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Graubünden's Literary Influence
Nietzsche's famous philosophical work, Thus Spoke Zarathustra, opens its second part with Zarathustra returning to the mountains "to seek the solitude of his cave." While the author's thinking may have been abstract, the cave and the mountains were probably quite real. For it was in Sils Maria, near St. Moritz, in the summer of 1883, that Nietzsche began writing this lengthy treatise on man and superman. His fundamental concept of recurrence came to him during a walk around nearby Silvaplana Lake.
For those seeking inspiration, Graubünden has always provided a natural high. Countless artistic personalities have come to the canton for rest and relaxation and left with some great work of literature or art in their bags (or at least their heads, waiting to be created). Something in the clarity of the air and proximity to the sky seems to dispel all the cares and worries of the daily grind and set creative juices flowing.
For some, like Marcel Proust, it was the "bracing air, the aroma of hay and the sound of the brooks." For others, such as Hermann Hesse, the "powerful, severe beauty" of the mountains around Arosa provided the vim and vigor required to edit his novel about religion and salvation, Narcissus and Goldmund. (He had been immobilized by a skiing accident, making it easier to devote himself to his work.) Nietzsche, for his part, felt he had arrived in the "Promised Land" on his first trip to the Engadine in 1879.
The gentle meadows and mysterious, aromatic forests of pine embraced by rugged snow-tipped mountains have all done their part to enthrall visitors. Goethe, Germany's greatest poet and writer, traveled through the hair-raising Via Mala gorge on his way back from Italy and had to stop for a while to draw some sketches of the almost eerie sights. Decades later he recalled the trip: "The road over the Splügen mountains is indescribably beautiful, the Via Mala is the most frightening rocky pass in all of Switzerland."
Perhaps a similar thrill was felt by Robert Louis Stevenson when he came to vacation in Davos during the winter season of 1881-82. What the foggy and damp landscape of his native Scotland failed to do, Graubünden accomplished, enabling him to finish Treasure Island.
Davos also sparked the imagination of novelist Thomas Mann. In June 1912 he accompanied his wife, Katja, to take a cure in the comfortable, Belle-Epoque rooms of the Schatzalp sanatorium. There he saw the first outlines of his novel The Magic Mountain, symbolizing Europe and its political and social choices: either to bask in illness and submit to death, or to choose life and social commitment.
Needless to say, his depiction of such an indolent society living in a morbid expectation of death—"flirting and taking their temperature"—did not please the people of Davos, whose community had made a name for itself as a serious spa for curing, or at least alleviating, tuberculosis.
The fame of The Magic Mountain, however, has long made up for any acrimony, and now healthy and positive-minded guests can stay at the Schatzalp, which has become a fine hotel.
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