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The Glass Bead Game

4.12  ·  Rating details ·  33,272 ratings  ·  1,658 reviews
The final novel of Hermann Hesse, 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 twenty-third 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,
Paperback, 578 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)

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The Lasting Effects of Young Reading: A Short Memoir

I first read The Glass Bead Game almost 60 years ago. It changed my life. With just the right cues of romance, high-tech adventure, philosophical mystery, and heroism, the book invaded my adolescent mind, laid down roots and suggested a long term plan: I would one day be able to play the Game. And I succeeded, at least during a goodly portion of my adult life, when I wasn’t distracted by the trivialities of wealth, status, and religion. So I re
Ben Winch
Jun 17, 2011 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 a sweet liqueur, and only later realises he hasn’t said what he thought of Hesse at all. In some way, these days, I suspect there’s a little of this narrato ...more
Ahmad Sharabiani
(576 From 1001 Books) - Das Glasperlenspiel = The Glass Bead Game, Herman Hesse

The Glass Bead Game is the last full-length novel of the German author Hermann Hesse. It was begun in 1931 and published in Switzerland in 1943 after being rejected for publication in Germany due to Hesse's anti-Fascist views. A few years later, in 1946, Hesse went on to win the Nobel Prize in Literature. In honoring him in its Award Ceremony Speech, the Swedish Academy said that the novel "occupies a special position
Apr 08, 2011 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
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
Jun 04, 2013 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
Second Introduction
I saw that a Goodreader commented on another review that they felt this was a book for young people, which caught my attention with a jolt because I had barely finished thinking that this was plainly a book written by an old man. Which it was. These are in no way contradictory notions, they even sit together as one of the themes of the book: "meaningful and meaningless cycle of master and pupil, this courtship of wisdom by youth, of youth by wisdom, this endless, oscillating g
Manuel Antão
Nov 19, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: 2002
If you're into stuff like this, you can read the full review.

Hessian Fable: "The Glass Bead Game" by Hermann Hesse

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 the list of The Best Books Ever- 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 daunt
Mar 02, 2008 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
David Katzman
May 02, 2019 rated it liked it
Allow three stars to stand for my ambivalence. Not for the quality of this book, which is indeed quite excellent.

We live in a time of urgent political and environmental catastrophe. Those of us who aren’t evangelical Christians who put anti-abortion judges before other social values; those of us who aren’t racists and don’t fear immigrants; those of us who aren’t multi-millionaires looking for more tax breaks; those of us who have not bought into the Republican party’s propaganda machine recogni
Stephen P(who no longer can participate due to illness)
Sep 08, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: Those who see the battle of the mind as the worthiest battle of all
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
Nov 22, 2012 rated it it was amazing
This is surely one of the most beautiful dreams depicted in literature. It is also a reminder that even the most beautiful dreams cannot feed our longing, which is ultimately for a reconciliation with the Real. The Glass Bead Game is an allegory of the relationship between symbol and reality, between life and the magic lantern of the mind.

Hesse's Castalia is a utopia of mind, which is born of and supported at great expense by a society recently ravaged by a terrible war. It is an enclosed place
Jul 23, 2007 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 07, 2011 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 m
Syl Sabastian
Aug 01, 2017 rated it it was amazing
My review is based not on the book itself, as it was read it so long ago, I don't remember details, which is somewhat remarkable, as I remember the effect of the book. transformative, profound revelationary, this is the best I can manage. I was transformed into worlds of thought, deep thought, worlds where intent and meaning reigned. The book required a serious commitment from the reader of Attention and willingness-to-truth, a remarkable requirement, adding to the books magic. A classic that li ...more
Dec 05, 2008 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
Jan 02, 2016 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
Jan 09, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favorites, classics
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
Mar 02, 2008 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.
Oct 13, 2010 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
Jul 16, 2007 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
robin friedman
Dec 29, 2018 rated it really liked it
A Revisit To Castalia

In my college years, I was much taken with Herman Hesse and read many of his novels including his last, longest and most difficult book "The Glass Bead Game". Then, for many years I left Hesse alone with my dislike of the counter-culture which developed in the United States when Hesse became widely read. I have recently returned years after retirement to reread several of Hesse's books, including, most recently "The Glass Bead Game". With the book's exploration of the life o
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
Mar 22, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Lovers of games/fellow chess players/musicians/self-proclaimed intellectuals/intellectuals
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
Riku Sayuj
Dec 20, 2012 rated it liked it
a disappointment that demands reflection...
Lynne King
Dec 30, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favourites
I've just relocated this book to my "top-favo" books and I don't have many in there. Looking at this book briefly, I need to write a review (at some stage) on this wonderfully written book. ...more
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
Jun 01, 2007 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: anyone in a leadership role, aspiring to a leadership role, or interested in symbols and abstraction
This is my all-time favorite book. It combines two key themes for me: First, the role of the leader as a servant and second the idea of intellectual game-playing as a way to make meaning. His explorations and elaborations of those themes are perfect. I've read and enjoyed other books by Hesse, and I like the way he tells stories that span a person's entire life without missing the small details along the way. I think this is his masterpiece. ...more
Oleksandr Zholud
This is the last novel by Hermann Hesse, it won Retro-Hugo for the best novel of 1943 in 2019. While it is not a ‘true’ SF, more a classic utopia, set in (as the author suggested) in the 23rd century. I read is as a part of monthly reading for August 2020 at Hugo & Nebula Awards: Best Novels group. I used 1978 Ukrainian translation of the text.

This is a classic bildungsroman i.e. a literary genre that focuses on the psychological and moral growth of the protagonist from youth to adulthood (comin
Cassandra Kay Silva
Jul 01, 2011 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
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Hermann Hesse was a German-Swiss poet, novelist, and painter. In 1946, he received the Nobel Prize for 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 c

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“No permanence is ours; we are a wave
That flows to fit whatever form it finds”
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