Places Discussed

(Critical Guide to Settings and Places in Literature)

Berghof Sanatorium

Berghof Sanatorium. Health-care institution at Davos-Platz in the mountains of Switzerland. Primary setting of the novel. Thomas Mann’s visit to his wife while she was at a sanatorium near Davos was the inspiration for the novel and the source of many descriptions of place. Private rooms where patients lie for hours alone on their balconies as well as the monotony of the spa routine make the time pass quickly. What was to be a two-week sojourn for Castorp lasts seven years. Illness brings out the extraordinary even in a mundane person like Castorp. The unusual proximity to mortality sparks the genius in Castorp and other characters; it also stimulates their intellect and heightens their emotions. The detailed attention to the body that comes with constant physical exams, regular massage, and discussions of individual illnesses contributes to the basic conflict in the novel between the mind and nature, the material and the spiritual worlds—a conflict that preoccupies Mann in many of his works.


*Davos. Swiss resort area that includes a lake and the enclaves Davos-Dorf and Davos-Platz in the river valley, all places that the characters frequent and that constitute the view from the sanatorium, high on the mountain. As was true historically, Davos in the novel is a playground for the idle rich at the turn of the twentieth century. Stylishly dressed people wile away their leisure with outdoor band music, shopping in elegant stores, going to the movies (a new entertainment in those days), or winter sports. In view of World War I, which thunders into the novel at its close, these people and their pastimes look...

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Literary Techniques

(Beacham's Encyclopedia of Popular Fiction)

In order to make the education of his hero a realistic and demanding endeavor, Mann includes a welter of facts and fictions from the...

(The entire section is 168 words.)

Social Concerns

(Beacham's Encyclopedia of Popular Fiction)

During the years of World War I, Mann had come to the defense of what he perceived to be Germany's aristocratic, conservative, and romantic...

(The entire section is 128 words.)

Literary Precedents

(Beacham's Encyclopedia of Popular Fiction)

As with all of Mann's mature works, it seems more profitable to discuss literary traditions than literary precedents in the elucidation of...

(The entire section is 211 words.)

Related Titles

(Beacham's Encyclopedia of Popular Fiction)

Mann broadened the intellectual sweep of The Magic Mountain even further by introducing vast masses of historical and anthropological...

(The entire section is 52 words.)


(Great Characters in Literature)

Hatfield, Henry. From “The Magic Mountain”: Mann’s Later Masterpieces. Ithaca, N.Y.: Cornell University Press, 1979. The chapter “The Magic Mountain” provides a concise and broad introduction to the novel in the context of Mann’s other later works; a good place to start for beginners. Includes some discussion of contemporary critical opinion and politics.

Heller, Erich. Thomas Mann: The Ironic German. South Bend, Ind.: Regnery/Gateway, 1979. The chapter “Conversation on the Magic Mountain” is a delightfully informative study of the novel in the form of a dialogue. Perhaps Heller’s best-known statement on Mann’s work and a key to further study. Magisterial.

Ridley, Hugh. The Problematic Bourgeois: Twentieth-Century Criticism on Thomas Mann’s “Buddenbrooks” and “The Magic Mountain.” Columbia, S.C.: Camden House, 1994. A study of the reception of these two major novels in both literary and political history. Places the works in the contexts of the debate over modernism and of psychological and philosophical criticism.

Weigand, Hermann J. “The Magic Mountain”: A Study of Thomas Mann’s Novel “Der Zauberberg.” Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1964. Though published first in 1933, this study still offers much to the beginning student of Mann’s novel. Provides a close reading with an especially interesting discussion of Germanness in the pre-World War I epoch.

Ziolkowski, Theodore. Dimensions of the Modern Novel. Princeton, N.J.: Princeton University Press, 1969. The chapter “Thomas Mann: The Magic Mountain” provides a careful reading of the form, content, and substance in the novel, paying special attention to the narrator and his attitudes toward time. Useful connections to other German novels of so-called high modernism.