Like Count Almasy's Heredotus, if there would be only one book which I would be allowed to carry with me for the rest of my life, and die with, it would possibly be The Magic Mountain. It's been a year since I read John E. Woods's brilliant translation for Alfred A. Knopf. I remember my AC was whirring that afternoon when I opened the book and read about Hans Castorp beginning his journey - just as it is whirring now. It's only ironic that I still do not possess the single most important book of my life. On a sad, humid summer afternoon, while thinking of creoles and southern plantations, and dreams and races, someone writes to you about a man scribbling on the walls of Saint Petersburg because he had a story to tell, and he didn't have paper to write it on. For no apparent rhyme or reason, you move west, and are suddenly reminded of the rarefied Swiss air, of a humanist professor and a young, inexperienced man. Now you'll know that every time you think of Margarita, a completely different story will also come to your mind, vying for remembrance. Of that sad, humid, summer afternoon, and of letters written.
The passage quoted above is one of my favourites from the book. I'd copied it down in my diary while reading, and have revisited it innumerable times.