Bloom on Castorp

Harold Bloom writing of one of my favourite novels Thomas Mann’s The Magic Mountain:

When I was a boy, first reading fiercely, some sixty years ago, Thomas Mann’s Magic Mountain was widely received as a work of modern fiction almost comparable to Joyce’s Ulysses and Proust’s In Search of Lost Time.

Bloom’s comparison recalls Nabokov’s disdain for central European modernism in an argument with Edmund Wilson, “How could you name that quack Mann in one breath with P. and J.?” Nabokov considered Mann one of those “puffed-up writers” that traded in “great ideas,” risking, of course, the criticism often made against Nabokov that in avoiding great ideas he was “all style and no substance. [Paragraph added November 2014.]

Bloom continues:

. . . I urge the reader not to refuse the pleasures of identification with favourite characters, any more than authors have been able to resist such pleasures. There are limits to my urging: Cervantes is not Don Quixote, Tolstoy (who loved her) is not Anna Karenina, and Philip Roth is not “Philip Roth (either of them!) in Operation Shylock.


Why read? Because you can know, intimately, only a very few people, and perhaps you never know them at all. After reading The Magic Mountain you know Hans Castorp thoroughly, and he is greatly worth knowing.

2 thoughts on “Bloom on Castorp

  1. >This took me back several decades. I first read The Magic Mountain because a friend said I would identify with one of the characters (an irresistible appeal!). So I read it and loved it, wondering all the time who I was supposed to identify with. I still don't know!

  2. >Donald – That would be an intrigue too far for me. Given the wide range of characters in MM, from disreputable to honourable, I would press my friend for information.

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