Monday, September 6, 2010

Thomas Mann, The Magic Mountain: "Of the Christening Basin" and "At Tienappels', and of Young Hans's Moral State"

Hans Lorenz Castorp -- grandfather -- conservative throwback

christening basin -- names of seven generations of owners engraved on the accompanying plate -- one must be Hans Castorp, but this is not made explicit -- gives young Hans Castorp a feeling of change and continuity at the same time -- 23: "A familiar feeling pervaded the child: a strange, dreamy, troubling sense: of change in the midst of duration, of time as both flowing and persisting, of recurrence in continuity" -- the original German is more starkly oxymoronic, and the reference to time is not made explicit

24-25: "The painting showed Hans Lorenz Castorp in his official garb as Councillor: the sober, even godly, civilian habit of a bygone century, which a commonwealth both self-assertive and enterprising had brought with it down the years and retained in ceremonial use in order to make present the past and make past the present, to bear witness to the perpetual continuity of things, and the perfect soundness of its business signature."

grandfather in the really old public outfit as the true grandfather, and grandfather in his old-fashioned everyday attire as an imperfect expression

funeral - grandfather in his public outfit -- decay

The two years of Hans Castorp's life with his grandfather are captured with just a handful of descriptions: of the house and his grandfather, of the (recurring) scene with the christening basin, of the picture, of being shielded from witnessing his grandfather's struggle with sickness, of his grandfather's laying in state.

Hans spends the remainder of his youth in the charge of his uncle, Consul Tienappel. Tienappel liquidates Hans's father's business and invests the proceeds so that Hans has a comfortable endowment. Hans intended to supplement this by a career in ship design -- a field that he more or less fell into rather than choosing.

Hans has a lethargic disposition -- he respects work, but has no appetite for it. Mann depicts this as a symptom of a more general tendency of an age that lacks conviction of the meaningfulness of its efforts. Another theme: this moral degeneration is linked to physical deterioration. And in fact, Hans becomes sickly and pale while away from home pursuing studies, and his doctor counsels a restorative vacation to the mountains.

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