Monday, November 7, 2011

MM Part 5 : Danse Macabre

A danse Macabre reminds us that we are mortal.

Time : Christmas and New Year and then the first months of the next year

2. Death

The Horseman, whom we heard couching the very first evening of Hans’ arrival, has died. With all the love abounding in the previous chapters, we nearly forgot that people die here too.
It is about time for Hans to resume his “Dance Macabre”.

He starts off with underscoring again “…that a dying deserved every kindness, every honour that could be bestowed on him…” this in defiance of both the opinions of Joachim and Settembrini.

He then starts to make personal visits to the Moribundi, they who are going to die. Again this is against the rules and against the common practice of the Sanatorium, where the staff normally tries to conceal the “ dying part” of their business.

Note that Hans is relaxed, at ease, …a skilled expert at all this…

The visit is very appreciated by the patients… someone at least seems to care…

HC admires the black clothing he remembers from the Verdi Opera Don Carlos

I think the world and life are such that people ought to dress mostly in black…HC remembers the attire of his grandfather and generations before him where black was the only proper colour for dress. Death and morning would permeate every day of life.
“… I always keep death in mind- that’s how I’d like it, that would be moral…” HC reminds us.

Hans is setting up his “Danse macabre”: “I have decided that from now on, I shall show more concern about serious and moribund cases”. Hans rebels against the “way” they have on the mountain to hide the death. Although it would mean breaking the house rules, Joachim accepts to join HC. Strange… does he see it as some kind of military training to get acquainted to death?

HC plans to fight the egotism prevalent on the Mountain, the absence of respect for death and the general “laissez – aller” in the face of death. 
People do not seem to take death serious in the Sanatorium and for a lot of them being at the Sanatorium is an excuse for a debauched life – drinking, betting, flirting and cavorting.

HC is extremely annoyed by the “unbecoming” stupidity of Frau Stohr.

An epileptic attack by a certain Popov during a meal is a shocking interruption of the daily order of the Sanatorium. The patients who have attended Krokowski latest conference understand that Popov publicly suffers a “brain-orgasm”, the equivalent of bodily love, again a show of disrespect of the seriousness of illness and death.

Hans is going to embrace death out of a complicated spiritual need.

Leila Gerngross is Hans first “success”. He and Joachim succeed in meeting her in her (death)-bed. HC and Joachim stick to the decorum…hushed voice…holding hand…kneeling beside the bed – ah, no they don’t, that would be too much…

While the girl and her parents appreciate the visit, already after 10 minutes it becomes too much…

The mother blames the illness of her daughter on her own weak health. Mother appreciates what the cousins have done: send the daughter flowers… brought a little happiness, enjoyment… a chance of flirtation with …handsome cavaliers…
HC is annoyed by this for it seems that instead of solemnity, he has brought luscious live into the room of the dying girl

Next Fritz Rotbein, Fritz dying is business as usual but he too seems to be moved to tears by the kind visit of the cousins.

Then it is up to Frau “Overblown” Zimmermann. This very funny woman is laughing with everything and everybody: Her illness, Behrens, Hans Castorp and his funny face… hahahahaha

The silly goose makes me think about Adèle’s laughing song in the Fledermaus…. hahahahahaherrCastorp

But it does not end there. They visit what is left of Tous-les-deux, then we turn to Teddy, Herr Ferge who experienced a horrible operation without anesthetics, Frau Von Malinckrodt, the female Job and so on. The Cousins are rapidly known as the Good Samaritans and Hospitallers and Settembrini approaches HC ( one of life’s problem children )  because once more his pupil’s actions are worrying him.

“Let the dead bury their dead”

Matthew 8:18-20: "When Jesus saw the crowd around him, he gave orders to cross to the other side of the lake. Then a teacher of the law came to him and said, 'Teacher, I will follow you wherever you go.'
"Jesus replied, 'Foxes have holes and birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has no place to lay his head.'

"Another disciple said to him, 'Lord, first let me go and bury my father.'

"But Jesus told him, 'Follow me, and let the dead bury the dead.'"

Jesus means the spiritually dead or so I am told…

Mexican Lauro prepares to die as a hero in bed…

Ferge recounts sleigh travels through the Russian tundra with the eyes of the following wolves glowing like stars… ( Pushkin ? Gogol ? ) Russian Empire? Belles with protruding cheekbones and Asia in their blood? Our friend HC is immediately captivated.

Natalie Malinckrodt is quite interesting for her illness seems to reflect her moral fall. She has eloped with a younger man, a half-grown boy really, abandoning a boring husband and children. She is definitely HC’s kind of woman and he takes especially care of her. Joachim is not needed by his side when he visits her.

Karen Karstedt, a very ill dying young girl is taken for an entertainment tour by the two cousins. They visit in the village the ice-skate ring, a movie, a dance hall. Their they meet Frau Stohr, who shows insight in why HC spends time with Karen, it is a substitute for Frau Chauchat.

Finally the brave young woman, a girl really with her 19 years, with the cousins walk to the small cemetery and end in front of a new un-dug plot. There is no drama, no tears, no passionate denial of her upcoming death. There is only silence and respect.

And so the chapter ends, this danse macabre, this carousel of death. It has shown Hans and us different people facing death, different ways to face death, different attitudes but always a certain proud resignation, some kind of acceptance…Hans with his fascination of death has set a step closer to the object of his fascination. What is he up after this?

3. Geography

The Russians give a useless present
The Westerners give a practical present

4. Note

HC avoids Knut and his troop of young healthy young man. HC doesn’t want to hear of them because they remind him of the option he could take to go back home.

HC is worried about appearances from natives of Hamburg. Shame ?

Clawdia has chosen a traditional “Tartar” dress for Christmas.

Latin fo the Monks is the language of death.

Tannhauser: Opera by Wagner

Fun: The women “attire themselves in their flirtatious best” to go to see the doctor …