Narrative Medicine Book Club: Magic Mountain, Week 5

Week 5: In this week’s pages Castorp gets his first official “admittance” to the sanatorium as a “patient” rather than a “visitor.” It feels inevitable to us, of course, knowing he will stay, and having watched Castorp’s progression up to now. But for me maybe the most fascinating element of the book so far is the way that Mann makes this slide into illness feel not only inevitable but also, for Castorp, desirable. He feels pangs at the idea of leaving his cousin up there alone, but the reader understands he actually doesn’t want to go.The near giddiness with which he takes his temperature! Also his obsession with Frau Chauchant is fascinating, and I look forward to discussing it with you all (he loves her, and yet has no plans to speak to her, and calls her “worm-eaten”)! And at the end of chapter 4, with some relief, he is declared “secretly one of the locals,” and ordered to bed. 

For next week: Read to the section “Freedom” in Chapter 5. 

Also: Our next zoom meeting with be July 12th, 11am EST (moved one week because of July 4th holiday). More details TK!

One thought on “Narrative Medicine Book Club: Magic Mountain, Week 5

  1. Anita

    In an earlier chapter, Hans walked by the room of a young man who was dying, the “moribundus,” and Hans is deeply (and strangely) fascinated with the way the young man lies in his bed, with wide eyes and a reverent aura. He is so fascinated that he even imitates the young man’s big eyes when he walks to (yet another) breakfast/lunch/dinner. This behaviour is so strange (and yet such a sweet teenager-like thing to do). When he is admitted into the inner circle of the sick, we learn that Hans exchanges his cigar “Maria” for a “glass cigar”. What a great name for a thermometer! Hans loves his “glass cigar” as much as he used to love his “Maria;” both give him tremendous pleasure. I am reminded of how smoking in my days as a teenager used to be a sign of belonging to the in-group. Smoking meant that one was hip. I get the feeling that Hans, too, is taking part in such an admittance ritual. It’s so important to him to start taking his temperature like everyone else, but for us, from the outside, it feels silly (like when I look back on the cigarette smoking of earlier days).
    There’s another exchange taking place: Hans’ infatuation with Hibbe is replaced with his infatuation for Madame Chauchat, a woman he finds reprehensible in many ways (does he use any positive words to describe her?), and yet he is irrevocably drawn to her. And the little bashful game between Hans and Ms Stöhr is just adorable.


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