The Magic Mountain by Thomas Mann
My rating: 2 of 5 stars
If I were to shower the author with all the proper accolades, I'd moan over the other good literature with the full expectation that this work, as many other reviewers have noted, was also something special.
Indeed, I cracked it open, wanting to turn this into a monumental -- whatever -- that was brimming with ideas and a vast mountainous slowness of a vast cosmic bubble that simultaneously satirized and soothed the pre-WWI European soul.
But I was left cold.
Indeed, not for the whole of it, though. I enjoyed the beginning mostly because of the slow setup and the idea that I, as well as the MC, were about to be put in a cold pot and slowly boiled alive. It was all there. It's a sanitorium for the rich or at least the comfortably independent, suckering all the poor souls into a life-long visit banking on histrionics, genuine illnesses, hypochondriacs, and deep ennui.
But at least it's in the mountains. And it's isolated. And the doctor really cares for you. And it's not like that's the entire novel, either. We have a truly introverted mindset and a kind of wish-fulfillment and a wandering stream of ideas that feed off of all those other insular ideas until they all create a huge ball of low-key insanity that even sane people, in their winking and playing along, eventually fall.
I wanted to like this more. I really did. But at a certain point, it was like I was reading a novel that highlighted all the old people I've ever known who could never talk about anything but their ailments and their tight little bundle of a life that never, ever got pierced by the outside.
Sure, it sounds like pre-WWI Europe and its growing insanity, but it feels very much like the low-grade fever dreams that it described, too, in glorious detail. I was frankly bored by the mediocrity of the people and their little obsessions and even for someone who is really into big worldbuilding sessions in fantasy and SF, I could barely recognize these people's humanity. Yes, the worldbuilding in Magic Mountain was too unbelievable.
Silly me, I know it USED to be, but trying to convince me, in my heart of hearts, is tantamount to believing I can fly if I WISH it hard enough.
So, I call this a failure of my imagination. Now, I better got take my temperature for the fourth time today.
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