So, there's a bit of a major crisis going on all around the world. For someone like me, someone stuck inside the United States, this has all the warning signs of an empire in crisis. Like always, when I have free time and I'm stressed I like to return and reflect to works of literature that hit me particularly hard, works that I think give the reader something useful as a gift.
"The Magic Mountain", the magnum opus of the greatest European author of the 20th century, Thomas Mann, is just such a book. More appropriate now than other, more 'plonky' works about pandemics, zombie outbreaks, and the more obvious decays of society, "The Magic Mountain" dives deep into the subconscious soup of a culture on the brink of destruction.
Echoing the onslaught of the first World War, the coming wave of virus damage to the United States is so vast that we aren't really able to wrap our heads around it. For Americans, we have no analogue: the most deadly event in our history, our Civil War, killed about 750,000 people. This virus, even at more conservative estimates, may kill ten times that many.
Thomas Mann's Hans is right at the edge of a similar crisis, and the novel explores the murky ecotone between reality and our internal monologue, our personal fantasy. For many Americans, I think it'd be a really great read and puts a passive approach to life in stark contrast to action; there's also a very important Democratic Primary taking place right now, and as you can tell from this blog and what I write about, I'm on the far end of the leftward plank in America.
Our society's response to this crisis will be colored by, and further inform, our societal values and character. We are an empire in crisis, and my greatest fear is that our leaders and our people will retreat within ourselves, refusing to acknowledge the realities of our rot and decay. Food for thought while we're all limiting our social contact, stocking up on food, and wondering if (or when) we start to cough and run a fever.