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The final novel of Hermann Hesse The Glass Bead Game is a fascinating tale of the complexity of modern life as well as a classic of modern literatureSet in the twenty third century The Glass Bead Game is the story of Joseph Knecht who has been raised in Castalia the remote place his society has provided for the intellectual elite to grow and flourish Since childhood Knecht has been consumed with mastering the Glass Bead Game which reuires a synthesis of aesthetics and philosophy which he achieves in adulthood becoming a Magister Ludi Master of the Game


10 thoughts on “Das Glasperlenspiel

  1. says:

    The Lasting Effects of Young Reading A Short MemoirI first read The Glass Bead Game almost 60 years ago It changed my life With just the right cues of romance high tech adventure philosophical mystery and heroism the book invaded my adolescent mind laid down roots and suggested a long term plan I would one day be able to play the Game And I succeeded at least during a goodly portion of my adult life when I wasn’t distracted by the trivialities of wealth status and religion So I realised it was about time for me to revisit the ur inspiration A dangerous undertaking I know but perhaps the book could provide a sort of retrospective structure that I couldn’t consciously recall Worth the risk thenThe epigraph alone rekindles the fire that smoulders still in my unconscious Nothing is harder yet nothing is necessary than to speak of certain things whose existence is neither demonstrable nor probable The very fact that serious and conscientious men treat them as existing things brings them a step closer to existence and to the possibility of being born I have experienced just this motivation with the force of compulsion The task is both poetic and practical to help people particularly myself to see what is hidden by what they already see the things within and beyond what is apparently there For a child of 13 or so to have one’s inarticulate intuition confirmed that there is to life than its surface is profoundly importantI viewed the “Order” and the fellowship of the game seriously and admired “ the maximum integration of the individual into the hierarchy of the educators and scholars “ My first attempt involved a Carmelite monastery The next a military career Followed by a time in professional academia and subseuently an international consulting firm which is best described as a professional Protestant monastery All these and most choices that followed had the intention of assimilation into one form or another of an organisation of united and mutually supportive minds The professional context didn’t really matter I had it appears a calling not dissimilar to that of the young Joseph Knecht eventually the Magister Ludi who had “the capacity for enthusiasm subordination reverence worshipful service” necessary to persist in The Game Even today I find myself a member of a Dominican academic community which is the same size and similar in atmosphere to that of Knecht’s school at Waldzell Somewhat remarkably I suppose I have never been a joiner of clubs or groups or congregations only those with some sort of monastic potentialEven the international firm to which I belonged commercial as is was had an ethos which could have been taken straight from The Game It’s senior partners were among the most powerful and influential business leaders in the country Yet the head of the firm said to me proudly one day at lunch “Nobody knows my name” When he said this I immediately recalled Hesse’s lines “The hierarchic organization cherishes the ideal of anonymity and comes very close to the realization of that ideal” Rarely did this assimilation ever feel oppressive or threatening to my individuality As with The Game “For us a man is a hero and deserves special interest only if his nature and his education have rendered him able to let his individuality be almost perfectly absorbed in its hierarchic function without at the same time forfeiting the vigorous fresh admirable impetus which makes for the savor and worth of the individual” In order to make the point I had the habit of submitting an undated resignation on the day I started any job Even that felt like a ritual of integration I exercised it myself by “leaping” to use Joseph Knecht’s term whenever I felt The Game was being threatenedThe idea of the rules of The Game its language and symbology undoubtedly provoked some sort of teen age mysticism But what most attracted me and still does is that The Game is “ a mode of playing with the total contents and values of our culture” years later I would discover Wittgenstein and know that this is precisely what he must have meant in his term ‘language games’ The downside from a career perspective of course is that narrow disciplinary constrains and professional s became increasingly problematic The world at large expects increasing specialisation with age But for me intellectual maturity has always been a matter of expansion rather than refinement This has made me less well off than I might have been But I am than content I also find that I retain some tendencies toward teen age mysticism Perhaps this is an accomplishmentIt has been said that one is born either an Aristotelian or a Platonist Empirically it seems to me there is some strength in this assertion I am certainly in the camp of the latter and therefore fit right in to the Platonic bias of The Game which Aristotelians would merely find just silly It was Hesse who piued my interest in philosophers like Nicholas of Cusa and Gottfried Leibniz And through them into the idea of the ideal as a symbol of both purpose and the aesthetical Unconsciously I suppose I found myself associating with other Platonists and uasi Platonists West Churchman at Berkeley Russell Ackoff and Tom Cowan at Penn Oliver O’Donovan at Oxford Around each of these was a sort of invisible college the members of which unknowingly participated in many rounds of The Game That many of them are dead or no longer in my daily life is neither regrettable nor sad since the Order continues to unite usHesse’s idea of the Age of the Feuilleton as a motivating social force for the development of The Game resonated in my young life with what I perceived as the random character of what people worried about nuclear war mortal sin cures for acne and what might actually matter For Hesse the daily newspaper was about gossip than the factual information necessary for life Hesse’s narrator has only disdain for this age of wasted freedom Years later I encountered William Gaddis’s Recognitions and had a spark of remembrance about Hesse’s witty critiues of celebrity and “intellectual privateers” particularly among self proclaimed artists and most specifically writers And many years still later I am overwhelmed by Hesse’s prescience in anticipating the evil of unintelligent internet social media Perhaps they will be exactly the catalyst necessary for the real creation of The GameMathematics and Music are the core disciplines of The Game I can blame Hesse for implanting this as a seed in my psyche It legitimised for me my interest in numbers but certainly not the techniues of calculation insisted upon by my teachers and classical music of which none of my contemporaries had the slightest interest Once again it is unclear whether The Game provoked or merely articulated these interests Ultimately it doesn’t matter because The Game is my personal symbol for both Recently while reading Edward Rothstein’s Emblems of Mind a book which critiues music in terms of mathematical aesthetics and vice versa I had very clear flashbacks of my pleasant surprise at being able to adopt Hesse’s discovery as my own I have occasionally abandoned either mathematics or music as one might lose one’s childhood religion But they have always returned as the matrix of my own version of The GameI could go on ad nauseam recounting the many other specific influences that The Glass Bead Game has had on my life But this short reflection is enough to show me the profound depths to which we can be influenced by what we consume as literature in early life I don’t know what lessons this might entail Perhaps the reflection is only productive as a sort of therapy that makes conscious what has been hidden for decades from will and choice Hesse suggests this might be his intent in the text where he describes The Game evolving as “a form of concentrated self awareness for intellectuals“ Having said that there is nothing I would change about allowing The Game into my life


  2. says:

    There’s a scene in Antonio Tabucchi’s Indian Nocturne in which the narrator meets an Indian intellectual who asks him among other things what he thinks of Hermann Hesse The narrator resenting the interruption and perhaps with a sense he is being mocked heaps scorn on the German “spiritualist” calling him sentimental and likening him to a sweet liueur and only later realises he hasn’t said what he thought of Hesse at all In some way these days I suspect there’s a little of this narrator in many of us Hesse – unlike Kafka or Beckett or Mann – is not an intellectual’s badge of honour Freuently I’ve approached one or another of his books again after a hiatus half expecting that this time I will have grown out of him but I never do The Journey to the East has enthralled me since I first read it in my teens – and probably I understand only marginally of it now than I did then The “Treatise on the Steppenwolf” unlike much of the rest of that most famous of his novels I likewise revere The early novella Knulp is a small masterpiece touching and true Demian has its moments Siddhartha too though again its fame is out of proportion to its content and Klingsor’s Last Summer and many of the short stories and even Narziss and Goldmund if you’re on a roll and don’t want to stop But looming over all of them dwarfing them and pulling together most of what’s best in each of them is The Glass Bead Game a book which despite myself and though I doubt I’ll be able to convey why without reading it again a fourth time I count among the five or so most transformative reading experiences in my lifetime Like The Journey or “The Treatise” the “General Introduction to the Glass Bead Game for the Layman” is Hesse at his finest – not so dissimilar to Borges in his essayistic tone and otherworldly humour and throwing out mindbending concepts with casual aplomb The Glass Bead Game is thus a mode of playing with the total contents and values of our culture; it plays with them as say in the great age of the arts a painter might have played with the colours on his palette All the insights noble thoughts and works of art that the human race has produced in its creative eras all that subseuent periods of scholarly study have reduced to concepts and converted into intellectual property – on all this immense body of intellectual values the Glass Bead Game player plays like the organist on an organIn other words an early glimpse of post modernity but telescoped into an imaginary future after what Hesse dryly characterises as “The Age of the Feuilleton” in which – for the purposes of players of the Glass Bead Game – artistic production has stopped or gone underground and the highest cultural calling is to manipulate what has been left behind by former ages to create – in a hyper ritualised setting and for the benefit of worldwide audiences – these “games” that are part music part mathematics and use a futuristic brand of calligraphic characters to sample and integrate their component parts into a uasi euation that can later be studied and reproduced At the centre of this enterprise the Magister Ludi – or master of the Glass Bead Game – is treated like a priest or deity by devotees of the game But there is none of the rock or movie star “cult of personality” about these figures; not only are their identities kept secret except from a few close initiates but their study in biographies or histories is discouraged Certainly what nowadays we understand by personality is something uite different from what the biographers and historians of earlier times meant by it For them the essence of a personality seems to have been deviance abnormality uniueness in fact all too often the pathological We moderns on the other hand do not even speak of major personalities until we encounter men who have gone beyond all original and idiosyncratic ualities to achieve the greatest possible integration into the generality the greatest possible service to the suprapersonalNevertheless The Glass Bead Game is for the most part a biography of one earnest if somewhat rebellious Magister Joseph Knecht – a man whose early brilliance followed by his ultimate resignation is a touchstone for all who uestion the value of life behind the cloistered walls of Castalia the “pedagogical province” in which his story takes place What do we have here then if not the old “pathology” based form of a biography? A kind of everyman story the story of a type But Hesse’s type – and I think this is beautiful in light of the leader of his former homeland when he wrote this – is a leader the ideal leader and the culmination of a search which runs throughout Hesse’s work Joseph Knecht is a kind of holy man but with none of the pomp or self importance which maybe these days that implies “Knecht” in German means “servant” and throughout his short life Knecht impresses us as just that a servant both to those he governs and to some other voice – or “calling” – which comes to him from beyond Like all of Hesse’s characters Knecht exists to “find himself” but unlike Harry Haller or Knulp or Emil Sinclair or even Siddhartha he does not despair at least not in these pages; like Leo the leader in disguise of the Journeyers to the East he remains tranuil and alert to his duties Throughout the book Knecht’s own writings are uoted and at the end of the “Introduction” in speaking of classical music he writes the following always there may be heard in these works a defiance a death defying intrepidity a gallantry and a note of superhuman laughter of immortal gay serenity Let that same note also sound in our Glass Bead Games and in our whole lives acts and sufferingsEarlier Knecht’s biographer had warned usThe poets told horrific fables about the forbidden diabolic heaven offending keys the “music of decline”; no sooner were these wicked notes struck in the palace than the sky darkened the walls trembled and collapsed and kingdom and sovereign went to their doomPeople fault Hesse for what they see as his sentimentality Sometimes I can see their point as in the relationship of Harry Haller to his young prostitute friend in Steppenwolf for example But when he manages to rise above all the doubts and complaints of that lonely wolf of the steppes there is actually something uietly heroic in Hesse’s stance In Switzerland in 1943 along with his friends Paul Klee and Hugo Ball of the Cabaret Voltaire this man refuses absolutely to play the “heaven offending keys” Whatever he creates will partake only of that “superhuman laughter” and “death defying intrepidity” no matter what horrors his homeland can spew forth and as his writings on the war show Hesse was far from ignorant of these And so on the surface his may seem a fantasy for which the modern or post modern world has little use escapism idealism even amid the destruction of Europe by guns and explosives lyricism But read closely and it’s evident that the despairing human Hesse is passionately present in almost every word of this Yes the characters in The Glass Bead Game – like Beckett’s characters like Kafka’s – can seem or less than human No there is no sexuality in their world nor in Waiting For Godot for that matter and as if to foreground this lack Hesse writes his “Introduction” entirely from a genderless “we” standpoint which while not spelling it out seems to suggest or has always suggested to me anyway that we are to treat these characters as beyond or outside of the ordinary realm of the sexual Why? Perhaps because to a German in Europe in 1943 sexuality did not seem that crucial a topic Me I’ve never demanded “realism” from fiction; in fact I like writers who alert me to the fact that the beings they create are not human Likewise I don’t care in the least that the end section of the book – “Joseph Knecht’s Posthumous Writings” – is probably just a series of sketches done in warm up for the task of creating Knecht To me at least one of these novellas “The Father Confessor” is easily among the best of Hesse’s works in its own right and never fails to have me in tears by the end of it And even the poetry poorly suited to translation as it is is illuminating in showing the genesis of the conceptionIf I haven’t said much about the substance of Knecht’s story the truth is I don’t remember much of it but for snatches of scenery which Hesse describes so well and a general feeling of the excitement of a young man following his calling If you read for plot this isn’t the book for you But if you want to hear the wisdom of a wise possibly heartbroken man determined despite everything not to hit the jarring notes of the diabolic keys but to sing with the laughing voice of an angel this is it I don’t care if that sounds sentimental The world needs artists who are willing to speak calmly from the storm and Hermann Hesse was one of them I take my hat off to you Herr Hesse Thank you from the bottom of my heart for your guidance


  3. says:

    “No permanence is ours; we are a waveThat flows to fit whatever form it finds” ― Hermann Hesse The Glass Bead GameI remember reading Hesse's Siddhartha and Narcissus and Goldmund right out of high school There was something both disuieting and uniuely calming about these strange little books that Hesse wrote detailing his love and fascination with Eastern thought and philosophy I figured this year I would read the Glass Bead Game and later Steppenwolf It is in many ways Hesse's subtle answer to the growing Fascism in his country But at its heart it isn't an anti Fascist book He is aiming for He is thinking biggerIt is a book about harmony and the arts The exploration of how music mathematics intellectualism and life can become transcendent and beautiful The Glass Bead Game is a mysterious fill in that allows it to be at once none and all of man's endeavors It is a holy raga a tactile masbaha a literary syncretism that captures the whole of man's achievements and is practiced by an elite few Using the framework of the Game Hesse is able to look at the dynamic of all of man's achievements as being both beautiful worthwhile but also frivolous and fleeting He looks at the tension between those who remove themselves from mankind's experiences with those who live IN the world There is a pull and a reciprocity between these two groups He is looking for those things that balance those groups and ultimately those things that cause these groups to separateThe book also explores the mostly Eastern ideas of meditation surrender loss and renewal I found these ideas obviously beautiful and rewarding but I'm still not sure if I really liked the structure of the book Part 1 pages 7 44 Introduction to GBG; Part 2 Pages 45 427 Magister Ludi's story; Part 3 428 445 Magister Ludi's poems; Part 4 446 558 The Three Lives other incarnations of Magister Ludi I'm just not sure if the structure worked for me It did well enough but I loved and hated it too Maybe that was Hesse's intention The first part was a parody of those 'history of the saints' that appear so often and so freuently in all religious traditions It was interesting but just didn't mix well with the final parts of the novel I did like having Knecht's reincarnations be outside of time While Magister Ludi was set in the future the other incarnations of Magister Ludi were likely from the past An interesting construct but the weight of the last was too little for the heavy front But these are frivolous issues For the most part I liked the book It is incredible that in the face of WWII and Nazi Germany Hesse could write this History and the inevitable burning push of evil must have seemed dark and heavy but ultimately this book written from 1931 to 1943 contains the germs of peace and tranuility I think that peace comes from the idea of a spiritual retreat a common theme and surrender Hesse wasn't saying to run from Evil although he did himself leave Nazi Germany But I think his book was communicating the ability to find peace through surrendering to one's own situation and place in the universe The Glass Bead Game one day will disappear but so too ONE DAY will fascism and evil because all of man's creation is a game So surrender to the game and surrender to the universe


  4. says:

    576 Das Glasperlenspiel The Glass Bead Game Herman HesseThe Glass Bead Game is the last full length novel of the German author Hermann Hesse It was begun in 1931 and published in Switzerland in 1943 after being rejected for publication in Germany due to Hesse's anti Fascist views A few years later in 1946 Hesse went on to win the Nobel Prize in Literature In honoring him in its Award Ceremony Speech the Swedish Academy said that the novel occupies a special position in Hesse's workعنوانها سالهای آزادی؛ بازی مهره شیشه‌ ای؛ نویسنده هرمان هسه؛ انتشاراتیها فردوس و نگاه سبز ادبیات؛ تاریخ نخستین خوانش روز دوم ماه ژانویه سال 2009 میلادیعنوان بازی مهره شیشه ای؛ نویسنده هرمان هسه؛ مترجم پرویز داریوش؛ تهران، فردوس، چاپ سوم 1368؛ در 548 ص؛ چاپ سوم فردوس 1376؛ بالای عنوان اوستاد بازی؛ چاپ دیگر تهران، بدیهه، فردوس، 1374؛ چاپ دیگر تهران، فردوس، 1386؛ شابک 9789643202577؛ چاپ پنجنم 1392؛ موضوع داستانهای نویسندگان آلمانی قرن 20 معنوان سالهای آزادی؛ نویسنده هرمان هسه؛ مترجم عرفان قانعی فرد؛ تهران، نگاه سبز، 1379؛ در 617 ص؛ شابک 9645939611؛کتاب نخسین بار در سال 1943 میلادی، در سوئیس انتشار یافت «هسه» در نامه‌ ای که در سال 1955 میلادی، به دوستی به نام «رودلف پان ویتس» مینویسند یادمانهایی را از زمان رستن و جان گرفتن این داستان باز می‌گویند نقل از متن آن اندیشه که در اصل مرا برافروخت تصور تناسخ بود، به صورت محملی که از طریق آن ثبات در تبدیل، دوام در سنت و زندگی روح به طورکلی بیان شود آنگاه روزی، چند سال پیش از آنکه عملاً به نوشتن حکایت بپردازم، داستان زندگی خاص اما ابَرزمانه را رؤیت کردم انسانی را تصور کردم که طی چند حلول دوران‌های عظیم تاریخ بشری را می‌آزماید برای ساختن آن زمان که بتوانم در آن پناه، نیرو و دلداری بیابم، همین بسنده بود که هر زمان فرضی را در گذشته برانگیزم و عاشقانه تصویر کنم دیدم که با رد زمان، خیره سر باید اثبات کنم که سلطان جان و روان وجود دارد، اما شکست ناپذیر است با درک این نکته، نقشه ی من به سوی تجلی ناکجاآباد، به تخیلی که در آینده افکنده شده باشد، تغییر جهت داد چه سراسیمه شدم وقتی که ایالت «کاستالیا» سر برآورد نیازی نبود که در اندیشه جان بگیرد یا ساخته شود بی آنکه خود بدانم از مدتی پیش درون من شکل گرفته بود پس آن بست را که دنبالش می‌گشتم یافته بودم «کاستالیا» را باید مفهومی بری از زمان درک کرد، که واقعیت درونی خود را واجد است و هدف آن نشان دادن امکان زندگی روح و روان است «بازی مهره شیشه‌ ای» شیوه‌ ای است از بازی کردن با مجموع محتویات فرهنگ ما، بدانگونه با آنها بازی می‌کند که گفتی در عصر شگرف هنرها، نگارگری با رنگ‌های روی شستی خود، با درون بینی‌ها، اندیشه‌ های والا، آثار هنری که بشر در دروان‌های آفرینندگی خود پدید آورده‌ است، همه آنچه مطالعات دانشمندانه به مفاهیم بدل کرده و به صورت ملک فکری درآورده‌ است، با تمام این مجموعه عظیم ارزش‌های فکری، بازیکن بازی مهره شیشه‌ ای به گونه ارگ نوازی که ارگ بنوازد، بازی می‌کند پایان نقل از متن سال‌ها تمرین باید تا کسی بازی را به شایستگی ببازد، تنها چند تن این هنر را به غایت می‌رسانند و تها یک تن می‌تواند «استاد بازی» شود و این مقامی است که بدو توان می‌بخشد تا بازی‌های بزرگ عمومی را طرح و هدایت کند اما بالاترین حالتی که از بازی کردن بازی مهره شیشه‌ ای باید حاصل شود، سلامت نفس است، و این چیزی است که «هسه» در همه ی آثار خود، از رمان و شعر و مقاله و نقد به دنبال آن بوده‌ است «سلیم» و «سلامت نفس» در نامه‌ ها و گفت و گوهای آخر عمر «هسه» فراوان به کار گرفته شده‌ اند ا شربیانی


  5. says:

    A tremendous disappointment especially given the shimmering praise the book garners on all sides I realize I’m at odds with the world in judging this book harshly and I realize there may yet be some dimension of brilliance here that I’m just not seeing but grant me this it’s not for lack of trying No other novel have I ever laid down without a backward glance within a few dozen pages of the end certain at last that the great payoff for my eight hundred pages of patience was never going to come Here’s the big plot spoiler nothing at all happens in this book Not “nothing” in a loaded John Cage way just nothing as when the author cannot deliver on his heady promises but publishes a book anyhow I actually think it’s kind of important to call bullshit on all the approbation the book receivesThe two fundamental failures in the book are its main character and its central device the Game itself Both failures are drearily total and each is all the of a letdown for the breathless never ending clamor of hype both within and without the book’s pagesThe book starts right out with the declaration of Joseph Knecht’s pivotal importance as the greatest player the Game has ever had after whose career the history of the Game could never be the same This is repeated ceaselessly throughout in narrative asides Meanwhile we watch a pleasant unassuming talented young boy as he is handpicked by a professor becomes a promising student whose great potential is remarked on by everyone he meets and moves on to become a professor at a young age He is indeed the youngest ever to become Magister Ludi so at least that should earn him a mention in the history books We are told I think precisely once that when he runs a game it’s a good one And then he gets old; along the way he meets some people and has some conversations And then he dies in a swimming accident and then we riffle through some of his personal papers until the book is over Even his youthful writings a strange little coda to his own life story echo the pattern of fervent affirmation of the importance of a character—plainly himself in thin disguise but now being described just as fawningly in his own voice—who goes on to do nothing muchIf in fact Knecht ever does anything of greater historical importance than being generally agreeable and good at what he does it is not told to us His life is a dull blank undeserving of a biography at all especially when at least three other characters go by who might actually have made good reading Consider the strangely beatified Music Master whose unexpectedly mystical transcendence of humanity Knecht merely witnesses when it comes along late in the book; that might be worthy of history Or Knecht’s boyhood rival a fiery young student who leaves the academic world and is reunited with Knecht later on one of the protagonist’s vanishingly rare ventures outside his ivory tower; his relationship to the Game is complex and troubled but this barely ruffles the surface of Knecht’s complacency Or there is the Sinophile who draws Knecht into a dialogue with Chinese history and literature who gets to deliver the book’s most interesting challenge when Knecht seeks his assistance in bringing the symbology of the I Ching into the vocabulary of the Game much easier you’d think than it would have been to encapsulate French poetry or organic chemistry since the I Ching is already encoded in a set of symbols easily printed on beads his new mentor smiles and says you can build a garden in the world but good luck fitting the entire world inside your garden What’s this? A character within the Glass Bead Game dismissing the Game itself as far lesser than some other symbol system? Here now we have the potential for a meaty examination of this Game thing which we deserve after putting up with so much talk about it But Knecht just shrugs and goes about his business and there will be no exposition upon either system Because the Game is the other aching nullity at the heart of the book; there’s nothing thereHesse was inspired to write beyond doubt by the legitimately awesome notion of the Game He imagines a symbol system within which all academic disciplines can be encoded and can interact with each other like a conversion chart for all fields of knowledge Within this system all concepts are encoded on beads and it seems any of them can meaningfully combine with any other such that wild new ideas emerge in the interplay Here is the complex discourse wherein some kind of game some competition or contest can flourish a game of all human learning ranging like lightning from one discipline to another referencing everything Only a rarefied kind of academic could hope to understand such a game let alone play it competitively And the book is set within the cloistered academy where these super scholars are trainedIt’s a sweeping fascinating idea It’s enough without adding much of anything else to drive a really memorable short story But Hesse wanted it to crown a towering edifice worthy of the sense of weight and magnitude that was in fact only the subject of the idea rather than its dimensions By which I mean it was a vague little slip of an idea about something vast and weighty rather than actually being a vast and weighty idea But Hesse fooled himself and in his excitement he determined to write a very long novel and that was a mistake from which there could be no recovery The fatal problem is that Hesse wilts instantly before the task of filling in any kind of detail about what the game was and how it worked He hasn’t a clue Inspired by his book several people have gone on to design or less playable games to match their impressions of the game he only alludes to—you can find them on the internet if you look around—but he never does And the ambient suspense the author generates by promising a brilliant reality without ever showing even a flickering corner of it the worse the bland filler starts to smell when it all gets stale Mind you I know it’s too much to ask for him to generate a practical game that lives up to his vision But we don’t need him to do that He need only sketch some part of it fill in a detail here and a detail there that his characters can make part of their workaday conversations He does need to do something though and it needs to pass muster as at least a tantalizing beginning of the thing itself One example perhaps of a specific bead that represents something from the science of biology; what is written or drawn on the bead? What might be one instance of that bead’s being played in answer to a bead representing some architectural concept? That would be enough He makes freuent mention of music—indeed the deification of music common among writers is so relentless here as to become a minor problem in its own right—but no sign of how it relates to any other field Of course a writer needs to be able to let the reader fill in empty spaces that the story only sketches with spare gestures But the gestures need to be the beginning of something worthyIn the event that one game—”composed” by Knecht during his tenure as Top Official in Gameland—gives us just enough detail to make clear after most of the book has gone by that what’s actually happening here is a solo show Knecht has composed a complex exercise in advance and now the other players are just acting it out perhaps filling in some details at their own discretion but abiding by a predetermined structure Our one glimpse of the practical nature of the game has all the fanfare of a whoopee cushion The Game isn’t actually a game Nobody's playing There are no objectives It’s some sort of abstruse very uiet performance artA long book full of portentious self promotion but with nothing to say An elaborately wrapped present with no gift inside A big fat nothing Not the nothing of the Buddhist who longs for nothing and seeks it but that of the Wizard of Oz—a nothing that noisily proclaims itself to be everything


  6. says:

    I like Herman Hesse I like Siddhartha I remember liking Steppenwolf I like huge sagas that probe the mind I usually like weighty wordy novels where nothing in particular happensI did not like the Glass Bead GameI really did not like the Glass Bead GameAnd I don’t understand how people didFirst of all I’ve gone through a lot of reviews I was about fifty percent through the book bored out of my mind and I started reading reviews trying to get some motivation to finish this tome I didn’t find ANY First of all everyone that gave it lots of stars either didn’t write a review or wrote a review that’s literally a re writing of the synopisis from Wikipedia I’m not trying to insinuate that they didn’t really read it or that they didn’t really understand it or even that they are trying to seem cool by giving a Nobel winning book a good star rating I’m not insinuating that but I have to wonder I didn’t hardly find a single review that actually illuminated what that person actually enjoyed about the book Most reviews were along the lines of “This story follows the life of Josef Knecht who rose to become the youngest Master Ludi” Or “This book talks about elitism intellectualism and touches on Buddhism”Ok? But what did any of you THINK about that? I mean I know WHAT the book is about I want to know if you enjoyed the presentation of those arguments the story did you agree or disagree?There was nothing about that So at 50% through I stopped reading I have a rule I usually give a book 100 pages to grab me if it’s a long book I’ll give it 200 I gave this book than a fair shake I even looked for reasons to keep going but I don’t think there are anyThere is nothing in this book that wasn’t a total rehash of every other book that Hesse wrote So here is my opinion this is a dull drab affair in which nothing happens I feel that there were some really interesting things that COULD have happened or hell even a treatise just on the ideals of the Glass Bead Game itself would’ve been interesting I love the idea that the GBG is a synthesis of the knowledge and culture of mankind throughout history The Glass Bead Game is a design that is supposed to move this story forward that is supposed to be the gravitational pull at the center of the book that all the words orbit around Instead it’s nothing that’s nearly so forceful; it’s shrouded in mystery but not the interesting leaves you wondering days after the book kind it’s the oh you couldn’t be bothered to actually figure it out kind That leaves Josef as the driving force of the book but the only time he comes to life is when the actually interesting side characters come back into the book like the Master of Music Josef is just a receptacle for the intervention of the other characters So basically this book is like 800 pages of reading about someone with the personality of a garbage can and about some marbles that aren’t ever really described to you Good luck And if you honestly DID enjoy it for the love of god tell me why without summarizing the book If I hear a good enough argument I’ll go back and finish it but at this point I have no faith that it gets any better and I cannot force myself into itRead Hesse’s other books they are much enjoyable If you want something to touch your soul read Siddhartha


  7. says:

    Second IntroductionI saw that a Goodreader commented on another review that they felt this was a book for young people which caught my attention with a jolt because I had barely finished thinking that this was plainly a book written by an old man Which it was These are in no way contradictory notions they even sit together as one of the themes of the book meaningful and meaningless cycle of master and pupil this courtship of wisdom by youth of youth by wisdom this endless oscillating game was the symbol of Castalia p207 First IntroductionSince I have had a second introduction it follows that I ought to really have a first one So here it isBecause we have a game in the title and playing this game is of some significance in the novel then that might be a place to start Another review mentioned the possibility that the game was a form of pure mathematics while reading it occurred to me that it was a way of talking about fiction A game the reader and author play by themselves and that the author plays with the reader not all games are eually amusing as one notices That led to the conclusion that the game was another game a McGuffin A thing that serves to get Cary Grant from New York to the middle of a wheat field so somebody can try to machine gun him from an aeroplane because somebody else thought it might look good on celluloid We simply have to accept it has no greater meaning than to be intrinsically meaningful to the characters even if no machine guns are involved view spoiler they are not nor aeroplanes but there is a car hide spoiler


  8. says:

    If you're into stuff like this you can read the full reviewHessian Fable The Glass Bead Game by Hermann HesseI read this in German a long time ago 2002 06 15I suppose it depends on whether working through the difficulty brings you genuine insights into the human condition I'm ashamed to say I've only read one book on the list of The Best Books Ever Ulysses and enjoyed it I like modernism and Joyce's Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man is one of my favourites Woolf is a bit daunting but Mrs Dalloway is superb


  9. says:

    Allow three stars to stand for my ambivalence Not for the uality of this book which is indeed uite excellentWe live in a time of urgent political and environmental catastrophe Those of us who aren’t evangelical Christians who put anti abortion judges before other social values; those of us who aren’t racists and don’t fear immigrants; those of us who aren’t multi millionaires looking for tax breaks; those of us who have not bought into the Republican party’s propaganda machine recognize the danger inherent in Trump The Republican party has been working its gradual gerrymandering way toward authoritarian control for a long time Right wing becomes right becomes right each step leading to the next Trump dismisses the rule of law as an irritation that interferes with his goals He is the latest iteration of a journey into fascism and if he’s not defeated or removed from office then that journey will continue ever rightward At the same time his party sees the environment as a resource to plunder Global warming is an illusion and nothing to worry about not while there is money to be made In their shallow greedy maneuvers they lead us off a precipice that may in fact be the downfall of civilization and much of our speciesSo why do I bring up these topics in relation to The Glass Bead Game? In some ways as brilliantly written and erudite as this book is it felt uaint to me It portrays a fictional country in some vague future where the primary concerns are intellectual matters The types of subjects that I discussed while getting my Master’s degree in English Literature In essence The Glass Bead Game is like being in an ahistorical intellectual grad school program studying The Glass Bead Game And despite the fact that view spoilerthe main character in the end rejects this world for the world of history and the struggles of humanity hide spoiler


  10. says:

    I feel that I must open this review by stating that I am an unabashed fanboy of Hermann Hesse I read everything that he had ever written at a whirlwind pace several years ago and still return to my favorites Steppenwolf Siddhartha and Demian on a rotating yearly basis That said I have often heard that The Glass Bead Game is the magnum opus of Hesse's career The purest expression of the themes that he had highlighted in his other works If one were to read only one book by Hesse it should be this one I had been told No offense to those earnest recommendations but I could have gone a long time without reading this dull retread of every one of Hesse's other booksSo many of the same character types and situations appear in these pages that I can't help but feel I'm reading a Cliff's Notes version of his oeuvre The strangely passionate yet platonic love affair of minds between an elder scholar and an impetuous youth a la Narcissus Goldmund? Check The intense friendship between two geniuses; one sheltered and naive the other worldly and brash like those in Demian? They're here too A Westernized attempt to understand the mysticism and philosophical underpinnings of Eastern religions a la Siddhartha and Journey to the East? Oh yes they too are hereThis repetition in itself does not make The Glass Bead Game unappealing Stretching these themes over some 400 pages in Hesse's typically dense prose does This isn't a bad book and might actually be a good one But coming into it expecting something uniue would be a mistake This has all been written before and far engagingly