Your Friday Writing Challenge: Thomas Man (part two)

This is the second part of the writing exercise from Friday. Thanks to Ron for sharing his version of Mann’s paragraph, and for everyone who liked the post and sent me messages about it.

Here’s the start of the paragraph (which we had seen on Friday):

Hans Castrop retained only faint recollections of his actual parental home; he had hardly known his father and mother. They had both dropped dead within the brief period between his fifth and seventh years of life. His mother had died first, quite unexpectedly, while awaiting the birth of a second child, of an arterial blockage caused by phlebitis, an embolism, Dr. Heidekind had called it, triggering instantaneous cardiac paralysis—she had been sitting up in bed, laughing, and it looked as if she simply toppled over in a fit of laughter, whereas in fact she did it because she was dead. It was not something Hans Hermann Castorp, the father, found easy to understand, and since…

Here is the full paragraph:

Hans Castrop retained only faint recollections of his actual parental home; he had hardly known his father and mother. They had both dropped dead within the brief period between his fifth and seventh years of life. His mother had died first, quite unexpectedly, while awaiting the birth of a second child, of an arterial blockage caused by phlebitis, an embolism, Dr. Heidekind had called it, triggering instantaneous cardiac paralysis—she had been sitting up in bed, laughing, and it looked as if she simply toppled over in a fit of laughter, whereas in fact she did it because she was dead. It was not something Hans Hermann Castorp, the father, found easy to understand, and since he had been very fond of his wife and was not the most robust man himself, he simply did not know how to get over it. From then on, his mind was muddled, his focus narrow; in his befuddlement he made mistakes in his business, resulting in serious losses for the firm of Castorp and Son. While inspecting a harbor warehouse on a windy day the following spring, he caught pneumonia, and since, despite all the conscientious attention given him by Dr. Heidekind, his already agitated heart could not hold out against the high fever, he, too, was dead within five days. Escorted by a quite respectable number of his fellow citizens, he joined his wife in the Castorp family grave, a beautiful plot in the cemetery of Saint Catherine’s Church, with a view to the botanical gardens.  

It’s noticeable that both my attempt and Ron’s quickly return to the protagonist, the son, while Thomas Mann lingers, instead, on the father. This could be because Mann has seven hundred pages to fill, and intends to advance the story at a slower pace than a contemporary writer might expect.

Alternatively, Mann might be making sure that each element of the story gets its due, that each part feels fully imagined. Perhaps this exercise reveals my unnecessary hurry to get back to “the story.”

What do you take from this paragraph?

Daniel

Photo credit: “Incheon International Airport (summer 2013) 06” by myself (User:Piotrus) – Self-photographed. Licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons.

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