Odlomak 2

(Thomas Mann, The Magic Mountain)

The wintry mountains were beautiful – not in a gentle, benign way, but beautiful like the wild North Sea under a strong west wind. They awakened the same sense of awe – but there was no thunder, only a deathly silence. Hans Castorp's long, pliant footwear bore him in all directions: along the slope on the left in the direction of Clavadel or to the right on past Frauenkirch and Glaris, the shadowy ghost of the Amselfluh massif looming up out of the fog behind them; he also skied the valley of the Dischma and the hills rising behind the Berghof, in the direction of the wooded Seehorn, only the very tops of its two snow-clad peaks visible above the tree line, and toward the Drusatscha woods, behind which he could see the pale, murky outline of the Rhätikon chain buried under snow. He even took his skis in the cablecar to the top of Schatzalp to glide about happily up there, abducted into a world of shimmering, powdery slopes, sixty-five hundred feet above sea level, from where in good weather he had a glorious panorama of the scene of his adventures.

He reveled in the skill he had acquired, which opened up inaccessible worlds and almost obliterated barriers. It permitted him the solitude he sought, the profoundest solitude imaginable, touching his heart with a precarious savagery beyond human understanding. On one side might be a wooded ravine plunging into snowy mists, and on the other a rocky precipice with monstrous, cyclopean masses of snow that formed vaulted caves and humpbacked domes. When he would stop – not moving a muscle, so that he could not hear even himself – the silence was absolute, perfect, a padded soundlessness, like none ever known or perceived anywhere else in the world. There were not a breath of wind to brush softly against the trees, not a rustle, not the call of a bird. It was primal silence to which Hans Castorp listened as he stood there, leaning on one pole, his head tilted to the side, his mouth open; and silently, unrelentingly, the snow went on falling, drifted down in a gentle hush.

No, this world with its fathomless silence did not receive a visitor hospitably. He was an invader who came at his own risk, whose presence was only tolerated in an eerie, foreboding way; and he could sense the menace of mute, elemental forces as they rose up around him – not hostile, but simply indifferent and deadly. Born a stranger to remote, wild nature, the child of civilization is much more open to her grandeur than are her own coarse sons, who have been at her mercy from infancy and whose intimacy with her is more level-headed. They know next to nothing of the religious awe with which the novice approaches her, eyebrows raised, his whole being tuned to its depths to receive her, his soul in a state of constant, thrilled, timid excitement. Dressed in his long-sleeved camel-hair vest and leggings, Hans Castorp actually felt rather impudent standing there on his deluxe skis, listening to the primal silence, to the deadly hush of the winter wilderness; and the same sense of relief he felt stir within him on the way home, when the first human dwellings emerged out of the shroud, made him that much more aware of his previous state and told him that for hours now his mood had been one of secret, holy fear. On Sylt, he had stood dressed in white trousers, safe, elegant, and reverent beside the mighty, rolling surf, as if it were a caged lion, yawning and showing its fearful fangs and cavernous gorge. Then he would go for a swim, and a lifeguard would blow on his little horn to warn those brash enough to venture beyond the first breaking wave, or merely to get too close to its onrushing storm – and even the final thrust of the cataract was like the slap of a giant paw against the back of his neck. As a young man, Hans Castorp had learned the exhilarating thrill of brushing up against powers whose full embrace would destroy you. What he had not learned back then, however, was a taste for extending the thrilling contact with deadly nature until it threatened with its full embrace – had not learned to venture out into the enormity as a weak, if well armed and reasonably well equipped child of civilization, or at least to postpone fleeing before the enormity until contact with it verged on a peril that know no limits, until it was no longer the last thrust of foam and a soft paw, but the wave itself, the gorge, the sea.

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