Saturday, November 5, 2011

MM Part 5 : Encyclopedia

A long chapter this one and an important one too. Settimbrini does not miss any opportunity to be a pedagogue, but this time Hans resists and argues back.

1. Time

Waiting can be diverting, because it devours quantities of time without our ever experiencing or using them for their own sake.

2. Death

Settembrini looking at HC funereal photograph.

3. Eros

“…( in love ) is an urge, a compulsion to reveal oneself…”
There is a lot of flirting and love affairs at the Sanatorium…
Joachim by his cool example dampens HC enthusiasm to expose himself more.
HC’s love for Clawdia is now known at all tables. HC makes a fool of himself.

Clawdia’s grey – blue eyes have turn grey – green… the light ?

Settembrini “bothers” and interrupts HC’s dreaming about Clawdia.
We are in for a long pedagogic chapter:

4. Bildung

a) Lesson 6 (Asia is devouring us ) is said surreptitiously, whispered with a sense of urgency, as if there was a danger of threatening Barbarians overhearing them.

Asia is devouring us. Tartar faces in every direction you look…” Settembrini warns HC for Clawdia and for the “Asian degenerative forces” – see theories of Oswald Spengler, which had a huge success in Europe and which Mann was reading at the time.


Within the development of his ideas, elements for debunking Settembrini abound. See his racist stance: “one of your Ivanovitches”, the words barbarity, savage etc.
Check that Settembrini never laughs “One could not even imagine his ever laughing heartily”

Settembrini looking at HC funereal photograph: Settembrini seems to tactfully turn away to hide his face. Why ? Hide tears at seeing a “new lost young person”. S doubts that HC is really ill “ The decision that (HC ) is ill lies in the eye of the beholder”

“ And so you propose to spend the winter with us….” S is not happy because he finds that HC belongs in the world “down there”, doing his job, doing his duty.

“ it is truly hideous the way you throw the months away..” Settembrini urges HC to remain civilized and not to be infected by the “idleness and barbarity” of the Mongolian Muscovites.

“Your higher nature…” “son of the West, the divine west”. S pits the Civilized West against the Barbaric east. Hans attraction to Clawdia with all her un- correctness is a metaphor of this civilization clash.

“This barbaric extravagance in the use of Time…” is Asian says Settembrini. Today it bothers us especially in southern, Latin people : )

Hans should “Use (his) time in the service of Human progress”

And finally “The East treats suffering with pity and infinite patience. We dare not , we cannot do the same…”

b)“It is about an encyclopedia…” S is working on a “encyclopaedia of suffering”. It is an initiative of the ILOP, “the International league for the organisation of Progress” ( sounds important, doesn’t it ? ). It has two principles: (1) Humankind’s innermost natural purpose is its own self perfection and (2) it is the duty of every person who desires to satisfy that natural purpose to cooperate in the cause of human progress.

Its programs and objectives are so vast and vague, that one wonders if they can reach anything except give their members a superior attitude.

“four important languages”… German and Italian for sure, French probably, English or Spanish maybe…

The ILOP is preparing an “encyclopaedia of suffering” which will order and classify all illness and suffering. A list ! They are preparing a list ! Eco said we make lists because we don’t want to die… it is a huge, immense and futile enterprise.

Settembrini’s task is to list the books which contain “suffering”, so that it can serve as a TBR of solace and advice for the people suffering. There are a lot of books about all kinds of suffering including this one.

S explains this to HC to show that he is not losing his time on the mountain. That he is busy with an important and huge task to help the advance of humanity (nothing less)

S turns back to HC and says that as an engineer, HC can only do his duty down below.
“You can only be a European in the flatlands…”

Then comes a nice comparison of Hans to Odysseus and the Sanatorium to the isle of Circe.
Clawdia is of course Circe and Settembrini warns Hans “ …you are not Odysseus enough to dwell there unharmed…”, “ you will walk on all fours…” “and soon begin to grunt…” Beware !

HC accepts the lesson “What should I do?”. Settembrini does not answer and insists that HC comes himself to the conclusion: “you mean leave?” “You mean that I should go back home…”

HC says he could have done it earlier, but that he is ill now and going down would damage his health. HC fed up with Settembrini’s irony and challenges him: “would you take the responsibility and send me back…” ( the battle between teacher and pupil has been engaged )

S answers affirmatively but does not expect the counterattack.

H understandably concludes “…you are more cautious about yourself than you are about other people…”

S loses his balance a bit: he will not use the argument that he is more ill than HC but says that he can do his duty from where he is but that HC has to be an engineer in the flatlands.

Now we switch to a body – spirit argument: S to Hans : is it not the body and its evil proclivities that you all too willingly obey…? S means that HC is led by his dick ?

“What do you have against the body ?” ( The clash becomes harsher – there is blood… - at least HC has bloodshot eyes ). S as a Humanist has nothing against the body but favours the spirit. Ultimately humanistic pride will see the tie between body and mind as a “debasement” and a “curse” because the restrictions the body imposes on the mind.

The earthquake of Lisbon 1755: S wants to give an example of Voltaire rebelling against a natural phenomenon. Voltaire actually uses the human tragedy of that natural catastrophe to question if we can still speak of a just and compassionate God when we see that he punish sins through such terrible means.


Goethe was only six when the Lisbon earthquake happened and HC funnily alludes to another “earthquake story”. Goethe living in Germany at the time wakes up and tells his servant he has just experience an earthquake which later turns out to really have happened thousands of kilometres away in Calabria. ( The epitome of Reason has an eerie extra sensory perception ?)


This other anecdote annoys S.

S “ Behold the minds enmity to nature, the right to criticize Nature and her evil and irrational power. Nature is a power and it is servile to accept her to reconcile with her

Luckily Joachim enters the room and we are given a break…

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