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BENEATH THE WHEEL. by Hermann. Hesse

BENEATH THE WHEEL. (original 1906; edition 1968)

by Hermann. Hesse

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2,048263,255 (3.83)32
Authors:Hermann. Hesse
Info:Farrar, Straus & Giroux (1968), Edition: 1st, Hardcover, 187 pages
Collections:Your library, Own but unread
Tags:Bildungsroman, novel, German, translation, education, 20th century

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Beneath the Wheel by Hermann Hesse (1906)


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English (23)  French (1)  Italian (1)  German (1)  All languages (26)
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Young Hans Giebenrath is a gifted child. When the state tests show him to have the second highest score in the country, he earns entrance to a monastery school and becomes the pride of his small farm town. It also earns him a short vacation, which he plans to spend fishing and walking in the beautiful forests. But each day finds his time being taken up by different tutors who wish him to study so he’ll be ahead of the other students when classes begin. Soon all the hours of his day are used up and his leisure is gone.

At the highly regimented school, he has trouble fitting in. He is no longer special like he was in his village. He lacks social skills, so when one of the students, a flamboyant poet, befriends him, he finds himself giddily obsessed and his studies suffer. Eventually he has a breakdown and falls so far behind he is sent home. This is a permanent banishment; no student sent home ever comes back. Suddenly, for the first time, he is at loose ends; there are no lessons to learn, books to read, or tests to prepare for. For the first time, he actually has choices. Can Hans learn to live happily without a highly structured life?

While this book was written in 1906, I see the same thing still happening to gifted kids today (and regular kids whose parents want them to be gifted); they are given so many classes and structured activities that they have no time for play, socialization, or imagination. While most survive it okay, I can’t believe it’s the best way to raise a child. ( )
  lauriebrown54 | Jun 6, 2016 |
Why do I End up reading books where the main character is a young man, going mad or dying in the end? ( )
  Kindnist85 | May 25, 2016 |
Beneath the Wheel is the story of Hans Giebenrath, a talented boy sent to an elite seminary in Maulbronn. However his education is focused on increasing his knowledge and neglects his development as a person. He befriends Hermann Heilner, who is less hard-working than he and more liberal; the friendship is a relief for Hans. In the end, Heilner is expelled from the seminary and Giebenrath is sent home after his performance decreases when he shows symptoms of mental illness.

Back home, he finds coping with his situation difficult, as he has lost most of his childhood to scholastic study, and thus never had time to form lasting personal relationships with anyone in his village. He is apprenticed as a blacksmith and seems to enjoy the work; concrete, as opposed to the abstraction of scholarly work. At story's end, Hans Giebenrath drowns after a pub crawl with his new workmates.

Beneath the Wheel is one of Hesse's first novels and severely criticises education that focuses only on students' academic performance. In that respect, the novel is typical of Hesse. There are biographical elements in the story, as he attended and was expelled from the seminary
  bostonwendym | Mar 3, 2016 |
In Beneath the Wheel, Hesse creates a portrait of a life brought to devastation by the negative effects of institutionalized learning. The apex of this devastation is beautifully rendered with the rich imagery anchored in nature and melancholy that is typical of his writing. Though a good novel, it falls short of Hesse's best work. Themes that merely incubate here are executed with far greater depth in Narcissus and Goldmund, as well as in The Glass Bead Game. Having read those works, this novel provided good context for Hesse's development as a storyteller. ( )
  poetontheone | Jan 10, 2013 |
It is worth reading this alongside Hesse's collection of short stories gathered under the title 'Autobiographical Writings'. Hesse's real academic career was quite a train-wreck, and his recollection of the very short conversation he had with his rather severe Grandfather about it is priceless. On another note, I'm not sure I've ever read such a powerful description of life becoming (slipping into) death; all the more effective for the obliquity and the unexpectedness of the moment. What's more, with just a very few words Hesse captures that strange fleeting period preceding the arrival of news of a death. When I worked with traffic police years ago they would talk about how in the middle of the night they'd find themselves carrying but not yet delivering the news of a death, and the sense that for a little while someone still slept in their beds undisturbed; their loved ones, children, partners or parents both still alive and dead at the same time. This isn't perhaps Hesse's major work, but there is a beautiful light touch to the writing, a sense of restrained power in this story simply told. Recommended. ( )
  nandadevi | Aug 22, 2012 |
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» Add other authors (44 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Hermann Hesseprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Coutinho, L.Translatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Coutinho, M.Translatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Johnson, HerbCover designersecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Roloff, MichaelTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Strachan, W.J.Translatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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Herr Joseph Giebenrath, agent and dealer, had no special merits or peculiarities to distinguish him from his fellow citizens.
Herr Joseph Giebenrath, Zwischenhändler und Agent, zeichnete sich durch keinerlei Vorzüge oder Eigenheiten vor seinen Mitbürgern aus.
The teachers apparently regarded a dead student very differently from a living one.
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Book description
Constitutes an attack on educational systems that foster intellect, purposefulness, and ambition to the detriment of emotion, instinct, and soul.
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 031242230X, Paperback)

Hans Giebernath lives among the dull and respectable townsfolk of a sleepy Black Forest village. When he is discovered to be an exceptionally gifted student, the entire community presses him onto a path of serious scholarship. Hans dutifully follows the regimen of study and endless examinations, his success rewarded only with more crushing assignments. When Hans befriends a rebellious young poet, he begins to imagine other possibilities outside the narrowly circumscribed world of the academy. Finally sent home after a nervous breakdown, Hans is revived by nature and romance, and vows never to return to the gray conformity of the academic system.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:12:08 -0400)

(see all 3 descriptions)

"Herman Hesse's spiritual biography, 'Beneath the Wheel,' is a touchstone in the Nobel Prize-winning author's lifelong examination of the conflict between self-affirmation and self-destruction. Based on his own experience, his second novel attacks an educational system that fosters intellect and ambition at the expense of emotion, soul and instinct. 'Beneath the Wheel' tells with compassion and tenderness a story that is true for our own age, with all the poetic and lyrical qualities that have made Hesse an outstanding literary figure of the twentieth century. It is the key to all his later works." *** "A gifted German boy hounded by years of pressure and guilt from his schoolmasters and pastor receives a long-overdue taste of freedom, loses interest in his studies, and finds his life spiraling out of control, faced with an 'average' future."… (more)

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