Review: The Magic Mountain

The Magic Mountain
The Magic Mountain by Thomas Mann

My rating: 1 of 5 stars

At the risk of being labelled a Philistine, I declare that this book is one of the most insufferably boring tomes that has ever made it onto my bedside table. I admit that I only struggled my way through the first 170 pages, but that was enough to convince me that I should not waste any more minutes of my precious life wading through any more of this drivel.

I know, I have also been chastised for criticising modern art in the same way. Tracey Emin’s “Unmade Bed” and Thomas Mann’s “The Magic Mountain” will just have to live in the pile of junk that I fail to understand.

I realise that I am in the minority, as most reviewers and professors of literature believe this to be a masterpiece, and probably the best book to come out of Germany in the twentieth century. Then again, Hans Christian Anderson’s boy who recognised the nakedness of his Emperor as those around him admired the splendour and wonderful colours of their leader’s new clothes, was also in the minority.

Perhaps, then, I shouldn’t feel too bad about my opinion of this amazing piece of creative writing. It may also explain why English literature was the only `O’ Level that I failed, despite having been a prolific reader all of my life. It just happened that the books that were chosen for my studies for those exams also bored me to tears.

Following some comments on this review, I have added these notes (27/9/09).

I have always been a prolific reader, sometimes having up to five books on the go simultaneously. I read most novels at the rate of 80-100 pages per day. With The Magic Mountain, I found that I had been reading a few pages at a time for well over a month, and had only waded through 170. There is so much description attached to the narrative that all that had happened by this stage was that the main character had arrived at the sanatorium, met his old friend and most of the patients. It had also come to light that he really wasn’t there for his own medical benefit. He isn’t really ill. Rather that he was there for a bit of a rest, and escape from the drudge of life in Hamburg with his guardian, and to be with his best mate. If the descriptions were interesting, and succeeded in conjuring up a wonderful picture in my mind, I wouldn’t feel quite so bad about it.

Encouraged by some of the other reviews, I revisited the book, and read the passage describing Hans’s adventure in the snow, as that was said to be the best part of the book. I remained unimpressed.

Perhaps I would have enjoyed this book more if my German language were up to the standard required to read the original, but I doubt it. I am not alone in my disillusionment. Several of my friends and family, some of them professors and schoolteachers, share my views, and I have yet to meet anyone who has survived to reach the end. It is obvious that there are many who have read, re-read, and thoroughly enjoyed The Magic Mountain. I am happy for them and I rejoice that the world is full of variety, particularly of taste. Wouldn’t life be dull without that?!

View all my reviews


About Lance Greenfield

Blog: email: I published my debut novel in December 2014: Eleven Miles. My second novel went live in February 2016: Knitting Can Walk!
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