Der Zauberberg (The Magic Mountain)

Thomas Mann

“Then, like a thunder-peal – 

But God forbid and modesty withhold us from speaking over- much of what the thunder-peal bore us on its wave of sound! Here rodomontade is out of place. Rather let us lower our voice to say that then came the peal of thunder we all know so well; that deafening explosion of long-gathering magazines of passion and spleen. That historic thunder-peal, of which we speak with bated breath, made the foundations of the earth to shake; but for us it was the shock that fired the mine beneath the magic mountain, and set our sleeper ungently outside the gates. Dazed he sits in the long grass and rubs his eyes – a man who, despite many warnings, had neglected to read the papers.” 

That “thunder-peal” is World War I. It rips Hans Castorp out of his seven-year “enchantment” in a pulmonary sanatorium in Davos, out of the ivory tower of an outmoded European bourgeoisie, out of his self-optimisation process in an “atmosphere of death and amusement”. Where just moments before he had been dining with two Armenians, two Finns, an Uzbek Jew and a Kurd at the “bad Russian table”, he now suddenly finds himself lurching into the trenches of Europe. Thomas Mann’s novel about these seven prewar years – which, like its protagonist, seems to hold the events occurring in the “lowlands” at arm’s length – describes the “acute irritability” preceding this European and global wildfire. Bastian Kraft directs a compact cast in this production of one of Thomas Mann’s main works, after having previously directed Klaus Mann’s MEPHISTO, also at the Burgtheater.

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