Kafka’s nursing home and Mann’s letters

Franz Kafka wrote of Lake Garda in his Diary on July 1, 1913:

“I long for unconscious solitude, to find myself alone before me “.

The writer had already been to the Lake Garda on holiday a few years earlier (in 1909), as a guest at Bagni della Madonnina, a bathing establishment on the western shore. In 1913 he had returned there, as a patient, in the Von Hartungen Sanatorium, specialised in hydrotherapy for the treatment of nervous, circulatory and heart-related ailments.

And on the lake’s shores he had found great relief from the tranquility, the healthy air and the beauty of the landscape. Furthermore, it was in Riva del Garda that he had fallen in love with a Swiss beauty, G.W.

“Might it have happened in Prague?” inquired literary critic Albino Tonelli, “or did the enchantment of the scenes, the lake’s serene sweetness and the romantic beauty of the shoreline have something to do with it?”.

Some time before, Thomas Mann had also been a guest in the same nursing home. Along with its Arcadian dimension, towards the end of the last century, the lake therefore acquired another meaning, linked to the particularities of the climate and the area’s geography.

“It is beautiful here and I recover significantly” wrote Mann in a letter to Kurt Martens in October 1902. “In the morning I row for hours on the lake and, especially at the beginning, I was always very fascinated. There is something extraordinarily moving when, after a long period of restlessness, for the first time, once again, one slips in here, into this sunny stillness, so gently whispering and softly lapping against the shore, encircled by austere mountains “.

Right at the Sanatorium, on the Garda shores, Mann wrote part of one of his masterpieces, Tonio Kröger, going against the prescriptions for absolute rest.