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The Glass Bead Game | [Hermann Hesse]

The Glass Bead Game

Set in the 23rd century, The Glass Bead Game is the story of Joseph Knecht, who has been raised in Castalia, which 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).
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Publisher's Summary

Set in the 23rd century, The Glass Bead Game is the story of Joseph Knecht, who has been raised in Castalia, which 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).

©1990 Hermann Hesse; (P)2008 BBC Audiobooks America

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3.9 (176 )
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  •  
    Michael Walnut Creek, CA, United States 01-02-13
    Michael Walnut Creek, CA, United States 01-02-13 Member Since 2002

    I focus on fiction, sci-fi, fantasy, science, history, politics and read a lot. I try to review everything I read.

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    "Great – but be warned"

    This is an excellently written book but is much more an exploration of the ideas around the life of the mind than it is a novel. The first part of the book is written as a future history of an individual player of the glass bead game and (like most histories) has rather weak characterization and story. Instead this history is used to explore philosophical ideas around thought and knowledge, belief and religiosity, and education and learning. If you are looking for a light science fiction story, this is not the book for you! If you have read Jung, Nietzsche & Mann you will likely appreciate the allusions to their ideas. If you love German histories and philosophers, you will likely love this book. The last chapter of the book leaves the historical narrative format and is touching. This is followed by the inclusion of three fictional stories written by the fictional protagonist. These are very nice and have the spirit of parables or religious teaching stories. The stories are only linked by their common exploration of the life of the mind. This is a great book, but many a reader may likely wonder what the heck is going on.

    11 of 12 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Darwin8u Mesa, AZ, United States 02-13-14
    Darwin8u Mesa, AZ, United States 02-13-14

    A part-time buffoon and ersatz scholar specializing in BS, pedantry, schmaltz and cultural coprophagia.

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    "Surrender to the Magister Ludi's Game"

    I remember reading Hesse's 'Siddhartha' and 'Narcissus and Goldmund' right out of high school. There was something both disquieting and uniquely calming about these strange little books that Hesse wrote detailing his love and fascinating with Eastern thought and philosophy. I figured this year I would read the 'Glass Bead Game' (and later 'Steppenwolf'). It is in many ways GBG is 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 more. He is thinking bigger.

    It is a book about harmony and the arts. The exploration of how music, mathematics, intellecutalism and life can become transcendent and beautiful. GBG 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 separate.

    The 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 frequently 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 (re)incarnations be outside of time. While Magister Ludi was set in the future, the other incarnations of Magister Ludi were more likely from the past. An interesting construct, but the weight of the last was too little for the heavy front.

    But all measured out these are frivolous issues. For the most part, I really liked the book. It is incredible that in the face of WWII and Nazi Germany Hesse could write this. History and 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 tranquility. 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. GBG 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.

    15 of 17 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Mirek Lodz, Poland 01-10-10
    Mirek Lodz, Poland 01-10-10 Member Since 2004
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    "A false dream ..."

    It is the last work of Herman Hesse, and his "Magnum Opus". In some sense the book is philosophical science-fiction, though there are no typical elements of sci-fi genre. The author predicts that the period in human history will come when the knowledge became wide-spread and popular, with multitude of authors writing multitude of stories. This period, called "The Age of Feuilleton" was highly individualistic. The main feature of the age was the passionate search of freedom.
    At this moment comes the main prophecy of the book. Hesse predicts that on the ashes of the feuilletonistic age, new movement is born. The purpose of the order is the cultivation of science and music. The order cultivates highly elitist structure and its rule is as strong as the rules of religious orders. It also includes meditation and contemplation. The culmination of the order achievement is the synthesis of all sciences and music in an instrument called "glass bead game". A game, was a like a symphony but with deep scientific background. The main character of the book, Joseph Knecht, after swift carrier, becomes the chief Glass Bead Game custodian and player. The most of the book is about his life and his path - first to the order of Castalia, than through the rungs of the order hierarchy - to the startling decision to leave the order, and become "awaken" to the everyday life ...
    Despite the end of the Jospeh Knecht story - Hesse, through the entire book, demonstrates the admiration to the concept of intellectual elitism, to the notion of "intellectual order" to the medieval concept of hierarchical knowledge, well organized, and integrated with the quintessence of art - with the classical music.

    In some sense the Hesse prophecy is dangerous...

    We no longer need "mental elite" - the current culture proved to be vibrant and precious. The human knowledge can, and is built, by millions of people, and we do not need any orders.

    15 of 17 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Marie-Louise Montreal, Quebec, Canada 05-26-11
    Marie-Louise Montreal, Quebec, Canada 05-26-11 Member Since 2011
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    "Modern Spirituality devoid of Magic Tricks"

    Someone I met, was saying about Hermann Hesse that he did not wish to read his book as he perceived them to be new age litterature. This is such a misunderstanding of the beautiful universe of wisdom and thoughtfulness to which Hesse invites his readers. As a strong atheist - Hitchen like, I am very suspicious of any author who inflicts upon us superstitious fallacies. This is far from being the case of Hesse. The spiritual essence of his books is truly modern and devoid of supernatural claims. He is not concern with magics or miracles but with the true nature of being human experience.

    It had been a while since I've read a book by Hesse, and reading the Glass Bead Game felt like rediscovering an old friend. This book being its masterpiece, I shall say it was quite a reunion. In the Glasse Bead Game explore the tension between Joseph Knecht's love for his art and realization that he is hiding in an ivory tower avoiding the real world, its dangers but also its wonder.

    I highly recommend Hesse to anybody looking for a spiritual experience devoided of the cheap magic tricks of «New age» culture. Hopefully, Hesse shows us the way of a modern spirituality.

    13 of 15 people found this review helpful
  •  
    D. Raynal San Francisco,, CA USA 10-30-12
    D. Raynal San Francisco,, CA USA 10-30-12 Member Since 2011

    primato

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    "One of Mankind's Best Books"
    Would you recommend this audiobook to a friend? If so, why?

    It is not enough to say that this is a GREAT story for it's depth, wisdom and beauty are so evident that each word of Hesse's award winning novel moved me into places that only a true master could so magically conjure. I loved the reader as well and felt that the entire production was perfect. Thanks audible for providing such a service.


    What was one of the most memorable moments of The Glass Bead Game?

    The masterful way in which Hermann Hesse concluded his story. It was pure genius.


    Have you listened to any of David Colacci’s other performances before? How does this one compare?

    No


    Was there a moment in the book that particularly moved you?

    Too many to mention. But the story of how Knecht sacrificed himself was brilliantly conceived.


    Any additional comments?

    To me this book has been a favorite of mine for years and each time I read (and in this case listen) I am moved to new levels of just how vulnerable we are as humans and just how beautiful each of us plays out our unique role.

    3 of 3 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Guilherme Sao Paulo, Brazil 05-21-11
    Guilherme Sao Paulo, Brazil 05-21-11 Member Since 2011

    Audible obsessed

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    "Great book. Not so great narrator."

    The book is great... no doubt it was the apice of Hesse's work... I confess the narration was not so inspiring, and rather dull at times.. But worth my time, and credit.

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Janet B. Kinney Florida 11-07-10
    Janet B. Kinney Florida 11-07-10 Member Since 2001

    janwpb

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    "Then and Now"

    I thought this book was Classically, Epic-ly great when I read it in the 70's. YUCK! Couldn't even get through the first half on a long road trip with plenty of time to get through the over-the-hump of introduction. Philosophy 101 it isn't. Not even Philosophy for Dummies. More like -- there are no people in the world, only rules and regulations that take 99,000 pages to explain & justify.... I think I may have remembered it more fondly if I hadn't read other books addressing philosophical questions that were more interesting, more character-filled. Not available on audio - M A Foster's Gameplayers of Zan, which reminds me to mention M K Wren's Wolfe/Phoenix trilogy, Available on audio - Heinlein's Time Enough for Love or The Moon is a Harsh Mistress. Okay, not strictly philosophy, but characters & ideas. Not just ideas!!

    5 of 9 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Optima ANNANDALE, VA, United States 04-01-13
    Optima ANNANDALE, VA, United States 04-01-13
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    "Brilliant"
    What did you love best about The Glass Bead Game?

    The elusiveness of comprehension. The moment one thought one understood the Glass Bead Game another perspective was thrown in. Is it a game or an allegory regarding our pedestrian life?


    What did you like best about this story?

    The use of language is like a beautiful song. The setting - Castalia a utopia for the intellectually gifted. The allusion to homosexuality. For instance, the desirability that some of the boys/men had to knecht and Knecht's strong attractions to some of his acquaintances all presented as asexual encounters.


    Have you listened to any of David Colacci’s other performances before? How does this one compare?

    No I have not, but would like to. I love his voice.


    Was this a book you wanted to listen to all in one sitting?

    No, I listened several chapters at a time.


    Any additional comments?

    Very well done.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Larry Lurio Chicago, IL 08-08-12
    Larry Lurio Chicago, IL 08-08-12 Member Since 2002
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    "Blew me away"

    This was a long journey that leaves you in a different place when you're done reading it.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Jason United States 07-14-09
    Jason United States 07-14-09 Member Since 2008
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    "Like a History Book"

    This book revels in the concept of being a history book about a man who never existed. Unfortunately, it has taken that concept too far for my enjoyment, as the dry, divorced narration (not the reader, but the narrator itself) and the endless examinations of socio-political issues without any context caused me to have flashbacks to a high school teacher, forced to teach a subject that they do not care about in the slightest.

    2 of 13 people found this review helpful
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  • Chris
    Holland
    11/3/13
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    "An Important Book"
    Would you consider the audio edition of The Glass Bead Game to be better than the print version?

    No, but that's mainly due to the narrator.


    What was one of the most memorable moments of The Glass Bead Game?

    Of course the ending, but I won't spoil it for other listeners. In fact, it's the whole setting of a future where entire provinces are set up with the express purpose of exploring the maximum capabilities of the mind. Makes you wonder what that would bring.


    Did David Colacci do a good job differentiating each of the characters? How?

    Unfortunately not, his characters all sounded very similar and each was as bombastic and condescending as the other. It's my main complaint about this reading of the book, actually. I believe that it was not the intention at all of Hermann Hesse that his message be delivered in such a tone.


    If you made a film of this book, what would be the tag line be?

    Province of the Mind


    2 of 2 people found this review helpful
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