Between Theory and Reality: Cosmopolitanism of Nodal Cities in Pawel Huelle's Castorp

Ania Spyra, Butler University

This is a post-print of an article originally published by Duke University Press in Comparative Literature, Volume 64(3), 2012. DOI: 10.1215/00104124-1672952


FIVE YEARS BEFORE the publication of his novel Castorp, the Gdansk writer Pawel Huelle published a short piece of the same title in the essay collection Inne historie (1999), the title of which-translated as either "other stories" or "other histories"-consciously plays with the difficulty of writing a history of Gdansk, a theme to which almost all of the short pieces in this collection somehow return.The essay tells the story of a literary correspondence between a Lvov pastor and the writer Thomas Mann, in which Mann voices regret over some unelaborated ideas and abandoned storylines in The Magic Mountain. When Huelle hears the story of the lost letters from the grandson of the pastor, it causes him to think about what he has always missed in Mann's novel: an account of what happened to Castorp, the novel's main character, while he was a student in Danzig, a fact that the novel merely mentions in passing.