THE MAGIC MOUNTAIN Thomas Mann 1924 Research


AND now came on, as come it must, what Hans Castorp had never thought to experience: the winter of the place, the winter of these high altitudes. Joachim knew it already: it had been in full blast when he arrived the year before - but Hans Castorp rather dreaded it, however well he felt himself equipped. Joachim sought to reassure him.
" You must not imagine it grimmer than it is," he said, " not really arctic. You will feel the cold less on account of the dryness of the air and the absence of wind. It's the thing about the change of temperature above the fog line; they've found out lately that it

/ Page 268 / 

gets warmer in the upper reaches, something they did not know be- fore. I should say it is actually colder when it rains. But you have your sleeping-bag, and they turn on the heat when they absolutely must."
And in fact there could be no talk of violence or surprises; the winter came mildly on, at first no different from many a day they had seen in the height of summer. The wind had been two days in the south, the sun bore down, the valIey seemed shrunken, the side walls at its mouth looked near and bald. Douds came up, behind Piz Michel and Tinzenhorn. and drove north-eastwards. It rained heavily. Then the rain turned foul, a whitish-grey, mingled with snow-flakes - soon it was all snow, the vaIley was full of flurry; it kept on and on, the temperature fell appreciably, so that the fallen snow could not quite melt, but lay covering the valley with a wet and threadbare white garment, against which showed black the pines on the slopes. In the dining-room the radiators were luke- warm. That was at the beginning of November - All Souls'- and there was no novelty about it. In August it had been even so; they had long left off regarding snow as a prerogative of winter. White traces lingered after every storm in the crannies of the rocky Rhatikon, the chain that seemed to guard the end of the vaIley, and the distant monarchs to the south were aIways in snow. But the storm and the fall in the temperature both continued. A pale grey sky hung low over the valley; it seemed to dissolve in flakes and faIl soundlessly and ceaselessly, until one almost felt un- easy. It turned colder by the hour. A morning came when the ther- mometer in Hans Castorp's room registered 44°, the next morning it was only 40°. That was cold. It kept within bounds, but it per- sisted. It had frozen at night; now it froze in the day-time as well, and all day long; and it snowed, with brief intervaIs, through the fourth, the fifth, and the seventh days. The snow mounted apace, it became a nuisance. Paths had been shovelled as far as the bench by the watercourse, and on the drive down to the valley; but these were so narrow that you could only walk single file, and if you met anyone, you must step off the pavement and at once sink knee- deep in snow. A stone-roller drawn by a horse, with a man at his haIter, rolled all day long up and down the streetS of the cure, while a yellow diligence on runners, looking like an old-fashioned post-coach, plied between village and cure, with a snow-plough attached in front, shovelling the white masses aside. The \vorld, this narrow, lofty, isolated world up here, looked now well wadded and uphol-stered indeed: no pillar or post but wore its white cap; the steps up to the entrance of the Berghof had turned into an inclined

/ Page 269 /

plane; heavy cushions, in the drollest shapes, weighed down the branches of the Scotch firs - now and then one slid off and raised up a cloud of powdery white dust in its fall. Round about, the heights lay smothered in snow; their lower regions rugged with the evergreen growth, their upper parts, beyond the timber line, softly covered up to their many-shaped summits. The air was dark, the sun but a pallid apparition behind a veil. Yet a mild reflected bright- ness came from the snow, a milky gleam whose light became both landscape and human beings, even though these latter did show red noses under their white or gaily-coloured woollen caps.
In the dining-room the onset of winter - the "season " of the region - was the subject of conversation at all seven tables. Many tourists and sportsmen \vere said to have arrived and taken up resi- dence at the hotels in the Dorf and the Platz. The height of the piled-up snow was estimated at two feet; its consistency was said to be ideal for skiing. The bob-run, which led down from the north-western slope of the Schatzalp into the valley, was zealously worked on, it would be possible to open it in the next few days, unless a thaw put out all calculations. Everyone looked forward eagerly to the activities of these sound people down below - to the sports and races, which it was forbidden to attend, but which num- bers of the patients resolved to see, by cutting the rest-cure and slipping out of the Berghof. Hans Castorp heard of a new sport that had come from Scandinavia, .. ski-joring ": it consisted in races in which the panicipants were drawn by horses while standing in their skis. It was to see this that so many of the patients had re- solved to slip out. - There was talk too of Christmas.
Christmas! Hans Castorp had never once thought of it. To be sure, he had blithely said, and written, that he must spend the win- ter up here with Joachim, because of what the doctors had dis- covered to be the state of his health. But now he was startled to realize that Christmas would be included in the programme - per- haps because (and yet not entirely because) he had never spent the Chrismas season anywhere but in the bosom of the family. Well, if he must he must; he would have to put up with it. He was no longer a child; Joachim seemed not to mind, or else to have ad- justed himself uncomplainingly to the prospect; and, after all, he said to himself, think of all the places and all the conditions in which Christmas has been celebrated before now!
Yet it did seem to him rather premature to begin thinking about Christrnas even before the Advent season, six weeks at least before the holiday! True, such an interval was easily overleaped by the guests in the dining-hall: it was a mental process in which Hans

/ Page 270 /

Castorp had already some facility, though he had not yet learned to practise it in the grand style, as the older inhabitants did. Christ-mas, like other holidays in the course of the year, served them for a fulcrum, or a vaulting-pole, with which to leap over empty inter- vening spaces. They all had fever, their metabolism was acceler- ated, their bodily processes accentuated, keyed up - all this per-haps accounted for the wholesale way they could put time behind them. It would not have greatly surprised him to hear them dis- count the Christmas holiday as well, and go on at once to speak of the New Year and Carnival. But no-so capricious and unstable as this they were not, in the Berghof dining-room. Christmas gave them pause, it gave them even matter for concern and brain-rack- ing. It was customary to present Hofrat Behrens with a gift on Christmas eve, for which a collection was taken up among the guests - and this gift was the subject of much deliberation. A meet-ing was called. Last year, so the old inhabitants said, they had given him a travelling-trunk; this time a new operating-table had been considered, an easel, a fur coat, a rocking-chair, an inlaid ivory stethoscope. Settembrini, asked for suggestions, proposed that they give the Hofrat a newly projected encyclopzdic work called The Sociology of Suffering; but he found only one person to agree with him, a book-dealer who sat at Hermine Kleefeld's table. In short, no decision had been reached. There was difficulty about coming to an agreement with the Russian guests; a divergence of views arose. The Muscovites declared their preference for making an independent gift. Frau Stohr went about for days quite outraged on account of a loan of ten francs which she inadvisedly laid out for Frau Iltis at the meeting, and which the latter had " forgotten " to return. She " forgot " it. The shades of meaning Frau Stohr con-trived to convey in this word were many and varied, but one and all expressive of an entire disbelief in Frau Iltis's lack of memory, which, it appeared, had been proof against the hints and proddings Frau Stohr freely admitted having administered. Several times she declared she would resign herself make Frau Iltis a present of the sum. " I'll pay for both of us," she said. "Then my skirts will be cleared " But in the end she hit upon another p!an and communi-cated it to her table-mates, to their great delight: she had the "management" refund her the ten francs and insert it in Frau Iltis's weekly bill. Thus was the reluctant debtor outwitted, and at least this phase of the matter settled.
It had stopped snowing, the sky began to clear. The blue-grey cloud-masses parted to admit glimpses of the sun, whose rays gave a bluish cast to the scene. Then it grew altogether fair; a bright

 

/ Page 271 /

hard frost and settled winter splendour reigned in the middle of November. The arch of the loggia framed a glorious panorama of snow-powdered forest, softly filled passes and ravines, white, sun- lit valleys, and radiant blue heavens above all. In the evening, when the almost full moon appeared, the world lay in enchanted splen-dour, marvellous. Crystal and diamond it glittered far and wide, the forest stood up very black and white, the quarter of the heavens where the moon was not showed deeply dark, embroidered with stars. On the flashing surface of the snow, shadows, so strong, so sharp and clearly outlined that they seemed almost more real than the objects themselves, fell from houses, trees, and telegraph-poles. An hour or so after sunset there would be some founeen degrees of frost. The world seemed spellbound in icy purity, its earthly blemishes veiled; it lay fixed in a deathlike, enchanted trance.
Hans Castorp stopped until far into the night in his balcony above the ensorcelled winter scene - much longer than Joachim, who retired at ten or a little later. His excellent chair, with the sectional mattress and the neck-roll, he pulled close to the snow- cushioned balustrade; at his hand was the white table with the lighted reading-lamp, a stack of books, and a glass of creamy milk, the "evening milk" which was brought to each of the guests' rooms at nine o'clock. Hans Castorp put a dash of cognac in his, to make it more palatable. Already he "had availed himself of all his means of protection against the cold, the entire outfit: lay en- sconced well up to his chest in the buttoned-up sleeping-sack he had acquired in one of the well-furnished shops in the Platz, with the two camel's-hair rugs folded over it in accordance with the ritual. He wore his winter suit, with a shon fur jacket atop, a woollen cap, felt boots, and heavily lined gloves, which, however, could not prevent the stiffening of his fingers.
What held him so late - often until midnight and beyond, long after the " bad " Russian pair had left their loge - was partly the magic of the winter night, into which, until eleven, were woven the mounting strains of music from near and far. But even more it was inertia and excitement, both of these at once, and in combina-tion: bodily inertia, the physical fatigue which hated any idea of moving; and mental excitement, the busy preoccupation of his thoughts with certain new and fascinating studies upon which the young man had embarked, and which left his brain no rest. The weather affected him, his organism was stimulated by the cold; he ate enormously, attacking the mighty Berghof meals, where the roast goose followed upon the roast beef, with the usual Berghof appetite, which was always even larger in winter than in summer.

/ Page 272 /

At the same time he had a perpetual craving for sleep; in the day-time, as well as on the moonlit evenings, he would drop off over his books, and then, after a few minutes' unconsciousness, betake himself again to research. Talk fatigued him. He was more in-clined than had been his habit to rapid, unrestrained, even reckless speech; but if he talked with Joachim, as they went on their snowy walks, he was liable to be overtaken by giddiness and trembling, would feel dazed and tipsy, and the blood would mount to his head. His curve had gone up since the oncoming of winter, and Hofrat Behrens had let fall something about injections; these were usually given in cases of obstinate high temperature, and Joachim and at least two-thirds of the guests had them. But he himself felt sure that the increase in his bodily heat had to do with the mental activity and excitation which kept him in his chair on the balcony until deep into the glittering, frosty night. The reading which held him so late suggested such an explanation to his mind.
No little reading was done, in the rest-halls and private loggias of the International Sanatorium Berghof; largely, however, by the new-comers and " short-timers," for the patients of many months' or years' standing had long learned to kill time without mental effort or means of distraction, by dint of a certain inner virtuosity they came to possess. They even considered it beginners' awkward-ness to glue yourself to a book. It was enough to have one lying in your lap or on your little table, in case of need. The collection of the establishment was an amplification of the literature found in a dentist's waiting-room - in many languages, profusely illustrated, and offered free of charge. The guests exchanged volumes from the loan-library down in the Platz; now and again there would be a book for which everybody scrambled, even the condescending old inhabitants reaching out their hands with ill-concealed eager-ness. At the moment it was a cheap paper-backed volume, intro-duced by Herr Albin, and entitled The Art of Seduction: a very literal translation from the French, preserving even the syntax of that language, and thus gaining in elegance and pungency of pres-entation. In matter it was an exposition of the philosophy of sen-sual passion, developed in a spirit of debonair and man-of-the-worldly paganism. Frau Stohr had read it early, and pronounced it simply ravishing. Frau Magnus, the same who had lost her albu-men tolerance, agreed unreservedly. Her husband the brewer pur- portc:d to have profited personally by a perusal, but regretted that his wife should have taken up that sort of thing, because such read-ing spoiled the women and gave them immodest ideas. His remarks not a little increased the circulation of the volume. Two ladies of

/ Page 273 /

the lower rest-hall, Frau Redisch, the wife of a Polish industrial magnate, and Frau Hessenfeld, a widow from Berlin, both of these new arrivals since October, claimed the book at the same time, and a regrettable incident arose after dinner, yes, more than regrettable, for there was a violent scene, overheard by Hans Castorp, in his loggia above. It ended in spasms of hysteria on the part of one of the women - it might have been Frau Redisch, but equally well it might have been Frau Hessenfeld - and she was borne away be-side herself to her own room. The youth of the place had got hold of the treatise before those of riper years; studying it in part in groups, after supper, in their various rooms. Hans Castorp himself saw the youth with the finger-nail hand it to Franzchen Oberdank in the dining-room - she was a new arrival and a light case, a flaxen- hrored young thing whose mother had just brought her to the sanatorium.
There may have been exceptions; there may have been those who employed the hours of the rest-cure with some serious in- tellectual occupation, some conceivably profitable study, either by way of keeping in touch with life in the lowlands, or in order to give weight and depth to the passing hour, that it might not be pure time and nothing else besides. Perhaps here and there was one - not, of course, to mention Herr Settembrini, with his zeal for eliminating human suffering, or Joachim with his Russian primer - yes, there might be one, or two, thus occupied; if not among the guests in the dining-room, which seemed not very likely, then among the bedridden and moribund. Hans Castorp inclined to be-lieve it. He himself, after imbibing all that Ocem Steamships had to offer him, had ordered certain books from home, some of them bearing on his profession, and they had arrived with his winter clothing: scientific engineering, technique of ship-building, and the like. But these volumes lay now neglected in favour of other text- books belonging to quite a different field, an interest in which had seized upon the young man: anatomy, physiology, biology, works in German, French and English, sent up to the Berghof by the book-dealer in the village, obviously because Hans Castorp had ordered them, as was indeed the case. He had done so of his own motion, without telling anyone, on a solitary walk he took down to the Platz while Joachim was occupied with the weekly weigh-ing or injection. His cousin was surprised when he saw the books in Hans Castorp's hands. They were expensive, as scientific works always are: the prices were marked on the wrappers and inside the front covers. Joachim asked why, if his cousin wanted to read such books, he had not borrowed them of the Hofrat, who surely

/ Page 274 /

possessed a well-chosen stock. The young man answered that it was quite a different thing to read when the book was one's own; for his part, he loved to mark them and underline passages in pencil. Joachim could hear, hours on end, the noise made by the paper- knife going through the uncut leaves.
The volumes were heavy, unhandy. Hans Castorp propped them against his chest or stomach as he lay; they were heavy, but he did not mind. Lying there, his mouth half open, he let his eye glide down the learned page, upon which fell the light from his red- shaded lamp, though he might have read, if need were, by the bril- liance of the moonlight alone. He read, following the lines down the page with his head, until at the bottom his chin lay sunk upon his breast - and in this position the reader would pause perhaps for reflection, dozing a little or musing in half-slumber, before lifting his eyes to the next page. He probed profoundly. While the moon took its appointed way above the crystalline splendours of the mountain valley, he read of organized matter, of the proper-ties of protoplasm, that sensitive substance maintaining Itself in extraordinary fluctuation between building up and breaking down; of form developing out of rudimentary, but always present, pri- mordia; read wIth compelling interest of life, and it sacred, im- pure mysteries.
What was life? No one knew. It was undoubtedly aware of it-self, so soon as it was life; but it did not know what it was. Con- sciousness, as exhibited by susceptibility to stimulus, was undoubt-edly, to a certain degree, present in the lowest, most undeveloped stages of life; it was impossible to fix the first appearance.of con-scious processes at any point In the history of the mdividual or the race; immpossible to make consciousness contingent upon, say, the presence of a nervous system. The lowest animal forms had no nervous systems, still less a cerebrum; yet no one would venture to deny them the capacity for responding to stimuli. One could sus-pend life; not merely particular sense-organs, not only nervous reactions, but life itself. One could temporarily suspend the irrita- bility to sensation of every form of living matter in the plant as well as in the animal kingdom; one could narcotize ova and sperma- tozoa with chloroform, chloral hydrate, or morp!une. Conscious- ness, then, was simply a function of matter organized into life; a function that in higher manifestations turned upon its avatar and became an effort to explore and explain the pnenomenon it dis-played - a hopeful-hopeless project of life to achieve self-knowl-edge, nature in recoil-and vainly, in the event, since she cannot be resolved in knowledge, nor life, when all is said, listen to itself.

/ Page 275 /

What was life? No one knew. No one knew the actual point whence it sprang, where it kindled itself. Nothing in the domain of life seemed uncausated, or insufficiently causated, from that point on; but life itself seemed without antecedent. If there was anything that might be said about it, it was this: it must be so highly developed, structurally, that nothing even distantly related to It was present in the inorganic world. Between the protean amreba and the vertebrate the difference was slight, unessential, as com- pared to that between the simplest living organism and that nature which did not even deserve to be called dead, because it was in- organic. For death was only the-logical negation of life; but be- tween life and inanimate nature yawned a gulf which research strove in vain to bridge. They tried to close it with hypotheses, which it swallowed down without becoming any the less deep or broad. Seeking for a connecting link, they had condescended to the preposterous assumption of structureless living matter, unorgan-ized organisms, which darted together of themselves in the albu-men solution, like crystals in the mother-liquor; yet organic dif- ferentiation still remained at once condition and expression of all life. One could point to no form of life that did not owe its exist- ence to procreation by parents. They had fished the primeval slime out of toe depth of the sea, and great had been the jubilation - but the end of it all had been shame and confusion. For it turned out that they had mistaken a precipitate of sulphate of lime for proto-plasm. But then, to avoid giving pause before a miracle - for life that built itself up out of, and fell in decay into, the same sort of matter as inorganic nature; would have been, happening of itself, miraculous - they were driven to believe in a spontaneous genera-tion - that is, in the emergence of the organic from the inorganic - which was just as much of a miracle. Thus they went on, devis-ing intermediate stages and transitions, assuming the existence of organisms which stood lower down than any yet known, but them-selves had as forerunners still more primitive efforts of nature to achieve life: primitive forms of which no one would ever catch sight, for they were all of less than microscopic size, and previous to whose hypothetic existence the synthesis of protein compounds must already have taken place.
What then was life? It was warmth, the warmth generated by a form-preserving instability, a fever of matter, which accom-panied the process of ceaseless decay and repair of albumen mole-cules that were too impossibly complicated, too impossibly ingen-ious in structure. It was the existence of the actually impossible-to-exist, of a half-sweet, half-painful balancing, or scarcely balancing,

/ Page 276 /

in this restricted and feverish process of decay and renewal, upon the point of existence. It was not matter and it was not spirit, but something between the two, a phenomenon conveyed by mat-ter, like the rainbow on the waterfall, and like the flame. Yet why not material- it was sentient to the point of desire and disgust, the shamelessness of matter become sensible of itself. the inconti-nent form of being. It was a secret and ardent stirring in the frozen chastity of the universal; it was a stolen and voluptuous impurity of sucking and secreting; an exhalation of carbonic acid gas and ma-terial impurities of mysterious origin and composition. It was a pul-lulation, an unfolding, a form-building (made possible by the over-balancing of its instability, yet controlled by the laws of growth inherent within it), of something brewed out of water, albumen, salt and fats, which was called flesh, and which became form, beauty, a lofty image, and yet all the time the essence of sensuality and desire. For this form and beauty were not spirit-borne; nor, like the form and beauty of sculpture, conveyed by a neutral and spirit-consumed substance, which could in all purity make beauty perceptible to the senses. Rather was it conveyed and shaped by the somehow awakened voluptuousness of matter, of the organic. dying-living substance itself, the reeking flesh.
As he lay there above the glittering valley, lapped in the bodily warmth reserved to him by fur and wool, in the frosty night illumined by the brilliance from a lifeless star, the image of life displayed itself to young Hans Castorp. It hovered before him, somewhere in space, remote from his grasp, yet near his sense; this body, this opaquely whitish form, giving out exhalations, moist, clammy; the skin with all its blemishes and native impurities, with its spots, pimples, discolorations, irregularities; its horny, scalelike regions, covered over by soft streams and whorls of rudimentary lanugo. It leaned there, set off against the cold lifelessness of the inanimate world, in its own vaporous sphere, relaxed, the head crowned with something cool, horny, and pigmented, which was an outgrowth of its skin; the hands clasped at the back of the neck. It looked down at him beneath drooping lids, out of eyes made to appear slanting by a racial variation in the lid-formation. Its lips were half open, even a little curled. It rested its weight on one leg, the hip-bone stood out sharply under the flesh, while the other, relaxed, nestled its slightly bent knee against the inside of the sup-porting leg, and poised the foot only upon the toes. It leaned thus, turning to smile, the gleaming elbows akimbo, in the paired sym-metty of its limbs and trunk. The acrid. steaming shadows of the arm-pits corresponded in a mystic triangle to the pubic dark-

/ Page 277 /  

ness, just as the eyes did to the red, epithelial mouth-opening, and the red blossoms of the breast to the navel lying perpendicularly below. Under the impulsion of a central organ and of the motor nerves originating in the spinal marrow, chest and abdomen func- tioned, the peritoneal cavity expanded and contracted, the breath, warmed and moistened by the mucous membrane of the respira- tory canal, saturated with secretions, streamed out between the lips, after it had joined its oxygen to the haemoglobin of the blood in the air-cells of the lungs. For Hans Castorp understood that this living body, in the mysterious symmetry of its blood-of its nourished structure, penetrated throughout by nerves, veins, arteries, and capillaries; with its inner framework of bones - marrow-filled tubular bones, blade-bones, vertebrre - which with the addition of lime had developed out of the original gelatinous tissue and grown strong enough to support the body weight; with the cap-sules and well-oiled cavities, ligaments and cartilages of its joints, Its more than two hundred muscles, its central organs that served for nutrition and respiration, for registering and transmitting stimuli, its protective membranes, serous cavities, its glands rich in secre-tions; with the system of vessels and fissures of its highly compli-cated interior surface, communicating through the body-openings with the outer world - he understood that this ego was a livmg unit of a very high order, remote indeed from those very simple forms of life which breathed, took in nourishment, even thought, with the entire surface of their bodies. He knew it was built up out of myriads of such small organisms, which had had their origin in a single one; which had multiplied by recurrent division, adapted themselves to the most varied uses, and functions, separated, dif-ferentiated themselves, thrown out forms which were the condition and result of their growth.
This body, then, which hovered before him, this individual and living I, was a monstrous multiplicity of breathing and self-nourishing individuals, which, through organic conformation and adaptation to special ends, had parted to such an extent with their essential individuality, their freedom and living immediacy, had so much become anatomic elements that the functions of some had become limited to sensibility toward light, sound, contact, warmth; others only understood how to change their shape or produce di-gestive secretions through contraction; others, again, were de-veloped and functional to no other end than protection, support, the conveyance of the body juices, or reproduction. There were modifications of this organic plurality united to form the higher ego: cases where the multitude of subordinate entities were only

/ Page 278 /

grouped in a loose and doubtful way to form a higher living uait. The student buried himself in the phenomenon of cell colonies; he read about half-organisms, algae, whose single cells, enveloped.. a mantle of gelatine, often lay apart from one another, yet were multiple-cell formations, whIch, if they had been asked, would not have known whether to be rated as a settlement of single-celled individuals, or as an individual single unit, and, in bearing witness, would have vacillated quaintly between the I and the we. Nature here presented a middle stage, between the highly social union of countless elementary individuals to form the tissues and organs of a superior I, and the free individual existence of these simpler forms; the multiple-celled organism was only a stage in the cyclic process, which was the course of life itself, a periodic revolution from procreation to procreation. The act of fructification, the sexual merging of two cell-bodies, stood at the beginning of the upbuilding of every rnultiple-celled individual, as it did at the beginning of every row of generations of single elementary forms,. and led back to itself. For this act was carried through many species which had no need of it to multiply by means of proliferation;until a moment came when the non-sexually produced offspring found thcmselves once more constrained to a renewal of the copu- lative function, and the circle came full. Such was the multiple state of life, sprung from the union of two parent cells, the asso- ciation of many non-sexually originated generations of cell units; its growth meant their increase, and the generative circle came full again when sex-cells, specially developed elements for the pur-pose of reproduction, had established themselves and found the way to a new mingling that drove life on afresh.
Our young adventurer, supporting a volume of embryology on the pit of his stomach, followed the development of the or-ganism from the moment when the spermatozoon, first among a host of its fellows, forced itself forward by a lashing motion of its hinder part, struck with its forepart against the gelatine mantle of the egg, and bored its way into the mount of concep- tion, which the protoplasm of the outside of the ovum arched agajnst its approach. There was no conceivable trick or absurdity it would not have pleased nature to commit by way of variation upon this fixed procedure. In some animals, the male was a para-site in the intestine of the female. In others, the male parent reached with his arm down the gullet of the female to deposit the semen within her; after which, bitten off and spat out, it ran away by itself upon its fingers, to the confusion of scientists, who for long had given it Greek and Latin names an independent form

/ Page 279 /

of life. Hans Castorp lent an ear to the learned strife between ovists and animalculsts: the first of whom asserted that the egg was in itself the complete little frog, dog, or human being, the male element being only the incitement to its growth; while the sec-ond saw in a spermatozoon, possessing head, arms, and legs, the perfected form of life shadowed forth, to which the egg performed only the office of " nourisher in life's feast." In the end they agreed to concede equal meritoriousness to ovum and semen, both of which, after all sprang from originally indistinguishable procre-ative cells. He saw the single-celled organism of the fructified egg on the point of being transformed into a multiple-celled organism, by striation and division; saw the cell-bodies attach themselves to the lamellae of the mucous membrane; saw the germinal vesicle, the blastula, close itself in to form a cup or basin-shaped cavity, and begin the functions of receiving and digesting food. That was the gastrula, the protozoon, primeval form of all animal life, pri-meval form of flesh-borne beauty. Its two epithelia, the outer and the inner, the ectoderm and the entoderm, proved to be prim:tive organs out of whose foldings-in and-out, were developed the glands, the tissues, the sensory organs, the body processes. A strip of the outer germinal layer, the ectoderm, thickened, folded into a groove, closed itself into a nerve canal, became a spinal column, became the brain. And as the foetal slime condensed into fibrous connective tissue, into cartilage, the colloidal cells begirming to show gelatinous substance instead of mucin. he saw in certain places the connective tissue take lime and fat to itself out of the sera that washed it, and begin to form bone. Embryonic man squatted in a stooping posture, tailed, indistinguishable from em-bryonic pig; with enormous abdomen and stumpy, formless extremities, the facial mask bowed over the swollen paunch; the story of his growth seemed a grim, unflattering science, like the cursory record of a zoological family tree. For a while he had gill-pockets like a roach. It seemed permissible, or rather unavoidable, contemplating the various stages of development through which he passed, to infer the very little humanistic aspect presented by primitive man in his mature state. His skin was furnished with twitching muscles to keep off insects; it was thickly covered with hair; there was a tremendous development of the mucous mem-brane of the olfactory organs; his ears protruded, were movable, took a lively part in the play of the features, and were much better adapted than ours for catching sounds. His eyes were protected by a third, nictating lid; they were placed sidewise, excepting the third, of which the pineal gland was the rudimentary trace, and

/ Page 280 /

which was able, looking upwards, to guard him from dangers from the upper air. Primitive man had a very long intestine, many molars, and sound-pouches on the larnyx the better to roar with, also he carried his sex-glands on the inside of the intestinal cavity.
Anatomy presented our investigator with charts of human limbs, skinned and prepared for his inspection; he saw their superficial and their buried muscles, sinews, and tendons: those of the thighs, the foot, and especially of the arm, the upper and the forearm. He learned the Latin names with which medicine, that subdivision of the humanities, had gallantly equipped them. He passed on to the skeleton, the development of which presented new points of view - among them a clear perception of the essential unity of all that pertains to man, the correlation of all branches of learning. For here, strangely enough, he found himself reminded of his own field - or shall we say his former field? - the scientific calling which he had announced himself as having embraced, introducing himself thus to Dr. Krokowski and Herr Settembrini on his ar- rival up here. In order to learn something - it had not much mat-tered what - he had learned in his technical school about statics, about supports capable of flexion, about loads, about construction as the advantageous utilization of mechanical material. It would of course be childish to think that the science of engineering, the rules of mechanics, had found application to organic nature; but just as little might one say that they had been derived from organic nature. It was simply that the mechanical laws found themselves repeated and corroborated in nature. The principle of the hollow cylinder was illustrated in the structure of the tubular bones, in such a way that the static demands were satis-fied with the precise minimum of solid structure. Hans Castorp had learned that a body which is put together out of staves and bands of mechanically utilizable matter, conformably to the de- mands made by draught and pressure upon it, can withstand the same weight as a solid column of the same material. Thus in the development of the tubular bones, it was comprehensible that, step for step with the formation of the solid exterior, the inner parts, which were mechanically superfluous, changed to a fatty tissue, the marrow. The thigh-bone was a crane, in the construction of which organic nature, by the direction she had given the shaft, carried out, to a hair, the same draught- and pressure-curves which Hans Castorp had had to plot in drawing an instrument serving a similar purpose. He contemplated this fact with pleasure; he en- joyed the reflection that his relation to the femur, or to organic

/ Page 281 /  

nature generally was now threefold: it was lyrical, it was medical, it was technological; and all of these, he felt, were one in being human, they were variations of one and the same pressing human concern, they were schools of humanistic thought.
But with all this the achievements of the protoplasm remained unaccountable: it seemed forbidden to life that it should under-stand itself. Most of the bio-chemical processes were not only unknown, it lay in their very nature that they should escape at-tention. Almost nothing was known of the structure or composi-tion of the living unit called the " cell." What use was there in establishing, the components of lifeless muscle, when the living did not let itself be chemically examined? The changes that took place when the rigor mortis set in were enough to make worthless all investigation. Nobody understood metaboIism, nobody under- stood the true inwardness of the functioning of the nervous sys- tem. To what properties did the taste corpuscles owe their reaction? In what consisted the various kinds of excitation of cer- tain sensory nerves by odour-possessing substances? In what, in- deed, the property of smell itself? The specific odours of man and beast consisted in the vaporization of certain unknown substances. The composition of the secretion called sweat was little under- stood. The glands that secreted it produced aromata which among mammals undoubtedly played an imporant role, but whose sig-nificance for the human species we were not in a position to ex- plain. The physiological significance of imponant regions of the body was shrouded in darkness. No need to mention the vermi- form appendix, which was a mystery; in rabbits it was regularly found full of a pulpy substance, of which there was nothing to say as to how it got in or renewed itself. But what about the white and grey substance which composed the medulla, what of the optic thalamus and the grey inlay of the pons Varolii? The sub-stance composing the brain and marrow was so subject to dis- integration, there was no hope whatever of determining its struc-ture. What was it relieved thie cortex of activity during slumber? What prevented the stomach from digesting itself - as sometimes, in fact, did happen after death? One might answer, life: a special power of resistance of the living protoplasm; but this would be not to recognize the mystical character of such an explanation. The theory of such an everyday phenomenon as fever was full of contradictions. Heightened oxIdization resulted in increased warmth, but why was there not an increased expenditure of warmtth to correspond? Did the paralysis of the sweat-secretions depend upon contraction of the skin? But such contraction took

/ Page 282  /

place only in the case of " chills and fever," for otherwise, in fever, the skin was more likely to be hot. Prickly heat indicated the centnl nervous system as the seat of the causes of heightened catabolism as well as the source of that condition of the skin which we were content to call abnormal, because we did not know how to define it.
But what was all this ignorance, compared with our utter help-lessness in the presence of such a phenomenon as memory, or of that other more prolonged and astounding memory which we called the inheritance of acquired characteristics? Out of the question to get even a glimpse of any mechanical possibility of explication of such performances on the part of the cell-substance. The spermatozoon that conveyed to the egg countless complicated individual and racial characteristics of the father was visible only through a microscope; even the most powerful magnification was not enough to show it as other than a homogeneous body, or to determine its origin; it looked the same in one animal as in another. These factors forced one to the assumption that the cell was in the same case as with the higher form it went to build up: that it too was already a higher form, composed in its turn by the division of living bodies, individual living units. Thus one passed from the supposed smallest unit to a still smaller one; one was driven to separate the elementary into its elements. No doubt at all but just as the animal kingdom was composed of various species of animals, as the human-animal organism was composed of a whole animal kingdom of cell species, so the cell organism was composed of a new and varied animal kingdom of elementary units, far below microscopic size, which grew spontaneously, increased spontaneously according to the law that each could bring forth only after its kind, and, acting on the principle of a division of labour, served together the next higher order of existence.
Those were the genes, the living germs, bioblasts, biophores-lying there in the frosty night, Hans Castorp rejoiced to make acquaintance with them by name. Yet how, he asked himself ex-citedly, even after more light on the subject was forthcoming. how could their elementary nature be established? If they were living. they must be organic, since life depended upon organiza-tion. But if they were organized, then they could not be ele-mentary. since an organism is not single but multiple. They were units within the organic unit of the cell they built up. But if they were, then, however impossibly small they were. they must them-selves be built up. organically built up. as a law of their existence; for the conception of a living unit meant by definition that it was

 

 

 

/ Page 283 /

built up out of smaller units which were subordinate; that is, organized with reference to, a higher form. As long as division yielded organIc unIts possessing the propertIes of life - asslmila-tion and reproduction - no limits were set to it. As long as one spoke of living units, one could not correctly speak of elementary units, for the concept of unity carried with it in perpetuity the concept of subordinated, upbuilding unity; and there was no such thing as elementary life, in the sense of something that was already life, and yet elementary. And still, though without logical existence, something of the kind must be eventually the case; for it was not possible. to brush aside like that the idea of the original procreation, the rise of life ; out of what was not life. That gap which in exterior nature we vainly sought to close, that between living and dead matter, had its counterpart in nature's organic existence, and must somehow either be closed up or bridged over. Soon or late, division must yield " units " which, even though in composition, were not organ- ized, and which mediated betWeen life and absence of life; molec- ular groups, which represented the transition between vitalized organization and mere chemistry. But then, arrived at the mole-cule, one stood on the brink of another abyss, which yawned yet more mysteriously than that between organic and inorganic na-ture: the gulf between the material and the immaterial. For the molecule was composed of atoms, and the atom was nowhere near large enough eveh to be spoken of as extraordinarily small. It was so small, such a tiny, early, transitional mass, a coagulation of the unsubstantial, of the not-yet-substantial and yet substance-like, of energy, that it was scarcely possible yet - or, if it had been, was now no longer possible - to think of it as material, but rather as mean and border-line between material and immaterial. The prob- lem of another original procreation arose, far more wild and mys- terious than the organic: the primeval birth of matter out of the immaterial. In fact the abyss between material and. immaterial yawned as widely, pressed as importunately - yes, more impor-tunately - to be closed, as that between organic and inorganic -nature. There must be a chemistry of the immaterial, there must be combinations of the insubstantial, out of which sprang the material - the atoms might represent protozoa of material, by their nature substance and still not yet qulte substance. Yet arrived at the .. not even small," the measure slipped out of the hands; for " not even small " meant much the same as enormously large "; and the step to the atom provecl: to be without exaggeration portentous in the highest degree. For at the very moment when one had assisted at

/ Page 284 /

the final division of matter, when one had divided it into the im-possibly small, at that moment there suddenly appeared upon the horizon the astronomical cosmos!
The atom was a cosmic system, laden with energy; in which heavenly bodies rioted rotating about a centre like a sun; through whose ethereal space comets drove with the speed of light years. kept in their eccentric orbits by the power of the central body. And that was as little a mere comparison as it would be were one to call the body of any multiple-celled organism a " cell state." The city, the state, the social community regulated according to the principle of division of labour, not only might be compared to organic life, it actually reproduced its conditions. Thus in the in-most recesses of nature, as in an endless succession of mirrors. was reflected the macrocosm of the heavens, whose clusters, throngs. groups. and figures, paled by the brilliant moon, hung over the dawing, frost-bound valley, above the head of our muffled adept. Was it too bold a thought that among the planets of the atomic solar system - those myriads and milky ways of solar systems which constituted matter - one or other of these inner-worldly heavenly bodies might find itself in a condition corresponding to that which made it possible for our earth to become the abode of life? For a young man already rather befuddled inwardly. suffering from abnormal skin-conditions. who was not without all and any experience in the realm of the illicit, it was a specularion which, far from being absurd, appeared so obvious as to leap to the eyes, highly evident, and bearing the stamp of logical truth. The " small- ness " of these inner-worldly heavenly bodies would have been an objection irrelevant to the hypothesis; since the conception of large or small had ceased to be pertInent at tlle moment when the cosmic character of the "smallest" particle of matter had been revealed; while at the same time, the conceptions of " outside " and " inside " had also been shaken. The atom-world was an " outside." as, very probably, the earthly star on which we dwelt was, organically re-garded, deeply" inside." Had not a researcher once, audaciously fanciful, referred to the" beasts of the Milky Way," cosmic mon-sters whose flesh, bone, and brain were built up out of solar sys- tems? But in that case, Hans Castorp mused, then in the moment when one thought to have come to to the end, it all began over again from the beginning! For then, in the very innermost of his nature, and in the inmost of that innermost, perhaps there was just himself, just Hans Castorp, again and a hundred times Hans Castorp, with burning face and stiffening fingers, lying muffled on a balcony, with a view across the moonlit, frost-nighted high valley. and prob-

/ Page 285 

ing, with an interest both humanistic and medical, into the life of the body!
He held a volume of pathological anatomy in the red ray from his table-lamp, and conned its text and numerous reproductions. He read of the existcnce of parasitic cell-juncture and of infec- tious tumours. These were forms of tissue - and very luxuriant forms too - produced by foreign cell-bodies in an organism which had proved receptive to them, and in some way or other - one must probably say perversely - had offered them peculiarly fa-vourable conditions.lt was not so much that the parasite took away nourishment from the surrounding tissues, as that, in the process of building up and breaking down which went on in it as in every other cell, it produced organic combinations which were extraor- dinarily toxic - undeniably destructive - to the cells where it had been entenained. They had found out how to isolate the toxin from a number of micro-organisms and produce it in concentrated form; and it was amazing to see what small doses of this substance, which simply belonged to a group of protein combinations, could, when introduced into the circulation of an animal, produce symptoms of acute poisoning and rapid degeneration. The outward sign of this inward decay was a growth of tissue, the pathological tumour, which was the reaction of the cells to the stimulus of the foreign bacilli. Tubercles developed, the size of a millet-seed, composed of cells resembling mucous membrane, among or within which the bacilli lodged; some of these were extraordinarily rich in proto- plasm, very large, and full of nuclei. However, all this good living soon led to ruin; for the nuclei of these monster cells began to break down, the protoplasm they contained to be destroyed by coagulation, and further areas of tissue to be involved. They were attacked by inflammation, the neighbouring blood-vessels suffered by contagion. White blood-corpuscles were attracted to the seat of the evil; the breaking-down proceeded apace; and meanwhile the soluble toxins released by the bacteria half already poisoned the nerve-centres, the entire organization was in a state of high fever, and staggered - so to speak with heaving bosom - toward dissolu- tion.
Thus far pathology, the theory of disease, the accentuation of the physical through pain; yet, in so far as it was the accentuation of the physical, at the same time accentuation through desire. Dis- ease was a perverse, a dissolute form of life. And life? Life itself? Was it perhaps only an infection, a sickening of matter? Was that which one might call the original procreation of matter only a disease, a growth produced by morbid stimulation of the imma-

/  Page 286 /  

terial? The first step toward evil, toward desire and death, was taken precisely then, when there took place that first increase in the density of the spiritual, that pathologically luxuriant morbid growth, produced by the irritant of some unknown infiltration; this, in part pleasurable, in part a motion of self-defence, was the primeval stage of matter, the transition from the insubstantial to the substance. This was the Fall. The second creation. the birth of the organic out of the inorganic, was only another fatal stage in the progress of the corporeal toward consciousness, just as disease in the organism was an intoxication. a heightening and unlicensed accentuation of its physical state; and life, life was nothing but next step on the reckless path of the spirit dishonoured; nothing but the automatic blush of matte!' roused to sensation and become receptive for that which awaked it.
The books lay piled upon the table, one lay on the matting next his chair; that whIch he had latest read rested upon Hans Castorp's stomach and oppressed his breath; yet no order went from the cortex to the muscles in charge to take it away. He had read down the page, his chin had sunk upon his chest, over his innocent blue eyes the lids had fallen. He beheld the image of life in flower, its structure, its flesh-borne loveliness. She had lifted her hands from behind her head, she opened her arms. On their inner side, par- ticularly beneath the tender skin of the elbow-points, he saw die blue branchings of the larger veins. These arms were of unspeak- able sweetness. She leaned above him, she inclined unto him and bent down over him, he was conscious of her organic fragrance and the mild pulsation of her heart. Something warm and tender clasped him round the neck; melted with desire and awe, he laid his hands upon the flesh of her upper arms, where the fine-grained skin over the triceps came to his sense so heavenly cool; and upon his lips he felt the moist clinging of her kiss.