Written by the most important figure in German literature in the first half of this century, The Magic Mountain is in Mann's own words 'a dialectic novel'. The seeting (like that of his earlier Tristan)is a sanatorium high in the Swiss Alps; and it is into this rarefield and extra-mundane atmosphere, devoted to and organized in the service of ill-health, that young Hans Castorp comes, intending at first to stay for three weeks but remaining seven years. With him are a cosmopolitan collection of people: an Italian liberal, a Jew turned Jesuit, a doctor, a seductive Russian woman, and his cousin Joachim who desperately longs for action and returns to the 'lower realities' of the world, only coming back to the sanatorium to die. Their occupation is discussion, and in this they indulge relentlessly and with an Olympian arrogance and detachment from the outer world. But love, war, and emotions all affect and influence their conversation and they are indeed a microcosm and symbol of the pre-First-World-War society below them--of a sick Europe.
The Magic Mountain won the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1929.