The Magic Mountain is the story of an unassuming, undistinguished young engineer named Hans Castorp who sits on the balcony of a sanatorium, wrapped in his blanket, thermometer in his mouth, naively but earnestly pondering the meaning of life, time, and his love for the beautiful Frau Chauchat. Among the other characters on this Germanic ship of fools are Hofrat Behrens, the head doctor, and his hearty but sick-looking sidekick, Dr. Krokowski and an entourage of interesting patients. Mann began working on The Magic Mountain following a few weeks' visit to a sanatorium in Switzerland. It is a massive meditation on "the inner significance of an epoch, the pre-war period of European history." It was an immense international success from the time of its publication.