This is my 300th blog post! It has been nearly two years since I’ve taken up the art of writing, although I always wrote in a journal when I was younger, and now here I am, getting ready to embark on a new epoch…David Brooks did a survey among old folks and found that the happiest had divided their lives into different eras.
I’m still reading The Magic Mountain. I started reading An Outcast of the Islands when I was only a quarter of the way through, which is part of why it’s taking me so long. The former is in translation, and the latter has Gallicisms galore (it was Conrad’s second English novel), so that it’s as though it’s in translation. Outcast can be hard to get into, but there are pieces of wisdom in it that make it worth reading. I need to finish the Mann though, before I can start seriously blogging about Conrad.
Part of what makes The Magic Mountain great is the philosophical disquisitions. The humanist and the mystical perspectives are represented by two different characters, both of whom Hans Castorp perceives as pedagogic, as ignorant as to the dialectical exchange between their two viewpoints, who instead simply blow their sails fuller and fuller with their own wind. In these dialectics the Teutonic nature of the novel is most fully revealed; it is what makes Mann such a heavy-hitter. Most great works of classic literature express Aristotelian and Platonic ideas of self and society, even the most modern examples, such as The Corrections. So that a truly great work of classic literature doesn’t take sides on whether the self is a product of the cultivation of reason or a mystical asceticism; it presents these ideas for the reader, dear reader, to mull over. The beauty of man is that he is able to take disparate concepts and balance them in order to see where he fits in, or rather how he can combine different elements of such notions to lead a happy life.