Not all of us are “Power readers”, people who can tackle tomes like Ulysses, The Cantos, or Virgils’ death in the original and in translation (any translation), understand immediately the most arcane hints, even correct them and situate them with a blink of an eye in the correct political, historical and cultural context.
Some of us are mere mortals. This message is for them. I want them on the mountain too.
The Magic Mountain is a “Big” book, but if you cut it in pieces, it is not that big. For those who get stuck easily, I am going to do just that, I’ll split the book in 4 easy digestible parts. Let us assume that we have one month or four weeks to read this 700 pages book. I have divided the book in roughly four equal parts of 175 pages each. These four parts will make up 4 reading threads which I will open as we go. It will help us to keep our bearings.
This division is not totally arbitrary for each “part” ends with an exceptional event, an epiphany for our friend Hans and an important curve in the narration.
Each time you reach such a moment, I am sure you will keep on reading.
A lot of readings of the Magic Mountain grind to a halt during the political and philosophical discussions or the dissertations on time. Don’t let this stop you, skip parts if needed. Don’t forget the book main topics are Death and Love, the political and philosophy stuff can be tackled in a second read, if you feel like it.
The book division will be:
- Reading week 1: On our way to the camp 1
Reading the chapters in Part 1 to 4, which cover the first 3 weeks of Hans stay at the sanatorium. Time flows slowly. Everything is recounted in details. Part four ends with Hans taking an important decision. A first battle of "pedagogues" has come to an end with one clear winner. A symbolic handshake ends this first reading week. .
- Reading week 2 : On our way to the top camp 2
Reading the chapters in Part 5 which encompasses weeks 4 to 6 of Hans stay. At the end of Part 5 someone important unexpectedly leaves and Hans has his first Epiphany
- Reading week 3 : On our way to the top
We will read the chapters of part 6 which contains the important chapter “snow” . This chapter is considered the heart of the novel. Mann confessed that he probably made an error by not situating this chapter at the end of the book. But it doesn’t matter. It is the core of the book, it is the top of the Mountain. Part 6 ends again with someone leaving, this time in tragedy and Hans has his second epiphany.
- Reading week 4 : A safe descent
Reading the chapters of Part 7 ( what is in a number ? ) This chapter ends with a shock, a thunderbolt really. Many terrible things happen in this part and it is in great confusion and with lots of questions that we will get safely back to the flatlands. Although safe might not be the right word.
Enjoy your reading…