Saturday, October 14, 2006

The Good Table and the Bad Table

"... But I don’t wish to know the Russian pair, do you hear? I expressly don’t wish it. They are a very ill-behaved lot. If I must live for three weeks next door to them, and nothing else could be arranged, at least I needn’t know them. I am justified in that, and I simply and explicitly decline.”

“Very good,” Joachim said. “Did they disturb you? Yes, they are barbarians, more or less; uncivilized, I told you so before. He comes to the table in a leather jacket, very shabby, I always wonder Behrens doesn’t make a row. And she isn’t the cleanest in this world, with her feather hat. You may make yourself quite easy, they sit at the ‘bad’ Russian table, a long way off us—there is a ‘good’ Russian table, too, you see, where the nicer Russians sit—and there is not much chance of you coming into contact with them, even if you wanted to. It is not very easy to make acquaintance here, partly from the fact that there are so many foreigners. Personally, as long as I’ve been here, I know very few.”

“Which of the two is ill?” Hans Castorp asked. “He or she?”

“The man I think. Yes, only the man,” Joachim answered, absently. They passed among the hat- and coat-racks and entered the light, low-vaulted hall, where there was a buzzing of voices, a clattering of dishes, and a running to and fro of waitresses with steaming jugs.

Thomas Mann, The Magic Mountain (1924), tr. H.T. Lowe-Porter

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