We cannot verify your location
Browse Book and Journal Content on Project MUSE
"Getting Used to Not Getting Used to It": Nietzsche in The Magic Mountain
In lieu of an abstract, here is a brief excerpt of the content:

Alexander Nehamas "GETTING USED TO NOT GETTING USED TO IT": NIETZSCHE IN THE MAGIC MOUNTAIN Aspects of Nietzsche's thought and imagery have not been difficult to locate in Thomas Mann's The Magic Mountain. We know that Hans Castorp's vision of the beautiful classical youths whose eyes acknowledge the reality of the horrible sacrifice occurring nearby owes much to The Birth of Tragedy. And while Mynheer Peeperkorn is something of a Dionysian figure, Naphta's Jesuitism is tainted with some of the master morality's coarser features. However, Nietzsche's influence has mostly been found only within such specific contexts in the novel and not in its more general or structural features. This is due partly to Mann's claim that during the First World War he liberated himself from the exclusive influence of the late German Romantics, among whom he counted Nietzsche, and partly to the suspiciousness with which Nietzsche came to be almost universally regarded after the Second World War. Mann's intellectual development, following his own account of it, has been plotted against a continually widening horizon, from the more narrowly German to the more broadly European. Mann seems to have begun writing under Nietzsche's spell, but to have cast that spell away with the works of his maturity, of which The Magic Mountain is the first. As R. A. Nicholls has stated, "In the later novels the Nietzsche influence is no longer the central factor of interpretation .... Previously . . . Nietzsche led into the real heart of the work; but now, although it may be argued that Nietzsche provides the background from which Mann begins, and—at least in Dr. Faustus—it is Nietzsche to whom he comes back, the subject matter has been greatly extended .... Mann is more and more consciously writing as a 'late-comer' and heir to the whole of man's cultural past."1 Indeed, it is not at first clear what Nietzsche's thought can have to do with the broad features of The Magic Mountain. The novel is the story of a young German man who, at the beginning of this century, goes for a three-week visit to a Swiss sanatorium. While on this visit he 73 74Philosophy and Literature develops the symptoms of tuberculosis himself, and remains at the sanatorium until the outbreak bf the First World War. During his seven years at House Berghof, the youth, Hans Castorp, comes into intimate contact with seven characters, each of whom plays an influential role in his development.2 These characters are his military cousin Joachim Ziemssen, whom Hans originally went to the sanatorium to visit; Lodovico Settembrini, who takes it upon himself to act as Hans's pedagogue ; Hofrat Behrens, the chief physician, and his assistant, Edhin Krokowski; Clawdia Chauchat, for whom the phlegmatic Castorp develops a consuming passion; Leo Naphta, who fights Settembrini for Hans's intellectual and moral allegiance; and Pieter Peeperkorn, the old man who wins both Clawdia's faithfulness and Hans's admiration. The interpretation of the way in which these characters are related to one another and to Hans Castorp has been conditioned by Mann's working description of the novel as a "pedagogic story" in which Hans is placed between Settembrini and Naphta, the former standing for humanism, rationality, and progress, the latter for mysticism, unreason, and reaction.3 By focusing on two characters fighting over Hans, this description invites us to think that all the main characters are related to each other in such opposing pairs. And by picking out these two characters , it invites us to subordinate the others to them, and to consider the pedagogues' views as themes on which the others' are variations. This thematic and structural dualism has determined the reading of The Magic Mountain.* The novel's criticism has tended to see Castorp as beset by two antithetical but self-sufficient attitudes toward life: one can either celebrate it, if somewhat superficially, with Settembrini and his allies, or one can hold it in contempt, if quite morbidly, with Naphta and his camp. Hans is offered a choice between West and East, classicism and romanticism, democracy and despotism.5 He must side either with idea or will...