A Peak Experience
If literary critics are to be believed, understanding literature requires an analytical approach. We all know, however, that our experience of a particular book or author is often bound up with where we happen to be in life. In that sense, reading is as much about self-discovery as discovery of what the author meant. Perhaps the great books are those which can accommodate the widest possible range of reader experiences of whatever time and place. Certainly the circumstances in which I read Thomas Mann’s The Magic Mountain (1924) bore little relation to those of its first German readers in the era of the Weimar Republic. Yet connections emerged in the most surprising ways.