Views & Reviews Medical Classics

The Magic Mountain

BMJ 2009; 338 doi: (Published 05 January 2009) Cite this as: BMJ 2009;338:a3032
  1. Thomas Rütten
  1. thomas.rutten{at}

    The Magic Mountain tells the story of Hans Castorp, an “ordinary young man.” At the beginning of the novel Hans is on his way from Hamburg to Davos to visit his cousin, who is being treated for a lung complaint at one of the Swiss resort’s sanatoriums. As the tale unfolds, Hans’s intended three week visit turns into a seven year stint at the sanatorium, which ends only when Hans is catapulted into the Flanders battlefields at the outbreak of the first world war.

    To this day The Magic Mountain ranks among the best selling titles of its German publisher, Fischer Verlag, which recently reissued the novel in a new edition with a separate volume of detailed annotations.1 The swiftly commissioned English translation, published in 1927, as well as Mann’s considerable international reputation2 (he was awarded the Nobel prize for literature in 1929), no doubt contributed to the book’s early worldwide success. Variously labelled a bildungsroman or a tuberculosis or sanatorium novel, and in terms of genre classified as an intellectual novel, it soon attracted doctors and patients as readers and, indeed, early critics. As recently …

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