Sunday, November 13, 2011

MM Part 6: The city of God and Evil Deliverance

21st of July 1908. Hans is 11 months on the Mountain. Soon his initial 3 weeks will have turned into a year.

His favourite spot, the bench in the meadow near the brook, where Hans had his nosebleed is a place which seems to conjure up memories and reminiscences. Hans thinks about “the many and varied impressions and adventures” he had since his arrival. He has a name for this mental occupation “playing King”

His Maria Mancinis have acquired their good old taste again, a sign that he has fully adapted to the atmosphere of the Mountain. HC still orders them from his favourite shop Hamburg. This and the occasional letters to and from his uncles is his only connection with the world below.

His Clawdia infatuation is said to have calmed down – he has no more visions –
We do not believe it, because he always carries with him a “naked” picture of Clawdia with the pale halo of the flesh HC “tasted” on Mardi-Gras.
This picture from “beyond the grave” is a morbid relic. Love and death in one image. (He could have asked her after all for a lock of hair or some lingerie, no?)

He pits dualities against each other like the “rebel grandfather vs the faithfull servant”, the two sides of analysis, military vs civilian, Naphta vs Settembrini.

Settembrini lost his first fight over Hans soul against the power of“atavistic love”. Will he stand his ground against Naphta, now that the clash remains in the realm of the intellectual?

HC is interested by the idea of the “Homo Dei”, the human God and agrees to visit Naphta.

“Lukacek Ladies Tailor” (the name on the plate beside the bell). It is more than just a detail. The character of Naphta is heavily based on Gyorgy Lukacs, who was a major communist theorist in German universities at the moment Mann wrote the Mountain.

Naphta lives in luxury and has made his apartment “cosy” à la Baroque. How Jesuit !
The most startling decoration of the room is a polychrome medieval wooden statue, a naïve pieta, a strong grotesque image of suffering and torture. It is “frightfully good” according to HC.


-          The beauty of the body is abstract. Only inner beauty of religious expression possesses true reality.
-          The nameless Artist. Typically it an anonymous communal work. There cannot be another Mr Individual Creator. See parallel between this medieval thought and Islamic art. There is only one creator.
-          This depiction of “suffering and the weakness of the flesh” is not “…glossed over and prettified…” We are in dark, religious medievalism here…
-          Sign of Mortification ( killing the flesh, humiliate, abase )

Thank God, Settembrini interrupts this exhibition of terrible ideas…

Our friend the pedagogue is worried about the cousins and does not want them in the hands of Naphta.

Naphta vs Settembrini

-          Spirit vs Body
-          Middle ages against Graeco Roman heritage
-          Independent Scientific truth vs whatever profits Man is true
-          Freedom vs obeying

Settembrini mentions the Konrad von Marburg as an example of where Naphta’s idea’s lead to.

Naphta refers to “the mad exterminations of the Jacobins”

Naphta argues that torture that is done to save souls of eternal damnation is acceptable. Only if it does not arise from a belief in the next world it is bestial.

The catholic stupidity at its extreme: denying the heliocentricity.
Faith is the vehicle of understanding, the intellect is secondary.

Naphta “ What our age needs, …is terror” ( notice the flash of his glasses, like the flash of a knife, a sable, a guillotine”. Naphta is ready to do it to create a totalitarian religious – communist state. Fundamentalist statement.

The discussion goes on and on, demonstrating Naphta’s and Settembrini’s skills in this kind of conversations. Often we are not sure anymore who says what and at the end more confusion comes out of it.

Settembrini stops the discussion and invites the cousins to ( oh irony ) his monastic cell. How different from Naphta’s lodgings.

S warns the cousins “ keep your relation with Naphta within its prudent limits”
Naphta is a half fanatic half malicious humbug. Your minds and your souls are in danger.

The wealth of Naphta is of course supplied by his Jesuit order. It debunks the sincerity of his communist claims. It also undermines the sincerity of the Jesuits. But that is not all.
The pseudo Jesuit priest Naphta, is according to Settembrini a voluptuary, only interested in luxury and sensual appetites:

Settembrini reiterates his earlier warning;

-          if you separate death from life in a dualistic way, you create Detah as an idea.
-          Death becomes a force in competition with Life
-          It becomes a seduction.
-          Its kingdom is lust, because it delivers, it is an evil deliverance from morals and morality, it delivers from discipline and self control, it liberates for lust…

Got that Hans?

Up to the next chapter where something unexpected will happen!