The Magic Mountains of the Acoma Pueblo and Thomas Mann

In January, not long before the pandemic arrived, I traveled to Acoma Pueblo in New Mexico, some sixty miles from Albuquerque. Acoma is maybe the oldest continuously inhabited city in North America—the Acoma people have been living atop their mountain, a 357-foot mesa, for over a thousand years. It put me in mind of another magic mountain, that of Thomas Mann’s 1922 novel of that name. Set in the years before the war, this strange fantasy treats the tuberculosis sanitarium as a microcosm for Europe’s spiritual and moral sickness. At one point, its protagonist, Hans Castorp, has a vision: “For the sake of goodness and love, man shall grant death no dominion over his thoughts. And with that I shall awaken…”

The New York Review of Books