Thomas Mann’s Dantesque Zauberberg

Thomas Rendall


Of the many parallels to Dante in Zauberberg the most intriguing occur in its presentation of the hero’s love for Clawdia Chauchat. Castorp’s comically elaborate courtship resembles Dante’s courtly service to Beatrice, and the eventual broadening of his sentiments also resembles, in a more serious vein, the transformation of Dante’s love from eros to caritas. When Dante is finally reunited with Beatrice at the top of the mountain of Purgatory, she is accompanied by a mythological animal representing Christ, and when Clawdia after long absence returns to Hans, she also has a new lover explicitly associated with the Saviour. As Dante ultimately recognizes the spiritual nature of his love, so Hans agrees with Clawdia to be bound by a newly chaste affection in mutual service to Peeperkorn. Dante’s transformed love leads him to the presence of God, and whatever hope remains at the end of Zauberberg seems also to rest on the possibility of a love which can somehow go beyond the purely material and selfish.

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