Wednesday, November 16, 2011

MM Part 6: Operationes Spirituales


For one reason or another Leo Naphta’s story is told by the narrator. Remember how Settembrini told his story himself and we learned about Clawdia’s past through gossip.

Mann tells the story of Naphta  in more detail, to explain that character's unlikely combination of everything the German Bourgeois feared: born a Jew, Communist by choice and fundamentalistic Christian by education.

There is blood and violence in Naphta’s youth, torture even and the young boy early links piety with cruelty, spurting blood with what is holy and spiritual.
When his dad dies during a Progrom, crucified by angry Christians against the door of his burning house, Leo is evacuated by his mother, together with his brother and sisters to a safe village. The death of Naphta's father is really a Medieval tableau although it happens in the second part of the 19th century !

Naphta inherits the lung disease from his mother.

He rebels against his Hebrew teacher and is picked up by a Jesuit priest who helps him to enter their school Stella Matutina. The priest has recognized the intelligence of the boy. Leo has found a world where military discipline, worldly luxury and religious rigour are at his disposal.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Stella_Matutina_(Jesuit_School)

His weak health unfortunately jeopardizes Naphta’s career within the order and he find himself in some kind of banishment on the Magic Mountain.

Naphta and Joachim military callings are compared as well as their willingness to shed blood when needed.

The second part of this chapter kicks off with a long debate between Naphta and Settembrini on “Christian reverence for human misery” switching to torture as a procedure to find out the truth, capital punishment, illness, sufffering and so on. Naphta and Settembrini are pitted against each other in a passionate discussion with HC, Ferge and Wehsal regularly interrupting for some kind of relief in this heavy text. The most horrible things are said: killing compared to the act of love,  the joy of masochistic self flagellation, Sadistic torture as an improvement of Justice etc etc…

The discussion goes nowhere. Whatever Naphta or Settembrini say, the other one is likely to claim the opposite just for the sake of the argument. Again their positions seem to shift within the argumentation, so in the end we get the impression that S defends the principles of N and N those of S.

It is one big confusion for HC.

We have now arrived at what is generally understood as the central chapter of the book: Snow and its terrible next chapter.

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