledress and tin helmet of the First World War trenches, a battledress not yet devised, a war not yet begun when the séance is held. Understandably, none of the participants can understand this, to them and their time, wholly alien garb;
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and the narrator affects not to recognise it either, leaving the reader to work out the full import of what is being represented, something which, if it is accepted as a plausible representation, undercuts all normal assumptions not only about the distinction between life and death, but also about the reality of temporal progression. What is at stake here is not whether ‘Thomas Mann ... believes in an omniscient over-soul’.12 The image or myth of a World Soul is rather being used within the narrative to point up the extent to which Castorp's depicted experiences cannot be encompassed other than in explanatory language which defies common-sense epistemological categories.

That the realities which are glimpsed through the fractures in ordinary experience are threateningly destructive of all that is valuable in such experience is suggested above all by a strand in the narrative which eventually issues into the account of the apparition. In this set of experiences Castorp is offered ‘independent’ evidence of the validity of Naphta's association of ‘radical scepticism’ with ‘moral chaos’ (above, p. 252), evidence emerging from ‘analytical’ activities. The sanatorium basement houses two places in which ‘deep twilight’ reigns (pp. 189; 295-6): the X-ray unit and the office of Dr Krokowski, the ‘psychoanalyst’. (The inverted commas are called for, because the ideas we hear Krokowski propounding have rather more to do with the psychology of Nietzsche, or even of Novalls, than with any of the psychoanalytical schools proper. As a matter of fact, at the time of writing Der Zauberberg, Mann had very little detailed knowledge of psychoanalytic thought, and merely drew on such notions as were ‘in the air’ at the time about what Freud and his followers stood for; a closer study of Freud came only later.13) And this darkness is associated in both cases with the grave, with the destruction, decomposition of life. The suggestion is that knowledge gained by looking through or under experience is ultimately of highly questionable value, whatever its truth: it is not just

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knowledge about processes and forces of destruction, but knowledge which itself tends to destroy the knower. Yet that is precisely what makes it attractive to Castorp the ‘adventurer’ (p. 264). In the X-ray room, ‘terrifying forces’ are unleashed (currents of hundreds of thousands of volts, Castorp thinks – a terminological confusion which betrays that, although he is supposed to be an engineer, his creator certainly wasn't) in order to ‘penetrate through matter’ (p. 302) and allow him to see something ‘which a man is not really (eigentlich) meant to see … – he saw into his own grave’ (p. 306). A technological process acquires metaphysical overtones: looking at the skeleton of his own hand, Castorp senses that time has been abolished, and with it his own existence; for the future into which he is seeing is a future in which he is dead. A ‘spooky’ experience, even the robust Dr Behrens acknowledges (p. 307); but it is nothing compared with the ‘spookiness’ of what is to happen in the other tomb-like ‘analytical chamber’ next door. In the course of Castorp's years on the Mountain, a change occurs in Krokowski's investigations of unconscious mental processes, and he is drawn increasingly into a preoccupation with the occult. Two things about the way this development is portrayed contribute portions of represented experience which support the accuracy of Naphta's philosophy: the extent to which the pursuit of ‘profound’ knowledge in this domain is subversive not only of rationality, but also of all liberal humanist ideas of dignity and decency (pp. 913, 914, 915, 940-1); and the way that this descent into the ‘scandalous’ and degrading is said to be, not the result of any aberration in the course of Krokowski's studies, but the ‘consistent, indeed nothing less than necessary’ outcome of the kind of enquiry into the underlying processes of human consciousness upon which he has chosen to embark (p. 907).

It is not just the represented character of so many of the hero's experiences which bear out the essential tenets of

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Naphta's epistemology, however: the narrator is liable to contribute comments and reflections of his own which recommend an Idealist understanding of reality. He is, for instance, fond of making remarks subversive of the reality of time (remarks which go far beyond the observation that time seems to pass at different subjective rates for different people). Having related at one point that time seemed to Castorp to be elapsing at a different rate than was ‘really’ (wirklich) the case, the narrator makes a show of checking himself and conceding that to speak thus is to assume ‘that it is permissible to connect [time] with the notion of reality’ (pp. 367-8). How dubious he thinks this assumption to be emerges when, at the opening of the Sixth Chapter, he offers us what looks suspiciously like a potted version of Kant's First Antinomy of Pure Reason, a line of argument connected with the ‘transcendental’ character of time and space, that is, the sense in which they are necessary forms of our perception (or, more precisely, of what Kant terms ‘intuition’ (Anschauung)), rather than features of reality in itself (p. 479). 14 Perhaps the most striking of all such interventions is one of the last comments the narrator has to make on Castorp's long ‘flirtation with eternity’ (p. 757), at the point where he is ‘sitting up and rubbing his eyes’ after being awakened by the ‘thunderclap’ of the outbreak of war. Castorp is here described as someone who has spent his time ‘having various dreams about the spiritual (geistig) shadows of things, but had paid no attention to things themselves, being arrogantly inclined to take the shadows for the things, and to see the latter as mere shadows’. But this apparent criticism of an Idealist stance is at once undercut, as the narrator admonishes us that we must not condemn Castorp too harshly for this attitude, ‘seeing that this relationship [i.e. the relationship between ‘things’, ‘spiritual shadows of things’ and fundamental reality] has not been definitively clarified’ (p. 985).

Alongside or rather enclosing the character of the repre­-

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sented experiences and the implications of the narrator's comments, there is a third level on which the text intimates an Idealist epistemology, but what happens on this level defies adequate illustration, since the relevant material is no less than the novel in its entirety. What is at issue here is the way that, as the narrative unfolds, we become increasingly aware of how, underlying its diachronic surface structure as a narrated set of events succeeding one another in time, there is a deeper structure in which the same, relatively small set of patterns, themes and motifs is being resumed and repeated in various outer guises. To offer one, necessarily inadequate, example: there is a sense in which Hans Castorp might be said to ‘learn’ no more, in all his years on the mountain, than is already present in nuce in his very early childhood perception that death has two aspects - ‘one pious, profound, sadly beautiful’, the other ‘the complete opposite, very physical, very material’, indeed ‘almost indecent’ (pp. 43-4). This insight is present from a very early stage in Castorp's life, and from a very early stage, too, in our reading of his story; and both for Castorp as he lives his life within the fiction and for us as we follow that life in his story, that insight, rather than being the point of departure for a linear, advancing sequence moving towards some eventual goal, is more like the ever-present nucleus of an accumulating cluster, around which more and more manifestations of and elaborations upon essentially the same insight fall into place. The various instances in which this and similar narrative devices are employed in the novel to such ‘synchronic’ effect have been catalogued elsewhere. 15 It is to such features as this that the narrator is referring when he reflects that a narrative needs to appear in time (der Zeit zu ihrer Erscheinung bedarf), even if it should attempt ‘to be wholly present in every single moment (in jedem Augenblick ganz da zu sein)’ (p. 748). The hint that his narrative is one which aspires to such total presence, even though it is bound by the conditions
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of phenomenal experience to unfold itself in sequential guise, cannot be overlooked: especially when it is reinforced a little later by a strange apostrophe:

O Sea, as we sit writing we are far away from you, we turn our loving thoughts towards you, you shall be present in our story explicitly, through this loud exclamation, just as you secretly (im stillen) always were, are and ever shall be... (p. 756)

To contemplate the sea, the narrator has just reflected, is ‘to become lost to time’ (ibid.), to feel the ‘dizzying’ dissolution of all the categories of ordinary experience; and this dissolution of the structures which shape our everyday lives in the common~sense world is, he here suggests, an omnipresent characteristic ‘secretly’ informing his entire narrative, which is thus deeply Idealist in spirit.

There is a further, more elusive, link between the synchronic patterning of the text and the intimation of an Idealist vision of reality. A represented world which is so intensely marked by internal relationships of analogy and homology among virtually all its constituent parts is, in one essential respect, quite unlike either the world of our everyday experience, or the kind of world we encounter in realist fictions. Exploring a represented world like that of Der Zauberberg, where it is hard to find any elements which are merely contingently related, where each element seems to ‘mean’ at least one other element, we are likely to gain the impression that this consistently, and insistently, metaphorically related set of elements must itself ‘mean’ something, that the represented world in its entirety is some kind of metaphor, that it ‘means’, as a totality, something other than what it is. And something which seems to mean something else, no matter how strongly that something else may resist specification, does not strike us as having final reality - unlike the world of our ordinary experience which does not, in its totality, ‘mean’ anything: it just is there. ‘Whatever passes away is merely an image of something else’, to provide a rather cumbersome paraphrase of what

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Goethe's Chorus Mysticus sings with gnomic dignity at the close of Faust. To state the converse: whatever is in image of something else passes away, has no final reality – which would serve well enough in its turn as a paraphrase of. the tag, taught him by Naphta, which presents itself to Hans Castorp's mind as he sets off to lose himself in the ‘misty nothingness’ (p. 66o) of the snowy wastes: ‘praeterit figura hujus mundi.’

So, by a variety of means, the novel suggests that the world it lays before us can best be accounted for by an Idealist epistemology. To recognise that is to gain a perspective upon the depicted disputes between Settembrini and Naphta, which enables us to see the sense of our being shown at such length, rather than just told rather more briefly, that their arguments are as interminable as they are inconclusive. The endlessness and seeming fruitlessness of the discussions is another manifestation of the novel's Idealist stance. To accept any form of Idealism is to set severe limitations upon the power of discursive language to encompass reality. Precisely by being so thoroughly at home in the world of common-sense experience, discursive language is ill-adapted to penetrate the conditions of that experience. This is an affliction which weighs as heavily upon Naphta, the declared Idealist, as it does upon Settembrini, the committed Realist. It results in the ‘vast confusion’ which is generated as, with Castorp looking on and determined to find it all ‘worth listening to’, the two disputants try to expound their rival views on the nature and destiny of humanity:

But there was no sorting-out and clarification in all this, not even into two separate, militantly opposed positions; for they were not just at loggerheads, they were at sixes and sevens, and the disputants were not only contradicting each other, but were contradicting themselves, too. (p. 644)

Both the adversaries are flinging themselves up against the barriers of conceptual language, damaging themselves as

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much as their opponent in the process; and the sense that their true adversary is the very nature of the linguistic means they are obliged to use seems present in both their minds, encouraging them to redouble their efforts whilst at the same time fuelling their frustration and bitterness which, in the end, will lead them to abandon verbal weapons for pistols:

It was [...] the Vast Confusion, and Hans Castorp believed he could sense that the parties to the quarrel would have been less embittered had they themselves not felt it bearing down on their souls during their arguments. (p. 646)

But that is not the full extent to which the novel's Idealist view of reality appears in these disputes. Quite apart from the problems each of the contenders for Castorp's ideological allegiance has in formulating his own position coherently, there can be no reasoned disagreement between the positions taken up by Naphta and Settembrini, let alone any sort of ‘synthesis’ of those positions. For agreement, reasoned disagreement, or synthesis between two positions all require that both positions should have a common epistemological basis, since only then are they on an equal footing as discrete parts of a single world, and only if they are parts of a single world can they be brought into relationship with each other. Unless, that is, the epistemological basis of one of the positions is such that it can encompass the epistemology of the second as a special case of its own. In such an instance, the first position can subsume and relativise the second: the dispute is resolved by one party invalidating the arguments of his opponent by showing that those arguments derive from second-order considerations whose applicability he can account for and circumscribe on his own first principles – an argumentative move upon which Hegel builds his entire Phenomenologv of Spirit. And Naphta claims to be in just such a situation vis-à-vis Settembrini. Naphta freely acknowledges the existence, and indeed within limits the viability, of Settembrini's

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world in which the aim is to be a ‘good citizen of life’, a sphere dominated by ‘ethics, reason and virtue’ (p. 640). But whereas for Settembrini that world is coterminous with reality, for Naphta it exists within certain ‘conditions, which belong partly to the area of epistemology, partly to that of ethics, the former being time, space, causality, the latter morality (Sittlichkeit) and reason’ (p. 639). Conditions which, Naphta insists, have no roots in the fundamental nature of things, although his theory of reality does allow him to account for their genesis and function. Settembrini, by contrast, cannot subsume Naphta's vision of things under his own, uncompromisingly Realist ontology: he has to be content to dismiss Naphta's ideas as evil fantasies. But not everything or everyone that is dismissed obliges by going away. And the novel indicates that what Naphta stands for will not go away, but will continue to subvert any attempt to live by a Realist ontology, because experience as the narrative portrays it calls for an Idealist understanding of what is finally real and true.

Hans Castorp's self-appointed task of mulling over all he has heard and experienced, in the hope of working out ‘den wahren Stand und Staat des Menschen’ (p. 646) – mankind's true status in the universe and the kind of social and political organisation most appropriate to that status – is thus a formidable one. The fictional world of which he is an inhabitant is so constituted that human beings might appear to be confronted with a choice of equally unattractive alternatives. Either they devote themselves to the pursuit and recognition of truth, which by its very nature will lead to the destruction of much that Western Humanism has come to value most highly; or they confine themselves within the horizon of what Settembrini praises as ‘civilisation’ (p. 22-5), but at the cost of ignoring essential truths of their being and condition. It would seem that people must elect either to be crushed by the terrors of truth or enner­-

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vated by the hot air of technocratic rhetoric. No wonder Hans Castorp finds himself in an intellectual impasse, where the only prospect of finding a new way forward comes to him through grave physical peril, an encounter not just with symbols or analogies of death, but with imminent personal extinction.

In his second winter on the Mountain, Castorp takes to going on solitary skiing expeditions, partly because he is bored and a little ashamed of conducting his spiritual adventures in the luxury of the sanatorium (p. 659), but also out of a desire to challenge the forces of nature at their most threatening (p. 665). On the occasion on which the narrative concentrates, it seems that he has chosen to extend this challenge to a foolhardy degree, driven by a mixture of indifference and ‘embittered impatience’ (ibid.) with all that has built up within him in his time at the Berghof Though he can see a storm gathering, he ventures further away from human habitations than ever before. The weather worsens, all landmarks grow indistinct, and he is overcome by a sudden fear, an awareness of where his unconscious motivation is taking him: ‘this fear made him realise that up to now he had actually been secretly trying to lose his sense of direction … which he had now succeeded in doing so as completely as could be wished’ (p. 664). He is in the grip of a death-wish, whose promptings become more and more insistent as the blizzard descends: he recognises in his fits of delirium, his wandering in circles, the insistent desire to lie down and sleep the classic preliminaries to death by exposure, but this ‘rational observation’ (p. 669) of the danger he is in has increasingly less influence on his behaviour. Resting in the meagre shelter afforded by the side of a locked hut, he gives up the battle for consciousness, knowing that it is also the battle for life, and succumbs to his drowsiness. That he does not in the event die is partly a matter of external good fortune – the blizzard quickly passes; but though the improvement in the weather makes

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a return to the Berghof easy, it does not in itself save his life. In order to escape freezing to death he has to recover consciousness sufficiently to grasp his predicament and take appropriate action; and that decisive recovery of consciousness comes about through an inner process in two stages. He has, first of all, a kind of vision, then this vision takes him into a state in which, still only half awake, he experiences a train of thought which finally manages to engage his will-power and induce him to take action to rescue himself.

At the most basic level, then, the ‘meaning’ of the snow episode is that, despite Castorp's openness to the blandishments of death, his fascination with penetrating the boundaries of time, space and individuation, there is within him a deep urge to live on, to affirm and adhere to his personal identity as an individuated being in space and time; and that, when matters are brought to extremity, this urge to life is (just) strong enough to prevail. The actual content of the vision which is so instrumental in pulling him out of the clutches of his own death-wish elaborates upon the meaning that is already suggested in the mere fact of the vision and its effect. It establishes a complex set of links between this extreme experience of physical survival against considerable odds and the general issue, dominating the text as a whole, of the survival of humane values in an age which has discredited their claims to be rooted in fundamental reality.

Castorp is drawn first into a climate laden with all he has deprived himself of in his sojourn in the rarified mountain air close to the tree-line: the sights, sounds and fragrances of a deciduous forest in a summer rain shower. This gives way to the main part of the vision, as he sees before him on a southern sea-shore a community of resplendently healthy and happy young people who behave towards one another with friendly solicitude and relaxed dignity, a charmingly unemphatic mutual respect which seems to stem from a ‘bond joining all their minds and hearts (Sinnesbindung)’ and a ‘deeply ingrained idea’ that ‘rules in all of them’ (p. 680). But there is more to the scene in which Castorp finds himself. He is made aware of a temple behind him, and he fells a compulsion, mingled with growing dread, to approach and enter it. Before the inmost chamber is a group of statues the sight of which ‘for obscure reasons’ makes his ‘heart still heavier, filled with yet more fear and foreboding’ (p. 682). The reasons are not likely to be so obscure to the reader, who recognises the figures of Ceres and Persephone, and identifies the temple as the shrine of a fertility cult. Finally, in the sanctuary, he comes upon two half-naked hags who are dismembering and devouring a living child. His struggles to tear himself away from this sight dislodge him from his position against the side of the hut, he slides to the ground and is partially jolted back to consciousness. Still he carries on dreaming ‘in a sense, no longer in images, but in thoughts...’ (p. 683). The dream thoughts, like the images they reflect upon, have the same origin as the vision: they are expressions and instruments of a will to survive.

The ‘thoughts’ centre on the relationship between the scene on the shore and the horrors within the temple, and on the implications of that relationship. The temple and the shore are parts of one landscape, co-existent points on the map of a single reality. What Castorp comes upon in the sanctuary is something the ‘sun-people’ know to be there: and, he realises, their way of life, which so captivated him, is not a denial of, but a response to their knowledge. Castorp's venture into the temple interior, drawn on by a fascination which is heightened rather than checked by his mounting fear, re-enacts his discoveries of the truths his stay on the Mountain has taught him. It is at one level a journey into the childhood of man as a possessor of culture (the physical condition of the temple reveals its antiquity), and a parallel journey into the terrors of Castorp's own

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childhood (the women remind him of witches, and they curse him in Plattdeutsch dialect of his home town). But, in this novel, which is so concerned with the illusoriness of time, a journey into the past is only a phenomenal guise, a metaphor, for a penetration into the heart of being itself. What Castorp finds there is an image of the antithesis of all that Western Humanism, in its many variants, holds most dear. The ritual deep within the temple expresses a reality beyond appearances of the kind Naphta's philosophy discerns and makes into the source of an avowedly barbaric programme of action. Yet the sun-people live their lives in a spirit directly contrary to what the temple holds: not out of ignorance or self-delusion, but as the result of deliberate choice. The inhabitants of Settembrini's ‘civilisation’ can only abide by the values which make them ‘good citizens of life’ because they are sheltered from grim truths by an epistemological stockade which blocks their view, a stockade, moreover, that has to be camouflaged so as to make it look to those within like the boundary of reality itself. The sun-people, by contrast, live in ‘full sight.’ (pp. 684-5; 686) of the temple, aware of what it contains. The foundations of their way of life, the essence of the bond ‘joining all their hearts and minds’, the ‘ingrained idea’ from which their behaviour seems to proceed, is a decision to live in a way that constitutes an existence antithetical to what they know the temple contains. Like Hans Castorp, enmeshed in the ‘vast confusion.’ generated by the ideologues' disputes, like twentieth-century Western humanity as seen from Thomas Mann's Germanic perspective, the sun-people are inhabitants of a world in which there is a radical opposition between what they know is fundamentally real and what they value most highly. Their response to that opposition has been essentially a creative one. They have used the power of creativity to assert what they value in the face of what is the case. They have shaped for themselves a culture which is the achieved expression of
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what they value; and by so doing they have given what they value a kind of reality, the elusive but nonetheless effective reality of a conscious fiction which is recognised and cherished for what it is – the response to an alien facticity of creatures endowed both with the power to value and with that capacity to translate evaluations into external realities which is human creativity. Part of a reality which is fundamentally like the one Naphta describes, the sun-people have nonetheless chosen not to derive their way of life from the underlying nature of being. They have severed the links between ontology and morality, ontology and social and political order, by interposing between themselves and the given realities of existence a fiction shaped to express and realise what they feel to be valuable, a fiction inspired by and successfully embodying ‘Güte und Liebe (goodness and love)’ (p. 686). The dream-thoughts build up to a formulation which Castorp calls his ‘Traumwort’, the words that express the essence of his vision: ‘For the sake of goodness and love, man should not allow death any dominion over his thoughts’ (p. 686: italics of original) - the suggestion being that in his pursuit of knowledge on the Mountain, Castorp has been responding to the blandishments of death, which are none the less pernicious for being also the voice of profound truth; and that to do so is to prejudice the values of goodness and love which can be realised by a creative act that asserts and sustains humanity in the face of inhumane facts. 16

Castorp's Traumwort has sufficient power to pull him out of his torpor, make him grasp his position and head for safety. But does it carry any significance beyond the context of the incident which provokes them, let alone beyond that of the novel as a whole? There are two seemingly good reasons for doubting that it does. First, it might be argued that the creation of fictions is too marginal and ethereal an activity to be able to bear such weight as here seems to be laid upon it – the burden of sustaining an entire culture,

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no less. That is, however, a contention which the whole of the snow episode is designed to deny. To reflect again upon the basic situation the passage portrays: a young man is in acute danger of freezing to death; something in him wants to die, to be released from consciousness, individuation, all the structures and constrictions of worldly existence; something else in him wants to live, to dismiss the allurements of dissolution, to return to existence in the physical world. The urge to life triumphs over the urge to die in the most literal sense possible: he regains consciousness, pulls himself together and makes for shelter. Now the means by which the impulse to life is shown to prevail is nothing other than the creation of a fiction, for that is precisely what the vision which restores Castorp to the living is. It is a set of images generated in his imagination whose function is, not to mimic any factual state of affairs, but to body forth an evaluation, and to give effect to what that evaluation demands. So this episode portrays fictive activity as a deeply rooted, spontaneous process within the self, and as a process with enormous power to affect reality, the power indeed of life and death. The deliberate creation of sophisticated fictions for a sophisticated public, we are invited to believe, is not a specialised activity sui generis: it is continuous with a much more basic, and by implication universal, activity of the self, of which it is simply a controlled and refined elaboration. 17

The second difficulty in the way of reading Castorp's Traumwort as something that has more than rhetorical significance outside its immediate context is more substantial. ‘Goodness and love’, it would appear, are being offered as values by which the obsession with truth at all costs is to be curbed and the creation of humane fictions is to be inspired and shaped. The trouble is that ‘goodness’ and ‘love’ are not in themselves values at all: they are just words; and to get at the values they denote we need to establish what the words mean. Without some way of fleshing out that

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meaning, the Traumwort must remain an empty gesture. 18 In a novel which is so concerned to demonstrate the impossibility of assigning any consistent or generally acceptable meaning to all manner of key words used to discuss human nature and destiny – an impossibility to which the unending ‘logomachy’ between Settembrini and Naphta more than amply testifies – the prospects of investing the Traumwort with usable meaning might appear very slim indeed. However, the understanding of the nature and scope of language which prevails with such depressingly arid results in the expatiations of the ideologues is not the only one which the novel envisages and exemplifies. The novel is concerned with what figure as two distinct kinds of knowledge, both of which Hans Castorp experiences, and both of which the novel claims to offer its readers through his story. The first kind, with which most of this study has so far been dealing, is knowledge of facts and forces, which is shown leading to truth and to a dissolution of the categories of experience that is an analogy, or even a precursor, of death. The second kind is knowledge of people, which is shown leading to compassion and love, to an absolute affirmation of the worth of personality, of unique individuality that is also an affirmation of lived existence as an irreducible value in itself. Each type of knowledge is associated with a distinctive use of language. The first type uses language to specify and analyse, to label facts and forces, to trace out their component parts and their interrelationships. It is the language of discursive thought and argument, the language to which Naphta and Settembrini are committed and confined. The second type of knowledge is, in real life, not necessarily bound up with language at all. We may well talk of trying to ‘put’ our knowledge of a person, our feelings towards them which are a mode of that knowledge, ‘into words’, but the very phrase indicates that what is at stake is something which, though it may seek linguistic expression, is not dependent on such expression, and may indeed utterly defy it. Knowledge of this kind, we are told, first came to Hans Castorp early in his life. As a small child he had ‘perceptions’ of his grandfather's character which were ‘wordless and therefore uncritical’: they were ‘on the contrary just simply full of life’ (p. 39). Even in later years, the narrator comments, the memory Castorp retained of the old man ‘kept its quality of being inimical to words and to analysis, of being purely and simply affirmative (schlechthin bejahend)’ (ibid.). Castorp, of course, also comes to see his grandfather as a symbolic prefiguration of all kinds of things which are embodied in aspects of his experiences on the Mountain (e.g., pp. 216-26); but this symbolic aspect, the sense in which he sees his grandfather's being as a phenomenal form through which something else was manifest, has no power to dissolve or relativise the original and persisting ‘affirmative’ perception, ‘full of life’, of an irreducible personality. Human personality, Castorp later remarks, in a formulation which is abstruse because it is trying to match an inexpressibly simple and immediate thing, is ‘absolutely positive, just like life itself’ (p. 809). 19 But although something so ‘absolute’ evades the relativities of discursive language, it can be evoked and rendered in imaginative language, especially in imaginative language skilfully and sensitively deployed in literary art. More: the evocative language of creative literature can also embody what it is like to know the ‘absolute positivity’ of an individual person, and to meet it with the only response which is ever wholly appropriate (though it may not often be possible): the response of love. ‘Goodness’ (at least as it figures in Castorp's ‘Traumwort’) is an attribute of persons; ‘love’ is a mode of knowledge of a person: imaginative literature can, and in this novel does, give meaning to both these words by bodying forth the experiences they represent in images which are ‘full of life’.

Any adequate reading of this novel must allow as much

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weight to the sense in which it belongs to ‘the literature of personality’ 20as is accorded to the ways it intimates an Idealist epistemology, for only then can the full complexity of what the work attempts and achieves be grasped. The Idealist strand and its implications have figured so largely in the present study only because, for most readers of novels, they are easier to overlook and more difficult to understand than the rendering of personality as a value in itself which is such an important component in the structure and meaning of the work. The brevity and selectiveness of the following treatment of the novel's portrayal of personality and response to personality does not in any sense imply that this aspect of the work is of subsidiary importance. On the contrary, its importance can hardly be overstated, for personality and response to personality, bodied forth in the language of literature, are being offered as sources of a genuine and available knowledge which has some prospect of being able to underpin humane values after the collapse of what were once thought to be their ontological foundations.

Der Zauberberg was initially conceived as an ironic counterpart to Death in Venice, and the residual marks of those origins have often been commented upon. 21 One noticeable contrast between the course of the plot in the two narratives is worth observing here. For all the differences between Gustav von Aschenbach and Hans Castorp in character and situation, each of them becomes captivated by a figure which appeals to them largely because of what it represents, because of forces of which that figure is to some degree an emissary or a transparent medium. Aschenbach becomes consumed with a passionate fascination with Tadzio, without really knowing the boy as a person at all. What Aschenbach thinks of as his love for Tadzio is an experience of succumbing to forces within himself which the image of the boy has awakened and unleashed, rather than an encounter with the ‘absolute’ nature of another person. Similarly,

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what Castorp calls his ‘relationship’ with Clavdia – although the narrator disclaims ‘any responsibility for the use of that word: it must be put down to Hans Castorp's account’ (p. 198) – has a noticeably private, almost solipsistic character, until the night of the carnival. What excites Castorp during his first seven months on the Mountain is not really Clavdia herself as an autonomous, differentiated person, but rather things of which she seems to him an embodiment. a symbol. Significantly enough, his preoccupation with her begins and is to some extent sustained by his perceiving her, not as a unique person met for the first time, but as the reimbodiment of someone he has met and loved before, where that ‘love’ too was more a matter of feeling the allurement of an exotically different world than of knowledge and affirmation of an individual. But beyond this, the paths taken by Aschenbach and Castorp diverge. At a decisive juncture in his story, Aschenbach has an opportunity to make the acquaintance of the real Tadzio, to turn him from the object (or rather the occasion) of a private obsession into a known autonomous person. He lets the opportunity pass unused. ‘This step, which he failed to take, might quite possibly have made matters take a beneficial, relaxed, happy turn, have led to salutory sobriety. But the ageing man's state was doubtless such that he did not wish for sobriety, his intoxication being too precious to him.’ 22 For a long time, Hans Castorp too avoids getting to know Clavdia, telling himself that he neither wants nor needs the kind of social acquaintanceship with her which the sanatorium life makes available. But on the night of the carnival, when conventional social forms are suspended, Castorp is emboldened to take the step from which he has previously shrunk back, a step which, though he does not know it in advance, will take him from obsession with a symbol to knowledge of a person. A ‘sobering’ step, no doubt, but one which in the longer term brings him things which his solipsistic intoxication could not offer. It may
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well still be his image of the allurements of death, the embodiment of the genius loci, that Castorp follows to her bed (although we as readers have already observed the sudden and striking emergence of the distinctive lineaments of Clavdia's personality in the preceding conversation, and the invitation to her room proceeds from that personality); but when he encounters Clavdia, again, he is meeting and perceiving an individuated person, a person who both inspires and embodies ‘goodness and love’. For it emerges that her return to the Berghof in the company of Peeperkorn is a sign neither of indifference nor of malice towards Hans Castorp: it is at least partly motivated by a kind of need for Castorp, based on her knowledge of what he is like, which derives from the night in which she discerned ‘a good human being’ (p. 831) in someone who had previously just been ‘un petit bonhomme convenable, de bonne famille, d'une tenue appétissante … qui retournera bientôt dans les plaines pour … aider à rendre son pays grand et puissant …’ (p. 475). Now, feeling that her anxious solicitude for Peeperkorn is more than she can cope with alone, she has brought him to where she knows she will have ‘a good human being’ at her side (p. 831). She is not disappointed. Castorp very quickly perceives the mixture of vitality and anxiety, energy and tenderness, robustness and vulnerability which constitute Peeperkorn's powerful, if ‘slightly blurred’ personality (p. 765) – a personality which the novel evokes for us with masterly vividness and economy. He is both delighted and moved to be accepted as Peeperkorn's friend, and understands why Clavdia has become his lover. Peeperkorn has, of course, more than one ‘function’ within the architecture of the novel: his gift for a self-expression which is as effective as it is inarticulate helps put the wordiness of Settembrini and Naphta in its place; and his life and death emphasise the precariousness of vitalism as a Weltanschauung. Peeperkorn's chief contribution to the novel as a showing-forth of the absolute
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value of individual personality is, however, the way his presence is shown to unite Castorp and Clavdia in a shared love for him which is a new mode of love for each other as well. Their decision to ‘form an alliance for [Peeperkorn], in the way people normally form an alliance against someone’ (p. 830) would meet with no more comprehension from either Naphta or Settembrini than does the beneficiary of that alliance. In Naphta's eyes, individual human suffering is the form of experience truest to man's earthly condition, not a proper object of compassion. And Settembrini has no time for any concern with suffering that is not part of a feasible project to ‘eradicate’ it. The practical uselessness of Castorp's and Clavdia's ‘alliance for’ Peeperkorn would render it from his viewpoint as worthless as Castorp's earlier attempts to bring some little comfort to dying patients (pp. 429-30). The feeling that unites Castorp and Clavdia is thus thrown into relief as a reality – concern for another person simply as a person – which is proof against intellectual relativisation. It is, moreover, pointed up as a rendered reality that is undiminished by the difficulty of finding a precise term to label it. The alliance, the narrator tells us, is sealed with a kiss of the sort exchanged in Russia ‘im Sinne der Liebesbesiegelung’ (as a solemn token of love). But, he goes on, the characters and ages of the people exchanging this kiss make him wonder, as he narrates it, whether he isn't using the word ‘love’ here in a ‘slightly shifting sense’, the way it was used in Krokowski's psychoanalytical lectures, where one never quite knew whether the ‘love’ being talked about was ‘elevated and solemn (fromm)’ or ‘carnal and passionate’. Having gone out of his way to introduce this question, the narrator now ‘refuses point blank to look more deeply into it’. It might be in keeping with the analytical spirit to pursue a ‘neat’ distinction between what is ‘elevated’ and what is ‘passionate’ in matters of love, he concedes, but it would be ‘unfriendly towards life’ to do so in this case:

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What is ‘neat’ supposed to mean here? What's all this about ‘shifting sense’ and ‘ambiguity’? We confess openly that we find all such talk ridiculous. Is it not a great and good thing that language has for everything one can imagine, from what is most elevated to what is most carnally lascivious, just one single word? . . . Shifting sense? For heaven's sake, let the sense of ‘love’ shift. The fact that it shifts is a sign of life and humanity ... (pp. 831-2)

The serious point behind all this bantering, then, is that ‘life and humanity’ are actually manifested (not devalued or debunked) by the inability of language to label them neatly: an obvious slap in the face for the claims of discursive language to delimit what is real; and a covert pat on the back for the achievement of imaginative language in rendering as fully and distinctly as could be wished the nature of the feelings which the kiss expresses. The novel abounds in similar achievements. There is, for example, the representation of Settembrini's strong and much-tried affection for his and ‘life's problem-child’ (p. 429); the portrayal of Joachim's integrity and courage, with the respect it commands even from the otherwise irremediably trivial minded; and the rendering of Castorp's grief at Joachim's death. The experience of mourning is, after all, a compelling testimony to the uniqueness and absolute worth of an individual life. The Idealist may see in death the passing of an illusory mode of being. But to the eyes of love death is an irreplaceable loss, and it is with such eyes that Hans Castorp stands at his cousin's deathbed. True, his ‘analytic’ awareness cannot be restrained from reminding him that the tears he is shedding are a ‘salty-alkaline glandular excretion … containing a certain amount of mucin and protein as well’ (p. 744). But they are nonetheless signs of a profound emotion with which, thanks to the novel's masterly intimation of personality, we can wholly identify. To say that ‘goodness and love-’, the key terms of Castorp's Traumwort, are not given a substantial meaning in this novel would be to pass judgment on our own ability as readers, not on Thomas Mann's achievement as a writer.

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As far as anyone can tell, Thomas Mann never so much as set eyes on Wieland's Geschichte des Agathon. Yet there are striking respects in which Der Zauberberg bears a closer resemblance to Agathon than to Wilhelm Meisters Lehriahre. Agathon and Der Zauberberg are both dominated by an extremely garrulous narrator, fond of reflecting upon problems of fictional representation, who feels obliged to apologise for the ordinariness of his ‘hero’. Agathon, the narrator concedes, is not a particularly important person, but he just happened to be someone the ‘editor’ was in a position to know particularly well; and Hans Castorp, we are warned, is ‘simple’ and possibly ‘mediocre’ (Agathon, p. 2; Zauberberg, pp. 9; 49). Moreover, the hero's subsequent destiny after that portion of his life which serves the narrator's purposes is said to be of little further interest or import (Agathon, pp. 380-1; Zauberberg, p. 994). The slightest external evidence that Mann knew Wieland's novel would have sufficed to set scholars pouncing upon such things as conscious and artful references. To attach significance to resemblances like these despite the certainty that there is no direct influence is to court the rebuke of practising ‘a Geistesgeschichte which is simply unwilling to forgo any connection between great and great’. 23 And yet what seems to be at work here is something like a coherent strand of German intellectual, spiritual, literary history. Beneath the similarities of technique there is an affinity of purpose. Wieland saw that the ability of prose fiction to combine within a single representation images of external reality and renderings of human consciousness made it possible to devise a novel which brought the resources of imaginative literature to bear upon the problem of identifying authentic humanity (see above, pp. 24-5). Thomas Mann drew upon that same capacity of fictional narrative to integrate the mirroring of states of affairs with the rendering

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of states of consciousness, with similar ends in view. In both cases, what inspires and directs the fictional undertaking is the challenge of a changed scientific view of the world in powerful alliance with a particular philosophy of man; and in both cases, too, the novel concedes, and indeed displays, the plausibility of that philosophy. At the same time, each novel expresses the belief that there is something in human experience, something which imaginative literature is especially able to draw out and bring into focus, that counts against the claims of that philosophy to be a comprehensive account of human nature. Beyond this point, the two approaches diverge, reflecting significant historical changes. Wieland, like most of his contemporaries, like most of his predecessors in the tradition of Western Humanism, believes in the ultimate unity, or at least compatibility, of the good and the true. Wieland's novel is built around the notion that, if Agathon can be plausibly represented as someone showing an irreducible impulse towards ‘virtue’, Hippias' philosophy, no matter how well it may serve as a description of how the majority of mankind actually behave, will have been refuted as an account of the essential nature of humanity. So everything hangs on our accepting the truth of Agathon's nature as the novel represents it; and Wieland's undertaking falls down as soon as we reflect that the power of a representation to show us by contrast the falsity of what are in any case plainly implausible fictions does not in itself guarantee that representation's truth, despite the narrator's claims to the contrary. Thomas Mann, on the other hand, is not only not committed to the belief that the good and the true are fundamentally one: he actually makes it his business to represent a world in which they are, in essential respects, fundamentally opposed to each other. He shows us a world in which profound analysis, scientific or philosophical, leads to truths which are inimical to everything Western culture has come to esteem most highly. Der Zauberberg is
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designed to suggest that acknowledgment of those truths need not and should not lead to the abandonment of Western ethical tradition. Far from being identical, goodness and truth are, according to this novel, at odds with each other; but the existence of goodness in antithesis to truth is portrayed as evidence of a deeply rooted creative capacity in man which is the foundation of humane values. The snow episode presents in archetypal form a pattern implicit throughout the novel, in which the perception of truth and the desire for goodness confront each other, and the desire for goodness, finding no sustenance in truth, creates a fiction to embody what it values. But, by embodying what the desire for goodness values, that creative act gives goodness a kind of reality, the reality of a fiction which is the bodying-forth in the external world of what was previously merely an aspiration. And what is bodied forth is goodness and love. Because these are human creations, they will always be vulnerable to assault by those who insist on identifying the real exclusively with the fundamentally given. To make that identification, the novel insists, is to ignore the power of creativity and the force of what it creates: to ignore what makes men and women human. True humanity may be impossible to ground in ontology, but it can be shown forth through that activity which is the refined elaboration of the primal creativity manifested both in the generation and in the content of Castorp's vision in the snow: the creation and reception of literary art. If we can make sense of the images of goodness and love offered to us through the novel, that establishes that we possess a kind of knowledge we can draw upon to shape our lives as individuals and as social beings, shunning the arguments of those who would base morality and politics upon dehumanising truths. That is the reason why the narrator offers Hans Castorp's story as one that is ‘eminently worth telling’.

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When Joachim. hears his cousin gleefully anticipating how much ‘they’ will learn from future conversations with Naphta, whom they have just met for the first time, he is provoked to an uncharacteristically exasperated reproach: ‘Oh, you with your biology and your botany and your unstoppable turning-points, you keep on getting brainier and brainier up here…. The thing is, though, that what we're here for is to get better, not to get cleverer’ (p. 535). We suspect, as Joachim doubtless does, too, that ‘getting better’ does not rank very high among Castorp's priorities, especially since there seems not much clinically wrong with him anyway. But his answer seems plausible enough: ‘All right. You say we're not supposed to get cleverer, but better; but, for goodness sake, surely it's possible to do both!’ (p. 536). However, the course taken by Castorp's story would seem to suggest that the combination is not possible if we take ‘getting better’ in the sense Joachim intends – being able to leave the Mountain and take up an active life in the Flatland. Whatever insights his story may yield for us as readers, they seem of no avail to Castorp himself. His Traumwort, granted him before the end of his second year on the Mountain, does not release him from the domain of death. Indeed, we learn that no sooner has the atmosphere of the sanatorium enclosed him again than the memory of his vision begins to fade, and by the evening of the day he escaped freezing to death he no longer understands all that well what he had thought (p. 688). Later – just how much later we cannot say, for as the novel lengthens we lose track of external chronology almost as completely as does Castorp; but it is before the sinking of the Titanic in Spring 1912 (p. 959) – his reflections on his favourite gramophone records reveal that Castorp has a strong sense that his life is wasting away, that he is in thrall to death (pp. 893-907). Yet these reflections

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do not influence his actions, either: he sinks inexorably into the vegetative state from which only the outbreak of war frees him. His removal from the ‘crass’ world of the Flatland (p. 277) brings him only a negative freedom, for it changes him so much that there is no longer any world beyond the Mountain that he could inhabit without jettisoning what he has come to see and value. His former subliminal sense of the ‘inner hollowness’ of the society he was trained to serve (p. 50) has developed into a strong and clear awareness, which can no longer be eradicated. He cannot live in his former world, either on its own terms or on the new terms the Mountain has taught him. That is the import of his reply when Clavdia, says he should have left long since and resumed his practical career; ‘That's just an empty phrase. You can't mean it in Settembrini's sense – and what other sense can it have?’ (p. 826). He stays where he is until the outbreak of the cataclysm which, whatever else may happen, will destroy for good the world in which there was no place for what he has learned at the Berghof.

We, however, as the narrator insistently reminds us in the opening sentences of the novel, are inhabitants of a very different world indeed from the one which Castorp left and failed to re-enter. And in the course of that reminder, the narrator introduces an important distinction between the hero and his story:

The story of Hans Castorp which we are about to tell – not for his sake (for the reader will find in him a straightforward if quite appealing young man), but for the sake of the story, which strikes us as eminently worth telling (although we should perhaps bear in mind that it is, after all, his story, and that not every story happens to everyone): this story comes from very long ago, it is, so to speak, already covered with the venerable patina of history and must at all costs be related in the most remote of all past tenses. (p. 9)

Which reads like the preamble to some narrative of prehistory – though we are swiftly disabused as the narrator cautions us that the degree to which the story belongs to

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the past has really nothing to do with time, and explains that the remoteness comes from it being set on the other side of ‘a certain turning-point and frontier which has made a deep division in people's lives and in their awareness’: the First World War (ibid.). This insistence on the vast gulf between the pre- and post-war worlds is the context from which the distinction between story and hero draws its significance; 24 and it offers the key to understanding why Hans Castorp seems to benefit so little from experiences which are nevertheless declared to be, as a story, ‘eminently worth telling’.

Castorp lives in and is confined to the prewar world; his story is told in and for the post-war world. And it is in that post-war world that there is the possibility, indeed the acute necessity, of making use of insights granted to readers through Castorp's story, which were of no avail to Castorp himself in the pre-war circumstances of his narrated life. With the war, the narrator says, ‘many things began which have still hardly yet stopped beginning’ (p. 9-10). The old political structures have collapsed, and society and culture are in flux. When the ‘beginnings’ do eventually come to an end, new structures will have emerged; and those to whom the novel is addressed will be called upon to make decisions which will help determine what those new structures are.

The extent to which the insights yielded by Castorp's story are addressed to the condition of citizens of the postwar age is emphasised by certain intellectual and ideological anachronisms. Physically, socially and in terms of concrete historical events, Hans Castorp's depicted conditions of life are indisputably those of the period from 1907 to 1914. Intellectually and ideologically, however, the chronological accuracy of the novel's ambience is less clear. This is most demonstrably so in the case of an important part of Castorp's initiation into advances in ‘contemporary’ science, his encounter with the ‘planetary’ model of atomic structure that helps incline him towards Idealism (see above, p. 250).

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Hans Castorp is shown coming across a popularised account of that model in his reading during the winter of 1907/8. But at that date, the experiments upon which that model of the atom was built had not even been devised, let alone carried out and published: and the ‘planetary’ theory itself was not elaborated until 1912 and 1913. 25 Not such a chronological impossibility, but still more than a little unlikely, is the status accorded to the ‘psychoanalyst’ Krokowski at the Berghof. There is nothing intrinsically unlikely about the presence of a doctor with psychoanalytic interests at a fashionable sanatorium as early as 1907: the odd thing is that, at such a date, Krokowski's psychoanalytic lectures and therapy are supposedly the pride of the sanatorium's brochure (p. 907). It is unlikely that such a selling-point would have been made of psychoanalytic facilities at such a time: insofar as it was known at all outside fairly restricted circles, psychoanalysis was viewed by the middle-class public in the first decade of the century as morally highly suspect; and it was so strongly associated with the treatment of neurotics that to admit being attracted by the opportunity for such treatment would be tantamount to an admission of incipient mental instability. In the 1920s, psychoanalysis became a fashionable vogue, with just enough of a residual aura of disreputableness to make it a drawing point. But a good decade earlier, it is hard to credit that a financially astute management such as the Berghof is said to possess would give prominence to something more liable to diminish rather than enhance the attractiveness of their institution. The third area of anachronism in the novel looms very large indeed: it is the ideological debate between Settembrini and Naphta. What takes us out of the ostensibly pre-war period here is not the actual ideas themselves, which were all part of the stock-in-trade of pre-war ideologues, but the sense of urgency, of being anything other than a merely verbal battle, with which the debates are invested. Beyond the image of two individuals trying
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to gain the allegiance of a simple young man in a corner of pre-war Switzerland, we catch the atmosphere of the battles between rival ideologies for actual political power in the crisis-ridden Germany that emerged from the war, a Germany in which even the most extravagant of ideological programmes had to be treated with the utmost seriousness, since it might be translated into all-too-tangible political realities virtually from one week to the next; as one such ideology indeed eventually was, to Thomas Mann's dismay, and to the benighted jubilation of so many whom his novel was designed to reach. 26 Across the figure of his ‘problem child’, Hans Castorp, Settembrini is made to address the public of Castorp's story, in a future time: ‘Caro amico! Decisions will have to be made, – decisions with inestimable implications for the fortunes and future of Europe, and it will fall to your country to make them’ (p. 714).

All this indicates that the division between the pre- and post-war worlds, the gulf between the age inhabited by the hero and the age in which his story is told, is not rendered quite so straightforwardly as the opening passages of the novel suggest. Constrained within the realities and opportunities of pre-war Europe, Hans Castorp is nevertheless exposed to the intellectual and ideological perplexities characteristic of the immediate post-war period. His exposure to those perplexities yields insights which, precisely because he exists in the social and concrete historical realities of 1907 to 1914, are of no use to him. But they are of use to the readers of his story, citizens of the post-war world who have to make moral, cultural and political choices of a kind not available to or enjoined upon the hero: choices which will help decide whether humane values are carried across the social, political and philosophical gulf between the nineteenth century which, as has sometimes been remarked, ended in August 1914, and the twentieth century, which had ‘hardly stopped beginning’ when the novel was shaped. The novel's first readers had

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one choice in particular to make, one for which the novel, for all its complexities, offered them the most unequivocal guidance. But the attempts of violently reactionary ideologues to appropriate the heritage of German Conservatism, the immediate threat to which the novel is addressed, is only a special case of a perennial twentieth-century predicament. We continue to be exposed, even if in a less dramatic fashion than was the case in the Germany of the 1920s, to rival ideological programmes, all offering a salvation based on a particular vision of man; and there is a disquieting scarcity of uncompromised sources for the criteria of choice that we need. There are, indeed, other criteria on offer than those conveyed in Der Zauberberg, some of them, maybe, rather better ones; but there are certainly many that are a good deal worse.

1 .  This is one of the general formulations offered by Pascal, German Novel, p.299, for the distinctive subject-matter of Bildungsromane.

2 .  Page references after quotations from Der Zauberberg are to Thomas Mann, Gesammelte Werke in 13 Bänden, Vol. 3, Frankfurt am Main 1974. All translations are my own.

3 .  Further details in H. Saueressig, Die Entstehung des Romans ‘Der Zauberberg’ , Biberach an der Riss, n.d., pp. 7-34.

4 .  For Thomas Mann's knowledge of the Bildungsroman tradition, see J. Scharfschwerdt, Thomas Mann und der deutsche Bildungsroman. Untersuchungen zu den Problemen einer literarischen Tradition, Stuttgart etc. 1967, pp. 12-16. A diary entry of 15 June 1921 suggests that Mann became fully aware of the affinities between Der Zauberberg and Wilhelm Meister only at a fairly late stage in his work on the novel. See Thomas Mann, Tagebücher 1918-1925 ed. P. de Mendelssohn, Frankfurt am Main 1979.

5 .  A. Eddington, The Nature of the Physical World, Cambridge 1928, p. xvi

6 .  See I. Berlin, Four Essays on Liberty, Oxford 1969, pp. 118-72.

7 .  By T. J. Reed, Thomas Mann. The Uses of Tradition, Oxford 1974, pp. 275-316.

8 .  I am not trying to cast any doubt on the (to my mind unanswerable) case made by Reed, Thomas Mann, pp. 226-74, for saying that Der Zauberberg is intended to convey a positive message. But I disagree with Reed's assessment of the price at which that message is shown to be bought. Reed does not take the rendered metaphysical threat to Castorp's readiness and ability to live in the world of common-sense reality seriously enough. According to Reed, Hans Castorp is shown to he endangered through having ‘opened his mind to all possible influences’ (p. 272). The Hans Castorp we see ‘lost to the world’ in the latter part of his stay on the Mountain is, Reed claims, offered as a ‘warning against the sloth and quietism which Bildung [understood as the pursuit of ‘richness and manysidedness’] under some circumstances may lead to’ (p. 273). But what is problematic about Hans Castorp's ‘education’ is not the amount of knowledge nor the number and variety of the experiences he is gaining: it is the fact that so many of his discoveries and experiences are subversive of the fundamental categories which have previously constituted his conception of what is real. The task of reconstruction which the novel presents as the necessary preliminary to any affirmation of the worldly world is accordingly that much greater than Reed indicates. At the opposite extreme is the study by B. Kristiansen, Unform-Form-Überform. Thomas Manns ‘Zauberberg’ und Schopenhauers Metaphysik, Københaven 1978, which purports to show that the entire novel is a vehicle for ‘eine[ ] sich an Schopenhauers Metaphysik orientierende[ ] Deutung des Seins’ (p. xxiii). Apart from the fact that Kristiansen seems unaware of the enormous difficulty (and doubtful utility) of sorting out just what Thomas Mann received from Schopenhauer directly, rather than through Nietzsche, his thesis commits him to struggling against, rather than responding to, the novel's efforts at affirmative reconstruction.

9 .  J. P. Stern, On Realism, London 1973, p. 31.

10 .  It is consequently difficult to see why M. Sera, Utopie und Parodie bei Musil, Broch und Thomas Mann, Bonn 1969, p. 148, thinks that Hans Castorp's ‘fixation’ on Clavdia Chauchat has a predominantly ‘inhibiting function’, and is the expression of a ‘stagnation’ which is ‘alien to development’.

11 .  The Germanic punctuation is that of Mann's text, though the blame may lie with his original publishers.

12 .  Thus H. J. Weigand, The Magic Mountain, Chapel Hill 2nd. edition 1964, p. 147. Despite introducing the red herring of Mann's alleged ‘mysticism’, Weigand at least faces the challenge which the presence of this episode in the novel offers to any interpreter. His courage has seldom been emulated: many commentators either pass over the apparition entirely, swiftly dispose of it with obvious embarrassment, or, in the case of Reed, Thomas Mam, pp. 265-6, are provoked to something approaching indignation, accusing Mann of an unacceptable ‘manipulation of reality to make an argument’. But that reproach is too easily made, seeing that we are dealing with a novel one of whose central contentions is that ‘reality’ is not such an obviously clear?cut thing as Reed's criticism implies.

13 .  See M. Dierks, Studien zu Mythos und Psychologie bei Thomas Mann, Bern 1972, pp. 129-35; and J. Finck, Thomas Mam; und die Psychoanalyse, Paris 1973, pp. 15-32.

14 .  For the First Antinomy, see Kant, Kritik der reinen Vernunft, B 454/A 426 - B 457/A 429; Reclam edn. (Stuttgart 1966) pp. 468-71. U. Karthaus, Der Zauberberg – ein Zeitroman. (Zeit, Geschichte, Mythos)’, DVjs, 44 1970), pp. 269-305, suggests a parallel to Kant's discussion of time in the Transcendental Aesthetic (B 46/A 30 et seq.), I think that the reference I suggest to the first of the mathematical antinomies in the Transcendental Dialectic is more plausible and more illuminating. More plausible, because it is the sort of thing Mann, who had only the vaguest and most elementary knowledge of Kant, might have picked up through hearing someone expound the First Antinomy as a philosophical party-piece. More illuminating, because whereas Karthaus has to conclude that there is a wide divergence between Kant's definite conclusions in the ‘transcedental discussion’ of the concept of time, and the narrator's reminder to the reader that one can ‘keep on asking’ for ever whether it makes sense to regard time and space as either finite or infinite, it is possible to regard the narrator's point about the impossibility of deciding that question either way as the informal equivalent of the antinomy that Kant demonstrates.

15 .  See F. Bulhof, Transpersonalismus und Synchroniztät. Wiederholung als Strukturelement in Thomas Manns ‘Zauberberg’ , Groningen 1966.

16 .  Most of the numerous participants in the interminable, and not very enlightening, debate about the import of Hans Castorp's vision seem to me to neglect two essential things: the ‘operational’ function of the vision in keeping Hans Castorp alive – it effects what it signifies, and the effect is an important part of the significance; and the implications of its being presented as the product of a feverish (though not deranged) spirit in extremis, so that attempts to locate the Sun People historically – whether as members of a past culture (Scharfschwerdt, Tbomas Mann, p. 142) or as representatives of ‘a future humanity’ (H. Jendreiek, Tbomas Mann. Der demokratische Roman, Düsseldorf 1977, p. 330) are no more appropriate than are aesthetic judgments upon its content (T. E. Apter, Tbomas Mann. The Devil's Advocate, London 1978, p. 67, for example, calls it ‘hopelessly trite’) or moral strictures upon the figures who appear in it (as, for instance, when Swales, Bildungsroman, p. 114, charges them with ‘smugness and callousness’ for making no attempt to stop the sacrifice). Kristiansen, Unform, provides a fairly exhaustive account of the various contributions to this debate, together with his own implausible offering.

17 .  For Mann's presentation of this conception of fiction in a very different mode, see my ‘Fiction and Meaning in Thomas Mann's Felix Krull’, Journal of European Studies, 10, 1980), pp. 77-92.

18 .  I have no quarrel with Reed, Tbomas Mann, p. 299, when he demonstrates that in the light of politics and society in the Weimar Republic such formulations as the Traumwort ‘emerge as epitomes of the vital issues of those years, and as unmistakeable contributions to the inner-German debate’. But I do wish to argue that the Traumwort is given concrete embodiment witbin the novel as well, in a way that complements the historical applications which Reed displays.

19 .  Readers unfamiliar with German need to be warned against two possible misunderstandings of the translation ‘absolutely positive’ for the original ‘absolut positiv’. The first is that ‘absolut’ is not simply a rhetorical intensifier, as ‘absolutely’ so often is in English: it carries its full meaning of ‘without condition or qualification’; and ‘positiv’ does not signify ‘having favourable characteristics or an affirmative attitude’: it means that something is just simply there, whatever anyone may think or say about it, that it has an undeniable reality of existence.

20 .  This phrase is, of course, from the subtitle of the study which has suggested many of the ideas employed in this portion of my argument: J. Bayley, The Characters of Love, London 1960.

21 .  For example by Reed, Thomas Mann, pp. 227-33.

22 .  Thomas Mann, Gesammellte Werke in 13. Bänden, Vol. 8, Frankfurt am Main 1974, pp. 493-4.

23 .  Reed, Thomas Mann, p. 83.

24 .  Swales, Bildungsroman, takes the distinction between hero and story to be one between the two poles of a dialectic: the ‘complex coexistence of possibilities’ in the hero; and the inescapable ‘linear temporality of practical existence’ acknowledged by the sequential story (pp. 124-5). Swales thereby provides himself with a conceptual framework which he puts to good use in interpreting, not just Der Zauberberg, but the Bildungsroman tradition as a whole. But this is not the distinction the narrator of Der Zauberberg is making

25 .  See G. K. T. Conn & H. D. Turner, The Evolution of the Nuclear Atom, London 1965, pp. 129-756.

26 .  Hence the serious inadequacy of the view presented by T. Ziolkowski, Dimensions of the Modern Novel, Princeton 1969, p. 73, that the ideologies expressed within the novel are ‘mere intellectual pawns, to be pushed about for the sake of the composition’.

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© Michael Beddow 2000