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The Glass Bead Game

4.11  ·  Rating Details ·  21,483 Ratings  ·  989 Reviews
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 inte
Paperback, 558 pages
Published December 6th 2002 by Picador (first published 1943)
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Kate Parr I would say if you're waiting for a big event, or grand set piece, that doesn't really happen. You're reading a biography, albeit a fictional one, and…moreI would say if you're waiting for a big event, or grand set piece, that doesn't really happen. You're reading a biography, albeit a fictional one, and it is more concerned with Joseph's relationship to the game, his understanding of it, and by extension his society. I found it a most peaceful and delightful book, but then a society who reveres learning and scholarly study is my idea of heaven! However, if after a hundred pages, the language and descriptions haven't grabbed you, then there's probably nothing that follows that will. Good luck!(less)
Roshen Dalal There can't be any connection--there can't be any comparison. Harry Potter may be what youngsters like, but The Glass Bead Game surpasses those books…moreThere can't be any connection--there can't be any comparison. Harry Potter may be what youngsters like, but The Glass Bead Game surpasses those books a million times.(less)

Community Reviews

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Ben Winch
Jul 03, 2012 Ben Winch rated it it was amazing
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 some kind of sweet liqueur, and only after the conversation is over does he realise he has not said what he really thought of Hesse at all. In some way, the ...more
Robin Tell-Drake
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 ...more
Mar 22, 2016 Darwin8u rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2014
“No permanence is ours; we are a wave
That flows to fit whatever form it finds”

― Hermann Hesse, The Glass Bead 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 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 an
Mar 12, 2008 Chloe rated it it was ok
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 ...more
Stephen P
Aug 30, 2015 Stephen P rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: Those who see the battle of the mind as the worthiest battle of all
Shelves: re-read, favorites
This, his final novel makes it clear that all his works need to be read in their order as one edition leading up to his final life conclusion! A man caught within the depths of thought striving for something beyond his sight captures his heroic journey through his written words.

A different voice from the Hesse of my college days. No longer redirecting my compass eastward toward a spirituality with a promise to enlarge consciousness. This is a firm clear voice that looks back to arrive at an unde
أحمد أبازيد Ahmad Abazed
هذا كتاب هيرمان هيسه الأشهر و الأكبر , كُتب على مدار تسع سنين , و يضمّ معظم أفكار هيرمن هيسه التي عُرف بها فيما بعد
إنّها النزعة نحو الذات , و التأمّل و اليقين الموجود هناك في داخلك ,
وحدة الوجود , التي تقاوم ماديّة العالم و سببيّته الصلبة , الطبيعة تتكلّم معك و بك , و الكائنات كلّها كينونة متنافمة ضمن اللحن نفسِه .
الموسيقى .. أرقّ ما يروي الإنسان و تنطق به الحقيقة
إنّها الحقيقة الواحدة , التي تتراقص ضمنها سيرورة العالم بتبدّياته المختلفة ... و هنا عبقريّة الرواية و فكرتها المذهلة
الحقيقة الواحد
Jan 09, 2008 John rated it it was amazing
Shelves: german, modern
This is Hesse's epic novel that tells the story of Joseph Knecht, a boy who passes through the system of the Castalian Order to become the Glass Bead Game Magister. If the last sentence made any sense to you, chances are you have already read the book. Though once the book is read, that is about all it is about. The book is written by an unknown member of the Castalian Order who is retelling the story of Joseph Knecht. The Glass Bead Game is an intellectual game played encompassing all major are ...more
Sep 18, 2016 Owlseyes rated it really liked it
Shelves: german-lit

(Nice hat!)

A good Tratactus on Society; on what distinguishes the normal ones from the elite ones.

In Castalia, the Elite (or the Order) pursues the Games of the Mind and its cultivation. An elite member renounces material wealth....and embraces poverty to become a Mandarin of the Mind. That is what Joseph Knecht did.

Ah! Castalia, they learn meditation (Hesse calls it, so appropriately, psychic hygiene)....and they're in the 23rd century.

Students of the Order, most often, renounce marriage
Jun 05, 2013 Becky rated it did not like it
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 happens.

I did not like the Glass Bead Game.

I really did not like the Glass Bead Game.

And I don’t understand how people did.

First 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 did
Dec 29, 2008 Joe rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: top10
While Hesse's masterpiece has the same theme as Siddhartha, it's not the same short, simple work as that classic. Magister Ludi's inventive setting and method takes the basically unchanged storyline (gifted young man progressing, achieving, and finally discovering the true meaning of life), and creates a sort of historical biography of the protagonist.

One of the fun aspects of this work is The Glass Bead Game: he introduces an idea of representing ideas, mathematics, literature -- all knowledge
Apr 29, 2013 Salma rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
إضافة هذه القراءة العتيقة التي وجدتها عندي من عام 2006
ربما لو أتيح لي إعادة قراءة الرواية الآن بعد أن زاد في روحي كم كبير من الكتب و السنوات لكنت نظرت إليها بعين أخرى، و ما كنت لأدري ما أقول عنها الآن
بأية حال هي رواية تميل لتكون مسنة و حكيمة

على كل هذه القراءة على ما كنت قضيته فيها سابقا، و الله وحده العالم ما كنت لأقضي حاليا فيما لو قرأتها

لمن لعب بالكريات الزجاجية: تعال شاركني

حاولت عدة مرات أن ألاعب هيرمان هسه بكرياته الزجاجية و لكني كنت أفشل في كل مرة...0
إلى أن أتى اليوم الذي قررت ف
Oct 15, 2013 عُلا rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
الجمال.... آسر قلوب الكثيرين ومالك أحلام الحالمين ... وغايةٌ عزَّ الوصول اليها لدى العديد من الساعين ....
لعبة هدفها التقاط ذلك النور وغايتها تقوية تلك الفقاعة البراقة وتغذيتها علَّها يوما تحتوي العالم في داخلها ... وهيهات لها ان تفعل....
والأضواء تخطف أنظار الناظرين ... وكلٌ يرى النور في ناحية فيظن انه النور كله....
وتأبى تلك الأضواء أن تكون شيئا وحده .... فتارة تُسمعُ ألحاناً وأخرى تُرى ألوانا ... وقد يطيش بها الهوى فتظهر معادلاتٍ وأرقاماً .... تعددت اليها المسالك.. واختلفت في وصفها الكلمات ....
Aug 16, 2015 kaśyap rated it it was amazing
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 mathemat
Oct 13, 2010 Clark rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This book was a really incredible meditation on accomplishment, ambition, finding peace and the breach between intellectuals and reality. Hesse creates a reality in which an intellectual elite has created an entire society that lives above and beyond the rest of the world playing an incredibly esoteric game that seeks to connect all knowledge as a series of symbols. There were a number of things that struck me in this world. First of all, the connections to modern science, with its own increasin ...more
Feb 11, 2016 Junta rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Lovers of games/fellow chess players/musicians/self-proclaimed intellectuals/intellectuals
Shelves: german, translated, swiss
Reading the blurb of this book, my first by Hesse, I was immediately fascinated and felt compelled to read it. I'd read some excerpt of his writing as a kid in my Japanese textbook at Saturday Japanese school, and the name Hermann Hesse (or ヘルマン・ヘッセ rather) had stayed in my memory for about as many years as the beads in the cute cover.

Hesse's biography of Joseph Knecht was pleasant to read, though not moving. As Castalians, the elite of the elite in the country's intellectual world, most of the
Jan 17, 2016 Matt rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition

The Glass Bead Game: Invented hundreds of years ago it combines all art and knowledge of Western culture, correlates and re-combines in infinitely combinations: world literature, sciences, fine arts, and, last but not least, music – according to fixed mathematical laws. People from far away travel to the province of Castalia to witness the annual multi-day festival of games. Castalia: The separate, secluded republic of scholars, artists, and glass bead players. The province supplies its elite ta
Feb 06, 2009 Manny rated it liked it
A friend of mine (a pure mathematician) says that the Glass Bead Game is obviously pure mathematics in a thinly disguised form. It's not exactly a slam-dunk, but I'm still surprised how few people there are who seem to believe this theory. You'd think it would at least be a respectable minority opinion.

Turn it around: if the Game isn't pure mathematics, what is it? Just something he made up, that doesn't refer to any real intellectual discipline in particular, but is a hypothetical synthesis of
J.G. Keely
The Glass Bead Game is Hesse's final work, and is supposed to lay out his ideas and philosophies more completely than anything previously. According to my foreword by Ziolkowski, this book represents a progression beyond both the simplistic, egocentric spiritualism of Siddhartha and the Nietzschean misanthropy of Steppenwolf.

He also remarks on the book's form: a narration by a stodgy academic about the life of a luminary master. Like Carlsyle's 'Sartor Resartus', there is meant to be an ironic
Joselito Honestly and Brilliantly
This is Harry Potter without its female characters, its magic and magicians. Here we have Castalia, a "province" [more like the seminaries of today] where it population of masters and students devote themselves to studies, or to the "things of the mind". Outside of Castalia is the practical world [the world which most of us live in] devoted to knowledge not for its own sake, but knowledge to better the physical aspects of living.

In Harry Potter, there's the battle between the good and bad magici
Dec 03, 2013 Paul rated it it was ok
I was disappointed when I re-read this book. I remembered it as very moving and very significant. Upon re-reading I found it tedious and preachy. Hesse is trying to write a new kind of novel, one based on ideas instead of conflict. He succeeds, but the end product is boring. I also was bothered by the assumption that the life of the mind was open only to men -- women are somehow not qualified to share the glorious world of ideas. Hrmph.
Riku Sayuj
Oct 16, 2014 Riku Sayuj rated it liked it
a disappointment that demands reflection...
Rebecca McNutt
Jun 17, 2015 Rebecca McNutt rated it it was amazing
This is a truly unforgettable classic which incorporates science fiction, adventure, philosophy and futuristic elements all into one well-written story.
Cassandra Kay Silva
Jul 01, 2011 Cassandra Kay Silva rated it really liked it
Shelves: classics
Hmmmm. This book was ponderously interesting. A world is created but ever so lightly as to leave much to the readers imagination. The glass bead game (unless I missed something) never seems to be played in epic battle proportions as described in this book, its never openly laid out other than just the basic idea. There is no real description of the differences that make up the world outside of what the main character is experiencing. Does that make sense? Its like you get this massive narrative ...more
Apr 23, 2012 Capsguy rated it really liked it
Shelves: german
Could have been 200 pages less. On a similar note, I received an email from a Chinese friend of mine today who is in Australia for student exchange. This email reverberated many things in Hesse's Glass Bead Game. Here's an extract from the email to show you:

.actually, since I was born, I have lived in the university I am studying now. My father also graduated from that school and now is a chemistry engineer . A wall will protect the university from outside world. In the university, there are hos
Mary Elliott
Jun 27, 2015 Mary Elliott rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Mary by: Florin Zamfirescu, Sandrina
Shelves: fine-dining
This book has had a great impact on me. It's one of those few books that made me love it deeply yet at the same time despise it entirely. It might sound surprising, especially since this is an unanimously loved and admired book -- even awarded with the Nobel prize; it might also seem awfully arrogant of me to compare my beliefs to the wisdom of a man like Hesse. But I have to. And I found many principles and ideas in this book, some of them only subtle insinuations, that I completely disagree wi ...more
Feb 23, 2009 Patrick rated it liked it
I must admit that I am having a hell of a time digesting this one. I think I will get the negative stuff over with so I can move on to the the more positive aspects of this book. I am a big Hesse fan (esp. Siddhartha, Steppenwolf, and Narcissus & Goldmund) and I really wanted to give this one four stars instead of three. What stopped me was how much of a slog it ended up being. I have no problem with long books (or movies for that matter) but there needs to be some sort of justification for ...more
Mohammed Yusuf
Jul 11, 2016 Mohammed Yusuf rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
بدءا بقراءة العنوان مرورا بتتبابع الاحداث سوف تتساءل ، ما هي لعبة الكريات الزجاجية ؟ و ماذا تعني ! ، حسنا لا تنتظر الإجابة فليس ثمة تفاصيل عنها ، و على الرغم ما صرح به الماجستر كنشت من أنها اعلى من الدين ، الفلسفة وحتى العادة وعلى ما هي محملة به من فكر و موسيقى و تربية إلا أنك ستعلم بأنها شئ يمكن إستبداله بصياغة أخرى ، ربما لأنه يوتوبي

الحوارت والمقاطع الطويلة السرد الفاتر ، يبين لك أن الهم الأساسي الفكرة ، و مع أن الرواية أخذت طابع نقل الخبر في سيرة ما ، إلا أن السارد كان له القدرة على سبر دقائق
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Amr helmy
Jun 25, 2015 Amr helmy rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
رواية جليلة مسنة حكيمةأشبه شئ في أناتها وتهاديها وطول نفس صاحبها بحديث أذكياء المسنين ممن حلب الدهر أشطره وتقلب في هذي الحياة ظهرا لبطن ولست هنا في مقام إثبات رأيي وما عن لي من خواطر وآراء أثناء قرائتها أو الإشارة إلى ما قدحت بذهني ونبهت بقلبي وأحيت من موات شعوري في غمرة الحياة وتحت وطأة عواديها فإن هذا يقتضيني ذهنا صافيا ونفسا جميعا وقلبا متنبها وكذاك يقتضيني وقتا طويلا لنقل كافة نقولاتي ما يعين على جلاء الأفكار التي عرضت لي وتلك النقولات كثيرة وطويلة طولا شديدا وتحتاج أيضا إلى تنسيق وترتيب لدم ...more
Asmaa M
أنهيت الآن رواية "لعبة الكريات الزجاجية" والتي ملأت عليّ وقتي مدّة أسبوع واستحوذت على تفكِيري استحواذا كاملا، كان بإمكاني أن أنهيها في ثلاثة أيام ولكنّها ليست من نوع الرّوايات التّي تُقرأ على نَفَسٍ واحد.
طِيلة تلك الأيّام قدحت في رأسي أفكار عديدة وتأمّلات مُختلفة يستحيل التّعبير عنها بالكلمات وهي من النّوع الخاص جِدّا.
هذه الرّواية أرتني ذاك المُستوى العالي الذّي يمكن لإبداع الإنسان ان يصِله، ولكنّه لا يَتأتّى بالموهِبة فقط، فهو لا يُعطى إلاّ لمن شحذتهُم التّجارب وصقلتهُم الحياة وأذاقتهم الطّعمين
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Hermann Hesse was a German-Swiss poet, novelist, and painter. In 1946, he received the Nobel Prize in Literature. His best known works include Steppenwolf, Siddhartha, and The Glass Bead Game (also known as Magister Ludi) which explore an individual's search for spirituality outside society.

In his time, Hesse was a popular and influential author in the German-speaking world; worldwide fame only ca
More about Hermann Hesse...

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“What you call passion is not a spiritual force, but friction between the soul and the outside world. Where passion dominates, that does not signify the presence of greater desire and ambition, but rather the misdirection of these qualities toward and isolated and false goal, with a consequent tension and sultriness in the atmosphere. Those who direct the maximum force of their desires toward the center, toward true being, toward perfection, seem quieter than the passionate souls because the flame of their fervor cannot always be seen. In argument, for example, they will not shout or wave their arms. But, I assure you, they are nevertheless, burning with subdued fires.” 116 likes
“No permanence is ours; we are a wave
That flows to fit whatever form it finds”
More quotes…