Sixty Year Old: Mynheer Peeperkorn


Frau Chauchat complied with the demands of Western civilization and introduced the gentlemen to one another. An acquaintance from before, she said, referring to Hans Castorp – from her previous stay here. Herr Peeperkorn’s presence needed no further explanation. She said his name, and the Dutchman attentively turned his gaze to the young man, his eyes pale beneath the almost idol-like arabesques of his creased brow and temples, and extended a hand – the back of it was all freckles, a sea captain’s hand, Hans Castorp thought, if you discounted those lancelike nails. He was standing now directly under the influence of Peeperkorn’s massive personality (“personality” – one glance at him, and the word would leave your mind; suddenly you knew what a personality was and the more saw of him the more you were convinced that this was the only way a personality could look); and malleable youth felt crushed beneath the weight of this broad-shouldered, red-faced sixty-year-old, with white flames that encircled his head, painfully ragged lips, and a long, narrow beard that reached down to his high-buttoned, clerical-style vest. Peeperkorn was courtesy personified, by the way.

“My dear sir,” he said, “by all means. No, permit me, sir – by all means. I am making your acquaintance this evening – the acquaintance of a promising young man – and I do so, my dear sir, quite deliberately, fully engaging all my energies. I like you, sir. I – don’t mention it. Settled. You appeal to me.”

Thomas Mann, The Magic Mountain

Published in: 60 Years Old | on December 22nd, 2011 | No Comments »

Thirty-Seven Year Old – Thomas Buddenbrook


Our desires and our performance are conditioned by certain needs of our nervous systems which are very hard to define in words. What people called Thomas Buddenbrook’s ‘vanity’ – his care for his personal appearance, his extravagant dressing – was at bottom not vanity but something else entirely. It was, originally, no more than the effort of a man of action to be certain, from head to toe, of the adequacy and correctness of his bearing. But the demands made by himself and by others upon his talents and his capacities were constantly increased. He was overwhelmed by public and private affairs. When the Senate sat to appoint it committees, one of the main departments, the administration of the taxes, fell to his lot. But tolls. Railways, and other administrative business claimed his time as well; and he presided at hundreds of committees that called into play all the capacities he possessed: he had to summon every ounce of his flexibility, his foresight, his power to charm, in order not to wound the sensibilities of his elders, to defer constantly to them, and yet to keep the reins in his own hands. If his so-called vanity notably increased at the same time, if he felt a greater and greater need to refresh himself bodily, to renew himself, to change his clothing several times a day, all this meant simply that Thomas Buddenbrook, though he was barely thirty-seven years old, was losing his elasticity, was wearing himself out fast.

Thomas MannBuddenbrooks

Published in: 37 Years Old | on July 31st, 2010 | No Comments »