Sunday, October 17, 2010

Thomas Mann, The Magic Mountain: "Doubts and Considerations", "Table Talk", "Mounting Misgivings. Of the Two Grandfathers, and the Boat-ride ..."

The passage of Tuesday is marked with short scenes in which Hans discusses and pays his bill -- Hans' billing week ends on Tuesdays, since had had arrived on a Tuesday -- and then an account of Hofrat Behrens personal history -- he is the widower of a victim of the tuberculosis who had taken the altitude treatment before dying and being buried in Davos, and himself seems to have been afflicted. Hans expresses doubt about whether a fellow-sufferer is fit to approach a disease with the proper objectivity.

Some part of the second week is disposed of -- none too precisely -- in a chapter describing Hans' mounting infatuation with Madame Chauchat and the part that the schoolmistress at his dining-room table, Fraeulein Engelhart, plays in it. Fraeulein Engelhart, observing Hans' interest, becomes Madame Chauchat's advocate while Hans makes himself out to be her critic. She finds out Madame Chauchat's given name -- Clavdia -- and fills in Hans with what is generally known about Clavdia's life story, which doesn't seem to be something we can have any confidence in.

Hans assuaged his conscience about this preoccupation with the thought that he would soon be leaving anyway.

139-140: "Hans Castorp, when he rose from one meal, could straightaway by anticipation begin to rejoice in the next -- if, indeed, rejoicing is not too facile, too pleasant and unequivocal a word for the sentiments with which he looked forward to another meeting with the afflicted fair one. The reader, on the other hand, may very likely find such adjectives the only ones suitable to describe Hans Castorp's personality or emotions. But we suggest that a young man with a well-regulated conscience and sense of fitness could not, whatever else he did, simply 'rejoice in' Madame Chauchat's proximity. In fact, we -- who must surely know -- are willing to assert that he himself would have repudiated any such expression if it had been suggested to him."

The relationship provided the emotional correlate for the physical agitation which Hans had experienced since his arrival.

Clavdia, too, becomes aware of Hans interest. Hans contrives to meet Clavdia's eyes in the dining-hall, and to encounter her in the hallway.

Castorp casts about for somebody to provide a counterbalance to his indulgence. He determines that neither Joachim, with his own preoccupation with Marusja, or Hofrat Behrens, with his probable affliction, would do. He settles on Settembrini. And so a few more days are disposed of, again none too precisely, recounting what Settembrini had said over the course of several conversations and how Castorp had reacted to it.

Settembrini spoke about his grandfather, the lawyer and political agitator (who reminded Castorp of his own grandfather because he dressed all in black, though for opposite reasons, that is, to mourn the imprisonment of liberty by the old regime). Settembrini expounded on his understanding of human history as a conflict between justice, freedom, and knowledge, on one had, and oppression, tyranny, and ignorance on the other. Thus Settembrini saw his father, a humanist scholar, as engaged in the same fight as his grandfather.

The narrator's voice suggests that by subjecting himself to this stream of strenuous moralism, Hans Castorp felt more free to indulge his weakness for Clavdia Chauchat.

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