Narrative Medicine Book Club: Magic Mountain Week 4

Week 4: The attached quote, referring to the idea of a sick physician (in a paragraph questioning whether a person who is sick can nurse “others in the same way a healthy person can”), seems particularly apt for our current moment, as our country begins (hopefully) to reckon seriously with the ways systemic racism is built into our foundations. We spoke on our zoom call sunday about the ways Magic Mountain is allegorical or metaphorical, a theme that will no doubt come up over and again as we move through it. How purposeful was it for Mann not to explicitly name Tuberculosis, so the illness/sanatorium becomes more generalized and therefore more easily metaphorical? I keep thinking about the subtle strangenesses in this world — the way Castorp’s cigar tastes terrible, for example — small details that suggest to us that this is a world with its own rules. And how this otherworldliness then frees Mann to really be able to move anywhere he wants to go. How about Dr. Krokowski’s speech, declaring “any symptom of illness was a masked form of love in action, and illness was merely transformed love”? Looking forward to talking about that idea with all of you, and to seeing the way Mann weaves it into his book. 

For next week: Read to the end of Chapter 4.

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