The Magic Mountain (Everyman's Library Contemporary Classics) Hardcover – 29 Apr 2005
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All the characters in Thomas Mann s masterpiece come considerably closer to speaking English in John E. Woods s version . . . Woods captures perfectly the irony and humor. New York Times Book Review
[Woods s translation] succeeds in capturing the beautiful cadence of [Mann s] ironically elegant prose. Washington Post Book World
[The Magic Mountain] is one of those works that changed the shape and possibilities of European literature. It is a masterwork, unlike any other. It is also, if we learn to read it on its own terms, a delight, comic and profound, a new form of language, a new way of seeing. from the new Introduction by A. S. Byatt
From the Hardcover edition."
"All the characters in Thomas Mann's masterpiece come considerably closer to speaking English in John E. Woods's version . . . Woods captures perfectly the irony and humor." -New York Times Book Review
Acclaimed translator John E. Woods has given us the definitive English version of Mann's masterpiece. A monumental work of erudition and irony, sexual tension and intellectual ferment, The Magic Mountain is an enduring classic.See all Product description
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One of the most sriking features is the pace, which is very deliberate....and will no doubt frustrate many readers by seeming slow and focussing on what might appear as trivialities. However, it builds into a superb picture not just of the characters but of what they represent. All of pre-WW1 european society is represented along with the preoccupations of that time. As a doctor, i also enjoyed the medical aspects of the book, including the sick role and the power of a paternalistic medical profession.
My reasons for ascribing 3 stars are entirely related to the translation by lowe-porter...she herself apologises for the quality of the work in the preface. With a shiny new translation by john woods now available, please consider obtaining that version. I "jumped ship" after reading the first 200 pages of lowe-porter's version and found the woods version so much more enjoyable, the characters have lost their muffled voices.
From the point of view of narrative, Mann sustained my interest throughout. The account of young Hans Castorp, on the brink of a career, who goes to pay a brief visit to a consumptive cousin in a Swiss sanatorium but ends up staying so much longer; the description of life in an institution - albeit a luxurious one; the treatment of the disease in the early years of the 20th century were of great interest. And as events take their toll, and we reach the seance scene - and indeed the ending of the story - Mann's lovely writing brings tears to one's eyes.
However the narrative is interspersed with great sections of philosophical musings, as Hans becomes acquainted with two opposing mentors, Settembrini and Naphta, ('it was again impossible to distinguish which side was in the right, where God stood and where the Devil, where death and where life') whose lengthy and obscure harangues made this reader's heart sink, and felt like wading through porridge. I absolutely confess to only getting the drift of a small percentage of this, coming to identify with the character Ferge, "to whom all elevated thoughts were foreign."
Rating the novel is thus difficult, as I fully realise that loftier minds than mine have been able to appreciate Mann's work. And that the author himself, in his postscript, requests 'that it be read not once but twice' to get 'a deeper enjoyment.'
I shan't be re-reading it; I have to say that when I finally reached page 716 I shouted 'hurrah! I've done it!' It's lovely in parts but mighty heavy going.
Beware: There is a large 5 page section of this book that is completely in French and relies on you understanding French or typing it all into Google Translate. To make matters worse, this happens (No spoilers) at one of the finest peaks in the book.
If you are like me and can read some trifling French your choice is to either try your best to understand the general gist of what they are talking about (and lose some of the brilliance of a wonderful scene) or find another translation online that tells you what they are saying.
It's a shame because otherwise I enjoyed the translation, but I can't understand the smugness that assumes you will speak French enough to read 5 pages of it without warning.
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