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This article is taken from PN Review 216, Volume 40 Number 4, March - April 2014.

Catchwords 23 Iain Bamforth
A Mountain Laid Out Flat

The Patagonian town of Caleta Tortel, near the mouth of the Río Baker in the Strait of Magellan, where the wind is incessant and the houses are made of wood and the streets are wooden too, being a succession of interconnecting boardwalks and staircases, has five hundred and seven inhabitants. Their pride is a library consisting of volumes sent to the villagers by various authors across the globe to whom they had written in desperation because the Chilean Ministry of Education had dismissed the venture out of hand.

The book most borrowed since the foundation of the library at Tortel, which now has over two thousand titles, is The Magic Mountain. The verticality of Thomas Mann’s novel would appear to have translated itself into horizontality: the people living ‘up there’ on the mountain – both abstracted from and vaguely menaced by events in the flatland – are those living on the southern edge of Chile and under the impression of being separated from their compatriots by the tyranny of distance. ‘He fell under the impression that the nonchalance of the people with regard to time was related to the wild immensity of their country. Where there is a lot of space, there is a lot of time.’

A Chisel at the Lapidarium

In defence of the amputated nature of the anecdote and aphorism – blocks of stone perfectly chiselled by intellect from the universal quarry – we find Schopenhauer praising the ...

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