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The Glass Bead Game by Hermann Hesse

The Glass Bead Game (1943)

by Hermann Hesse

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English (67)  French (3)  Spanish (1)  Dutch (1)  Portuguese (1)  Danish (1)  Italian (1)  All languages (75)
Showing 1-5 of 67 (next | show all)
I read this in German a long time ago (2002-06-15).

I 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 this list - 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.

I heard a radio adaptation of Tristram Shandy - I'm a big fan of digression and unreliable narrators - which inspired me to a hitherto unfulfilled wish to read the book. Doctor Faustus is another of those unfulfilled wishes. The rest of the list (apart from a couple I hadn't heard of) I have avoided not quite like the plague.

Sometimes it's just because the book is cool for its time. I waded through Hermann Hesse's The Glass Bead Game as a teenager and was none the wiser at the end. But at least I had the bragging rights. Later I re-read it. And I loved the Glass Bead Game but I'm never sure why. I'd describe it as boring, but it's one book I've actually re-bought when I lost a copy. I'm never quite sure if it's sending up or celebrating intense academic specialisation and culture for cultures sake, but the most sympathetic character is the main character's friend, who leaves to be something important in the 'real world'. You admire Joseph Knecht for his dedication to somewhat esoteric knowledge and understanding of the game but are also left thinking that outside of that particular environment, it has very little use or meaning.

It is a familiar theme of Hesse's work - the contrast of worldly life with academia or religious training. I suspect he found himself drawn to the latter but with the fear of losing touch with normality in a religious or academic cocoon. I do love the sense of things happening just outside, threatening the enclosed world of the universities. And hence outside pupils who go through the schools but are expected to return to the world. And there are hints of a complicated history, and how the universities came to be what they are, and we're, frustratingly almost, made to focus on the interior of this world. Knecht does leave though, and suffers one of the weirdest deaths in literature.

I did read all the Hermann Hesse novels at the time because he was the man with the Truth, but they've mostly all blurred together into a generic Hessian fable. Apart from Steppenwolf, with whom I desperately identified, and Siddartha. ( )
  antao | Nov 19, 2018 |
I'm glad that I came late to this book because I don't believe I would have had the emotional maturity to take this journey earlier in my life. The numerous passages that I copied into my notebook may not have resonated in my earlier years. This is an immersive meditation on the tension between the active life and the contemplative life. A jewel. ( )
1 vote DellaWanna | Sep 18, 2018 |
I was 20, I wanted to live in Castalia, I read a chapter every night, each one of almost exactly 20 pages, for 24 hours of steady effective digestion. I was somewhat disappointed by the absence of essence in the game itself, but could successfully ignore that disappointment. I did not really like the ending and told myself it was not the point.
I really enjoyed being a young man reading the "The Glass Bead Game".
And I did continue reading Hesse for years after this.
Who needs more? ( )
  alik-fuchs | Apr 27, 2018 |
Platonic mumbo jumbo
yet, sweet to the eye
and as it swings and swings and swings
the blind man(or woman) is king (or royalty)
in a land devoid of nature

My mind swirls with power
and as power is essentialist
I begin to fade into the background ( )
  PeterS111 | Dec 5, 2017 |
This book is full of ideas. The main part of the book is a biography of the main character Joseph Knecht. It is then followed by a dozen poems and three short stories, "the lives". These short stories at the end are definitely my favourite part of the novel. All that is lacking in terms of passion in the first part is present in these three short stories at the end, and they present all the same themes.

The Glass Bead Game itself, as far as I can tell, seems to be something like abstract mathematics. It seems to embody a symbolic representation of all knowledge and manipulation of those symbols. It’s a unifying design which shows the connections and the unity between all branches of knowledge and arts. Or it is like music as it is an aesthetic composition of individual symbols.

Castalian order is a highly formalised, monastic order where the mind and scholarly traditions are enshrined. It place’s importance on hierarchy, structure and tradition. It’s an almost platonic kind of communism with its dispassionate monasticism and elite caste. It lacks anything sensual, experiential and personal and so is incomplete.

Whether in the idea of the game itself, or in the relationship between Castalia and the outside world, Or in Joseph Knechts relationships with others like plinio Designori, this novel is steeped in Hegelian dialectics. Man’s spiritual journey and the idea of contemplation and psychological liberation, the individual and the hierarchy, and the values of tradition are some of the major themes dealt with in the novel. The importance of a teacher-student/master-apprentice relationship is also highlighted.

This was by no means an easy read and i took my time with it. But this is Hesse's masterpiece and is full of ideas. ( )
  kasyapa | Oct 9, 2017 |
Showing 1-5 of 67 (next | show all)
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» Add other authors (83 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Hesse, HermannAuthorprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Ausma, TineTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Bļodnieks, ĢirtsTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Clee, PaulCover artistsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Houwink ten Cate, AnnemarieTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Kaila, KaiTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Sinervo, ElviTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Winston, ClaraTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Winston, RichardTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Ziolkowski, TheodoreForewordsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Апт, Соломон Константин…Translatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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. . . For although in a certain sense and for light- minded persons non-existent things can be more easily and irresponsibly represented in words than existing things, for the serious and conscientious historian it is just the reverse. Nothing is harder, yet nothing is more 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. (From Joseph Knecht's holograph translation of Albertus Secundus tract. de cristall. spirit. ed. Clangor et Collof. lib. I, cap. 28).
dedicated to the Journeyers to the East
First words
It is our intention to preserve in these pages what scant biographical material we have been able to collect concerning Joseph Knecht, or Ludi Magister Josephus III, as he is called in the Archives of the Glass Bead Game.
But now for the first time I had heard the inner voice of the Game itself, its meaning. It had reached me and since that moment I have believed that our royal game is truly a lingua sacra, a sacred and divine language.
One who had experienced the ultimate meaning of the Game within himself would by that fact no longer be a player; he would no longer dwell in the delight in invention, construction and combination, since he would know altogether different joys and raptures. Because I think I have come close to the meaning of the Glass Bead Game, it will be better for me and for others if I do not make the Game my profession, but instead shift to music.
God sends us despair not to kill us; He sends it to us to awaken new life in us.
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Haiku summary
First he learns the rules
Master gamester finds meaning
While losing marbles

Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0312278497, Paperback)

The final novel of Hermann Hesse, for which he won the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1946, The Glass Bead Game is a fascinating tale of the complexity of modern life as well as a classic of modern literature

Set in the 23rd 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 requires a synthesis of aesthetics and scientific arts, such as mathematics, music, logic, and philosophy, which he achieves in adulthood, becoming a Magister Ludi (Master of the Game).

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:01:41 -0400)

(see all 6 descriptions)

Set in the 23rd 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 requires a synthesis of aesthetics and scientific arts, such as mathematics, music, logic, and philosophy, which he achieves in adulthood, becoming a Magister Ludi (Master of the Game).… (more)

» see all 7 descriptions

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