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The Glass Bees

3.79 of 5 stars 3.79  ·  rating details  ·  344 ratings  ·  40 reviews
In The Glass Bees the celebrated German writer Ernst Jünger presents a disconcerting vision of the future. Zapparoni, a brilliant businessman, has turned his advanced understanding of technology and his strategic command of the information and entertainment industries into a discrete form of global domination. But Zapparoni is worried that the scientists he depends on migh ...more
Paperback, 209 pages
Published September 30th 2000 by NYRB Classics (first published 1957)
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Community Reviews

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What a book! Nothing like what the blurbs would have led me to think…!!

When I began this book the other day, I had expected it to be a quick read (though short, it is not really quick at all… in the best sense of that fact); mildly interesting (not gripping, as I found it to be); a narrative account of some future dystopia, a sort of second-rate Brave New World (though that book is itself decidedly already third-rate, fair to speak)…. none of which was true.

This fascinating book is a prolonged m
A dystopian novel about the advent of micro-sized robots by an Italian inventor who must keep his unruly staff placated and happy if he is to continue to be a Steve Jobs-like commercial success. The prose is lean, uncluttered. Very short sentences. Captain Richard is looking for work and finds it--somehow--at the very high-tech factory of the robot manufacturer, Zapparoni. This man, an entrepreneur, has revolutionized modern life with his robots. Nothing is done as it once was for his robots hav ...more
Dear New York Review Books, I'm so, so glad that you keep flogging these works of the 20th Century continental European avant-garde. How would a mid-century German of... questionable... political persuasion write a science fiction novel? Let's find out. By going into long rants about military technology and the nature of modern man, by lapsing into weird rhapsodic reminiscences, by going into extensive Nietzschean discourse, and centering the whole thing around the weirdly beautiful plot device ...more
Feb 26, 2008 Mike rated it 5 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: fans of Philosophy, Vonnegut and German Lit.
Shelves: 50-books-2008
If one ascribes to the notion that the self is created in the act of autobiography, then many of the sections of Junger's books will make perfect sense. Storm of Steel, his memoir regarding his service in WWI, has cast a long shadow in his later works, most of which are seen through the lens of a soldier. Along with this, however, is his concept of the "anarch" as an autonymous entity within a situation. Captain Richard, the narrator of The Glass Bees, is just this: a combination of soldier and ...more
Glass Bees is made of old man grumbling(wasn’t war awesome when we fought on horseback instead of tanks), memoirs of a veteran, creepy horror story, a pessimistic meditation on an increasingly mechanized surveillance society, and in the end a celebration of human relationships that may or may not make it all worthwhile. The good outruns the bad in this book and the ideas on technology outstrips most sci/fi by non-genre authors(nanotech in 1960) and the idea of a company that provides entertainme ...more
Jünger’s fiction is always interesting to read, primarily for the way he skirts around the edges of a genre while imbuing his works with a spirit all his own. Just as On the Marble Cliffs was a strange take on the fantasy genre, The Glass Bees is a (slightly less) strange take on a science fiction novel. Again, it’s an interesting work, but by splitting its attention in the manner that it does The Glass Bees sacrifices story for philosophical musings of varying quality.

Captain Richards, an old s
John David
This review contains plot spoilers.

Ernst Junger is best-known for his “In Stahlgewittern” (“Storm of Steel”), a literary account of the time he spent serving in World War I. Almost four decades later in 1957, he published this novel, one of the dozens he wrote during his life, and one of the better pieces of dystopian fiction I’ve read. The translation by Louise Bogan deserves special praise for its effortlessness and attention to detail. So often translating pieces like this can produce somethi
Ben Loory
i'd been meaning to read this for ten years, ever since the nyrb re-released it. everyone talking about it as a lost dystopian masterpiece along the lines of 1984 and brave new world and all that. of course a couple pages in i suddenly remembered that i don't like 1984 or brave new world, so what am i doing? and how come i'm not just re-reading We again instead? i don't know.

anyway, this is a story about a guy who goes to a job interview and stands in his employer's garden and sees some things.
John Pistelli
The Glass Bees is a short, dense philosophical novel about an old cavalryman, Richard, in need of money--because his life has been marred by an "evil star," which he calls "defeatism," an inability to side with power or conventionality. His old friend and colleague, Twinnings, directs him to a potential job working for the mysterious magnate Zapparoni, a figure who combines Walt Disney and Bill Gates, as Bruce Sterling observes in his introduction: an all-around master of technology and media wh ...more
A simple, futuristic story with little in the way of plot. Nearly the entire story takes place in the mind of one man while he is being interviewed for a job. In the future, pretty much everything can be automated, including bees, all though the story clearly illustrates that all though automatons may be more efficient, they aren't necessarily better. A common enough theme, but a short novel that exemplifies that notion.
Actually a sci-fi-novel, written in a creepy and somewhat unaccessible manner, yet fascinating. Also noteworthy because 1) Jünger has done acid and 2) was still handsome at age 100.
Wow. Jünger's prescience, vis-à-vis technology, entertainment, and power is striking-- all with calm weirdness thrown in just to keep you on your toes.
Lysande roman! Dock hade jag svårt med språket; i Jüngers författarskap består språket av ett nexus av bilder, filosofiska reflektioner och minnen. Romanen handlar om en gammal ryttares försök att hitta sin plats i en alltmer förgänglig värld. Den kan läsas som en lång filosofisk reflektion över moral, historia och teknologisk utveckling: hur ska vi förhålla oss till omvärlden? Ska vi försvara traditionen, kosta vad det vill?

Romanen kan kanske bäst jämföras med Blade Runner och Ghost in the she
Ernst Jünger was born in 1895, died in 1998, fought for Germany in both wars, and in the years between saw, experienced, and wrote a LOT.

The Glass Bees is one of his fiction works centering on a job interview between former cavalryman Richard and technological overlord and visionary Zapparoni; in true Jünger form, Richard goes through plenty of reminiscence and philosophizing, which at times slows the pace of the book to a point where I wasn't sure Jünger was going to salvage his story. The bigg
This book is prescient. Written over 50 years ago, it is about a mysterious and saintly Steve Jobs-like character, if Steven Jobs was an Italian named Zapparoni, and if, instead of iShit, he manufactured flying insects ("glass bees") and other automata. It's all very steampunk, really. His big, mysterious Walt Disneyesque/Willy Wonkian robot factory employs thousands and thousands of workers (so no outsourced slave labor here) who, like Google employees, enjoy Utopian working conditions: making ...more
This short strange tale follows an ex-cavalry officer trying to get a job at an automaton factory. While other reviews suggest this novel is science fiction (though closer in fact to the fantastic of Hoffman or Felisberto) marred by seemingly pointless autobiographical-style and often Proustian digressions from the narrator, I actually found this conflict of genres to be integral to the tale. Given that its main theme is the conflict between a classical humanistic worldview and an alienated tech ...more
The plot is simple and straightforward: Captain Richard, an ex-cavalryman and tank inspector, is unemployed and destitute. He desperately needs a job to support his wife, Teresa. A former comrade-in-arms, Twinnings, offers him a morally ambiguous, though lucrative position working for an incredibly wealthy and powerful man named Giacomo Zapparoni who has revolutionized the technological industry through his invention of small automatons. Richard agrees to meet with him for an interview.

Like othe
Gabriel Valjan
In the introduction to the New York Review Book Classic edition, Bruce Sterling praises the slim novella for its prescient descriptions of technology and robots. The novel is about a former cavalry veteran’s desperate search for a job in high-tech. Jünger’s concept of robots is very, very different than Asimov’s. His robots are essentially nanobots. The seemingly hapless Captain Richard is to be interviewed by Zapparoni, whom Sterling describes as “a hybrid of Bill Gates and Walt Disney.” I woul ...more
A short novel of great weight concerning technology's effect on man and nature. Essentially, it is very critical of how industrialism overthrew the traditional world with its heroic calvary charges and less hurried life.

It concerns an unemployed former calvary officer on the brink of poverty living in what resembles a high-tech Weimar Republic. He laments the passing of the age of the horse and wishes for simpler times. His cadet school friend gives him an opportunity to interview with Giacomo
Nicholas During
An amazing work of speculative fiction. Not much of a narrative, but the theme of technology gone awry hits pretty home in today's world. The idea of mechanical animals being used to spy or kill is pretty current with what I've heard about some of the latest drone-like designs, there was an article in NY Review a year or so ago about just that, supposedly inventors and engineers are studying animals to come up with the best structures to move and survive in difficult/enemy terrain. The concept o ...more
Jon Cassie
What must contemporaries have thought of this highly provocative book when it was published? The introduction offered the idea that contemporaries didn't really get it. Boy, must that be true! This book was decades ahead of its time. For me, reading it in 2014, it felt like a sharp and incisive critique of our current values. Materialism, artificial life, colony collapse disorder and the figure of Zapparoni himself - Jobs, Gates, Zuckerberg and so on. Well worth a read.
John Drumm
This to me is like the precursor to "do androids dream of electronics sheep?" Some of the ideas touched upon are explored in Phillip k dicks work, mainly that the advent of robots and realism only leads to confusion and the search for the original source. Very good book, though his inner dialogue I found sometimes slowed to novel down too far. That could just say something about my attention span but still...
I found this book a bit of a shame - the character of Captain Richard and his inability to keep up with the ever more dystopian future that was unfolding around his was deep and intriguing and as many other reviewers have pointed out, the science fiction in this book is fascinatingly spot-on in its' vision of the future. That said, I felt the protagonist's introspection and self-loathing just a little too much to stomach and was hoping for a Willy-Wonka style character in Zapparoni but was left ...more
Jonas Nyström
skön blandning mellan intelligent sci-fi och filosofiskt sökande om människans dualistiska förhållningssätt till sig själv och världen. Och om den nya teknologins potensiella bojor. Super!
Vuk Trifkovic
Absolute classic! Decades ahead of its time and now more pertinent than ever.
The Glass Bees is the rare book that you'll want to read all at one sitting, because it is so damned good. It rivets you with a powerful dread, really, in a way unlike nearly any other sort of "science fiction" book has ever done, at least in my own case. Get it now, and read it, because it will creep you out in a permanent way.
Snail in Danger (Sid) Nicolaides
I really enjoyed the first half or so of this. But the end was a slight letdown. I was expecting a big dystopic reveal, and an unhappy ending, but this never really happened. Recommended for people who enjoy dystopias and want to see a little bit of the history of the form. This made me a little bit wistful and nostalgic for the time when books didn't have to be massive doorstoppers, when they could be light literally and metaphorically.
I found this book to be exceedingly boring. There's barely any plot, and most of the filler is not very interesting. However, there are a few sprinklings of brilliance like the description of the bees and the fingers. Those are jaw dropping and way ahead of their time! But other than those brilliant images and omens, the book isn't very interesting and never really progresses anywhere.
Ernst Jüngers remarkably prophetic book from 1950 contains uncanny visions of the internet, virtual reality, nanotechnology, computer animation and viruses, Bill Gates/Steve Jobs type figures.

It also illustrates the intrinsic incompatibility of perfecting technology and perfecting humanity. As the author explains, we must choose one or the other - then we do cleaner work either way.
This is a quick read. The narrator is as fascinating as the author himself. And many paragraphs are beautiful for their insight as well as their style. Not for everyone, certainly. Not a linear, standard-paradigm novel. But readers of Calvino, Nabokov, and Lem should enjoy this quite a bit.
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NYRB Classics: The Glass Bees, by Ernst Jünger 1 5 Oct 23, 2013 10:43AM  
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German writer. In addition to his many novels, he is well known for Storm of Steel, an account of his experience during the First World War.

Many regard him as one of Germany's greatest modern writers and a hero of the conservative revolutionary movement following World War I. Others dismiss him as a militarist or reactionary.

More about Ernst Jünger...
Storm of Steel On the Marble Cliffs Eumeswil On Pain Sturm

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“Today only the person who no longer believes in a happy ending, only he who has consciously renounced it, is able to live. A happy century does not exist; but there are moments of happiness, and there is freedom in the moment.” 33 likes
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