The Magic Mountain Politically Suspect

REGULAR variations in the daily routine began to discover themselves. The first was Sunday, Sunday with a band on the terrace, which, it appeared, played there once a fortnight. Hans Castorp had arrived in the latter half of one of these periods. He had come on a Tuesday, and thus the Sunday was his fifth day up here—a day whose springlike character contrasted with the late extraordinary change and relapse into winter. It was mild and fresh, with pure white clouds in a pale blue sky, and gentle sunshine over vale and slopes, which displayed once more the green proper to the season, for the recent snow had been fated to speedy melting.

All hands, it was plain, took pains to observe Sunday and distinguish it from the rest of the week, management and guest seconding each other in their efforts to this end. At early breakfast there was seed-cake, and each guest had before his place a small glass with a few flowers, mountain pinks and even Alpine roses, which the gentlemen stuck in their buttonholes. Lawyer Paravant from Dortmund had put on a black frock-coat with a spotted waistcoat, and the ladies’ toilets were suitably festal and diaphanous. Frau Chauchat appeared in a flowing lace matinée, with open sleeves. As she entered and the glass door crashed into its lock behind her, she paused a second facing the room and gracefully as it were presented herself before she glided to her table. The garment so became her that Hans Castorp’s neighbour, the Danzig schoolmistress, was quite ravished. Even the barbaric pair at the “bad” Russian table had taken notice of the day: he by exchanging his leather jacket for a short coat, and the felt boots for leather shoes; she, though she still wore the soiled feather boa, by putting on a green silk blouse with a neck-ruche. Hans Castorp wrinkled his brows when he saw them, and coloured—he seemed, since he had been up here, to blush so easily.

Directly after second breakfast the concert began on the terrace; there were all kinds of horns and woodwind, and they played by turns sprightly and sostenuto, until nearly luncheon-time. The morning rest, during the concert, was not obligatory. A few guests did regale themselves with this feast for the ears, at the same time lying on their balconies; in the garden rest-hall a few chairs were occupied. But the majority sat at the small, white tables on the covered platform, while the more frivolous spirits, finding it too prim to sit upon chairs, encamped on the stone steps that led down into the garden, where they presently gave evidence of their high spirits. These were youthful patients of both sexes, most of whose names or faces Hans Castorp knew by now. There were Hermine Kleefeld, and Herr Albin—who carried about a great

flowered box of chocolates, and offered them to all the guests, he himself eating none, but with a benevolent, paternal air smoking gold-tipped cigarettes; there were the thick-lipped youth who belonged to the Half-Lung Club, the thin and ivory-coloured Fräulein Levi, an ash-blond young man who answered to the name of Rasmussen and carried his hands breast-high, with the wrists relaxed, like a pair of flippers; Frau Salomon from Amsterdam, a woman of full bodily habit, in a red frock, who had attached herself to the group of young folk; the tall, thin-haired young man who could play out of the Midsummer Night’s Dream sat on the step behind her, his arms about his bony knees, and gazed steadfastly down on the tanned back of her neck. There was a red-haired Greek girl, another of unknown origin with a face like a tapir’s; the voracious lad with the thick eye-glasses, and another fifteen-or sixteen-year-old youth, with a monocle stuck in his eye, who carried his little finger, with its abnormally long nail shaped like a salt-spoon, to his mouth when he coughed, and was manifestly a first-class donkey—these, and numerous others.

The person with the finger-nail, Joachim related in a low voice, had been only a light case when he came. He had had no fever and had been sent up merely as a precautionary measure, by his father, who was a physician. The Hofrat had advised a stay of three months. The three months had passed, and now he had 100 to 100.5

degrees of fever and was seriously ill. But he lived so wide of all common sense that he needed his ears boxed.

The cousins sat at a table by themselves, rather apart from the others, for Hans Castorp was smoking with his dark beer, which he had brought out from breakfast. From time to time his cigar gave him a little pleasure. Rendered torpid, as often, by the beer and the music, he sat with his head on one side and his mouth slightly open, watching the gay, resortish scene, feeling, not as a disturbing influence, but rather as heightening the general singularity, and lending it one mental fillip the more, the fact that all these people were inwardly attacked by well-nigh resistless decay, and that most of them were feverish. They sat at the little tables drinking effervescent lemonade; the group on the steps were photographing each other. Postage stamps were exchanged. The red-haired Greek girl sketched Herr Rasmussen’s portrait on a drawing-pad, but would not let him see it. She turned this way and that, laughing with wide-open mouth, showing her broad far-apart teeth—it was long before he could snatch it from her. Hermine Kleefeld perched on her step, eyes half open, beating time to the music with a rolled-up newspaper; she permitted Herr Albin to fasten a bunch of wild flowers on the front of her blouse. The youth with the voluptuous lips, sitting at Frau Salomon’s feet, turned his head upwards to talk with her, while behind them the thin-haired pianist directed his unchanging gaze down the back of her neck. The physicians came and mingled with the guests of the cure, Hofrat Behrens in his white smock, Krokowski in his black. They passed along the row of tables, the Hofrat letting fall a pleasantry at nearly every one, till a wave of merriment followed in his wake; and so down the steps among the young folk, the female element of which straightway trooped up sidling and becking about Dr. Krokowski, while the Hofrat honoured the sabbath by performing a “stunt” with his bootlaces before the

gentlemen’s eyes. He rested one mighty foot upon a step, unfastened the laces, gripped them with practised technique in one hand, and without employing the other, hooked them up again crosswise, with such speed and agility that the beholders marvelled, and many of them tried to emulate him, but in vain.

Somewhat later Settembrini appeared on the terrace. He came out of the diningroom leaning on his cane, dressed as usual in his pilot coat and yellow check trousers, looked about him with his critical, alert, and elegant air, and approached the cousins’

table. “Bravo!” he said, and asked permission to sit with them.

“Beer, tobacco, and music,” he went on. “Behold the Fatherland! I rejoice to see you in your element, Engineer—you have a feeling for national atmosphere, it seems. May I bask in the sunshine of your well-being?”

Hans Castorp looked lowering—his features took on that expression directly he set eyes on the Italian. He said: “You are late for the concert, Herr Settembrini; it must be nearly over. You don’t care for music?”

“Not to order,” responded Settembrini. “Not by the calendar week. Not when it reeks of the prescription counter and is doled out to me by the authorities for the good of my health. I cling to my freedom—or rather to such vestiges of freedom and personal dignity as remain to the likes of us. At these affairs I play the guest, as you do up here: I come for a quarter-hour and go away—it gives me the illusion of independence. That it is more than an illusion I do not claim—enough if it please me!

It is different with your cousin. For him it all belongs to the service—that is the light, is it not, Lieutenant, in which you regard it? Ah, yes, I know, you have the trick of hugging your pride, even in a state of slavery. A puzzling trick; not everybody in Europe understands it. Music? You were asking if I profess to be an amateur of music? Well, when you say amateur” (Hans Castorp could not recall saying anything of the sort), “the word is perhaps not ill chosen; it has a slight suggestion of superficiality—yes, very well, I am an amateur of music—which is not to say that I set great store by it; not as I love and reverence the Word, the bearer of the spirit, the tool and gleaming ploughshare of progress.—Music? It is the half-articulate art, the dubious, the irresponsible, the insensible. Perhaps you will object that she can be clear when she likes. But so can nature, so can a brook—what good is that to us? That is not true clarity, it is a dreamy, inexpressive, irresponsible clarity, without consequences and therefore dangerous, because it betrays one into soft

complacence.—Let music play her loftiest rôle, she will thereby but kindle the emotions, whereas what concerns us is to awaken the reason. Music is to all appearance movement itself—yet, for all that, I suspect her of quietism. Let me state my point by the method of exaggeration: my aversion from music rests on political grounds.”

Hans Castorp could not refrain from slapping his knee as he exclaimed that never in all his life before had he heard the like.

“Pray do not, on that account, refuse to entertain it,” Settembrini said with a smile.

“Music, as a final incitement to the spirit of men, is invaluable—as a force which draws onward and upward the spirit she finds prepared for her ministrations. But literature must precede her. By music alone the world would get no further forward. Alone, she is a danger. For you, personally, Engineer, she is beyond all doubt dangerous. I saw it in your face as I came up.”

Hans Castorp laughed.

“Oh, you shouldn’t look at my face, Herr Settembrini. You can’t believe how the air up here sets me on fire. It is harder than I thought to get acclimatized.”

“I fear you deceive yourself.”

“How so? I know, at least, how deucedly hot and tired I am all the time.”

“It seems to me we should be grateful to the management for the concert,” Joachim said reflectively. “I wouldn’t contradict you, Herr Settembrini, because you look at the question from a higher point of view, so to speak, as an author. But I find one ought to be grateful up here for a bit of music. I am far from being particularly musical, and then the pieces they play are not exactly elevating, neither classic nor modern, but just ordinary band-music. Still, it is a pleasant change. It takes up a couple of hours very decently; I mean it breaks them up and fills them in, so there is something to them, by comparison with the other days, hours, and weeks that whisk by like nothing at all. You see an unpretentious concert-number lasts perhaps seven minutes, and those seven minutes amount to something; they have a beginning and an end, they stand out, they don’t so easily slip into the regular humdrum round and get lost. Besides they are again divided up by the figures of the piece that is being played, and these again into beats, so there is always something going on, and every moment has a certain meaning, something you can take hold of, whereas usually—I don’t know whether I am making myself—”

“Bravo!” cried Settembrini. “Bravo, Lieutenant! You are describing very well indeed an aspect of music which has indubitably a moral value: namely, that her peculiarly life-enhancing method of measuring time imparts a spiritual awareness and value to its passage. Music quickens time, she quickens us to the finest enjoyment of time; she quickens—and in so far she has moral value. Art has moral value, in so far as it quickens. But what if it does the opposite? What if it dulls us, sends us to sleep, works against action and progress? Music can do that too; she is an old hand at using opiates. But the opiate, my dear sirs, is a gift of the Devil; it makes for lethargy, inertia, slavish inaction, stagnation. There is something suspicious about music, gentlemen. I insist that she is, by her nature, equivocal. I shall not be going too far in saying at once that she is politically suspect.”

He went on in this vein, and Hans Castorp listened without precisely following; first on account of his fatigue, and second because his attention was distracted by the proceedings of the lightheaded young folk on the steps. Did his eyes deceive him, or was the tapir-faced girl really occupied in sewing on a button for the monocled youth—and, forsooth, on the knee-band of his knickerbockers? She breathed

asthmatically as she sewed, and he coughed and carried his little finger, with the saltspoon-shaped nail, to his mouth. Of course they were ill—but, after all, these young folk up here did have peculiar social standards! The band played a polka.