David Treuer is Ojibwe from the Leech Lake Reservation in northern Minnesota, and divides his time between a home there and Los Angeles, where he is a professor of English at the University of Southern California. He is the author of seven books of fiction and nonfiction, including, most recently, The Heartbeat of Wounded Knee (2019). (July 2020)

Follow David Treuer on Twitter: @DavidTreuer.

NYR DAILY

The Magic Mountains of the Acoma Pueblo and Thomas Mann

The mesa at Acoma Pueblo in New Mexico, 1991

In January, not long before the pandemic arrived, I traveled to the Acoma Pueblo in New Mexico, some sixty miles from Albuquerque. Acoma is maybe the oldest continuously inhabited city in North America—the Acoma people have been living atop their mountain, a 357-foot mesa, for over a thousand years. It put me in mind of another magic mountain, that of Thomas Mann’s 1924 novel of that name. Set in the years before the war, this strange fantasy treats the tuberculosis sanitarium as a microcosm for Europe’s spiritual and moral sickness. At one point, its protagonist, Hans Castorp, has a vision: “For the sake of goodness and love, man shall grant death no dominion over his thoughts. And with that I shall awaken…”