|The entrance to the Zungplotzmeinverschten sanatorium upon which Mann based his novel. The welcoming monkey with a necktie motif is one that will replay itself throughout the book and continued to haunt Mann until his dying day.|
Castor is greeted by Dr. Mitzi Zorbo, who is administering care to his cousin, Norbert.
"Did you enjoy the view from our gondola?" the doctor asks. "We had it built last winter and our guests talk about in incessantly when they're not coughing their brains out."
"Yes, Herr Zorbo. It was very interesting," Castor replies cautiously, the shadow of the mysterious, black-cloaked, fedora-wearing, dwarf-carrying, rotten sauerkraut-bearing man clouding his mind momentarily. And then he says, all too tellingly, "I found the gondola a little shaky. I feared for my life at times over crevices that looked as if they could gobble up all of humanity and still have room left over for strudel cake."
Aha, Mann. Finally you pull the fatted rabbit out of your hat, the big guns from out of your backpack, the lariat from the saddle of your Shetland pony. For, you see, the gondola is the very unconsciousness of Castor himself, swinging and swaying over the void of his being, his undiscovered self lying in wait like the very weltschmerz (the German word born from a Bavarian obsession with Fred and Ethel Mertz and meaning to 'feign confusion as if you've lost your dry-cleaning ticket') of his indecision to commit himself to his cousin's recovery, and thus, in effect to come to terms with his family and more specifically, his parents and their unfortunate death on the Matterhorn, which was the catalyst for his name change, his identity crisis and his tendency to break out in a cold sweat when confronted by anyone playing a flugelhorn with cream puff pastry speckling their lips.
|Fred and Ethel Mertz in a moment of weltschmerz.|