Sunday, October 10, 2010

Thomas Mann, The Magic Mountain, "Necessary Purchases", "Excursus on the Sense of Time", and "He Practices His French"

The second day is dismissed in two paragraphs. On the third, it turns cold and snows. Hans walks to the village with Joachim to buy rugs for wrapping up outdoors. On the way back, they have another talk with Settembrini. Settembrini mocks the doctors and patients, which Hans and Joachim silently disapprove of. Hans attributes dignity to sickness and dying; Settembrini objects at length. Hans tells Joachim that he thinks Settembrini cares for the chance to talk beautifully as much as to instruct. He senses a tension with Settembrini about his purchase of the rugs (and he may be right; we have already seen Settembrini's hostility to anything that makes Hans' stay more permanent).

Over a short duration -- a few hours or a day -- time passes more quickly if one's experiences are new and varied, but over much longer periods this seems to stretch time out, while monotony compresses the recollection of even years to very little. These reflections are made in a narratorial excursus, but then are attributed to Hans. (The narrative time of the novel certainly seems to work this way. The passing of a few more days is noted in the sentence which begins the attribution of these thoughts to Hans -- presumably nothing unusual happened in those unexamined days.)

Hans sees his first dying man -- and is impressed with the dignity of his death. He practices the dying man's roll of his eyes, and Madame Chacuchat she is making eyes at her. Hans and Joachim labor to escape from Sister Bertha, the nurse. Hans meets Tous-les-deux, and consoles her in French.

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