Sunday 30 January 2022

Book Review: The Magic Mountain by Thomas Mann (Modern Classic)

Title: The Magic Mountain
Author: Thomas Mann
Publisher: Vintage
Publication Date: 1996 (1924)
Pages: 729
Genre: Modern Classics

Hans Castorp is 'a perfectly ordinary, if engaging young man' when he goes to visit his cousin in an exclusive sanatorium in the Swiss Alps. What should have been a three week trip turns into a seven year stay. Hans falls in love and becomes intoxicated with the ideas he hears at the clinic - ideas which will strain and crack apart in a world on the verge of the First World War.


As soon as I started reading The Magic Mountain, I was reminded of the film A Cure for Wellness, and when I looked just now at the film's Wikipedia page, it does say the screenwriters were inspired by this novel. However, while the movie is a psychological thriller/horror piece with a fantasy twist, the novel is more of a philosophical pondering across a range of themes and topics. The Magic Mountain is very much an intellectual piece. The characters are memorable, but there is not a vast amount of character development, and while there is a plot of sorts and action does take place now and then, the central thrust of this book really is the philosophical discussions between the characters while they sit around the sanatorium. It is interesting, without a doubt, but it's not going to be to everyone's taste. One chapter is also written predominantly in French, which was no problem for me, but if you don't read French, you'll have to skip past it. Overall, I am giving this four stars. It was intriguing, but after 700 pages of philosophy, I am looking forward to reading something more plot-based again.

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