In this dizzyingly rich novel of ideas, Mann uses a sanatorium in the Swiss Alps - a community devoted exclusively to sickness - as a microcosm for Europe, which in the years before 1914 was already exhibiting the first symptoms of its own terminal irrationality. The Magic Mountain is a monumental work of erudition and irony, sexual tension and intellectual ferment, a book that pulses with life in the midst of death.
The outbreak of World War I interrupted Thomas Mann's work on the book. The savage conflict and its aftermath led the author to undertake a major re-examination of European bourgeois society. He explored the sources of the destructiveness displayed by much of civilised humanity. He was also drawn to speculate about more general questions related to personal attitudes to life, health, illness, sexuality and mortality. The Magic Mountain was first published in 1924 and ranks amongst the most important works of twentieth-century German literature.
In a playful commentary on the problems of interpretation, Thomas Mann recommended that those who wished to understand it should read it twice.
It seems to be about life in a sanatorium - but in reality it is also about the passing of time. Reading this epic work does not happen overnight and it is especially exciting to revisit it in 2020.