Posted by: Lisa Hill | September 26, 2013

Sensational Snippets: The Magic Mountain (1924), by Thomas Mann, translated by John E Woods

The Magic MountainI am reading Thomas Mann’s The Magic Mountain, and I came across this:

Quite a bit of reading went on at the International Sanatorium Berghof, both in the common lounging areas and on private balconies – this was particularly true of newcomers and short-termers, since residents of many months or even years had long since learned how to ravage time without diverting or employing their minds, had become virtuosi at putting time behind them, and declared openly that only clumsy bunglers in the art needed a book to hang on to. At most they might leave a book lying on their lap or within reach on a table – that sufficed for them to find their reading needs taken care of. The sanatorium library was a polyglot affair with many illustrated works – an expanded version of the sort of thing that serves to entertain patients in a dentist’s waiting room – and offered its services free of charge. People exchanged novels from the lending library down in Platz. Now and then a publication would appear that everyone fought over, and even those who had given up reading would grab for it, with only pretended disinterest. At the period we are describing here, The Art of Seduction, a badly printed booklet that Herr Albin had introduced, was making the rounds. It was translated almost word-for-word from the French, with even the original syntax perfectly preserved, lending a certain demeanour and titillating elegance to its exposition of a philosophy of physical love and debauchery, all in a spirit of life-affirming paganism. Frau Stöhr had soon read it and found it ‘stunning’. Frau Magnus – who was losing protein – supported her unconditionally.  Her husband, the brewer, claimed personally to have profited from reading it, but regretted that his wife had read it, since that sort of thing only ‘spoiled’ women and gave them immodest ideas.  His remarks significantly increased demand for the publication.

The Magic Mountain, by Thomas Mann, translated by John E. Woods, Everyman’s Library, Knopf, 1995, (first published 1924), p.324

Plus ça change, plus c’est la même chose!


Fishpond: The Magic Mountain


  1. The Magic Mountain is one of my favorite books of all time. I really should reread it. :-)


    • LOL, does that mean you can explain those loooong meditations about the microbiology of life and its origins?


  2. Not a whispered chance. I still love the book, the walks with what’s-his-name, the Russian group, Hans’ “issues.”


  3. Reblogged this on penwithlit and commented:
    Spot the sentence which contains some intriguing descriptions of a badly printed booklet!


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