The magic Mountain

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Mountain panorama of Davos , setting of the novel
Berghotel Sanatorium Schatzalp , which is mentioned several times in the novel

The Magic Mountain is an educational novel by Thomas Mann published in 1924 . During his seven-year stay in the closed world of a sanatorium in the high mountains, the young Hans Castorp meets cosmopolitan characters who confront him with politics , philosophy , but also love , illness and death .



Hans Castorp, the only child of a Hamburg merchant family, grew up with his grandfather and then with his uncle Tienappel after the death of his parents . He then studied shipbuilding technology . At the age of 23, before he planned to start as a volunteer at a shipyard, he traveled to the Swiss Alps in summer to visit his cousin Joachim Ziemßen in the Berghof sanatorium near Davos .

Originally, he intends to stay only three weeks. The atmosphere of the councilor Behrens and the interested in a popularized form of psychoanalysis , Dr. However , the sanatorium run by Krokowski exerts a strange fascination on Castorp. At lunch he encounters patients gasping with shortness of breath or coughing blood, and during the subsequent walk he meets Hermine Kleefeld, who is whistling from her lungs due to her pneumothorax . He gets the impression that illness spiritualizes and ennobles man, while persons of robust health tend to be simple. He finds repulsive, accordingly, the combination "sick and stupid" as he at the "mörderlich uneducated" to ongoing howlers prone Karoline Stöhr encounters.

The mentor

Castorp soon met the literary figure Lodovico Settembrini, a humanist , Freemason and “individualist-minded democrat ” who gradually became a friend. In countless lectures on philosophical and political questions of all kinds, the Italian is active as Castorp's educational supporter. The mixture of southern appearance and worn clothing reminds him of an "organ grinder". The humanist, whose guiding star is the “Sun of Enlightenment”, affirms, honors, loves the body, “the beauty, the freedom, the serenity, the pleasure”. He sees himself as a champion of the “interests of life” against “sentimental flight from the world” and any romanticization. Consequently, even the music seems "politically suspect" to him, since it only inflames the feeling but not the reason and so tends to lull the mind. Although “a lover of music” himself, he “suspects quietism ” and therefore considers it extremely dangerous. There are two principles in the eternal struggle for the world, “ power and law , tyranny and freedom , superstition and knowledge ”, persistence and progress , Asia and Europe . According to his family tradition, Settembrini is committed to the “ Enlightenment , the rational perfection”. Analysis is useful "as a tool of enlightenment and civilization " insofar as it "shakes stupid convictions, dissolves natural prejudices and undermines authority" by "liberating, refining, humanizing and making servants mature for freedom". It is harmful, however, “an unsavory thing”, “in so far as it prevents the deed, damages life at the roots”. Settembrini urgently warns his protégé against being impressed by the morbid charm of the institution and urges him to leave several times.

Madame Chauchat

Right at the beginning of his stay, Castorp meets the attractive 28-year-old Russian Madame Clawdia Chauchat, the "Kyrgyz-eyed" wife of a senior official from Daghestan . She is married, but does not wear a wedding ring because it has "something dismissive and sobering" about it and is "a symbol of bondage". At lunchtime, she is regularly noticed by her being late, slamming doors loudly, turning bread balls and similar bad habits.

From the beginning, Castorp showed a curious interest in the Russian that he couldn't explain to himself at first. Only later does he realize that the young lady unconsciously reminds him of an early "youth crush", of his classmate Přibislav Hippe (see below). He obtained detailed information about them from his table companion, Miss Engelhart . In view of her dubious state of health (“limp, feverish and worm-eaten inside”), however, he only sees “a holiday adventure that cannot stand before the Tribunal of Reason” in the “quiet situation”. Very soon affected sympathy turns into morbid infatuation, even bondage. Castorp's desire is fueled by the jealousy of Councilor Behrens, whom Ms. Chauchat sits “almost every day” as a model for his oil paintings.

Settembrini urgently warns him not to succumb to her charms. He sees in her the embodiment of the continent of Asia , which he despises and is home to anti-progressive “ Parthians and Scythians ”. Against the background of decadent indolence, the sensual pleasure prevailing in the sanatorium seems downright outrageous. With the example of Madame Chauchat, he sees his thesis confirmed, according to which illness is not just a consequence, but a form of profligacy.

During a carnival festival , Castorp, already slightly drunk, asks Ms. Chauchat for a pencil while playing a drawing game. She hands him “a small silver crayon”, thin and fragile and therefore “not useful for serious work” - a parallel and a contrast to the pen that Castorp once used in his youth from his homoerotically revered (Wendish-Slavic) classmate Přibislav Hippe borrowed: the “silver-plated crayon with a ring that had to be pushed upwards so that the red colored pencil grew out of the metal case”, a clear phallic symbol . After Mrs. Chauchat announced her imminent return to Daghestan, Castorp confesses his love for her in a poignant scene , almost exclusively in French . A subsequent night of love is only hinted at by the narrator: on the one hand, at the end of the encounter Clawdia warns that Castorp should not forget to give her back her pencil, and indirectly invites him to visit her room; on the other hand, as a “pledge” after that night, Hans Castorp has the “interior portrait” (ie the X-ray) Clawdia Chauchat, which she said she had kept in her room until then.


Not least with a view to the external routine of the regular sanatorium life with its fixed getting up, eating, examination and rest times , Castorp subjectively perceives time differently; it seems to him like an "expansive present". At first, he considers himself completely healthy, an assessment that the clinic management does not share. On Councilor Behrens' advice, he stays at the Berghof for the time being, and increasingly takes part in therapeutic measures such as reclining cures. Castorp - who felt feverish from the start of his stay - begins to suffer from a cold. The feisty matron Adriatica of Mylendonk , sold him a thermometer so that he, like the other Berghof resident can measure its temperature, several times a day. Finally, in the course of an examination by the Councilor, a “damp spot” is found in Castorp's lungs, which is later confirmed by an X-ray examination . So Hans Castorp becomes a regular patient of the sanatorium. The patient's agenda begins to take on "in his eyes the stamp of a sacred, self-evident inviolability", so that life down in the lowlands "seemed almost strange and wrong to him."

Later he attended the psychoanalytic lecture series by Dr. Krokowski, whose central thesis is based on the assumption that symptoms of illness are "love activity in disguise and all illness is love transformed". Finally, Castorp carries out various self-taught studies, for example in the medical and psychological fields.

Another mentor

Settembrini, terminally ill, leaves the Berghof to move to the nearby “Davos-Dorf”. He moved into the house of a “spice shopkeeper”, in which his intellectual counterpart also lived, the ascetic Jesuit student Naphta, a Galician Jew who had converted to Catholicism with an eventful past. Naphta is a brilliant, rhetorically gifted and sophistic logic committed intellectual, from whose influences Settembrini tries in vain to keep his young friend Castorp away. In the anarcho - communist tradition, Naphta strives to restore the “initial paradisiacal state without justice and direct from God” of “statelessness and non-violence”, where there was “neither rule nor service, neither law nor punishment, no injustice, no carnal connection, no class differences , no work, no property, but equality, brotherhood, moral perfection. ”After the abolition of“ the horrors of modern traders and speculators ”and“ the Satan's rule of money and business ”, a totalitarian state of God based on terrorism should be established; the principle of freedom is an outdated anachronism . As a result, between Settembrini and Naphta there are again and again violent disputes about philosophical and political questions, in which the listener Castorp is impressed by how Naphta stands up to his previous teacher.

Fairly dead

In contrast to Hans Castorp, his military cousin Joachim Ziemßen urged him to leave the Berghof in order to live actively again and to do his military service. Against the medical advice, he leaves the Berghof, but after a short period of work he has to accept that his condition is getting worse and return to the sanatorium. After his death, his ghost becomes part of one of the Dr. Krokowski led spiritualistic sessions from the realm of the dead.

The snow dream

During a ski trip in the high mountains, carelessly accepting the danger in the "white nothing" of the snowy landscape, Hans Castorp gets caught in a life-threatening blizzard . With the last of his strength he can save himself in the slipstream of a haystack and falls asleep, exhausted from the unfamiliar exertion. In his dream he first sees a “beautiful bay on the South Sea” with “understanding, cheerful, beautiful, young people”, “children of the sun and the sea”, who meet each other “with kindness, consideration, respect”. In the back of this transfigured scene, however, the most gruesome things are happening: two witches tear apart and eat a small child over a flickering fire. Half awake and comparing the two dream images, Hans Castorp realizes that human form and morality are ultimately the mastery of the hideous and raw in us. He now begins to doubt not only his one-sided mentors Settembrini and Naphta, but also the opposing pairs of death / life, illness / health and spirit / nature. Man is more distinguished than they are, and because they exist only through him, he is master of opposites. Out of sympathy with the human race, Hans Castorp decides not to suppress the knowledge of death, but to heed the following motto from now on: For the sake of goodness and love, human beings should not allow death to rule over their thoughts . Hans Castorp will soon forget this maxim after he escaped the snow storm in time. In fact, what is expressed in this central chapter is, above all, Thomas Mann's own creed.

A royal personality

After two years, Clawdia Chauchat returns to the Berghof accompanied by her lover, the Dutch coffee planter Mynheer Pieter Peeperkorn . Regardless of his jealousy, Hans Castorp is impressed by the effective performance of the “Coffee King”. Its personality makes the intellectuals Naphta and Settembrini "dwarf". With a “freckled-nail-pointed captain's hand”, Peeperkorn drinks wine from water glasses, experiments with snake poisons and drugs and regards life as “a spread out woman, with breasts swelling close together”, who “in a wonderful, scornful challenge claims our highest self-indulgence, all our resilience Manly lust that exists in front of him or is shamed. "

Peeperkorn has little interest in the intellectual disputes between Settembrini and Naphta. His remarks are often limited to a vague approximation, and his sentences are often unfinished. He only convinces through the force of his personality. Hans Castorp is amazed at what charismatic aura can bring about. But Peeperkorn's tropical fever, which he suffers from the first time he appears and which he tries to treat with cinchona bark, is noticeably worsening. Since he fears the loss of his vitality and manhood, he kills himself with a poison that he injects himself with a specially constructed device that is reminiscent of "the snake's bites". After his death, Madame Chauchat leaves the Berghof forever.

The great stupidity

Towards the end of the novel, the activities of most of the Berghof residents flatten, you get bored or pass the time laying patience , collecting stamps, taking photos, eating chocolate and having spiritualistic sessions, in which the late Joachim Ziemßen “appears”. Castorp turns to the newly acquired gramophone with pleasure , on which he is listening to Schubert's Lied vom Lindenbaum , among other things . All in all, quarrels , a crisis of irritability and nameless impatience develop among the people present. The ideological dispute that has always smoldered between Settembrini and Naphta escalates and finally ends with a pistol duel , in which Settembrini refuses to shoot Naphta, whereupon the latter shoots himself out of anger and desperation.

The clap of thunder

The originally planned three-week stay in the sanatorium has now turned into seven years for Castorp. It was only with the outbreak of World War I that the unexpected “clap of thunder” tore the supposedly “final” out of passive existence in the seclusion of the Berghof. The international patient population quickly returns to their countries of origin, including Hans Castorp, whose hasty journey home confronts him with a completely changed, deprived of citizenship: Schubert's linden tree on his lips, he goes to war. As an ordinary army soldier in the fray, he took part in one of the countless attacks on the Western Front. There he is finally out of sight of the narrator. His fate remains uncertain and his survival in the hail of bullets is unlikely.


The Zauberberg is in many ways a parody of the classic German Bildungsroman . Like his usual protagonists, Hans Castorp leaves his father's house and is confronted with art, philosophy, politics and love. In the conversations with his mentors Settembrini and Naphta in particular, he gets to know a number of different ideologies. In contrast to the traditional Bildungsroman, however, his path does not lead out into the world, but up into a remote mountain backdrop, into a hermetic hospital ward. The " education " on this magic mountain no longer serves to transform Hans Castorp into a capable and self-confident member of civil society . Rather, his personal development process ends in emptiness, in the "steel storm" (Ernst Jünger) of the First World War that dissolves every individuality .

According to the author, the Zauberberg , originally conceived as a novella, was initially intended as a cheerful and ironic counterpart, a " satyr game " to the novella Death in Venice , which was only completed in 1912 . Its atmosphere should be “the mixture of death and amusement” that Thomas Mann had got to know when visiting his wife in the Davos sanatorium. "The fascination of death, the triumph of intoxicating disorder over a life consecrated to the highest order, which is portrayed in Death in Venice , should be transferred to a humorous level." And so The Magic Mountain is in many ways the antithesis of the aforementioned novella: The established writer Gustav von Aschenbach is faced with a young, inexperienced engineer, the beautiful Polish boy Tadzio with the “Asian-flaccid” Russian Madame Chauchat, the hushed up cholera in Venice and finally the openly displayed tuberculosis in the sanatorium.


The relationship between the novel and its title is complex: the magic mountain as a place of kidnapping has been a motif in German literature since the Pied Piper of Hameln at the latest . In Eichendorff's story The Marble Picture , a warning is expressly given right at the beginning of the “Magic Mountain” to which young people are lured and from where “no one has returned”. The story itself is explicitly about the seductive power of decay in the form of a castle ruin on a hill, in which the senses (the sense of reality and time) are deceived.

The scene of the action, the Berghof Sanatorium, is not only geographically remote in the high mountains, but also, like the magic mountain of the old poems, represents a closed world of its own. Its seclusion enables a concentration of representative characters, whose actions in a nutshell the social , political and intellectual conflicts in Europe before the First World War. The mountains also form a contrast to Castorp's home, the sober, practical business world of the north German "flatlands". Only here, having ascended into higher spheres, can he spiritually rise above his bourgeois origins and finally resist the temptation of longing for death in the “snow dream”.

In that grotesque carnival scene entitled “Walpurgis Night” , while Castorp, encouraged by alcohol, confesses his love to Madame Chauchat, the sanatorium becomes Blocksberg, where in the first part of Goethe's Faust the witches and devils come together for an obscene, infernal festival. Here, in the middle of the novel, in Settembrini's quotation from Goethe, the title of the novel is indirectly implied for the first time: Think alone! The mountain is magical today (Walpurgis Night, Faust I).

In addition, the sanatorium is reminiscent of the Venusberg , a widespread topos of German literature , not least known from Richard Wagner's opera Tannhäuser , a kind of “hellish paradise”, a place of lust and licentiousness. Time runs differently there: the visitor believes that he has only spent a few hours in the Venusberg. But if he found out about him, then seven years have passed - as for Hans Castorp, for whom the originally planned three Berghof weeks ultimately also turned out to be seven full years.

Allusions to fairy tales and mythology are omnipresent also elsewhere in the magic mountain :

  • Settembrini compares Councilor Behrens with the judge of the dead Rhadamanthys and the Berghof sanatorium with the realm of shadows, in which Hans Castorp sits like an Odysseus .
  • Hans Castorp also takes on the role of Orpheus in the underworld: The Berghof with its “horizontal reclining cures” and the subcooled temperatures, in which Councilor Behrens rules with “blue cheeks”, is like Hades . In the chapter “Fulness of Good Loudness”, of all things, it is a recording of the cancan from Offenbach's Orpheus in the Underworld , which is played first on the new gramophone, and Hans Castorp manages to play an aria from Gounod's Margarete during a spiritualistic session in Dr . Krokowki's room to conjure up the spirit of Joachim Ziemßen and to snatch it from the hereafter for a short time - similar to how Orpheus obtained permission through his song to abduct Eurydice with him from the realm of the dead.
  • With the snow dream in the “Snow” chapter, Thomas Mann takes up the Nekyia myth, the Hades journey.
  • Behrens compares the cousins ​​with Castor and Pollux , Settembrini himself with Prometheus .
  • The uneducated Frau Stöhr brings Sisyphus and Tantalus into play , albeit confusing the two .
  • The lavish sick meals are compared with the table-deck-you from the fairy tale.
  • Ms. Engelhart's persistent search for Madame Chauchat's first name is reminiscent of the king's daughter in Rumpelstiltskin .
  • Castorp not only has the same first name as the fairy tale character Hans im Glück , but also shares their naivete. In the end, just like them, he loses seven years' wages, since his complex maturation process on the magic mountain will presumably end in senseless death on the battlefield.
  • Finally, the dormouse motif appears when the First World War breaks out and the title of the novel is mentioned verbatim for the first and only time with the image of the clap of thunders blowing up the magic mountain and rudely setting the dormouse in front of its gates .
  • Even the simple purchase of a clinical thermometer turns into an initiation rite that finally accepts Castorp into the conspiratorial community of Berghof residents. Even the name of the saleswoman, Matron Adriatica von Mylendonk, seems to come from another world - "some things here seem medieval," says Settembrini.
  • The fairy tale number 7 appears as a leitmotif in numerous contexts of the seven-part novel. To name just the most striking: Castorp spent seven years at the Berghof. The grotesque carnival, a highlight of the novel, takes place after seven months. All patients have to hold the clinical thermometer under the tongue several times a day for exactly seven minutes. In addition, the magic number is in the number of tables in the dining room and as a cross sum in Castorp's room number 34, and it is also hidden in the year 1907 (the beginning of the narrated time ). Settembrini's name includes the number in Italian. When Mynheer Peeperkorn seals his decision to commit suicide in a pathetic ceremony, seven people are present. Joachim Ziemßen dies at seven o'clock. Madame Chauchat lives in room number 7.

Sickness and death

Illness and death are among the central themes of the novel, which are discussed in detail in the metaphysical conversations with Settembrini and Naphta. Almost all protagonists suffer to varying degrees from tuberculosis , which also dominates the daily routine, thoughts and conversations ("Halbe Lunge Association"). Patients die from this disease again and again, like the "Herrenreiter", Fritz Rotbein, the young Leila Gerngroß, the "overcrowded" Frau Zimmermann, the beautiful Lauro, the Russian traveler Anton Karlowitsch Ferge, the fourteen-year-old Teddy, the "classy" Natalie Mallinckrodt , the penniless Karen Karstedt or Barbara Hujus, who sticks in the reader's mind through the gloomy Viatikum scene, and last but not least Castorp's cousin Ziemßen, who leaves life "heroically" like an ancient hero. In addition to the illness-related deaths, there were finally several suicides (Peeperkorn, Naphta) before the novel finally ended in the murderous war of nations, the "World Festival of Death".

Thomas Mann comments on death and illness in his novel: “What he [means Hans Castorp] is learning to understand is that all higher health must have gone through the deep experiences of illness and death [...]. To life, Hans Castorp once said to Madame Chauchat, there are two ways to life: one is the ordinary, direct and honest one. The other is bad, he leads through death, and that is the brilliant way. This conception of illness and death, as a necessary passage to knowledge, health and life, makes the Magic Mountain an initiation novel. ”In the“ Snow ”chapter, Castorp reached a decisive step in his spiritual development by overcoming his predilection for death . In an ironic breaking of the life-friendly maxim gained here, the author does not allow his protagonist to act according to this knowledge and (not even voluntarily) to leave the world of the magic mountain until the last chapter.


The concept of time is interwoven with the life / death theme , another central motif in the magic mountain . Although the novel is structured almost chronologically, the plot - beginning with Hans Castorp's arrival at the Davos-Dorf train station in early August 1907 and ending exactly seven years later with the outbreak of World War I - does not run at a steady pace, but accelerates increasingly. The first five chapters, about half of the text, describe von Castorps a total of seven magic mountain years, stretching in time and in great detail, only the first seven months, which bring the protagonist new and interesting things every day and which culminate and end in the “Walpurgis Night”.

The last two chapters, however, push, gather and condense a period of six years which for Castorp was marked by routine and monotony; By quoting a philosophical topic by Arthur Schopenhauer , whom he admires, Mann deals with the “timeless now” (lat. Nunc stans ). On the narrative level, the asymmetry in the novel structure corresponds to a distorted perception of time by the protagonist himself.

After all, the phenomenon of time is continually discussed in the novel on a theoretical level: for example, the question of the extent to which "the interestingness and novelty of the content pass the time, that is: shorten it while monotony and emptiness weigh down and inhibit its walk". The issue of the “narrative” of time, the relationship between the length of a report and the length of the period to which it relates, is also discussed.

The only specific date of the novel is marked by symbolic references, Shrove Tuesday of 1908, which is described in the subsection "Walpurgis Night". The author sets this last day of Carnival - and note the previous day of Ash Wednesday , which admonishes penance and memento mori - on February 29th. Later, by Peeperkorn (in the seventh chapter) with the statement: “You were Clawdia's lover”, Hans Castorp finds the elegant excuse that this Shrove Tuesday was “an evening out of order and almost out of the calendar”, an extra evening , a leap evening, "and that it would have been only half a lie if I had denied your statement." But the symbolism of this date is not exhausted, because the English call the last day of February Doomsday , which is Judgment Day and at the same time evokes terms such as calamity, ruin, damnation, which in turn sheds additional and significant light on that "irresponsible evening". Another punch line is that February 29, 1908 did not actually fall on Shrove Tuesday, but on the preceding Saturday, so the symbolic (re) dating is to be credited to the poetic freedom that the author derives from the above Reasons.


The protagonist Hans Castorp shares the bisexual orientation of his author. On the one hand, he loves the Russian Clawdia Chauchat. His homoerotic orientation is expressed in his inclination towards his childhood friend Přibislav Hippe, but also in the fascination that the vital worldly Peeperkorn exerts on Castorp. The two aspects of his sexuality are linked by the symbol of the pencil: he borrows a “crayon” from both Přibislav and Clawdia. While the latter is “thin and fragile”, that of his school friend almost becomes a relic for the pubescent Castorp and arouses phallic associations with its size and shape . The nostalgic beloved Přibislav also has a “speaking” surname, because “hip” means “scythe” and in the bony hand of death symbolized as a reaper becomes a meaningful attribute that underlines the close connection between Eros and Thanatos in the magic mountain sphere.

In the course of the novel, the subject is often broken ironically: in Castorp's love oaths at the carnival, which are by no means free from comedy, in the X-ray images that Councilor Behrens Castorp shows for “study purposes” (“a woman's arm, you can see it from its cuteness they embrace us at the Schäferstündchen ”) and finally in the strange three-way relationship that makes Castorp and Clawdia mutual admirers of Peeperkorn.

Fraulein Engelhart's homoerotic interest in Madame Chauchat should also be mentioned. This is because she shows solidarity with Castorp in the common admiration of the beloved, in order to participate in a more realistic relationship as a free rider. During the carnival she tries to be close to Castorp, so that Clawdia's gaze, who sees Castorp, falls on her too.

Finally, in this context, the pedagogical Eros Settembrinis, referring to Plato, belongs , whose loving, completely asexual approach to his pupil Castorp corresponds entirely to the humanistic image he proclaimed.


As is so often the case with Thomas Mann - for example in the Buddenbrooks or especially in Doktor Faustus  - music also plays a decisive role in the Zauberberg. The music here stands for the “sympathy with death” ultimately overcome by Hans Castorp (a formulation by the composer Hans Pfitzner , which Thomas Mann often took up). In the chapter entitled “Fulness of Good Loudness” Thomas Mann discusses five pieces of music in detail: Giuseppe Verdi's Aida , Claude Debussy's Prélude à l'après-midi d'un faune , Georges Bizet's Carmen , Charles Gounod's Faust and Franz Schubert's Der Lindenbaum . The last-mentioned song in particular becomes the epitome of a romantic longing for death, the overcoming of which is ultimately the main theme of the magic mountain . It is no coincidence that Hans Castorp hums the linden tree in the final scene of the book, on the battlefields of the First World War . Here, the romantic cult of death, as found in Richard Wagner's opera Tristan und Isolde , which Thomas Mann loved , is drastically parodied.


Most of the characters in the multi-layered Zauberberg cosmos have a representative function and embody various psychologies and currents of the prewar period.


Hans Castorp , according to the author's own admission, a “Grail seeker” in the Parzival tradition , a “pure gate”, remains pale and mediocre. He stands for the German bourgeoisie , torn between contradicting influences, on the one hand soaring to the highest humanistic achievements, on the other hand also falling prey to dull philistine hostility towards culture or radical ideologies . As is often the case with Thomas Mann, there is a deeper meaning behind the choice of name. On the one hand, "Hans" stands for the common German name. Many fairy tale characters also have this name, such as the aforementioned Hans im Glück. The biblical connotation is also important: Hans, the short form of John, refers to the favorite disciple of Jesus and the evangelist who received the revelation . The influences on Castorp are represented by other main characters in the work:

Set embrini

Settembrini represents intellectual enlightenment and affirmation of life. For him, being active is an ethical value. He made himself Hans Castorp's mentor and educator. In this role he points out the absurd that lies in his fascination with illness and death. He also warns him of the negligently indolent character of the Russian Clawdia Chauchat, with whom Hans Castorp fell deeply in love.

In one scene, Thomas Mann symbolically illustrates Settembrini's enlightening (enlightening) function when he finds Hans Castorp in the dark and switches on the ceiling light before the conversation begins. Settembrini's revered role model Carducci has written a hymn to another, unbelievable Bringer of Light, Lucifer , “la forza vindice della ragione”. Settembrini compares himself with Prometheus , who brought fire to man as a technical advance. Settembrini reveals himself to Hans Castorp as a Freemason in the Magic Mountain .

Settembrini is ridiculed by his opponent Naphta as a “civilization literary” - a word created by Thomas Mann from his essay Considerations of an Apolitical . In fact, the Italian and intellectual is intended as a caricature of the western-oriented, liberal-democratic type of writer embodied by Thomas Mann's brother and writer rival Heinrich .

Thomas Mann's endeavor to turn to democracy and the Weimar Republic took place parallel to the development of the novel . In personal testimonies, Thomas Mann expressed himself skeptically about the extreme standpoints of the antagonists Settembrini and Naphta, but added that the figure of Settembrini was closer to him than the doctrinal terrorist Naphta.

The external appearance of Settembrini is based on the Italian composer Ruggiero Leoncavallo .

The name Settembrini is an allusion to the writer and Freemason Luigi Settembrini , who was also a master of the chair in a Masonic lodge .


Naphta stands for the corrosive forces, the extremism on both sides, as it was increasingly able to establish itself in the Weimar Republic , for the self-destruction that should lead to a totalitarian system. His collectivist worldview, formed heterogeneously from radical-ideological set pieces of all kinds , has communist , anarchist and fascist features. In this sense, his religiosity is not only Christian, but also, for example, pantheistic . Central religious and philosophical values ​​are stripped of their meaning by a brilliant, cold intelligence and sophistic rhetoric and led ad absurdum, "as if he wanted to admit that the sun revolves around the earth". Naphta embodies an anti-human, anti-enlightenment world of thought. He competes with Settembrini for the favor of her inquisitive pupil Hans Castorp, whose naive transfiguration of the disease he supports: “The dignity of a person and his nobility rested in illness; In a word, the greater the degree of human being, the sicker he is, ”and disease alone owes all progress.

The courted Castorp confesses in the snow chapter when he exposes his two mentors as "babblers" that Settembrini at least means well with him, but ultimately realizes that in the verbal battles between the two opponents, the caustic rabulism usually wins. The dispute between their irreconcilably opposing worldviews finally escalates into a pistol duel. It is certainly no coincidence that naphtha was not included in Thomas Mann's original novel concept, but was only incorporated later. It is noticeable that Thomas Mann has pre-fascist, anti-human ideas represented by a Jew of all people - as, incidentally, later also in Doctor Faustus, where fascist thinking was represented by the Jew Dr. Chaim Breisacher is represented.

Clawdia Chauchat

Clawdia Chauchat embodies the erotic seduction in the novel , albeit in its morbid form that has degenerated into “Asian slackness”. Above all, it is Castorp's infatuation that lets him stay longer than planned on the magic mountain - sensual pleasure that inhibits the male thirst for action. The list of literary models ranges from Circe to the nymphs in Wagner's Venusberg . The cat symbolism , which is often expressed and reminiscent of Baudelaire's famous poem Les Fleurs du Mal , is striking: the Russian is referred to as “Kyrgyz eyes”, her surname is reminiscent of the French chaud chat, “hot cat”. In the name claws emerge, English claws called. In the figure of Clawdia, Thomas Mann is said to have processed a fellow patient of his wife named Clawelia into literature.

Mynheer Peeperkorn

Gerhart Hauptmann portrayed by Max Liebermann in the year in which he received the Nobel Prize

The late appearing Mynheer Peeperkorn, Madame Chauchat's new lover, is one of the most distinctive characters in the novel. Reviled as a “stupid old man” by Settembrini, he is recognizable as reminiscent of those ambiguous figures from Mann's earlier works to which the author or his respective protagonist show their naive, vital force due to admiration, envy and contempt. Mention should be made in particular of Mr. Klöterjahn from the novella Tristan and Tonio Kröger's vital friend Hans Hansen. While these are presented soberly and objectively, Peeperkorn has grotesque features with his crude cult of vitality. He turns into a caricature of the Dionysian. Joachim Ziemßen embodies the opposite character, who lacks any Dionysian trait. Peeperkorn and Ziemßen ultimately perish because of their one-sidedness - but not the “mediocre” Hans Castorp. In the course of his stay on the magic mountain he succeeds in overcoming the opposites Apollonian and Dionysian .

The model for Peeperkorn was Thomas Mann's fellow writer Gerhart Hauptmann , who recognized himself while reading (pencil marginalia in Hauptmann's reading copy; letter of complaint to the joint publisher Samuel Fischer ). At a reading, Max Liebermann also immediately recognized the template for the narrative caricature.

Joachim Ziemßen

Finally, cousin Joachim Ziemßen appears as a representative of the fulfillment of duty loyal to the soldier, a figure who - even if only superficially - faces the challenges of life and tries to meet them through active activity. Despite the supposed difference, there is definitely a kinship between Joachim and his cousin Hans. Councilor Behrens alludes to this when he jokingly calls his cousins ​​"Castor p and Pollux". There is an eloquent silence between the two - what is important is what is not openly said. The love stories of the two cousins ​​also run in parallel. But while Hans is all too willingly surrendering to the intoxication of being in love with Madame Chauchat, Joachim, who is also heavily addicted to his fellow Russian patient Marusja, refuses to let his feelings run free. Instead, he, who, like his cousin, is endangered, deliberately does everything in his power to leave the hermetic microcosm of the magic mountain and its physical, but above all mental morbidity - but to return moribund. With his always tactful behavior, his modesty and always calm, reserved manner, Joachim wins the reader's sympathy right from the start. The chapter “As a soldier and brave” ( quoting a line from Goethe's Faust ) is correspondingly touching , depicting his resigned return, his quiet suffering and composed death. The figure of the “good Joachim” evokes echoes of the motif of St. Sebastian, which is repeatedly taken up in Thomas Mann's works . The determination to endure a difficult fate with dignity is reminiscent of other well-known performance ethicists such as Gustav von Aschenbach or Thomas Buddenbrook , who, like Joachim, ultimately fail because of their self-imposed rigidity.

Councilor Behrens

The model of Hofrat Behrens was the clinic director Privy Councilor Professor Dr. Friedrich Jessen (1865-1935). Clinic director Hofrat Behrens has the features of the doctor who treated Thomas Mann's wife Katia at the time. The "bull-necked" Dr. Jessen portrayed unflattering: "with bulging, bloodshot eyes, blue cheeks, blunt nose and huge hands and feet". Behrens' role model is said to have spoken like "the caricature of a researching corps student". Behrens also particularly caricatures Jessen's tendency to advise his patients to extend their stay for reasons of purely economic interest. For example, the doctor wanted to keep the visitor Thomas Mann himself in the clinic for six months because of a harmlessly annoying catarrh .

Dr. Krokowski

Behind Dr. Krokowski is believed to be the psychoanalyst Georg Groddeck , who is considered a pioneer of psychosomatics . In his sanatorium Marienhöhe near Baden-Baden , he gave lectures from 1912 in which he established connections between love and illness in a similar way as Dr. Krokowski at the Berghof does. He laid down his theses in his book Nasamecu (natura sanat - medicus curat) published in 1913 . Thomas Mann united several role models in his person: In addition to Sigmund Freud , Dr. Edhin Krokowski also Dr. Richard von Krafft-Ebing , whose work Thomas Mann was verifiably known. Dr. Krokowski deals with the “terrifying and uncanny variations of love”, in the “both poetic and learned style” that is characteristic of Krafft-Eving's famous work Psychopathia sexualis .

Adriatica by Mylendonk

The model of the Adriatica von Mylendonk, the "superintendent of this palace of horrors", was Luise Jauch (1885–1933), the right hand of the clinic director Privy Councilor Professor Dr. Jessen and came to Davos with him from Hamburg, who is portrayed just as unflatteringly by Mann as Professor Jessen himself: “Under her nurse's hood, sparse reddish hair came out, her water-blue, inflamed eyes, one of which was very far in development advanced stye sat, had an unsteady look, the nose upturned, the mouth frog-like, also with a crooked protruding lower lip, which she shoveled while she spoke. "Luise Jauch mastered all kinds of card games, smoked cigars and had a certain" barracks tone ".

Mrs. Stöhr

For the uneducated Ms. Stöhr, who confuses foreign words like “cosmic” and “cosmetic” and says “disinfect” instead of “disinfect”, another of Katia's fellow patients, a certain Ms. Plür, was the godfather. Your name was chosen because of the following double meaning: Your only "educational treasure" is the knowledge of a considerable number (28) of recipes for fish sauces (such as sturgeon ). On the other hand, one can describe their behavior at the table - such as unquestioned additions - as a disorder .

History of origin

Thomas Mann on a portrait from 1905
The Schatzalp sanatorium in Davos in 1900.

The external reason for the work was a stay at the health resort of Thomas Mann's wife Katia in the forest sanatorium in Davos Platz in 1912. In numerous letters that have not survived today, she told her husband about everyday life in the sanatorium. During a three-week visit, Thomas Mann also got to know him first-hand. His original intention was to process the impressions received there in the context of a novella ; it should (see above under interpretation ) "a kind of humorous, also grotesque counterpart", a " satyr play " for Death in Venice, which appeared in 1912, and be published in the literary magazine Neue Rundschau .

Thomas Mann began writing it back in 1913 and interrupted work on Felix Krull for this purpose . In 1915 the outbreak of World War I forced him to take a break. The work should not be resumed until 1920, after u. a. Lord and dog , the singing of the child and the reflections of an apolitical person had appeared. The originally planned novella had meanwhile grown into a two-volume novel, an "extended short story", as Thomas Mann later commented with a wink. In 1924 the work was published by S. Fischer Verlag .

The pattern and source of the motif was, among other things, the philosophically tinted voyeur novel by the French Henri Barbusse with the title L'Enfer (Paris 1908, German Die Hölle , Zurich 1920).

Some of the motifs and allusions used in the Magic Mountain are anticipated in Thomas Mann's story Tristan , published in 1903 : Anton Klöterjahn takes his wife Gabriele, who has lung disease, to a mountain sanatorium. There she met the writer Detlev Spinell. This leads her to play a piece from Wagner's opera Tristan und Isolde on the piano, although the doctors have forbidden her to make any effort.

Impact history

Weimar Republic

Der Zauberberg immediately met with a great response from the public and reached a circulation of 100,000 copies after just four years. Translations have so far been carried out in 27 languages, including all major European ones. In English , there are even five - the first translation of Helen Tracy Lowe-Porter appeared in 1927 - on Japanese two versions.

The novel aroused considerable annoyance in a number of contemporaries who had been caricatured in the Zauberberg , especially the old Gerhart Hauptmann , who - recognizable to Hauptmann's circle of acquaintances - as an external model for the figure of the alcoholic, anti-intellectual bon vivant Mynheer Peeperkorn had served. Despite a verbose letter of apology dated April 11, 1925, in which Thomas Mann confessed that he had “sinned”, it was not until the Goethe year of 1932 that Hauptmann finally forgave his younger colleague. According to another version, it was not the poet Hauptmann himself who reacted negatively and with temporary distancing to this portrait, but only his wife.

Dr. Jessen, the Davos institution doctor who had treated Thomas Mann's wife Katia in 1912 and who easily recognized himself as the “enterprising” councilor Prof. Behrens. He was advised by colleagues to sue the author, although the expectation of a certain amount of publicity for the clinic and the town of Davos may have played a role. Jessen, however, ultimately let the matter rest. The Magic Mountain also met with considerable criticism from the rest of the medical profession . From a technical and medical point of view, however, nothing could be objected to the description of the operation of the sanatorium. Walther Amelung wrote: “Th. M. had grasped the sanatorium environment very correctly. The attacks by doctors were unjustified. The author became very clever in 1925 in German. Med. Wochenschr. defended; Hans Castorp comes through his stay in Davos in the air , not sags. "Similarly, positively assessed the novel, the renowned chief physician of the tuberculosis hospital Waldhaus Charlottenburg Hellmuth Ulrici , which came with Thomas Mann in an exchange of letters.

The Davos Tourist Office ordered a “cheerful novel about Davos” from Erich Kästner in 1936 because “Thomas Mann's Magic Mountain had brought the place into disrepute in terms of health.” Kästner wrote the magician's apprentice playing in Davos (fragment of a novel) with motifs and doubles a Zeus who hurled lightning.

In the literary professional world, however , Der Zauberberg received a predominantly positive response. Arthur Schnitzler, for example, although a doctor himself, did not share his colleagues' reservations about the novel. Georg Lukács (who, to Thomas Mann's amazement, did not find himself in the figure of Leo Naphta), André Gide and Ernst Robert Curtius also gave a benevolent judgment . More critical, however, were the votes of Carl Sternheim , Alfred Döblin and, above all, Bertolt Brecht , who described Mann as "the bourgeoisie wage clerk loyal to the government ". The Stockholm Committee's justification for the Nobel Prize in 1929 referred primarily to Buddenbrooks because of jury member Fredrik Böök 's dislike of Mann's third novel .

Third Reich

The National Socialists reviled the Magic Mountain as a disparagement of the "soldier heroism" they propagated and as "in praise of decadence". Nevertheless, the work did not appear on the black list of Goebbels' Reich Ministry for Public Enlightenment and Propaganda.

post war period

After his death, Thomas Mann, as an “upper-class” author, came under increasing criticism from left literary circles such as Gruppe 47 with his work The Magic Mountain . The criticism shaped by the 1968 movement reached its peak in the Thomas Mann year 1975. Since then, however, a man renaissance has been observed, which is not least due to the work of the influential critic Marcel Reich-Ranicki, who is known in an interview has to know “no better” German novels than Goethe's Wahlverwandschaften and the Zauberberg.

The novel Castorp by the Polish writer Paweł Huelle is about the study of the Zauberberg protagonist in Gdansk , where, according to a reference in Mann's novel, he is said to have spent four years at the Polytechnic . The novel was published in German in 2004.

On November 8, 2014, Der Zauberberg experienced its first adaptation worldwide as a ballet ( Ballet Dortmund , choreography: Wang Xinpeng , concept and scenario: Christian Baier , music: Lepo Sumera ).

Film adaptations


  • The Cologne-based minimal techno musician Wolfgang Voigt released the album Zauberberg in 1997 under the project name Gas , which refers to Mann's work in the title (and indirectly in the dark sound compositions).
  • Magic Mountain Opera , based on the novel by Thomas Mann. Composer: Robert Grossmann, Libretto: Rolf Gerlach . World premiere: September 26, 2002, Stadttheater, Chur (Switzerland) 2002.
  • Magic Mountain Opera , based on the novel by Thomas Mann. Composer: Gregory Vajda, Libretto: Bettina Geyer. Commissioned as part of the 25th Davos Festival. World premiere: July 30, 2010, Berghof "Schatzalp", Davos.
  • Schauspielmusik Zauberberg, based on the novel by Thomas Mann. Composer and lyricist: Mark Scheibe , director: Christina Friedrich. World premiere: September 15, 2015, Theater Trier.



Title page and original bindings from the first print

Text output

  • The magic Mountain. Large commented Frankfurt edition / Der Zauberberg - Commentary, edited and commented on by Michael Neumann. Volume 5/1 - Part 2, S. Fischer, Frankfurt am Main 2002, ISBN 3-10-048323-5 .
  • The magic Mountain. 18th edition. Fischer-Taschenbuch, Frankfurt 1991, ISBN 3-596-29433-9 .

Secondary literature

  • Jacques Darmaun, Thomas Mann, Germany and the Jews . Niemeyer, Tübingen 2003. ISBN 3-484-65140-7 .
  • Helmut Gutmann: The music chapter in Thomas Mann's “Magic Mountain”. In: The German Quarterly 47, 1974, pp. 415-431.
  • Nadine Heckner, Michael Walter: Thomas Mann. The magic Mountain. (= King's Explanations and Materials , Volume 443). Hollfeld, 2006, ISBN 3-8044-1828-7 .
  • Eckard Heftrich: Magic Mountain Music. Klostermann, Frankfurt am Main 1975, ISBN 3-465-01120-1 / ISBN 3-465-01119-8 (= About Thomas Mann , Volume 1).
  • Dirk Heißerer : Thomas Mann's Magic Mountain. Piper, Munich / Zurich 2000, ISBN 3-492-23141-1 ; reviewed, updated and supplemented new edition: Thomas Manns Zauberberg. Entry, stages, outlook. Königshausen & Neumann, Würzburg 2006, ISBN 3-8260-3171-7 .
  • Andreas Kablitz : The Magic Mountain. The dissection of the world. Winter, Heidelberg 2017, ISBN 978-3-8253-6804-3 .
  • Rudolf Kassner : Spiritual Worlds. Ullstein, Frankfurt am Main 1958, pp. 85-90.
  • Hanjo Kesting: Illness to Death. Music and ideology. In: Text + Criticism. Special volume Thomas Mann. Munich 1976, pp. 27-44.
  • Borge Kristiansen: On the meaning and function of the Settembrini figure in Thomas Mann's Magic Mountain. In: memorial for Thomas Mann. Text and Context, Copenhagen 1975, ISBN 87-980394-1-5 , pp. 95ff.
  • Hermann Kurzke: How conservative is the magic mountain? In: memorial for Thomas Mann. Text and Context, Copenhagen 1975, ISBN 87-980394-1-5 , pp. 137ff.
  • Daniela Langer: Explanations and documents on Thomas Mann: Der Zauberberg , Reclam, Stuttgart 2009, ISBN 978-3-15-016067-1 .
  • Herbert Lehnert: Leo Naphta and his author. In: Orbis Litterarum. Blackwell, Oxford 37.1982, ISSN  0030-4409 , p. 47ff.
  • Michael Maar: Ghosts and Art. News from the magic mountain. Hanser, Munich / Vienna 1995, ISBN 3-446-23431-4 (also dissertation at the University of Bamberg 1994).
  • Hans Mayer : Thomas Mann's magic mountain as an educational province. In: Sinn und Form - Contributions to literature. Structure, Berlin 1.1949, ISSN  0037-5756 .
  • Lotti Sandt: Myth and symbolism in the magic mountain by Thomas Mann. Haupt, Bern 1979, ISBN 3-258-02854-0 .
  • Erik De Smedt: Structure and function of the conversations in Thomas Mann's Zauberberg In: Germanistische Mitteilungen. H. 6/1977, pp. 11-27.
  • Heinz Sauereziger: The creation of the novel "The Magic Mountain". Two essays and a documentation. Biberach an der Riss 1965 (= ways and shapes , without volume number).
  • Günther Schwarberg : Once upon a time there was a magic mountain. Steidl, Göttingen 2001, ISBN 3-88243-775-8 (The book does not provide exact evidence of citations; bibliography, index and picture credits are missing).
  • Eva Wessell: The magic mountain as a chronicle of decadence. In: Thomas Mann - Novels and Stories. Reclam, Stuttgart 1993, p. 121ff, ISBN 3-15-008810-0 .
  • Thomas speaker: Davos in the magic mountain. Fink, Munich 1996, ISBN 3-7705-3119-1 .
  • Birte vom Bruck: Davos / Switzerland. Alexander Spengler - pioneer of climate therapy. In: Deutsches Ärzteblatt. 101.2004,6 (06.02.), P. A-357 (The short article contains information on the tuberculosis therapy of the time, the forest sanatorium (photograph from 1920) and the stay of the Manns)
  • Carsten Könneker : Room of Timelessness. Thomas Mann's 'Magic Mountain' and the theory of relativity . In: Thomas Mann Yearbook Volume 14 . 2001, ISBN 3-465-03123-7 , pp. 213-224.
  • Martin Swales: The Story and the Hero. A Study of Thomas Mann's 'The Magic Mountain' : In: DVjs. 46: 359-376 (1972).
  • Björn Weyand: Hermes (new) tic magic: branded goods as leitmotifs, fetishes and unwilling archival material in Thomas Mann's time novel “The Magic Mountain” (1924). In: Ders .: Poetics of the Brand. Consumer culture and literary practices 1900–2000. De Gruyter, Berlin 2013, pp. 97–167, ISBN 978-3-11-030117-5 .

See also

Web links

Individual evidence

  1. NZZ: Höhenkur. Misdiagnosis in Davos
  2. Thomas Mann: Introduction to the Magic Mountain for Students at Princeton University (1939): The German Bildungsroman, to whose type the "Wilhelm Meister" as well as the "Magic Mountain" belong.
  3. The end of the novel reveals that it is the first days of August in 1907 that Hans Castorp arrives in Davos.
  4. The importance of this principle is also underlined by the fact that this sentence is the only one that is italicized in the novel.
  5. See narrative time .
  6. The Magic Mountain. Large annotated Frankfurt edition. Vol. 5/2 Commentary by Michael Neumann. S. Fischer, Frankfurt am Main 2002, p. 349 f.
  7. In addition, Thomas Mann creates a bridge between the motifs of Theodor Fontane's « Der Stechlin », which is significant in literary history . Because this can in his last novel tick one Rokokouhr in the entrance hall of Castle Stechlin "with a time God about a Hippe led." This "Hippe man" brings repeatedly remember last when the old tired, sick Stechlin counts twelve hours beats the clock and ponders: “At twelve everything is over”.
  8. Eugen Lennhoff, Oskar Posner, Dieter A. Binder: Internationales Freemaurer Lexikon . 5th edition. 2006, Herbig Verlag, ISBN 978-3-7766-2478-6 , Lemma Settembrini, p. 780.
  9. ^ William R. Denslow, Harry S. Truman : 10,000 Famous Freemasons from K to Z. ISBN 1-4179-7579-2 .
  10. Herbert Lehnert: Leo Naphta and his author. In: Orbis Litterarum. Vol. 37, Issue 1, pp. 47-69, March 1982, doi : 10.1111 / j.1600-0730.1982.tb00789.x
  11. In this context, the phonetic similarity ("Kro -" / "Gro-") of the first name syllable is also striking.
  12. ^ Illustration as "Sister Luise" in: Inge and Walter Jens : Frau Thomas Mann. The life of Katharina Pringsheim. Reinbek 2003, ISBN 3-498-03338-7 , Fig. 16, p. 169; the same illustration by Günther Schwarberg: Once upon a time there was a magic mountain. Hamburg 1996, ISBN 3-89136-599-3 , p. 86 - referred to there as “head nurse”, but incorrectly identified as Alyke von Tümpling on p. 44ff.
  13. See Thomas spokesman: The nurse in Thomas Mann's early work with special consideration of Adriatica von Mylendonk . In: Thomas spokesman (Hr.): Literature and illness in the fin de siècle (1890-1914). Thomas Mann in a European context. Frankfurt am Main 2001, pp. 35–72, description p. 52.
  14. Christian Virchow: Medical history about the "Magic Mountain". Augsburg 1995: “The superior appearing in the novel has her original human image in the officiating head nurse of the forest sanatorium. The author is also not very squeamish about her, makes her the "superintendent of this palace of horrors" and leaves out neither her appearance nor her harmless bizarre peculiarities. "Meanwhile, Virchow probably mistakenly sees features of Alyke von Tümpling, sister-in-law of Councilor Behrens, in her .
  15. The analogy of the basic concept and the commonality of more than a dozen motifs in both novels are proven in: Horst F. Müller: Studien und Miszellen zu Henri Barbusse and his reception in Germany . Frankfurt am Main: Peter Lang, 2010.
  16. Thomas Mann: From the spirit of medicine. Open letter to the editor of the German Medical Weekly on the novel "The Magic Mountain". In: German Medical Weekly. Volume 51, No. 29, pp. 1205-1206, doi: 10.1055 / s-0028-1136965 , Typoscript Online . Thomas Mann refers to the contributions of: Schelenz: Thomas Mann: "The Magic Mountain" seen from the point of view of the tuberculosis doctor. In: German Medical Weekly. Volume 51, No. 20, 1925, pp. 831-832, doi: 10.1055 / s-0028-1136754 ; Margarete Levy: Comments on the “Magic Mountain” by Thomas Mann. In: German Medical Weekly. Volume 51, No. 28, p. 1166, doi: 10.1055 / s-0028-1136941 ; Alexander Prüssian: Magic Mountain. In: Munich Medical Weekly. Volume 72, 1925, pp. 696-697
  17. Stefan Wolter: Future through tradition. The alpine idyll on the edge of Berlin. Medical history walk in the 100th year of the existence of the Sana Kliniken Sommerfeld , Letterado-Verlag 2013, ISBN 978-3-938579-28-2 .
  18. Trailer of the film from 1981 on Youtube (3min)
  19. Volksfreund: Wandering through a morbid body: Christina Friedrich stages Thomas Mann's “Magic Mountain” in the Trier rolling mill. Retrieved January 12, 2020 .
This version was added to the list of excellent articles on September 17th, 2005 .