Saturday, October 19, 2013

Why reread the Magic Mountain ?

Like a piece of music that contains so many strands that we cannot grasp them all at one listening, the polyphonic complexity of the Magic Mountain also cannot be apprehended in one reading. In order to encompass the full extent of the novel’s rich interweaving of leitmotifs, we would ideally have to have the entire text in our brain and be able to recall every relevant line at will. The best reader would be the one who would recall all the references and leitmotifs and be able to see the relationship of everything to everything else. That is of course impossible for the average reader, just as the average listener cannot do it for a symphony either. But as we listen to a favourite piece of music over and over again, and hear new aspects each time, so it is with The Magic Mountain: it is a novel that demands to be read and re-read many times, because the full complexity of its allusiveness can never be fully grasped. Every reading, and every discovery of new allusions and connections, increases our aesthetic pleasure[1].

“I believe that the peculiar construction of the book, it’s composition, results in heightened and deepened pleasure for the reader if he goes through it a second time – just as one must be acquainted with a piece of music to enjoy it properly. Musical composition – I have already mentioned in connection with earlier works that the novel has always been for me a symphony, a work of counterpoint – a thematic fabric in which ideas play the part of musical motifs. This technique is applied to The Magic Mountain in the most complex and all-pervasive way. On that account you have my presumptuous suggestion to read it twice. Only then can one penetrate the associational musical complex of ideas. When the reader knows his thematic material, then he is in a position to interpret the symbolic and allusive formulae both forwards and backwards”[2]

“Judge what I have done, my works of art, as you will and must, but they were always good scores, one like the other; musicians have also loved them; Gustav Mahler, for example, loved them, and I have always wanted musicians as public judges.”[3]




[1] Rodney Symington : Thomas Mann’s The Magic Mountain: A Reader’s Guide
[2] Thomas Mann quoted in Rodney Symington : Thomas Mann’s The Magic Mountain: A Reader’s Guide p10
[3] Thomas Mann quoted in Rodney Symington : Thomas Mann’s The Magic Mountain: A Reader’s Guide p9

No comments:

Post a Comment