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Spaces for Happiness in the Twentieth-Century German Novel

Mann, Kafka, Hesse, Jünger


Alan Corkhill

This book offers an in-depth study of the rich tapestry of happiness discourses in well-known philosophical novels by Thomas Mann, Franz Kafka, Hermann Hesse and Ernst Jünger, published between 1922 and 1949. The study is prompted, in part, by an awareness that despite the interdisciplinarity of happiness research, Western literary scholarship has paid scant attention to fictionalized constructs of happiness. Each of the four chapters uses extended textual analysis to explore the sites in which happiness ( Glück) and serenity ( Heiterkeit) are sought, experienced, narrated, reflected upon and enacted. The author theorizes, with particular reference to Bachelard and Foucault, the interfaces between interior and exterior spaces and states of well-being. In addition to providing new interpretive perspectives on the canonical novels themselves, the book makes a significant contribution to a broader history of the idea of happiness through the appraisal of key intellectual cross-currents and traditions, both Western and Eastern, underpinning the novelists’ varied and nuanced conceptualizations and aesthetic representations of happiness.


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CHAPTER ONE - Thomas Mann: Competing Models of Happiness in Der Zauberberg (1924) 17


Chapter One Thomas Mann: Competing Models of Happiness in Der Zauberberg (1924) Only a man who lives not in time but in the present is happy — Ludwig Wittgenstein, 1889–1951 Mann’s intellectually complex Interwar novel Der Zauberberg (The Magic Mountain), set in a Swiss sanatorium prior to the outbreak of the First World War, contains a wealth of contrasting pronouncements on various facets of happiness and its correlates and surrogates, for whom the central protagonist Hans Castorp and his mentors Settembrini and Naphta are the principal mouthpieces. The novel interrogates a range of philosophi- cal, psychoanalytical and phenomenological theories of happiness such as the nexus between time, non-action and happiness, between life and suf fering, well-being and Dionysian vitalism, or between happiness and (mental) health. Political, sociological and economic doctrines of happi- ness are also woven into the dialogues. Several happiness tropes explored in Mann’s earlier or subsequent fictional writings are not articulated or receive less attention, most notably the trope of individual happiness versus the sacrifice of self for family (Die Buddenbrooks), or the recurring preoc- cupation with artistry and its conduciveness to happiness (Tristan; Tonio Kröger, 1903). However, the range of discourses in The Magic Mountain extends well beyond the autobiographical, unlike the novel Königliche Hoheit (Royal Highness, 1909), which was predominantly, in the author’s own words, “an attempt to come to terms as a writer with my own happi- ness” (LTM xvii).1 18 Chapter One Der Zauberberg is characterized by an overarching awareness that...

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