Context: Finished this the day the kitten decided to climb the fly netting and get stuck in the roof.
Boy! That took me months and I’m a pretty voracious reader. This is very delicately constructed prose with detail very much for the sake of it, it seemed to me at least. It took the guy 12 years to write it and me almost as many months to read it. You’re never quite sure where you are in this novel. I’m not sure I got it and, considering I was in the presence of a Nobel Prize Winner, I probably didn’t.
This is a very large book. It ran me to over 700 pages of small print on paper that was larger than a standard novel. And, truth be told, as with most important novels, nothing really happens. Mann apparently recommended reading through it twice. Er…. no.
It’s the story of Hans Castorp (very rarely just Hans) who arrives at a sanatorium in the Swiss Alps to visit a friend. Intending to stay three weeks, he ends up there for 7 years. Along the way, he meets and makes many friends, some of whom succumb to their illnesses… quite a few actually. All the while, the world around him grows sicker too as Europe prepares itself for the First World War.
Time is one of the major themes of the book as well as the politics and philosophy of the day which went right over my head. There are a few notable excursions. I remember the time Hans Castorp got lost in a snowstorm. But mostly, I just remember an endless series of meals and treatments, which seem to counteract each other as the years go by. Oh and there’s a love interest too but it’s very subtle.
Was it worth it? Not really, no. I didn’t hate reading it, but it was pretty boring. It’s not badly written. I kind of like Mann’s prose. But nothing gripped me here I’m afraid.