Lounge Chair

And with that he slipped past the glass divider across to his own balcony, where someone had placed an unfolded lounge chair and a table. He fetched his travelling blanket, a lovely plaid of dark reds and greens, and noticed that his room had been nicely tidied up. And now he stretched out. But he soon had to put up his sunshade, the blazing glare was unbearable the moment you lay down. Still it was terribly pleasant just to lie here, Hans Castorp discovered at once to his delight – he could not remember ever having used a more comfortable lounge chair. The frame, a little old-fashioned in design – but that was only a stylish touch, really, since the chair was obviously new – was made of polished reddish-brown wood, and the mattress, covered with a soft cottonlike fabric, actually consisted of three thick cushions that reached from the chair up over the back. And then, attached to a string and slipped into an embroidered linen case was a roll for your neck, neither too firm nor too soft, and it simply worked wonders. Hans Castorp propped one elbow on the broad, smooth surface of the chair arm, and lay there blinking, …. Seen through the arches of the balcony, the hard, barren landscape lay under the bright sun like a framed painting.

At this point Hans Castorp spoke up, breaking into their conversation with the courage of simple souls. He stared into space and declared, “Contemplation, retreat – there’s something to it, sounds quite plausible. One could say that we live at a rather high level of retreat from the world up here. At five thousand feet, we recline in our lounge chairs – and remarkably comfortable they are – and look down on the world and its creatures and think things over. To tell the truth, now that I stop and think about it, my bed – and by that I mean my lounge chair, you understand – has proved very beneficial over the last ten months, made me think more about things than I ever did in all my years down in the flatlands, I can’t deny that.”

(Settembrini gazed at him with mournful, flashing black eyes. “My good engineer,” he said in a choked voice, “my good engineer.” And he grabbed Hans Castorp by the arm and pulled him back a little from the others, as if he has some private advice to give him behind their backs. “How often have I told you that a man must know who he is and think thoughts befitting him. A man of the West, despite all other propositions, has only one concern: reason, analysis, deeds, progress – not the idle couch of a monk!”)

He got himself ready for his rest cure, stuck his thermometer in his mouth, put perfected skills to work and with a few deft, sure motions of the sacred art – about which no one in the flatlands has the vaguest – he wrapped his two camel-hair blankets around him to form a solid, unbroken cylinder, and lay there quietly on his splendid lounger chair, in the cold damp of the early autumn afternoon.

Thomas Mann, The Magic Mountain, 77-8, 447, 497.