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The Glass Bead Game

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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, Knecht has been consumed with mastering the Glass Bead Game, which requires a synthesis of aesthetics and philosophy, which he achieves in adulthood, becoming a Magister Ludi (Master of the Game).

558 pages, Paperback

First published January 1, 1943

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About the author

Hermann Hesse

1,407 books16.4k followers
Many works, including Siddhartha (1922) and Steppenwolf (1927), of German-born Swiss writer Hermann Hesse concern the struggle of the individual to find wholeness and meaning in life; he won the Nobel Prize for literature in 1946.

Other best-known works of this poet, novelist, and painter include The Glass Bead Game , which, also known as Magister Ludi, explore a search of an individual for spirituality outside society.

In his time, Hesse was a popular and influential author in the German-speaking world; worldwide fame only came later. Young Germans desiring a different and more "natural" way of life at the time of great economic and technological progress in the country, received enthusiastically Peter Camenzind , first great novel of Hesse.

Throughout Germany, people named many schools. In 1964, people founded the Calwer Hermann-Hesse-Preis, awarded biennially, alternately to a German-language literary journal or to the translator of work of Hesse to a foreign language. The city of Karlsruhe, Germany, also associates a Hermann Hesse prize.

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Profile Image for BlackOxford.
1,085 reviews68.4k followers
August 10, 2020
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 realised it was about time for me to revisit the ur-inspiration. A dangerous undertaking, I know, but perhaps the book could provide a sort of retrospective structure that I couldn’t consciously recall. Worth the risk then.

The epigraph alone rekindles the fire that smoulders still in my unconscious:
Nothing is harder, yet nothing is more necessary, than to speak of certain things whose existence is neither demonstrable nor probable. The very fact that serious and conscientious men treat them as existing things brings them a step closer to existence and to the possibility of being born.
I have experienced just this motivation with the force of compulsion. The task is both poetic and practical: to help people, particularly myself, to see what is hidden by what they already see, the things within and beyond what is apparently there. For a child of 13 or so, to have one’s inarticulate intuition confirmed - that there is more to life than its surface - is profoundly important.

I viewed the “Order” and the fellowship of the game seriously and admired “... the maximum integration of the individual into the hierarchy of the educators and scholars... “ My first attempt involved a Carmelite monastery. The next a military career. Followed by a time in professional academia and subsequently an international consulting firm which is best described as a professional Protestant monastery.

All these, and most choices that followed, had the intention of assimilation into one form or another of an organisation of united and mutually supportive minds. The professional context didn’t really matter. I had, it appears, a calling not dissimilar to that of the young Joseph Knecht, eventually the Magister Ludi, who had “the capacity for enthusiasm, subordination, reverence, worshipful service” necessary to persist in The Game. Even today I find myself a member of a Dominican academic community which is the same size and similar in atmosphere to that of Knecht’s school at Waldzell. Somewhat remarkably, I suppose, I have never been a joiner of clubs, or groups, or congregations, only those with some sort of monastic potential.

Even the international firm to which I belonged, commercial as is was, had an ethos which could have been taken straight from The Game. It’s senior partners were among the most powerful and influential business leaders in the country. Yet the head of the firm said to me proudly one day at lunch “Nobody knows my name.” When he said this I immediately recalled Hesse’s lines: “The hierarchic organization cherishes the ideal of anonymity, and comes very close to the realization of that ideal.”

Rarely did this assimilation ever feel oppressive or threatening to my individuality. As with The Game: “For us, a man is a hero and deserves special interest only if his nature and his education have rendered him able to let his individuality be almost perfectly absorbed in its hierarchic function without at the same time forfeiting the vigorous, fresh, admirable impetus which makes for the savor and worth of the individual.” In order to make the point, I had the habit of submitting an undated resignation on the day I started any job. Even that felt like a ritual of integration. I exercised it myself by “leaping,” to use Joseph Knecht’s term, whenever I felt The Game was being threatened.

The idea of the rules of The Game, its language, and symbology undoubtedly provoked some sort of teen-age mysticism. But what most attracted me and still does is that The Game is “... a mode of playing with the total contents and values of our culture...” years later I would discover Wittgenstein and know that this is precisely what he must have meant in his term ‘language games.’

The downside from a career perspective, of course, is that narrow disciplinary constrains and professional mores became increasingly problematic. The world at large expects increasing specialisation with age. But for me intellectual maturity has always been a matter of expansion rather than refinement. This has made me less well-off than I might have been. But I am more than content. I also find that I retain some tendencies toward teen-age mysticism. Perhaps this is an accomplishment.

It has been said that one is born either an Aristotelian or a Platonist. Empirically, it seems to me, there is some strength in this assertion. I am certainly in the camp of the latter and therefore fit right in to the Platonic bias of The Game, which Aristotelians would merely find just silly. It was Hesse who piqued my interest in philosophers like Nicholas of Cusa and Gottfried Leibniz. And through them into the idea of the ideal as a symbol of both purpose and the aesthetical.

Unconsciously I suppose, I found myself associating with other Platonists and quasi-Platonists - West Churchman at Berkeley, Russell Ackoff and Tom Cowan at Penn, Oliver O’Donovan at Oxford. Around each of these was a sort of invisible college, the members of which unknowingly participated in many rounds of The Game. That many of them are dead or no longer in my daily life is neither regrettable nor sad since the Order continues to unite us.

Hesse’s idea of the Age of the Feuilleton as a motivating social force for the development of The Game resonated in my young life with what I perceived as the random character of what people worried about - nuclear war, mortal sin, cures for acne - and what might actually matter. For Hesse, the daily newspaper was more about gossip than the factual information necessary for life. Hesse’s narrator has only disdain for this age of wasted freedom:

Years later, I encountered William Gaddis’s Recognitions and had a spark of remembrance about Hesse’s witty critiques of celebrity and “intellectual privateers”, particularly among self-proclaimed artists, and most specifically writers. And many years still later, I am overwhelmed by Hesse’s prescience in anticipating the evil of unintelligent internet social media. Perhaps they will be exactly the catalyst necessary for the real creation of The Game!

Mathematics and Music are the core disciplines of The Game. I can blame Hesse for implanting this as a seed in my psyche. It legitimised for me my interest in numbers (but certainly not the techniques of calculation insisted upon by my teachers) and classical music (of which none of my contemporaries had the slightest interest). Once again, it is unclear whether The Game provoked or merely articulated these interests.

Ultimately it doesn’t matter because The Game is my personal symbol for both. Recently while reading Edward Rothstein’s Emblems of Mind (https://www.goodreads.com/review/show...), a book which critiques music in terms of mathematical aesthetics and vice versa, I had very clear flashbacks of my pleasant surprise at being able to adopt Hesse’s discovery as my own. I have occasionally abandoned either mathematics or music as one might lose one’s childhood religion. But they have always returned as the matrix of my own version of The Game.

I could go on ad nauseam recounting the many other specific influences that The Glass Bead Game has had on my life. But this short reflection is enough to show me the profound depths to which we can be influenced by what we consume as literature in early life. I don’t know what lessons this might entail.

Perhaps the reflection is only productive as a sort of therapy that makes conscious what has been hidden for decades from will and choice. Hesse suggests this might be his intent in the text where he describes The Game evolving as “a form of concentrated self-awareness for intellectuals.“ Having said that, there is nothing I would change about allowing The Game into my life.
Profile Image for Ben Winch.
Author 4 books358 followers
November 27, 2021
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 narrator in many of us. Hesse – unlike Kafka or Beckett or Mann – is not an intellectual’s badge of honour. Frequently, I’ve approached one or another of his books again after a hiatus half-expecting that this time I will have grown out of him, but I never do. The Journey to the East has enthralled me since I first read it in my teens – and probably I understand only marginally more of it now than I did then. The “Treatise on the Steppenwolf” (unlike much of the rest of that most famous of his novels) I likewise revere. The early novella Knulp is a small masterpiece, touching and true. Demian has its moments, Siddhartha too (though again its fame is out of proportion to its content), and Klingsor’s Last Summer and many of the short stories and even Narziss and Goldmund if you’re on a roll and don’t want to stop. But looming over all of them, dwarfing them and pulling together most of what’s best in each of them is The Glass Bead Game, a book which, despite myself, and though I doubt I’ll be able to convey why without reading it again (a fourth time), I count among the five or so most transformative reading experiences in my lifetime.

Like The Journey... or “The Treatise...”, the “General Introduction [to the Glass Bead Game] for the Layman” is Hesse at his finest – not so dissimilar to Borges in his essayistic tone and otherworldly humour, and throwing out mindbending concepts with casual aplomb.
The Glass Bead Game is thus a mode of playing with the total contents and values of our culture; it plays with them as, say, in the great age of the arts a painter might have played with the colours on his palette. All the insights, noble thoughts, and works of art that the human race has produced in its creative eras, all that subsequent periods of scholarly study have reduced to concepts and converted into intellectual property – on all this immense body of intellectual values the Glass Bead Game player plays like the organist on an organ.

In other words, an early glimpse of post-modernity, but telescoped into an imaginary future (after what Hesse dryly characterises as “The Age of the Feuilleton”) in which – for the purposes of players of the Glass Bead Game – artistic production has stopped or gone underground, and the highest cultural calling is to manipulate what has been left behind by former ages, to create – in a hyper-ritualised setting and for the benefit of worldwide audiences – these “games” that are part music, part mathematics, and use a futuristic brand of calligraphic characters to sample and integrate their component parts into a quasi-equation that can later be studied and reproduced. At the centre of this enterprise, the Magister Ludi – or master of the Glass Bead Game – is treated like a priest or deity by devotees of the game. But there is none of the rock- or movie-star “cult of personality” about these figures; not only are their identities kept secret except from a few close initiates, but their study in biographies or histories is discouraged.

Certainly, what nowadays we understand by personality is something quite different from what the biographers and historians of earlier times meant by it. For them, [...] the essence of a personality seems to have been deviance, abnormality, uniqueness, in fact all too often the pathological. We moderns, on the other hand, do not even speak of major personalities until we encounter men who have gone beyond all original and idiosyncratic qualities to achieve the greatest possible integration into the generality, the greatest possible service to the suprapersonal.

Nevertheless, The Glass Bead Game is, for the most part, a biography of one earnest if somewhat rebellious Magister, Joseph Knecht – a man whose early brilliance followed by his ultimate resignation is a touchstone for all who question the value of life behind the cloistered walls of Castalia, the “pedagogical province” in which his story takes place. What do we have here then, if not the old, “pathology”-based form of a biography? A kind of everyman story, the story of a type. But Hesse’s type – and I think this is beautiful in light of the leader of his former homeland when he wrote this – is a leader, the ideal leader, and the culmination of a search which runs throughout Hesse’s work. Joseph Knecht is a kind of holy man, but with none of the pomp or self-importance which, maybe, these days, that implies. “Knecht” in German means “servant”, and throughout his short life Knecht impresses us as just that, a servant both to those he governs and to some other voice – or “calling” – which comes to him from beyond. Like all of Hesse’s characters, Knecht exists to “find himself”, but unlike Harry Haller or Knulp or Emil Sinclair or even Siddhartha, he does not despair (at least not in these pages); like Leo, the leader-in-disguise of the Journeyers to the East, he remains tranquil and alert to his duties. Throughout the book Knecht’s own writings are quoted, and at the end of the “Introduction...”, in speaking of classical music, he writes the following:

[...] always there may be heard in these works a defiance, a death-defying intrepidity, a gallantry, and a note of superhuman laughter, of immortal gay serenity. Let that same note also sound in our Glass Bead Games, and in our whole lives, acts, and sufferings.

Earlier Knecht’s biographer had warned us:

The poets told horrific fables about the forbidden, diabolic, heaven-offending keys, [...] the “music of decline”; no sooner were these wicked notes struck in the palace than the sky darkened, the walls trembled and collapsed, and kingdom and sovereign went to their doom.

People fault Hesse for what they see as his sentimentality. Sometimes, I can see their point (as in the relationship of Harry Haller to his young prostitute friend in Steppenwolf, for example). But when he manages to rise above all the doubts and complaints of that lonely wolf of the steppes, there is actually something quietly heroic in Hesse’s stance. In Switzerland, in 1943, along with his friends Paul Klee and Hugo Ball of the Cabaret Voltaire, this man refuses absolutely to play the “heaven-offending keys”. Whatever he creates will partake only of that “superhuman laughter” and “death-defying intrepidity”, no matter what horrors his homeland can spew forth (and, as his writings on the war show, Hesse was far from ignorant of these). And so, on the surface, his may seem a fantasy for which the modern (or post-modern) world has little use: escapism, idealism, even (amid the destruction of Europe by guns and explosives) lyricism. But read more closely and it’s evident that the despairing, human Hesse is passionately present in almost every word of this. Yes, the characters in The Glass Bead Game – like Beckett’s characters, like Kafka’s – can seem more or less than human. No, there is no sexuality in their world (nor in Waiting For Godot, for that matter), and as if to foreground this lack Hesse writes his “Introduction...” entirely from a genderless “we” standpoint, which while not spelling it out seems to suggest (or has always suggested to me, anyway) that we are to treat these characters as beyond or outside of the ordinary realm of the sexual. (Why? Perhaps because, to a German in Europe in 1943, sexuality did not seem that crucial a topic.) Me, I’ve never demanded “realism” from fiction; in fact, I like writers who alert me to the fact that the beings they create are not human. Likewise, I don’t care in the least that the end section of the book – “Joseph Knecht’s Posthumous Writings” – is probably just a series of sketches done in warm-up for the task of creating Knecht. To me, at least one of these novellas (“The Father Confessor”) is easily among the best of Hesse’s works in its own right and never fails to have me in tears by the end of it. And even the poetry (poorly-suited to translation as it is) is illuminating in showing the genesis of the conception.

If I haven’t said much about the substance of Knecht’s story, the truth is I don’t remember much of it, but for snatches of scenery (which Hesse describes so well) and a general feeling of the excitement of a young man following his calling. If you read for plot, this isn’t the book for you. But if you want to hear the wisdom of a wise, possibly heartbroken man determined, despite everything, not to hit the jarring notes of the diabolic keys but to sing with the laughing voice of an angel, this is it. I don’t care if that sounds sentimental. The world needs artists who are willing to speak calmly from the storm, and Hermann Hesse was one of them. I take my hat off to you, Herr Hesse. Thank you, from the bottom of my heart, for your guidance.
Profile Image for Vit Babenco.
1,468 reviews3,637 followers
June 12, 2022
The Glass Bead Game is a profound and complex contemplation on the relation between reality and art. The game of the title is a symbol and quintessence of pure art – art for art’s sake.
“As you well know, there are some who do not think well of the Glass Bead Game. They say it is a substitute for the arts, and that the players are mere popularizers; that they can no longer be regarded as truly devoted to the things of the mind, but are merely artistic dilettantes given to improvisation and feckless fancy.”

Young Joseph Knecht is taken to the boarding school in Castalia – a kind of intellectual utopia inhabited only by highly creative minds. On attaining the great skill in music, spirituality and meditation, Joseph decides to devote himself to the art of the Glass Bead Game. When he achieves perfection he becomes the master of the game – Magister Ludi. His highest goal seems to have been reached but he feels that he is surrounded with futility, his existence is full of vacuum, he wants to share his tremendous knowledge with others and to be useful.
Game and discipline of the mind through meditation had become the truly characteristic values of Castalia…
To Knecht, therefore, this meant one more tie, one more counterpoise to his growing urge to renounce everything and achieve a breakthrough into a new and different sphere of life. Nevertheless, this urge developed inexorably. Ever since he himself had become fully aware of it – that may have been in the sixth or seventh year of his magistracy – it had grown steadily stronger.

He finds an apt pupil in the outside world and becomes his tutor…
If a denizen of the ivory tower forsakes his intellectual resort, he is doomed.
Profile Image for Robin Tell-Drake.
43 reviews16 followers
February 6, 2015
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 come. Here’s the big plot spoiler: nothing at all happens in this book. Not “nothing” in a loaded, John Cage way, just nothing, as when the author cannot deliver on his heady promises but publishes a book anyhow. I actually think it’s kind of important to call bullshit on all the approbation the book receives.

The two fundamental failures in the book are its main character and its central device, the Game itself. Both failures are drearily total, and each is all the more of a letdown for the breathless, never-ending clamor of hype both within and without the book’s pages.

The book starts right out with the declaration of Joseph Knecht’s pivotal importance, as the greatest player the Game has ever had, after whose career the history of the Game could never be the same. This is repeated ceaselessly throughout, in narrative asides. Meanwhile, we watch a pleasant, unassuming, talented young boy as he is handpicked by a professor, becomes a promising student whose great potential is remarked on by everyone he meets, and moves on to become a professor at a young age. He is indeed the youngest ever to become Magister Ludi, so at least that should earn him a mention in the history books. We are told, I think precisely once, that when he runs a game, it’s a good one. And then he gets old; along the way he meets some people and has some conversations. And then he dies in a swimming accident, and then we riffle through some of his personal papers until the book is over. Even his youthful writings, a strange little coda to his own life story, echo the pattern of fervent affirmation of the importance of a character—plainly himself in thin disguise, but now being described, just as fawningly, in his own voice—who goes on to do nothing much.

If in fact Knecht ever does anything of greater historical importance than being generally agreeable and good at what he does, it is not told to us. His life is a dull blank, undeserving of a biography at all, especially when at least three other characters go by who might actually have made good reading. Consider the strangely beatified Music Master, whose unexpectedly mystical transcendence of humanity Knecht merely witnesses when it comes along late in the book; that might be worthy of history. Or Knecht’s boyhood rival, a fiery young student who leaves the academic world and is reunited with Knecht later on one of the protagonist’s vanishingly rare ventures outside his ivory tower; his relationship to the Game is complex and troubled, but this barely ruffles the surface of Knecht’s complacency. Or there is the Sinophile who draws Knecht into a dialogue with Chinese history and literature, who gets to deliver the book’s most interesting challenge: when Knecht seeks his assistance in bringing the symbology of the I Ching into the vocabulary of the Game (much easier, you’d think, than it would have been to encapsulate French poetry or organic chemistry, since the I Ching is already encoded in a set of symbols easily printed on beads), his new mentor smiles and says you can build a garden in the world, but good luck fitting the entire world inside your garden. What’s this? A character within the Glass Bead Game dismissing the Game itself as far lesser than some other symbol system? Here, now, we have the potential for a meaty examination of this Game thing, which we deserve after putting up with so much talk about it. But Knecht just shrugs and goes about his business, and there will be no exposition upon either system. Because the Game is the other aching nullity at the heart of the book; there’s nothing there.

Hesse was inspired to write, beyond doubt, by the legitimately awesome notion of the Game. He imagines a symbol system within which all academic disciplines can be encoded, and can interact with each other, like a conversion chart for all fields of knowledge. Within this system, all concepts are encoded on beads, and it seems any of them can meaningfully combine with any other, such that wild new ideas emerge in the interplay. Here is the complex discourse wherein some kind of game, some competition or contest, can flourish, a game of all human learning, ranging like lightning from one discipline to another, referencing everything. Only a rarefied kind of academic could hope to understand such a game, let alone play it competitively. And the book is set within the cloistered academy where these super-scholars are trained.

It’s a sweeping, fascinating idea. It’s enough, without adding much of anything else, to drive a really memorable short story. But Hesse wanted it to crown a towering edifice, worthy of the sense of weight and magnitude that was, in fact, only the subject of the idea rather than its dimensions. By which I mean: it was a vague little slip of an idea about something vast and weighty, rather than actually being a vast and weighty idea. But Hesse fooled himself, and in his excitement he determined to write a very long novel, and that was a mistake from which there could be no recovery.

The fatal problem is that Hesse wilts instantly before the task of filling in any kind of detail about what the game was and how it worked. He hasn’t a clue. Inspired by his book, several people have gone on to design more or less playable games to match their impressions of the game he only alludes to—you can find them on the internet if you look around—but he never does. And the more ambient suspense the author generates by promising a brilliant reality, without ever showing even a flickering corner of it, the worse the bland filler starts to smell when it all gets stale. Mind you, I know it’s too much to ask for him to generate a practical game that lives up to his vision. But we don’t need him to do that. He need only sketch some part of it, fill in a detail here and a detail there that his characters can make part of their workaday conversations. He does need to do something, though, and it needs to pass muster as at least a tantalizing beginning of the thing itself. One example, perhaps, of a specific bead that represents something from the science of biology; what is written or drawn on the bead? What might be one instance of that bead’s being played in answer to a bead representing some architectural concept? That would be enough. He makes frequent mention of music—indeed the deification of music, common among writers, is so relentless here as to become a minor problem in its own right—but no sign of how it relates to any other field. Of course, a writer needs to be able to let the reader fill in empty spaces that the story only sketches with spare gestures. But the gestures need to be the beginning of something worthy.

In the event, that one game—”composed” by Knecht during his tenure as Top Official in Gameland—gives us just enough detail to make clear, after most of the book has gone by, that what’s actually happening here is a solo show. Knecht has composed a complex exercise in advance, and now the other players are just acting it out, perhaps filling in some details at their own discretion but abiding by a predetermined structure. Our one glimpse of the practical nature of the game has all the fanfare of a whoopee cushion. The Game isn’t actually a game. Nobody's playing. There are no objectives. It’s some sort of abstruse, very quiet performance art.

A long book full of portentious self-promotion but with nothing to say. An elaborately wrapped present with no gift inside. A big fat nothing. Not the nothing of the Buddhist, who longs for nothing and seeks it, but that of the Wizard of Oz—a nothing that noisily proclaims itself to be everything.
Profile Image for Ahmad Sharabiani.
9,564 reviews46 followers
December 29, 2021
(Book 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" in Hesse's work.

عنوانهای چاپ شده در ایران: ��سالهای آزادی»؛ «بازی مهره شیشه‌ ای»؛ «اوستاد بازی» نویسنده: هرمان هسه؛ انتشاراتیها: (فردوس و نگاه سبز ...) ادبیات؛ تاریخ نخستین خوانش روز دوم ماه ژانویه سال2009میلادی

عنوان: بازی مهره شیشه ای؛ نویسنده: هرمان هسه؛ مترجم: پرویز داریوش؛ تهران، فردوس، چاپ سوم سال1368؛ در548ص؛ چاپ سوم فردوس سال1376؛ بالای عنوان: اوستاد بازی؛ چاپ دیگر تهران، بدیهه، فردوس، سال1374؛ چاپ دیگر تهران، فردوس، سال1386؛ شابک9789643202577؛ چاپ پنجم سال1392؛ موضوع: داستانهای نویسندگان آلمان - سده20م

عنوان: سالهای آزادی؛ نویسنده: هرمان هسه؛ مترجم: عرفان قانعی فرد؛ تهران، نگاه سبز، سال1379؛ در617ص؛ شابک9645939611؛

کتاب نخسین بار در سال1943میلادی، در «سوئیس» انتشار یافت؛ «هسه» در نامه‌ ای که در سال1955میلادی، به دوستی به نام «رودلف پان ویتس» مینویسند «یادمانهایی را از زمان رستن و جان گرفتن این داستان باز می‌گویند»؛

نقل از متن: (آن اندیشه؛ که در اصل مرا برافروخت، تصور تناسخ بود، به صورت محملی که از طریق آن، ثبات در تبدیل، دوام در سنت و زند��ی روح، به طور کلی بیان شود؛ آنگاه روزی، چند سال پیش از آنکه، عملاً به نوشتن حکایت بپردازم، داستان زندگی خاص، اما ابَرزمانه را رؤیت کردم؛ انسانی را تصور کردم، که طی چند حلول، دوران‌های عظیم تاریخ بشری را، می‌آزماید؛ برای ساختن آن زمان، که بتوانم در آن: پناه، نیرو و دلداری بیابم، همین بسنده بود، که هر زمان و فرضی را در گذشته، برانگیزم، و عاشقانه تصویر کنم...؛ دیدم که با رد زمان خیره سر، باید اثبات کنم، که سلطان جان و روان وجود دارد، اما شکست ناپذیر است؛ با درک این نکته، نقشه ی من، به سوی تجلی ناکجاآباد، به تخیلی، که در آینده افکنده شده باشد، تغییر جهت داد؛ چه سراسی��ه شدم، وقتی که ایالت «کاستالیا» سر برآورد؛ نیازی نبود، که در اندیشه جان بگیرد، یا ساخته شود؛ بی آنکه خود بدانم، از مدتی پیش، درون من شکل گرفته بود؛ پس آن بست را، که دنبالش می‌گشتم، یافته بودم؛ «کاستالیا» را باید، مفهومی بری از زمان، درک کرد، که واقعیت درونی خود را واجد است، و هدف آن، نشان دادن امکان زندگی روح و روان است؛ «بازی مهره شیشه‌ ای» شیوه‌ ای است، از بازی کردن با مجموع محتویات فرهنگ ما، بدانگونه، با آنها بازی می‌کند، که گفتی در عصر شگرف هنرها، نگارگری، با رنگ‌های روی شستی خود، با درون بینی‌ها، اندیشه‌ های والا، آثار هنری که بشر، در دروان‌های آفرینندگی خود، پدید آورده‌ است، همه ی آنچه مطالعات دانشمندانه، به مفاهیم بدل کرده؛ و به صورت ملک فکری درآورده‌ است، با تمام این مجموعه ی عظیم ارزش‌های فکری، بازیکن بازی مهره شیشه‌ ای به گونه ارگ نوازی، که ارگ بنوازد، بازی می‌کند...)؛ پایان نقل از متن

سال‌ها تمرین باید، تا کسی بازی را، به شایستگی ببازد، تنها چند تن، این هنر را، میتوانند به غایت برسانند و میرسانند، و تنها یک تن می‌تواند «استاد بازی» شود، و این مقامیست، که بدو توان می‌بخشد، تا بازی‌های بزرگ عمومی را، طرح، و هدایت کند؛ اما بالاترین حالتی که از بازی کردن «بازی مهره شیشه‌ ای»، باید حاصل شود، «سلامت نفس» است، و این چیزی است که «هسه»، در همه ی آثار خویشتن، از «رمان» و «شعر» و «مقاله» و «نقد»، به دنبال آن بوده‌ اند؛ «سلیم» و «سلامت نفس»، در «نامه‌ ها» و «گفتگوهای سالهای پایان عمر هسه»، فراوان در این کتاب به کار گرفته شده‌ اند

تاریخ بهنگام رسانی 27/09/1399هجری خورشیدی؛ 07/10/1400هجری خورشیدی؛ ا. شربیانی
Profile Image for Darwin8u.
1,599 reviews8,731 followers
March 7, 2017
“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 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, intellectualism and life can become transcendent and beautiful. The Glass Bead Game 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 these are frivolous issues. For the most part, I liked the book. It is incredible that in the face of WWII and Nazi Germany Hesse could write this. History and the 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. The Glass Bead Game 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.
Profile Image for Valeriu Gherghel.
Author 6 books1,448 followers
July 7, 2023
„Ca orice idee mare, jocul acesta nu are propriu-zis un început, ci, ca idee, a existat întotdeauna... Ideea jocului este veșnică; prin aceasta a existat și s-a manifestat cu mult înainte de realizarea ei în practică”.

Maaaaamăăă, da ce rezistență la frustrare aveam pe vremuri :)

Mi-am găsit notele de odinioară. Priveam romanul ca pe o carte de eterată înțelepciune și copiam răbdător fraze complicate, cu mulți termeni abstracți, care acum nu-mi mai spun absolut nimic. Sugerau ceva cu privire la muzică: „Muzica ia ființă din măsură și-și trage sevele din Marele Unic. Marele Unic este genitorul celor doi poli; cei doi poli dau mișcare puterii întunericului și luminii etc.”.

Nu prea mă interesa pe atunci ce povestește la propriu cartea lui Hesse, o priveam ca pe o biografie a unui ales angelic (asemănătoare cu Doctor Faustus a lui Thomas Mann, care prezintă, în schimb, un ales diabolic) și căutam îndeosebi „metafizica”. Fără spor...

Acțiunea se petrece pe la anul 2400 și ceva, undeva într-o provincie a fericiților, Castalia. Romanul ar fi, așadar, o utopie, descrierea unei lumi a seninătății calme și a jocurilor ingenioase.

În Castalia, elita tinerimii luminate studiază cu magiștri eminenți (există și un Magistru al muzicii) în condiții ascetice. Unii elevi nu rezistă privațiunilor și se întorc în lumea oamenilor obișnuiți. Alții fac față cu brio. Dintre învățăcei se remarcă, firește, prin însușiri ieșite din comun, Joseph Knecht (Knecht = slugă). Mai tîrziu, Knecht este ales în fruntea ordinului castalian și primește titlul ambiguu de Magister Ludi (în latină, „ludus, ludi” înseamnă școală, joc, spectacol etc.).

Magistru al Școlii și al Jocului: dar în ce constă jocul? Criticii și-au bătut capul ani de zile (încă nu s-au oprit) să ghicească la ce anume s-a referit autorul cînd și-a întitulat romanul Das Glasperlenspiel. Încă nu s-a ajuns la o concluzie fermă, nu sînt temeiuri. Vagul în care se păstrează naratorii (romanul are mai mulți) m-a intrigat și la prima lectură. Cum adică? Ce fel de joc e acesta? Nu știu de ce, dar m-am gîndit atunci la un șirag de mătănii, cam așa se traduce termenul german. Inițiații stau, meditează și învîrt cu dexteritate mărgele pe degete, așa cum în altă parte călugării orientali fac să se miște o roată / morișcă a rugăciunilor. Altceva nu mi-a trecut prin minte și nici nu avea cum. Era o conjectură puerilă, recunosc... Acum mă gîndesc că este vorba de o limbă perfectă de formule matematice, o „ars combinatoria”, așa cum a propus cîndva Leibniz.

Deci, jocul cu mărgele de sticlă rămîne un mister, o activitate (pur mintală?). Are legătură cu muzica și cu notele muzicale, asta e sigur, dar mai precis nu se știe, nimeni n-a pătruns mai departe. Tinerii sînt educați să se prindă într-un joc extins (și asta m-a frapat prima dată, inițiații sînt răspîndiți pretutindeni). Studierea jocului este anevoioasă:

„Regulile acestui joc al jocurilor se învață numai pe calea obișnuită, prescrisă, care cere cîțiva ani, și nimeni dintre inițiați nu ar putea avea vreun interes să facă aceste reguli ale jocului mai ușor de învățat”.

Partea cea mai amuzantă a romanului este descrierea epocii actuale, numită „epocă a foiletoanelor” și a răspîndirii cunoașterii prin vulgarizare (prelecțiuni cu public). Eu nu văd nimic rău în asta, dar prozatorul pare a privi foiletonul (și restul) ca un semn definitiv al declinului și dezordinii, o neputință de a reconstitui un întreg spart în fragmente pestrițe. Într-un fel, Hermann Hesse a văzut corect. Astăzi toată lumea compune articole, foiletoane și eseuri (inclusiv susiscălitul), prelegeri nu se mai țin din pricina pandemiei:

„Ei, care citeau atîtea articole şi audiau atîtea conferinţe, nu-şi acordau timp şi nu-şi dădeau osteneala să se fortifice împotriva fricii, să combată în sufletul lor teama de moarte, trăiau tresărind şi nu mai credeau în nici o dimineaţă”.

Așadar, foiletoanele și interviurile de azi ascund un rău mai adînc...

Mă întreb dacă un astfel de roman mai are astăzi cititori și nu știu ce să răspund, mă îndoiesc...

P. S. Desigur, romanul cuprinde și o discuție despre relația dintre lumea formelor platoniciene și istorie. Formele se situează în afara timpului, dar cel care le contemplă senin e afectat de vremelnicie. Joseph Knecht moare tînăr...
Profile Image for Valeriu Gherghel.
Author 6 books1,448 followers
May 10, 2023
„Ca orice idee mare, jocul acesta nu are propriu-zis un început, ci, ca idee, a existat întotdeauna... Ideea jocului este veșnică; prin aceasta a existat și s-a manifestat cu mult înainte de realizarea ei în practică”.

Mi-am găsit notele de la prima lectură. Au trecut vreo 15 ani. Pot face, așadar, o comparație. Priveam romanul ca pe o carte de eterată înțelepciune și copiam răbdător fraze complicate, cu mulți termeni abstracți, care acum nu-mi mai spun absolut nimic. Sugerau ceva cu privire la muzică: „Muzica ia fiin��ă din măsură și-și trage sevele din Marele Unic. Marele Unic este genitorul celor doi poli; cei doi poli dau mișcare puterii întunericului și luminii etc.”. Mai obscur decît atît nu se poate...

Nu prea mă interesa pe atunci ce povestește la propriu cartea lui Hesse, o priveam ca pe o biografie a unui ales angelic (asemănătoare cu Doctor Faustus a lui Thomas Mann, care prezintă, în schimb, un ales diabolic) și căutam îndeosebi „metafizica” romanului. Fără spor...

Acțiunea se petrece pe la anul 2400 și ceva, undeva într-o provincie a fericiților, Castalia. Romanul ar fi, așadar, o utopie, descrierea unei lumi a seninătății calme și a jocurilor ingenioase.

În Castalia, elita tinerimii luminate studiază cu magiștri eminenți (există și un Magistru al muzicii) în condiții ascetice. Unii elevi nu rezistă privațiunilor și se întorc în lumea oamenilor obișnuiți. Alții fac față cu brio. Dintre învățăcei se remarcă, firește, prin însușiri ieșite din comun, Joseph Knecht (Knecht = slugă). Mai tîrziu, Knecht este ales în fruntea ordinului castalian și primește titlul ambiguu de Magister Ludi (în latină, „ludus, ludi” înseamnă școală, joc, spectacol etc.).

Magistru al Școlii și al Jocului: dar în ce constă jocul? Criticii și-au bătut capul ani de zile (nu s-au oprit nici astăzi) să ghicească la ce anume s-a referit autorul cînd și-a întitulat romanul Das Glasperlenspiel. Încă nu s-a ajuns la o concluzie fermă, nu sînt temeiuri, găsim doar ipoteze de lectură. Vagul în care se păstrează naratorii (romanul are mai mulți) m-a intrigat și la prima lectură. Cum adică? Ce fel de joc e acesta? Nu știu de ce, dar m-am gîndit atunci la un șirag de mătănii, cam așa se traduce termenul german. Inițiații stau, meditează și rotesc cu dexteritate mărgele pe degete, așa cum în altă parte călugării orientali fac să se miște o roată / morișcă a rugăciunilor. Altceva nu mi-a trecut prin minte și nici nu avea cum. Era o conjectură puerilă, recunosc... Acum, mă gîndesc că este vorba de o limbă perfectă de formule matematice, o „characteristica universalis”, așa cum a propus cîndva Gottfried Wilhelm von Leibniz.

Deci, jocul cu mărgele de sticlă rămîne un mister, o activitate (pur mintală?). Are legătură cu muzica și cu notele muzicale, asta e sigur, dar mai precis nu se știe, nimeni n-a pătruns mai departe. Tinerii sînt educați să se prindă într-un joc extins (și asta m-a frapat prima dată, inițiații sînt răspîndiți pretutindeni). Studierea jocului este anevoioasă:
„Regulile acestui joc al jocurilor se învață numai pe calea obișnuită, prescrisă, care cere cîțiva ani, și nimeni dintre inițiați nu ar putea avea vreun interes să facă aceste reguli ale jocului mai ușor de învățat”.

Partea cea mai amuzantă a romanului este descrierea epocii actuale, numită „epocă a foiletoanelor” și a răspîndirii cunoașterii prin vulgarizare (prelecțiuni cu public). Eu nu văd nimic rău în asta, dar prozatorul pare a privi foiletonul (și restul) ca un semn definitiv al declinului și dezordinii, o neputință de a reconstitui un întreg spart în fragmente pestrițe. Într-un fel, Hermann Hesse a văzut corect. Astăzi toată lumea compune articole, foiletoane și eseuri (inclusiv susiscălitul), prelegeri nu se mai țin din pricina pandemiei:

„Ei, care citeau atîtea articole şi audiau atîtea conferinţe, nu-şi acordau timp şi nu-şi dădeau osteneala să se fortifice împotriva fricii, să combată în sufletul lor teama de moarte, trăiau tresărind şi nu mai credeau în nici o dimineaţă”.

Așadar, foiletoanele și interviurile de azi sînt semne de superficialitate și ascund un rău mai adînc...

Mă întreb dacă un astfel de roman mai are astăzi cititori și nu știu ce să răspund, mă cam îndoiesc...

P. S. Desigur, romanul cuprinde și o discuție despre relația dintre lumea formelor platoniciene și istorie. Formele se situează în afara timpului, dar cel care le contemplă senin e afectat de vremelnicie. Joseph Knecht moare tînăr...
Profile Image for Becky.
832 reviews155 followers
June 5, 2013
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 didn’t find ANY. First of all, everyone that gave it lots of stars either didn’t write a review, or wrote a review that’s literally a re-writing of the synopisis from Wikipedia. I’m not trying to insinuate that they didn’t really read it, or that they didn’t really understand it, or even that they are trying to seem cool by giving a Nobel winning book a good star rating--- I’m not insinuating that, but I have to wonder. I didn’t hardly find a single review that actually illuminated what that person actually enjoyed about the book.

Most reviews were along the lines of “This story follows the life of Josef Knecht, who rose to become the youngest Master Ludi.” Or “This book talks about elitism, intellectualism, and touches on Buddhism.”

Ok? But what did any of you THINK about that? I mean, I know WHAT the book is about, I want to know if you enjoyed the presentation of those arguments, the story, did you agree or disagree?

There was nothing about that. So, at 50% through, I stopped reading. I have a rule, I usually give a book 100 pages to grab me, if it’s a long book I’ll give it 200. I gave this book more than a fair shake, I even looked for reasons to keep going, but I don’t think there are any.

There is nothing in this book, that wasn’t a total rehash of every other book that Hesse wrote. So, here is my opinion- this is a dull drab affair in which nothing happens. I feel that there were some really interesting things that COULD have happened, or hell, even a treatise just on the ideals of the Glass Bead Game itself would’ve been more interesting. I love the idea that the GBG is a synthesis of the knowledge and culture of mankind throughout history. The Glass Bead Game is a design that is supposed to move this story forward, that is supposed to be the gravitational pull at the center of the book that all the words orbit around. Instead it’s nothing that’s nearly so forceful; it’s shrouded in mystery, but not the interesting-leaves-you-wondering-days-after-the-book kind, it’s the oh-you-couldn’t-be-bothered-to-actually-figure-it-out kind. That leaves Josef as the driving force of the book, but the only time he comes to life is when the actually interesting side-characters come back into the book, like the Master of Music. Josef is just a receptacle for the intervention of the other characters. So basically this book is like 800 pages of reading about someone with the personality of a garbage can and about some marbles that aren’t ever really described to you. Good luck.

And, if you honestly DID, enjoy it, for the love of god tell me why, without summarizing the book. If I hear a good enough argument I’ll go back and finish it, but at this point, I have no faith that it gets any better, and I cannot force myself into it.

Read Hesse’s other books, they are much more enjoyable. If you want something to touch your soul read Siddhartha.
Profile Image for Jan-Maat.
1,566 reviews1,894 followers
May 22, 2019
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 game was the symbol of Castalia" (p207)

First Introduction
Since I have had a second introduction it follows that I ought to really have a first one. So here it is.
Because we have a game in the title and playing this game is of some significance in the novel then that might be a place to start. Another review mentioned the possibility that the game was a form of pure mathematics, while reading it occurred to me that it was a way of talking about fiction. A game the reader and author play by themselves and that the author plays with the reader, not all games are equally amusing as one notices. That led to the conclusion that the game was another game - a McGuffin. A thing that serves to get Cary Grant from New York to the middle of a wheat field so somebody can try to machine gun him from an aeroplane because somebody else thought it might look good on celluloid. We simply have to accept it has no greater meaning than to be intrinsically meaningful to the characters even if no machine guns are involved . Or as one of the characters in one of the embedded stories might say "illusion, illusion!"

paragraph about playfulness
We're kind of warned from early on that this is going to be a playful kind of book. The author presents himself merely as the ever so humble editor of a biography written in the future of a fictional person. Then we get an introduction from the 'actual author' who denies the possibly of biography and tells us that we won't tell us about the game before telling us about the game, and who in passing mentions the absence of various sources, before leaping into the story in which the purported author seems to have omniscient knowledge of the imaginary subject of the story. Finally we get some poems and short stories which we understand have been written by the subject of this biography and which thematically stand in some relation to the main text.

so, did I fall off my chair laughing ?

Although I did laugh and once cry while reading the second of the short stories which is my favourite part of the whole book, apart from the ending of the main part of the text.

Further I noted that since the books on their shelf were fairly well compressed that some the pages had a fraternal desire to stay together, and significantly, that I wasn't much troubled by this.

should I read this book ?
I don't much like shoulds, maybe you have read it, maybe you will read it, maybe you won't. To misquote Voltaire - when a rat on one of his Majesty's grain ships dies on the way from Egypt to Constantinople is the Sultan much troubled?
I'm not sure when I first read this book, or why. Rereading I found it uncompelling, but also I had the strong suspicion that I had absorbed a fair amount of the book into myself as thirsty soil sucks in water the first time round, and that I had creatively misremembered bits of it, specifically the second of the short stories which in grossly modified form I had told as a rambling anecdote on several occasions . Perhaps this is no more than to say I was not in the right state of mind to have read this novel at this time, but reading this novel may well prompt or encourage such a way of thinking about the world.

Third introduction, necessitated by the above
Just as Sancho Panza taught that thee is a relationship between the story and the manner in which it is told so we might assume there is a relationship between how you start and how or indeed if you get to finish a tale. One of the themes in this novel is world history, the relationship between a plant and the soil it grows in. Ba! Maybe I first read this book when I was a student. When I was a student, I had no grey hairs, and also it seemed to me that people repeated the image of the ivory tower when talking about universities and the studious life, or maybe I was just more attuned to that kind of speech as the time, to my amusement as I wandered through a variety of jobs and joblessness it struck me that each one was itself an ivory tower with its own God (not always Mammon) hierarchies and Priesthoods, sacred assumptions, peculiar idiocies, and character, admittedly one could regard professions like accountancy and the law as bridges between these towers, providing some helpful common concepts like illegality and bankruptcy, but these too were worlds of their own, journeying between worlds, as occasionally one has to, is like being an astronaut I come in peace! Take me to your leader! Come, be welcome, drink of our corporate tea or coffee, accept one of our cheap biscuits as symbol of our contempt! Whoops I'm lost in reminiscences again. Anyway, from a certain perspective the entire landscape is covered in ivory towers .

What I was going to say, before I interrupted myself, was that this novel was finished in 1943 and imagines an ideal Utopian society, naturally the other side of a utopian society is a dystopian one. And a place that calls itself Castalia, brings to mind Castile, the land of castles, and one has to wonder quite what do they want to lock themselves up away from? What threatens them, why are they so defensive? Indeed reading "Our Castilia is not supposed to be merely an elite; it ought above all to be a hierarchy, a structure in which every brick derives its meaning only from its place in the whole. There is no path leading out of this whole, & one who climbs higher & is assigned to greater & greater tasks does not acquire more freedom, only more & more responsibilities." (p81) I could imagine O'Brien from 1984 saying much the same kind of thing to one of his protégées - but then one of the themes of this book is the reconciliation and interrelationship of apparently contradictory elements!

What I was going to say, before I interrupted myself, was that this novel is a German novel written in what might have been a German century. It is a kind of alternative for Germany, a continuation of Thomas Mann's vaunted unpoliticism at times when politics was pretty unavoidable. Empire, Socialism, War, Cultural upheaval, Fascism, More war . So what do you do, such was part of the soil that Hesse grew in, he knew Theodore Heuss who had been a follower of Max Weber Hesse had been close to C.G.Jung, so there is psychology, the iChing, alchemy, God, spiritual growth . Both Weber and Jung deeply interested in "the east" as offering ways out of the steel cage of the sonderweg of the development of "the west" so this novel features yoga and meditation as well as everything else, Reincarnation might be a theme too. Hesse's utopia is an alternative Germany, federalism has led to a purely academic federal state, probably in the south-west and apparently subsidised by the rest of the Union. The novel plays with the relationships between the master and the apprentice, the teacher and the taught, the seduction or corruption of the young by the old as well as the reconciliation or alignment of apparently opposite elements. An old Imperialist may well have written that 'East is East and West is West and never the twain shall meet'. Hesse is a bit more sensible and admits that once you have east, then you have to have west, and perhaps north and south too, that these things are separate, distinct and an inseparable whole all at the same time and that such a scheme can be carried across to analogous situations, which possibly can be represented in a Game which despite being the title of the book, is never explicitly described. The principal character experiences his Castalia directly, then formally has to address himself to it and argue for it consciously as a utopia, then has to experience it as dystopia, then has to go forth and inherit the earth:"The two tendencies or antipodes of his life, its Yin and Yang, were the conservative tendency towards loyalty, towards unstinting service of the hierarchy on the one hand, and on the other hand the tendency towards 'awakening', towards advancing, towards apprehending reality" (p257). The short stories in which the main character might be imagining other versions of himself, might be arguing that the reconciliation of opposites or the conflicting tugs we experience in life may not be resolvable in one life, but if one could or does live many lives then perhaps on average, they might even out, but one might need a certain set of skills to appreciate that in any one life in particular. Writing and reading novels might be one of those skills.

This exists on the great, sprawling family tree of books, reading I felt there was something I thought that I could mention in a review with regards to Tolstoy, but I can't remember what, the dialogue in the second of the two short stories reminded me, particularly in the childlike nature of much sin, of the Grand Inquisitor in The Brothers Karamazov - another novel that the author claims he didn't write with a supposedly limited narrator who has apparently omniscient knowledge.

But as I said, I didn't fall off my chair laughing.

Notes from reading
Profile Image for David Katzman.
Author 3 books475 followers
May 7, 2019
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 recognize the danger inherent in Trump. The Republican party has been working its gradual gerrymandering way toward authoritarian control for a long time. Right wing becomes more right becomes more right, each step leading to the next. Trump dismisses the rule of law as an irritation that interferes with his goals. He is the latest iteration of a journey into fascism, and if he’s not defeated or removed from office then that journey will continue ever rightward. At the same time, his party sees the environment as a resource to plunder. Global warming is an illusion and nothing to worry about, not while there is money to be made. In their shallow, greedy maneuvers they lead us off a precipice that may in fact be the downfall of civilization and much of our species.

So why do I bring up these topics in relation to The Glass Bead Game? In some ways as brilliantly written and erudite as this book is, it felt quaint to me. It portrays a fictional country in some vague future where the primary concerns are intellectual matters. The types of subjects that I discussed while getting my Master’s degree in English Literature. In essence, The Glass Bead Game is like being in an ahistorical, intellectual grad school program studying The Glass Bead Game. And despite the fact that the greatest majority of the book lives in this intellectual realm. And yet here we live right now in the age of the brute. If literature is to matter it must somehow relate to the core struggles of our age and in that this book misses the mark. Those we struggle against right now are the rich barbarians who pursue ever greater wealth and power. We do not struggle with convincing society’s intellectuals to engage more with humanity. These intellectuals are relatively irrelevant right now. We struggle with political movements, the media, and power. Who is Hesse writing to convince? The professor of comparative literature or philosophy? Is that his audience?

In a nutshell, reading The Glass Bead Game felt like fiddling while Rome burns.

The Glass Bead Game is primarily a fictional biography. The story of the life of a great intellectual scholar, named Joseph Knecht (sounds like “connect” as EM Forrester wrote, “Only connect”), who was a master, teacher and overseer of a game that is called The Glass Bead Game. This game seems to be a bit like…intellectual tennis. A slow, live debate that crosses media from music to linguistics to math and other apolitical studies. The debate is so slow paced that competitors meditate between responses. We never actually see an example game, but it does sounds incredibly tedious and boring. It’s the kind of debate that Monty Python would have mercilessly mocked as they did with skits such as the Philosopher’s World Cup game (Plato is in goal, don’t you know?) and The Philosophers’ Song (I drink therefore I am!). Admittedly, at times, the excessive details of these theoretical intellectuals playing intellectual games became borderline comedic. There were subtle touches of satire in The Glass Bead Game, but the overwhelming story was just so full of these obsessive intellectual thought processes that I found the actual content overwhelmed what may have been a satirical intent. The debates are definitively and intentionally disconnected from history. Notably, Knecht lives for several years in a Catholic monastery, and the abbot of the monastery, who becomes his friend, challenges him on this disconnection from history. Accusing the scholars essentially of living in an abstract inhuman world. Disconnected and unengaged from what really matters.

I found it interesting to note that even when Hesse speaks about the abstract intellectual versus the dirty human realm of politics, he generally references the personal characteristics of leaders and needs of communities or countries vying for power. In this realm he has invented, Hesse has completely obliterated political systems. That is to say, ideologies and systems such as Capitalism, Socialism, Communism, Anarchism. Even while acknowledging the ahistorical nature of Knecht’s commonwealth (positioned as being “post war,”), Hesse has presented the story itself in a strange political vacuum. Trump would not be our President without the promotion of Fox News and other right wing online media outfits. These forces are generally ignored in this story of the intellect versus the body, the life of the mind versus the life of politics.

The Glass Bead Game in a way seems to be about “connection” (Knecht) as a theme, and how the game connects across categories and media. But further, this game is also related to the fantasy of the Renaissance man…that famed personality from the Renaissance who was able to learn everything that has ever been learned about all of the sciences and literature, was well read in every subject, and could speak on any topic extemporaneously. This fantastical creature is now dismissed today as unimaginable because each of the disciplines is so deep that it would take a lifetime to delve into any single topic and still only scratch the surface. Hence all the graduate level departments across the country. But what I actually want to call attention to in this premise is not the fantasy of this conceit, but rather the use of the word “man” in this phrase. There was never a “Renaissance Woman.” And similarly, in The Glass Bead Game, it really began to bother me at about the halfway point that all of these intellectual scholars were male, and that in Hesse’s fantasy, women were not permitted in this exclusive elite world. Women are repeatedly positioned in the story as temptations. They are objects that pull men from their higher aspirations. In general, I found the overall context to be a disappointingly male-dominant perspective. One might call it anti-feminist or at a minimum, Hesse presents a patriarchal system. Marriage is portrayed as the man marrying the woman. The students are generally desexualized, their situation being not unlike a seminary or a monks’ retreat, and there is no mention of homosexuality or any sexual acts.

Despite this criticism there is one very powerful social critique that occurs about three-fourths of the way through the book. When Knecht is considering leaving the scholarly order to pursue engagement with the greater world of humanity, he writes in a letter on the subject of political power (which is rarely referenced in the story because politics is not supposed to intrude into this abstract scholarly world). But here he pointedly and with foresight illuminates our current moment in time. He notes how propaganda is the death of truth and that this results when a political power seeks to assert domination. In just a few short paragraphs, it’s as if he predicates the book 1984 and Donald Trump and the Republican party. Hesse (or Knecht) speaks to the pursuit of truth (which we might think of as meaningful journalism) and how when men fail to pursue truth, they become diabolical (Fox News). Despite my overall distaste for the book, Hesse has his brilliant, insightful and powerful moments.

One aspect of this story that links The Glass Bead Game to Siddhartha, Hesse’s great work that occurs during the time of the Buddha’s life, is the presence of meditation. Meditation is something that the masters of this scholarly world are trained to participate in every day. It is intended as a way to both soothe and calm their anxieties and to keep them productive. In relationship to The Glass Bead Game itself, it’s used as a tool to help them develop insight before responding. It reminded me of the tension between Zen Buddhist meditation, which I participated in frequently when I was a member of a Zen temple, and how meditation is encouraged simply as a stress release tool by hipster Silicon Valley startups. There’s nothing wrong with that in my opinion, and in fact it’s encouraged as a method for stress relief even by many respected Buddhist teachers. And regardless of intention, when properly applied, meditation can be an accidental back door to enlightenment. Meditation is worth doing in and of itself without any ideology associated with it yet because it is a practice it can lead to personal intimate experiences. In The Glass Bead Game, we see it primarily as a tool that is almost the opposite of the way Buddha would suggest it. The scholarly masters describe it as a way to submit your individuality to the hierarchy. Whereas Buddha would say there is no hierarchy.

I will conclude my review by touching on my own experience with graduate school. I loved English Literature as an undergrad. We read great books and discussed them as if they were meaningful. Weighing what the author was trying to say and what the story was trying to communicate. When I was in graduate school, 99% of my time was spent instead on analyzing critical theory. We were theory analysts rather than literary analysts. It was a snake eating its own tail. An incestuous world of meaningless jargon. Not only was Knecht trapped in this scholarly abstraction, but I felt that too much of The Glass Bead Game kept me, as a reader, trapped in this abstract intellectual realm. My escape couldn’t come too soon.
Profile Image for Mike.
61 reviews46 followers
May 4, 2023
The Glass Bead Game. I will never forget my experience of reading this book for the first time. To call it "5 star" or "brilliant" is not enough. No way. It's my contention that this book is quite special and holds incredible value for a reader.

Even among the first 30 pages or so, when I was simply curious about what this Glass Bead Game was all about, it became clear to me that this book, this story, this information, was going to be a reading experience like no other.

So, what is this game?

"...All the insights, noble thoughts, and works of art that the human race has produced in its creative eras, all that subsequent periods of scholarly study have reduced to concepts and converted into intellectual property—on all this immense body of intellectual values the Glass Bead Game player plays like the organist on an organ..."

I re-read it about two months later. Like a really good film, I was able to appreciate so much more and take away certain parts with a clearer understanding.

The plan is to read it one more time. The third read is to lock it in as a new book on my favorites shelf.

Thanks for stopping by and reading my feedback - hope everyone is having a blast right now.
Profile Image for Luís.
1,949 reviews615 followers
January 28, 2023
The Glass Bead Game (1943) is the ultimate work of Hermann Hesse, who took nearly ten years to complete. Perhaps this is why a large part of the novel escaped me. Too much. Too esoteric. Reading the Glass Beads Game was a torment as this book is so wordy and repetitive.
However, I got attached to this real false biography of Joseph Valet, a talented student, then a distinguished member of the Order of Castalia, a fictitious intellectual elite whose goal is to learn universal knowledge. This spirit of synthesis of science expresses through the game of glass beads, in which the participants combine music, mathematics, poetry, and philosophy.
The author takes up the themes developed in these previous novels: Self-realization, the opposition between Nature and Culture, sensuality, and spirituality (p.172). Hindu and Nietzschean philosophy, the myth of the eternal return (p.420). The emptiness of intellectual work for those who dedicate their existence to austere studies.
The book ends with three short stories that Joseph Valet would have written. This fact is the part that I preferred; the reader will find their ancient philosophical tales in the manner of Siddharta.
Obviously, behind its complexity, the game of glass beads hides multiple messages and, above all, an uncompromising critique of twentieth-century society, its wars, its ignorance, and its loss of values ​​at a time of the rise of totalitarianism.
Profile Image for Chloe.
350 reviews554 followers
March 12, 2008
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 be this one, I had been told. No offense to those earnest recommendations, but I could have gone a long time without reading this dull retread of every one of Hesse's other books.

So many of the same character types and situations appear in these pages that I can't help but feel I'm reading a Cliff's Notes version of his oeuvre. The strangely passionate yet platonic love affair of minds between an elder scholar and an impetuous youth a la Narcissus & Goldmund? Check. The intense friendship between two geniuses; one sheltered and naive, the other worldly and brash like those in Demian? They're here too. A Westernized attempt to understand the mysticism and philosophical underpinnings of Eastern religions a la Siddhartha and Journey to the East? Oh yes, they too are here.

This repetition in itself does not make The Glass Bead Game unappealing. Stretching these themes over some 400+ pages in Hesse's typically dense prose does. This isn't a bad book and might actually be a good one. But coming into it expecting something unique would be a mistake. This has all been written before, and far more engagingly.
August 30, 2015
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 understanding. His own truth. One ground and distilled from a life of thought. But the voice wavers at times as the story foretold has a waver of its own.

Joseph Knecht is selected as a student of promise. As his achievements are recognized, much to his surprise and glee, he is selected to the highest consecration of the intellectually elite, Castalia. Supported by the government those enrolled or encumbered in Castalia have in some way sworn to dedicate themselves to maintaining its well ordered hierarchy. The hierarchy supplies Castalia with serenity, a static but comfortable stability, built to prevent any disordered flow of disruptive emotion while dedicated to a life of contemplation, research, study of any subject worthy of intellectual exploration.

Is there any other of us who earlier in life didn’t wonder, can’t I just get paid for thinking? Reading? Come on, there must be somebody else. Do I see a hand raised?

Joseph Knecht enjoyed learning for learnings sake. Due to this, his steadfastness, lack of any ambition where it came to a rise in status, was hauled upwards into the higher brackets of the hierarchy where his tasks were no longer oriented around his passionate love for teaching, teaching especially the young. As he left his friends behind in the world when he left for Castalia he now left his beloved profession. Of course he dedicated himself to his new duties, gradually rising to a position so lofty it can barely be discerned by the outside world, in its abstract ether; Magister Ludi. The Magister (Master) of the Glass Beads Game. The holy trinity exalted into blends of knowledge, philosophical thought, aesthetic creation, their intertwining, interweaving into the multitude of countless interstices. The games as drawn up in competition are archived. Abundant and frequently referred to, they are held with reverence. The Glass Bead games not only singles out the best players but insures the continous enlargement of consciousness, wisdom, knowledge.

The world wonders, as the intellectual elite of Castalia expects, what good is pure intellectual pursuit for the sake of pure intellectual pursuit? Castlia is repulsed by the sordid life of the working class with their lack of curiosity, non-questioning obeisance to the trifles of meaningless conventions and dully repeated jokes; their ant-like drive to follow whoever is in front of them in the long endless moving line to avoid any flint of individuality lurking around dark corners in danger of being lit.

Castalia readily points out, in the current twenty third century, it was properly born from the previous years of conflict and destruction evolving into a means of avoiding such an occurrence. Indeed there has not been.

Knecht himself isn’t positive what the connection is or if there is one. He and his colleagues, in their monk-like quasi religious life, having sacrificed any iota left of individuality to the order, preserving the knowledge of what to do and how to behave in all circumstances, the comfort of effacing stability, also follow what they are told. However, with the stamp of elite buried in their brow they are held and hold themselves in a higher status.

Do they contribute except for responses to papers written and studies summarized within their hallowed halls? The resounding answer within these halls is, of course we do. The pure pursuit of truth is always elevated to the highest. Besides, dealing with life in the world is a lower pursuit and one not worthy of following. Understanding that the world and its production enables Castalia to exist, does not alter their view. The world with its bustling jobs based on fear and ambition thinks the same of Castalia.

And where is Knecht?

Hesse’s skill as a novelist is shown in his ability to dramatize this rather than lecturing. The dramatization is furthered by attention to detail and the apt planting of narrative seeds barely recognized at first, then the enjoyment of its first lucid buds and flowerings thereafter.

Ha! The more I write the more there is to be said in this glass bead game of my own that I have created and fallen into. Let it be said this was Hesse’s last novel and its ending is immense. It was an honor to be in The Glass Beads Game presence, in the presence of Hesse.
Profile Image for أحمد أبازيد Ahmad Abazeid.
351 reviews2,077 followers
July 20, 2012
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 ��لمختلفة ... و هنا عبقريّة الرواية و فكرتها المذهلة
الحقيقة الواحدة
لعبة الكريات الزجاجيّة , هي لعبة ابتكرتها الموسيقى , ثمّ عبّر بها الرياضيّون عن أنفسهم ثمّ الفيزيائيّون ثمّ نقّاد الأدب ... ثمّ العلوم كلّها
كلّ المجالات و الحقول المختلفة ذات القوانين و البديهيّات و المنطق المختلف , تنسجم و تعبّر عن نفسِها في هذه اللعبة , لأنّ ثمّة قانوناً كليّة وراء الأشياء , يمكن أن يُعبّر به عنها جميعاً , و بالاحتمالات اللامتناهية لكلّ حقلٍ , و بتفاصيله و دقائقه , و لها مختصّون و مدارس و أساتذة و مسابقات , و يفد إليها المريدون من كلّ مكان , و يعتبر أهلُها أنّهم نخبةُ الأرض التي تحمل الحقيقة .
و هي لعبةٌ تعتمد على التأمّل ... لتحفيز النفس على اكتشاف الحقيقة و اليقين في القلب .
إنّها دين ...
و يسبغ هيرمان هيسه على هذه اللعبة و روّادها صبغة واقعيّة مقنعة , فثمّة في المجتمع من يعتبرها مجرّد لهو رخيص , وثمّة من يعتبر المنشغلين بها مجموعة جهلة مخادعين , و ثمّة من يراهم سحرة , و ثمّة من يتعلّم منهم و يرسل أولاده ليصبحوا مميّزين إليهم .
و لا يغفل هيرمان هيسه أن يرسل الكثير من الإشارات و النقد للواقع الاجتماعي السياسي في زمانه بلفتات و تلميحات ذكيّة .
كما أنّ تحليل للموسيقى الغربيّة و المقارنة بينها ساهمت في رفع قيمة الرواية كثيراً لدى النخبة الأوروبيّة , ما قد لا نعير هاهتماماً كثيراً في الترحمة العربيّة .
كما أنّ تحليله للنفس الإنسانيّة و تصويره للحالات الاستثنائيّة منها , و الكثير من الحكم المرتبطة بها و بالعلاقات بين البشر , و بالأخصّ - و هذه مهمّ و رئيسي- سايكولوجيا المنظومات الشموليّة المغلقة , التي تتبدّى معرفيّا هنا في مدرسة الكريات الزجاجيّة , هذا كلّه كان ذكيّاً
طبعاً الرواية لا تخلو من أن تكون مملّة في كثير من الأحيان , و من قال إنّ كلّ فكرةٍ ذكيّة يجب أن تكون روايتها ممتعة ؟!
Profile Image for Elenabot.
39 reviews458 followers
August 20, 2017
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 in which this society has deposited for safe-keeping all the greatest values of the spirit in a hermetically-sealed harmony immune from the ravages of worldly change. Isolation from life is intended to safeguard Castalia's status as a radiant Ark that can secure the continued existence of these supreme values of human life, transporting them unharmed and untainted across the darkness of historic flux.

“Each of us is merely one human being, merely an experiment, a way station. But each of us should be on the way toward perfection, should be striving to reach the center, not the periphery.”

In Castalia's network of serene alleys, one finds a perfect reflection of the garden of symbols that is one's own mind. The goal of Castalia is to give concrete expression to the unity of the mind in all its manifold manifestations. Every province of the mind finds its concrete expression here, from the arts, to mathematics, to the contemplative disciplines, to the most recondite special sciences. One can feel fully at home in this environment. A cross between a Platonic academy and a Zen monastery, this is a place in which the entire structure of the mind finds its fullest expression by being concretized in actual institutions. Life here is placed entirely in the service of the mind. Here, life exists merely to fuel the progressive unfolding of mind's capacity for the ever-progressing elaboration of existence into form. The consummation of life, and Castalia's ultimate goal, is a supreme formalism that can encompass the essence of life, thereby containing it in a supreme super-structure.

This formalism is expressed in the Glass Bead Game. It realizes Leibniz's dream of a universal language (or characteristica universalis), which, he thought, once attained, would bring us to the consummation of the philosophical quest: a universal science. The goal of the Game is to lead us to the great Terminus of all seeking, a universal system "capable of reproducing in
the Game the entire intellectual content of the universe.”

“These rules, the sign language and grammar of the Game, constitute a kind of highly developed secret language drawing upon several sciences and arts, but especially mathematics and music (and/or musicology), and capable of expressing and establishing interrelationships between the content and conclusions of nearly all scholarly disciplines. The Glass Bead Game is thus a mode of playing with the total contents and values of our culture; it plays with them as, say, in the great age of the arts a painter might have played with the colours on his palette.”

Imagine having a universal language that can express the manifold content of all provinces of knowledge and experience according to a single unifying logic. This would make Chomsky's dream of a universal grammar pale in comparison. The Glass Bead Game is a language that can reduce to a single logico-grammatical plane a motif from classical Indian music and a mathematical formula, the structure of the future perfect tense and the biological structure of a rhizome, a cosmogonic myth and a logical proof. Hesse puts before us this dream of dreams, the possession of a language of thought that would give us the symbolic tools with which we could at last compare every possible datum of human experience, so that we could see what the myth and the logical proof can say to each other, and how the structure of a leaf is like a symphony and like a mathematical model.

It is like Babel undone, the reduction of all universes of discourse to one meta-discourse, offering us a genuine basis for the comparison of all meanings accessible to the mind. The closest philosophic vision to Hesse's Castalia that I can think of is Cassirer's philosophy of symbolic forms, which similarly seeks to express the unity of human knowledge into a single philosophical language.

It is, by the way, significant that music and meditation have such a prominent place in this scheme. Musical form reflects the Romantic side of cognitive form, and reflects Goethe's contribution:

“Perfect music has its cause. It arises from equilibrium. Equilibrium arises from righteousness, and righteousness arises from the meaning of the cosmos. Therefore one can speak about music only with a man who has perceived the meaning of the cosmos.”

Music reflects the level of a more immediate engagement with the world than does either mathematical or logical form. Hesse's universal language manages to bring even the seemingly formless domain of music into dialogue with the most formal of disciplines, like mathematics, and to reveal their relations as parts of a larger systematic whole. Music has to do with establishing a relationship with the world characterized by equilibrium. Music expresses the unity in difference that characterizes the realized mind. In this symbolic universe, Hesse tells us, music comes closest to disclosing the form of the real.

And the emphasis on meditation expresses Hesse's effort to reconcile East and West, Plato and Buddha. He seems to have struggled his entire life to form a philosophical outlook that placed these two cultural traditions in dialogue, such that each could comment on the significance of the other. Meditation is the ground of intellection in his Castalia; it unlocks the true meaning of cognitive form. In this, Hesse shows a remarkable understanding of the nature of form: only through a meditative act can scholars here fully reveal the content of symbolic forms:

“everything actually was all-meaningful, that every symbol and combination of symbols led not hither and yon, not to single examples, experiments, and proofs, but into the center, the mystery and innermost heart of the world, into primal knowledge. Every transition from major to minor in a sonata, every transformation of a myth or a religious cult, every classical or artistic formulation was, I realized in that flashing moment, if seen with a truly meditative mind, nothing but a direct route into the interior of the cosmic mystery, where in the alternation between inhaling and exhaling, between heaven and earth, between Yin and Yang, holiness is forever being created.”

Everything is all-meaningful, everything can be interpreted. This is a language that can express the entirety of our capacity for deriving meaning out of experience, and does so in such a way as to lead us to the central mystery: our “primal knowledge,” our latent and unrealized awareness of the “innermost heart of the world.”

The one thing that in this luminous structure remains a bit of an outlier is, significantly, history. History is hard to integrate into this shimmering edifice of Castlian symbolic-play because it consistently gestures beyond this serene, unperturbed province to the larger, dark continent of life that it is part of. It keeps pointing to the connection between the two, and to Castalia's paradoxical need for that messy, trouble, war-torn world. It is significant that the work was conceived in the nightmarish period leading up to, and culminating in, World War 2 (the first attempt at publication being 1943). This is more than historical coincidence; Hesse's narrative continually gestures to this historic background, and to a fundamental escapist motive, as the source of Castalia. It turns out that this lotus could only bloom from the dark flux of historic muck. The horror of the war is, ironically, an integral part of the significance of the beautiful Game of symbols.

Historical awareness is what ultimately awakens Knecht's ethical consciousness, sending him to turn his back on Castalia and return to the world to serve it. Through this sacrificial renunciation of his calling, Knecht the servant resembles Nietzsche's Zarathustra and the Buddha, both of whom had to leave the clear beauty of the heights in order to return to the uncaring world in order to offer it their unwanted service. His ultimate sacrifice for his one pupil at the end shows the last word of wisdom: wordless sacrifice in the service of life's inscrutable progress.

For a long time I have puzzled over Hesse's choice to conclude this novel with three fictional autobiographies written by Knecht in his school days. They symbolize Knecht's attempt to project himself into different historical periods, to really enter into the life of mind as it transpired in other times. One can see the pedagogical point: until we, too, do the same, we do not understand ourselves. History holds the key to our story. It is by transporting ourselves into other times that we can really discern where we are, the shape of our horizons, through an act of comparison.

But why these three lives... After ten years, I still don't have an answer. The most moving, to me, was the first, which is Knecht's attempt to transport himself into the mind of the earliest humans, as a rain maker. The rain maker represents the wisdom of primary, pre-symbolic (or minimally-symbolized and differentiated) experience. For him, there was no differentiation between self and world, nature and soul. Reality was perfectly contained in the totality of experience. “Everything was reality, was steeped in reality, full of it as bread dough is of yeast.” He represents the experiential ground of the unity of the whole edifice of mind:

“He read the veinings of a leaf, the pattern on a mushroom cap, and divined mysteries, relations, futures, possibilities: the magic of symbols, the foreshadowing of numbers and writing, the reduction of infinitudes and multiplicities to simplicity, to system, to concept. For all these ways of comprehending the world through the mind no doubt lay within him, nameless, unnamed, but not inconceivable, not beyond the bounds of presentiment, still in the germ, but essential to his nature, part of him, growing organically within him. And if we were to go still further back beyond this Rainmaker and his time which to us seems so early and primitive, if we were to go several thousand years further back into the past, wherever we found man we would still find - this is our firm belief - the mind of man, that mind which has no beginning and always has contained everything that it later produces.”

But the unity of the mind runs deeper still:

“...the Master and the boy followed each other as if drawn along the wires of some mechanism, until soon it could no longer be discerned which was coming and which going, which following and which leading, the old or the young man. Now it seemed to be the young man who showed honour and obedience to the old man, to authority and dignity; now again it was apparently the old man who was required to follow, serve, worship the figure of youth, of beginning, of mirth. And as he watched this at once senseless and significant dream circle, the dreamer felt alternately identical with the old man and the boy, now revering and now revered, now leading, now obeying; and in the course of these pendulum shifts there came a moment in which he was both, was simultaneously Master and small pupil; or rather he stood above both, was the instigator, conceiver, operator, and onlooker of the cycle, this futile spinning race between age and youth.”

This passage expresses, I think, the essence of the Upanishads, the intuition of the supreme identity of Atman, the deepest locus of unity, the source and goal of wisdom. The relationship between the boy and the master, their cyclical change of roles, and their ultimate identity, is Atman. Such recurring passages throughout the work give glimpses into a level of insight that is of no use to Castalian inquiry. They suggest that from the very beginnings of culture, this primal ground of insight was available to us, and that it remains with us unaltered even in the highly sophisticated intellectual culture of Castalia. This order of insight connects us to the deepest past and to the remotest future, being something no education can give (though it can perhaps take it away). Hesse, having learned from Eastern philosophy, is very sensitive to all the domains of wisdom that cannot possibly receive symbolic representation, even in the perfect formalism, the meta-language of the Game.

What is the point of telling the story about the labyrinth of mind? For many years, I thought Knecht's leaving Castalia was anticlimactic. I couldn't get why he would leave, expecting, as he did, so little from the world. He had the promise of making his life a perfect unity in that reclusive world. He left that meaning and unity behind in order to commit himself to the dark flux of the world, and, in the end, to be destroyed by it. It seems his leaving is a jarring break in the unity of the work. We cannot follow him where he goes, or discern any meaning to his ultimate sacrifice.

But now I think that IS Hesse's point: this is Hesse's movement from a purely theoretical, to a moral existence. And moral action often shows no overt consummation; often the sacrifice seems to have no discernible point. Perhaps it is with this meaningless act that Knecht finally grasped “the meaning.”

“To stiffen into stone, to persevere!
We long forever for the right to stay.
But all that stays with us is fear,
And we shall never rest upon our way.”
Profile Image for John.
19 reviews2 followers
January 10, 2008
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 areas of learning, though its origins lay in music theory. The Castalian Order is a monastic like society whose one goal is to learn. They produce no real products of worth outside of teachers for the outside society. Knecht, with his bright intellect and the guiding hand of the Music Master (a seemingly futuristic Buddhist), rises to become the Magister of this game and arguably the best that ever was. The book deals with ideas of spiritualism, elitism, intellectualism, and how best to deal with the problems of society. I recommend this book for fans of Bildungsromans, Hesse and those that have toyed with Buddhism. Though if you are a bit bored and wanna pick up a 800 page book to see what it is like, go for it!
Profile Image for Mundy Reimer.
49 reviews27 followers
January 20, 2022
TL;DR - 9/10, One of my new all-time fav books! For philosophical scholarly types, thoughtful aesthetes, anybody in academia, and perhaps even spiritually-adjacent folk. Non-traditional narrative structure lacking action / fictional historical biography. Discusses the external-oriented life of action vs. the inward-oriented life of mind and pursuit of truth & beauty, whether one lives as a part of history or apart from it, the nature of self-directed growth vs. that of losing one's individuality as part of something greater, and more. Finally, it features the super awesome *Glass Bead Game* which seeks to unify all fields into a single discipline of study / artistic mode of expression.

"These rules, the sign language and grammar of the Game, constitute a kind of highly developed secret language drawing upon several sciences and arts, but especially mathematics and music...capable of expressing and establishing interrelationships between the content and conclusions of nearly all scholarly disciplines. The Glass Bead Game is thus a mode of playing with the total contents and values of our culture; it plays with them as, say, in the great age of the arts a painter might have played with the colors on his palette. All the insights, noble thoughts, and works of art that the human race has produced in its creative eras, all that subsequent periods of scholarly study have reduced to concepts and converted into intellectual property on all this immense body of intellectual values the Glass Bead Game player plays like the organist on an organ. And this organ has attained an almost unimaginable perfection; its manuals and pedals range over the entire intellectual cosmos; its stops are almost beyond number. Theoretically this instrument is capable of reproducing in the Game the entire intellectual content of the universe."

Our story is primarily written from the perspective of 25th-century historians looking back at an undefined past period and chronicling the life of our main character, Joseph Knecht. His life takes place many years after major wars ravaged Europe. These events slowly led to the development of a fictional province, Castalia, separated from the world around it, reserved for a monk-like but secular community of scholars whose primary goal is to live the life of the mind without much regard for politics, economics, or technological advancement. Central to this motivation and their order is the preservation and synthesis of all arts, sciences, & humanities. To pursue this, they have systematically incorporated many fields of study into a single discipline and medium of expression that forms the core of their order and aesthetic worship, The Glass Bead Game.

This novel starts off with an introduction to the origins and development of The Game. Like many artifacts of mankind, the foundations of The Game have been shaped by the particular historical trajectory of the zeitgeist & cultural womb that birthed it. A significant section of the novel is devoted to critiquing a prior period called The Age of Feuilleton (from which we might agree that this represents a critique of our culture in Hesse's time). This era was marked by an incredible degree of intellectual freedom and unfettered growth of what we might call a culture of opinions, trends, and disconnected hyper-specialized trivia, an "era emphatically bourgeois" and superficial information consumption. From Hesse:

"We must confess that we cannot provide an unequivocal definition of those products from which the age takes its name, the feuilletons. They seem to have formed an uncommonly popular section of the daily newspapers, were produced by the millions, and were a major source of mental pabulum for the reader in want of culture. They reported on, or rather "chatted" about, a thousand-and-one items of knowledge."

"A torrent of zealous scribbling poured out over every ephemeral incident, and in quality, assortment, and phraseology all this material bore the mark of mass goods rapidly and irresponsibly turned out."

The historians of the future further comment on their surprise at not only how people seemed to devour this chit-chat for their daily reading, but actually thought it was what constituted the standard educational diet of a good citizen, with all that mattered was to link a well-known name to a current topic of interest.

Perhaps more surprisingly, this was not only limited to a critique of the average person on the streets, but also the large number of intellectuals that helped produce content for this machine, as well as those younger people and supposed educated class where entertaining or impassioned lectures were consumed and distilled into one or two catchwords with an accompanying picture (memes anyone?) based on works they'll probably never read. Hesse explains:

"The life of the mind in the Age of the Feuilleton might be compared to a degenerate plant which was squandering its strength in excessive vegetative growth, and the subsequent corrections to pruning the plant back to the roots. The young people...attending a university and taking a nibble of this or that from the dainties offered by celebrated and loquacious professors who without authority offered them the crumbs of what had once been higher education."

Furthermore, this critique by future historians seems to take on an almost moralistic angle of spiritual corruption in that these people were engaging in all of this in hopes of serving as a temporary salve to their existential dread, spasmodically moving through life with no real belief in a tomorrow.

And after a combination of destructive wars and the above, it is here where Hesse's future historians explain the cultural turn towards creating the secular (but still religious in its very uniquely aesthetic way), Castalian Order. An order that cultivates a drive for deep knowledge that cuts across arbitrary disciplinary lines and hints at something more fundamental, lasting, and greater than the empty and dry, fact-based husk of the previous culture, a cultivation of personal meaning and the sense of one's place in the grand arc of the universe. A very Platonistic weaving of ethics, beauty, and truth. In fact, it's interesting to note that Castalia references the mythological Greek naiad-nymph who transformed herself into a fountain at Delphi. And that drinking from the waters of her fountain was not only a rite among the contestants in the Pythian Games where fitness, music, poetry, and painting were celebrated, but also a sacred part of the Delphic Oracles who gave prophecies in the form of poetic dactylic hexameters, all of which seem to hold sacred some sort of pursuit of Truth.

At a very superficial level, this combination of pious monastic-life, knowledge curation, and artistic expression reminds me of other works of fiction like Anathem by Stephenson, or A Canticle for Leibowitz by Miller, and delightful aesthetic vibes with the animated film The Secret of Kells. And the slightly magical bildungsroman element certainly reminds me of the young protagonist in Le Guin's children fantasy novel, A Wizard of Earthsea, growing up and learning the secrets of the Language that governs the world and how ultimately he must seek his own spiritual balance within it.

Like most people, the almost mystical descriptions of The Glass Bead Game are what initially drew me into the book. Hesse explains how the development of The Game grew from a combination of this previous moral bankruptcy and isolated communities of knowledge, and how some dreamed of a new universal language of communication, cutting across all the sciences, humanities, and arts. Here we can see real-life parallels to both C.P. Snow's famous work, The Two Cultures, where he decries the split between the sciences and the humanities and the consequent detriment to society, in addition to Gottfried Leibniz's Characteristica Universalis, in which he sought to represent all forms of knowledge in common symbolism, to which one could eventually calculate on and resolve all disputes with his Calculus Ratiocinator. From Hesse:

"Some dreamed of a new alphabet, a new language of symbols through which they could formulate and exchange their new intellectual experiences…

Such a language...should be able to express the most complex matters graphically, without excluding individual imagination and inventiveness, in such a way as to be understandable to all the scholars of the world"

The historians go on to describe the humble origins of The Game:

"...the pupils at the Cologne Seminary had a rather elaborate game they used to play. One would call out, in the standardized abbreviations of their science, motifs or initial bars of classical compositions, whereupon the other had to respond with the continuation of the piece, or better still with a higher or lower voice, a contrasting theme, and so forth. It was an exercise in memory and improvisation quite similar to the sort of thing probably in vogue among ardent pupils of counterpoint in the days of Schütz, Pachelbel, and Bach—although it would then not have been done in theoretical formulas, but in practice on the cembalo, lute, or flute, or with the voice."

And that this one musician in particular,

"...was adept at playing the violin in the old way, forgotten since 1800, with a high-arched bow and hand-regulated tension of the bow hairs. Given these interests, it was perhaps only natural that he should have constructed a frame, modeled on a child’s abacus, a frame with several dozen wires on which could be strung glass beads of various sizes, shapes, and colors. The wires corresponded to the lines of the musical staff, the beads to the time-values of the notes, and so on. In this way he could represent with beads musical quotations or invented themes, could alter, transpose, and develop them, change them and set them in counterpoint to one another. In technical terms this was a mere plaything, but the pupils liked it...For a time the game of musical exercises was played in this charmingly primitive manner. And as is so often the case, an enduring and significant institution received its name from a passing and incidental circumstance. For what later evolved out of that students’ sport and Perrot’s bead-strung wires bears to this day the name by which it became popularly known, The Glass Bead Game."

From here we witness its popularity shifting from music students to mathematicians, bringing the game a high degree of flexibility and possibility. Once this was achieved we begin to see players showing up from various disciplines and casting their own field into the language of the mathemusical game, eventually abstracting the physical glass beads into a symbolic, calligraphic language of icons, incorporating linguistics and classical philology, astronomy and physics, architecture, the visual arts, and so on, such that one can start from a particular musical piece, connect it with a psychological analysis of poetry from a particular historical figure, and then use the underlying patterns to predict the motion of the stars.

Because of its pursuit of an underlying singular Truth to all things and multiplicities within itself, more pious thinkers began to associate it with an achievement of perfection, pure being, and fullness of reality, and "[t]hus, 'realizing' was a favorite expression among the players", beginning to incorporate practices of absolute absorption and meditation into the game, such that it was less like a competitive game in the traditional sense of the term, and more like a playful exercise of personal reflection. This last part calls to mind a particular perspective in mathematics known as Game Semantics where we can re-interpret things like mathematical proofs (and by the Curry-Howard Isomorphism programs too) as a game resembling a Socratic dialogue or exchange of information.

This connection between the pursuit of Truth with the expression of Beauty clearly has Pythagorean and Platonistic influences, especially with the whole melding of mathematics and music. And despite opposition by certain philosophers and scientists that generally fall under Korzybski's 'The Map is not the Territory', the significance of these 'Beauty=Truth=Good' ideas have echoed and reverberated many times throughout history, taking the form of Voltaire's Candide, Kepler's Harmonices Mundi, Occam's Razor / Law of Parsimony of 'simplicity is best', and numerous instantiations of the general Variational Principle throughout physics. From the Castalian monks:

"With us scholarship, which is the cult of truth, is chiefly allied also with the cult of the beautiful, and also with the practice of spiritual refreshment by meditation."

And because of this, these same real-life disputes between the Aristotelians vs. Platonists, the Empiricists vs. Rationalists, and even the famous paper by Wigner on The Unreasonable Effectiveness of Mathematics in the Natural Sciences arise on whether The Glass Bead Game can really capture all of reality or is it just pure navel-gazing insular introspection of a language talking about itself. You can see this philosophical disagreement being played out between Knecht's mentors:

"Once Knecht confessed to his teacher that he wished to learn enough to be able to incorporate the system of I Ching into the Glass Bead Game. Elder Brother laughed. ‘Go ahead and try,’ he exclaimed. ‘You’ll see how it turns out. Anyone can create a pretty little bamboo garden in the world. But I doubt that the gardener would succeed in incorporating the world in his bamboo grove.'"


"Should we be mindful of dreams?" Joseph asked. "Can we interpret them?"

The Master looked into his eyes and said tersely: "We should be mindful of everything, for we can interpret everything."

With all that said, there are many more ideas this novel touches upon. The culture of ivory tower academia and whether it stands apart from or is embedded within society, the nature of mentorship, the value of neurodiversity and the dance between seemingly contradictory philosophies, the extinguishing of the self as one becomes subsumed within a hierarchy, and many other topics.

Lastly, if you are like me and enjoy thematically pairing up your fictional reads with concurrent non-fictional material for a richer experience, I read this book alongside Rothstein's Emblems of the Mind + Tymoczko's A Geometry of Music. Another decent book would be Mazzola's The Topos of Music. Mazzola has an excellent article of his own discussing The Glass Bead Game and its connections to Category Theoretic ideas (moving beads along string diagrams anyone?), and whose theories are also addressed by the same Tymoczko above. Small world!


I'm honestly wondering why I haven't come across this book much sooner, since this simply resonates with my soul. I immediately fell in love with it from just the first 30 or so pages, and it's now ranked as one of my all-time favorite books. Special thanks to my friends Max Krieger + Prathyush from this charming interdisciplinary Discord group based on the "the aesthetics of formal things" for calling my attention to this.

So why the 9/10 rating? I expect most readers will find the cadence tedious, with the slow and non-action-based plot leading to an abrupt ending, followed by poems, and then concluding with 3 short stories. I personally would've chosen a meta-artistic route mirroring the book's themes, incorporating the poems + short stories within the bulk of the book rather than appending them to the end, similar in style to my all-time favorite book, Gödel, Escher, Bach by Hofstadter, or maybe even Cloud Atlas by Mitchell. I would then tastefully & playfully incorporate some classical music🎶, calligraphy🕉️, poetry📚, I Ching symbolism🥢, and mathematics❄️ throughout the novel. I think something like this would have made Hesse's novel feel more cohesive and integrated in delicious logical-poetic knots of self-reference, very similar to a Glass Bead Game composition being played out, allowing Hesse's novel to paint nuanced emotional strokes to artistic depths :)

"In the psychological Game...the object was to create unity and harmony, cosmic roundedness and perfection, not so much in the choice, arrangement, interweaving, association, and contrast of the contents as in the meditation which followed every stage of the Game.

“The Game as I conceive it...encompasses the player after the completion of meditation as the surface of a sphere encompasses its center, and leaves him with the feeling that he has extracted from the universe of accident and confusion a totally symmetrical and harmonious cosmos, and absorbed it into himself."
Profile Image for Syl Sabastian.
Author 7 books79 followers
March 14, 2018
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 lived up to it billing.
Profile Image for Manny.
Author 30 books14k followers
February 6, 2009
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 all of them? Are there any other reasonable alternatives? Personally, I rather like the "pure mathematics" account.

Profile Image for Stela.
948 reviews355 followers
March 10, 2021
Am citit pentru prima dată Jocul cu mărgele de sticlă în liceu, inițial doar pentru că era lectură obligatorie la disciplina Literatura universală, ca să-mi lase în cele din urmă (ca și Un veac de singurătate, citită tot atunci și în același context), o impresie atît de puternică încît și după treizeci de ani, deși îmi aminteam doar în linii mari despre ce era vorba în roman, o consideram capodopera lui Hermann Hesse. E drept, pe vremea aceea eram obsedată de sincretisme, de sinteze și de conexiuni culturale, de formule magice care să-mi permită navigarea simultană pe planuri cît mai diverse, așa că ideea unificării artelor și a științelor într-o viziune globală, independentă de jugul istoriei cu diacronismele ei enervante, mi se părea grandioasă.

Trei decenii mai tîrziu, închid din nou cartea ușor dezamăgită de astă dată de caracterul ei prea hibrid, de tonul excesiv didactic care nu o lasă să fie cu adevărat nici un bildungsroman, nici un roman de idei, nici un roman alegoric, nici utopic sau/ și distopic, deși, avînd cîte puțin din toate, pare la un moment-dat că e gata să le ofere generos cititorului in nuce. E adevărat, am regăsit magia vocii narative din Siddhartha , Demian , sau Lupul de stepă, dar nu și titanica încleștare psihologică din care s-au înălțat glorioșii eroi plecați în căutarea cunoașterii, dintre care cel mai fascinant rămâne, pentru mine, Emil Sinclair.

În excelenta sa Prefață, Ion Roman e de părere că Hesse și-a propus să scrie „o biografie pură, o biografie spirituală” a unui erou desprins de lumea materială, evoluînd doar în planul ideilor și că această inițiativă destul de riscantă din punct de vedere literar (Anii de drumeție ai lui Wilhelm Meister a lui Goethe, de exemplu, deși l-a influențat pe autor, rămîne o operă pedagogică seacă) îi reușește totuşi. Nu contest adevărul acestei afirmații, dar, în ciuda modernității construcției narative și a farmecului discret al eroului, Josef Knecht rămâne pentru mine doar un Demian rarefiat, în timp ce Plinio nu e decît un Emil oprit în mijlocul drumului.

După mine, cea mai interesantă din punct de vedere literar, anticipînd neașteptat postmodernismul este, cum spuneam și mai sus, construcția narativă, care combină mai multe tehnici și stiluri (biografic, epistolar, poetic, fantastic, pseudo-SF etc.) pe mai multe voci: vocea biografică a primului narator, vocea auctorială a eroului (în poezii și ca al treilea narator al propriilor biografii) și vocea omniscientă și colectivă de făuritor de mituri a celui de-al doilea narator din „Legenda” care încheie biografia lui Josef Knecht.

Romanul se deschide cu o Introducere, în care o voce din viitor (Hesse a sugerat undeva că ar fi vorba de secolul al XXV-lea), anunță că intenționează să prezinte viața lui Josef Knecht, magister ludi, figură între legendă si realitate care a jucat un rol important în modernizarea și consolidarea provinciei Castalia. Cu acest prilej naratorul anonim (anonim pentru că, așa cum o precizează el însuși, de multă vreme individualitatea și ierarhiile au fost desființate de societatea în care trăiește) face un scurt istoric al Provinciei și al jocului cu mărgele de sticlă. Însuși faptul că această incursiune în trecut i se pare relevantă va căpăta semnificații pentru cititor atunci cînd va afla că pe vremea lui Knecht istoria era considerată o disciplină neimportantă și oarecum vulgară, fiind încă un argument cu privire la impactul profund pe care l-a avut eroul asupra viitorului Provinciei.

Ca o paranteză, mi s-a părut foarte apropriată denumirea de „epocă foiletonistică” dată secolului al XX-lea (și de a cărei realitate nici secolul nostru nu e cu totul străin) cunoscută astfel în viitor pentru că știința și cultura se reduseseră la dezvăluirea unor aspecte senzaționale din viața (și mai puțin din creația) personalităților, iar oamenii se refugiau în jocuri culturale „plăcute și stupide” (între care dezlegarea de cuvinte încrucișate, plăcere care nici pe mine nu mă ocolește, mărturisesc cu rușine ☺ ) pentru a uita de fierberile și de cutremurele politice, „căci se aflau aproape fără apărare în fața morții, a spaimei, a durerii, a foamei, în vreme ce bisericile nu mai aveau puterea să-i aline, iar spiritul nu-i mai consilia.”

Ca orice biografie care se respectă, cea a lui Josef Knecht începe (sau ar trebui să înceapă) cu genealogia sa. Dar aceasta rămîne necunoscută pentru că, orfan, băiatul a fost educat de „autoritatea educativă”, lucru benefic pentru el, crede naratorul, de vreme ce au fost evitate astfel conflictele inerente dintre școala de elită și familie, care îngreunau și uneori chiar împiedicau intrarea în Ordin a unor tineri foarte dotați. Astfel, de la început lumea lui lăuntrică și cea exterioară s-au putut dezvolta în mod armonios, fără trauma despărțirii de familie pe care o încercau de obicei tinerii care treceau de la școlile tradiționale la școlile din Castalia.

Și totuși, acest echilibru rămîne doar aparent, căci Knecht, așa cum o sugerează și numele său, care înseamnă în limba germană „slugă” dar care are aceeași origine cu cuvîntul englezesc „knight” – „cavaler”, nu este ferit de contradicții. Poate și ca o revoltă subconștientă împotriva propriului nume, încă din copilărie Josef este obsedat de adevăr ca de forma supremă a libertății, încercînd să-l transforme în obiect de studiu, ceea ce-l determină pe mentorul său, maestrul muzicii, să-l avertizeze cu blândețe:

— Adevărul există, dragul meu! Dar învățătura pe care o râvnești, învățătura absolută, desăvârșită, singura care să te poată face înțelept, aceea nu există. Nu trebuie nicide¬cum să năzuiești către o învățătură desăvârșită, prietene, ci către propria ta desăvârșire. Dumnezeirea se află în tine însuți, nu în noțiuni și în cărți. Adevărul este trăit, nu predat de la catedră.

Crescut în lumea artificială, exclusiv spirituală, a ordinului castalian, prima confruntare cu lumea din afară o va avea prin intermediul noului său prieten Plinio Designori, băiat de familie bogată, foarte inteligent, dar căruia nici prin gînd nu-i trece să devină castalian. Cei doi polemizează adesea în public, spre deliciul colegilor și al profesorilor, despre superioritatea uneia sau a alteia dintre cele două lumi: una simplă, materială, haotică, poate, dar mult mai aproape de natură, cealaltă complexă, spirituală, ordonată, e drept, dar sufocant de artificială. Tînărului Josef i se pare că există doar o cale de urmat și anume slujirea celei din urmă, dat fiind că la rîndul ei „mica lume castaliană o slujea pe cea mare, îi dădea profesori, cărți, metode, se îngrijea de păstrarea purității funcțiunilor spirituale și a moralei, își ținea porțile deschise ca școală și adăpost pentru acel mic număr de oameni al căror destin părea să fie acela de a-și pune viața în slujba spiritului și a adevărului.” Pentru Plinio însă, o viață exclusiv spirituală este doar pe jumătate trăită: „La rându-mi, am datoria să rea¬mintesc mereu cât de riscantă, plină de primejdii și în cele din urmă stearpă e o viață așezată exclusiv pe temelia spiri¬tului.”

Deși aparent convins că drumul său este cel bun, Josef se va întreba de fapt toată viața sa care dintre cele două lumi duce spre adevăr și pentru a afla răspunsul va părăsi în cele din urmă universul familiar, sigur dar limitat, renunțînd la cea mai rîvnită poziție din Castalia, cea de magister ludi. Așa cum Plinio voise odinioară să întruchipeze în ființa sa sinteza vie a celor două lumi, Josef ar dori să devină puntea de legătură între ele, ferm convins că nici una nu ar putea supraviețui fără cealaltă. Deși îşi găsește sfîrșitul abia ieșit în lumea largă, moartea sa este doar aparent prematură: așa cum observa Ion Roman, el a predat deja ștafeta fiului lui Plinio, „care va reuni armonios, nu ca un Ianus cu două fețe, ci prin supra¬punere și contopire, îngerul și demonul ce încă își încru¬cișează spadele în sufletul omenesc.”

Cele trei biografii scrise de Josef nu sînt decît alte trei variante ale drumului spre cunoaștere, amintind, toate patru (mi s-a părut interesantă această asociere pe care o face Wikipedia ), de cele patru funcții psihice de bază din psihologia analitică: senzorială (Josef Knecht, șamanul aducător de ploaie), intuitivă (Dasa, zbătîndu-se în pînza de păianjen a Mayei), emotivă (Iosefus Famulus, duhovnicul devenit novice) și cognitivă (Josef Knecht, magister ludi).

Întrebarea care m-a obsedat pe tot parcursul lecturii (și al cărei răspuns ar clarifica poate nedumerirea cu privire la statutul utopic sau distopic al Castaliei) rămâne aceasta: este în viziunea autorului creația doar un mijloc (adesea secundar) de a ajunge la cunoaștere? Pentru că, să nu uităm, aceasta este interzisă în Provincie, unde singurele opere originale tolerate au rămas biografiile:

E o mare fericire că suntem în posesia acestor opere, iar noi, castalienii, trăim aproape exclusiv de pe urma lor, noi nu mai suntem creatori altfel decât în reproduceri, noi trăim permanent în acea sferă de dincolo, atemporală și lipsită de lupte, care constă tocmai din acele opere și fără acestea nici nu ne-ar fi cunoscută, în spiritualizare, sau, dacă vrei, în abstractizare, noi mergem încă și mai departe: în jocul nostru cu mărgele de sticlă descompunem operele înțelepților și ale artiștilor în părțile lor, extragem din ele reguli stilistice, scheme formale, inter¬pretări sublimate și operăm cu aceste abstracțiuni ca și când ar fi pietre de construcție.

Poate că răspunsul îl oferă ideea însăși de biografie, singura operă literară care amestecă realitatea și ficțiunea într-atît încît nu mai știi unde începe una și unde se termină cealaltă: în sensul că cele două devin inseparabile, așa cum lumea materială și cea spirituală sînt inseparabile. La urma urmelor, dacă ar seca creația, cunoașterea ar rămîne un banal și steril joc cu mărgele de sticlă care nu și-ar mai schimba vreodată numărul, așa cum dacă ar dispărea cunoașterea, creația n-ar mai fi decît o imagine suficientă ei însăși, ca un răsărit de soare sau o brazdă de pămînt reavăn sau o adiere de aripă care nu se mai reverberează în sufletul nimănui.

Ca și Demian treizeci de ani mai devreme, Jocul cu mărgele de sticlă, ultimul roman al lui Hermann Hesse, pentru care autorul va primi în 1946 premiul Nobel pentru literatură, nu a putut fi publicat în Germania de asta dată nazistă și a apărut tot în Elveția în 1943. Discreditat și insultat de ai săi, că nimeni nu e profet în țara lui, dar înțelept și senin, bătrînul scriitor dăruiește cititorilor săi un ultim autoportret al unui magister ludi care se încăpățînează încă să creadă că arta e singurul mijloc de a scăpa de iluzia existenței, de a se elibera de maya:

Ultimul jucător cu mărgele de sticlă

Ținând în mână jocul colorat,/ Stă ghemuit, iar țara-n lung și-n lat/ După război și ciumă e-n ruine,/ Iar printre iederi zumzăie albine./ Trudită pace-n stihuri de psaltire /Răsună stins peste bătrâna fire./ Moșneagul stă mărgele numărând,/ Albastră-i una, albă alta-n șir,/ și mari și mici alege după rând./ Le-așază-n cerc, ca pentru joc, pe fir./ A fost cândva maestru în simboluri,/ Artist dotat și poliglot a fost, / și lumea a știut-o pe de rost, / dar faima lui răzbise pân’ la poluri, / Colegi avea, si-nvățături da multe. / Acum, bătrân, căzut, însingurat, / Nici un școlar nu vine să-l asculte, / Nu-l cheamă nici un meșter la duel; / S-au dus, și templele s-au spulberat, / și școli și cărți pieriră. Numai el / Printre ruine stă cu jocu-n mână, / Aceste ieroglife-n sens bogate / Cândva sunt astăzi doar pestrițe cioburi. / Maestrului îi scapă, deșirate, / Și pier, amestecându-se-n țărână...
Profile Image for J.G. Keely.
546 reviews10.2k followers
December 9, 2010
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 disconnect in what the narrator fails to recognize about the sublime reality of the situation, though Hesse doesn't descend into open absurdism like Teufelsdroeckh's tale.

While Carlsyle is unpredictable and madcap, Hesse's narrative is low-key and repetitive. Much of this can be blamed on Hesse's dull narrator, though I was never sure how much. I spent most of the book trying in vain to discern what was meant to be serious philosophy and what was a sly rejection of Hesse's earlier beliefs.

The most somber, sacred moments of Hesse's attempt to build a 'Secular Spirituality' often struck me as the least convincing. For example, the more glowingly he described the persona of a secular 'Saint', the more I felt he was describing the effects of a rather serious case of Alzheimer's.

Each time he mentioned either the 'sense of peace' or 'childlike smile', they began to seem more sinister. He returned to them again and again, insistently, the sole signs of the character's wisdom, until I couldn't help but mistrust them.

It would certainly be a biting satire on the Old Eastern Master who speaks few words, since those he does speak rarely seem to make sense. Usually the student blames their own ignorance, but if the old master is just doddering? The idea is a very cynical one, and quite amusing. Yet it is hard to reconcile this deep satire with the general tone of the work.

Hesse doesn't build his ideas from the ground up, at least not that I could see. Much seemed to be assumed. Yet neither was there the revelatory, overawing voice of the poet-philosopher to nudge us from dry narrative to sudden insight. It felt like Lovecraft's old trick of describing how a horrible sight affected a character instead of describing the horror, itself.

But it wouldn't do for me to go on any more about cynicism, insightful satire, and poet-philosophers without invoking Nietzsche. He plays a role in the text, literally: the protagonist's unstable, brilliant friend is a caricature of the influential philosopher, and perhaps unsurprisingly, I found his inclusion the most appealing part of the book.

It was not merely the presentation of his philosophies, but the way Hesse spoke of him. The passages which describe him are some of the most evocative and heart-felt in the book, which is curious, because he is presented as quite flawed and muddled in thought, though still brilliant.

Even when the protagonist scorns him or undermines his rhetoric, Hesse seems unable to truly overcome the force of Nietzsche. He praises his ability to pluck out one part of an argument, a single idea or thought, and with care and insight, cause you to realize for the first time how remarkable it is, or how foolish.

Sadly, Hesse himself lacks this great ability, making his critiques less grand than his subject. Yet this, too, seems almost deliberate on Hesse's part.

At one point, the protagonist listens as the Nietzsche stand-in goes on a rant about the pointlessness of history. This is representative of the general opinion of Hesse's utopian/dystopian vision of a kind of secular, academic spiritual society which has, to the protagonist's sorrow, lost touch with the world.

But to put it in this character's mouth seems hardy appropriate. Certainly, there was a redefinition of the fluidity of history and of the people who made it up in the Hegelian tradition, but it was hardly the insular rejection of humanity put forth here.

Nietzsche steeped himself in history, old masters, old thinkers, and ideas, such as the Dyonisian vs. Appolonian philosophies. Perhaps the character was simply convenient, though it undermines the work's own historical attempt to pit real philosophical ideas one against the other. Perhaps this was just another symptom of the detrimental effect Heidegger and Nietzsche's sister have had on how he is viewed today.

After shaking his head in silent scorn for his friend's wordy speech, our protagonist goes on to give a similar speech, himself, at the end of the same chapter, about raising of a world of thoughts and ideas above the ugliness of the humanity; the speech even seems to ape in form and style his friend's earlier thoughts.

Again, I felt unsure of Hesse's message. Either he again ridicules what he once might have praised, or fails to clearly present his philosophy, or is quibbling between two ways of leaving mankind behind for the sake of ideals without pointing out to us what is meant to separate them.

Again I side with Nietzsche's stand-in, and I think, not merely because I am Nietzsche's man, but because I cannot find the point where Hesse has presented his side of the argument as anything except a farce.

Likewise the ending of the book seems to make pointless satire of the 'Sacred Transgressive Event' of the hero, which I could appreciate, but if that is the case, then it certainly puts the rest of the book in an odd light.

It is not difficult to read it as one of the most dry, sombre, heartfelt, absurdist tracts in literature, but the writings of the most fervent believers cannot always be easily be separated from the satires of the most clever cynics.

Three short works complete the book, each a fiction-within-a-fiction attributed to our protagonist. Yet these, too, could either be the budding spirituality of a noble man, or signs of conceit from an ultimate fool.

I found the early parts of the book painful to read, not merely because of the dullness of our narrator or the confusion I felt in trying to untangle Hesse's philosophies, but because it is, at it's core, the story of a fairly smart guy who is given everything on a silver platter by a series of wise men who recognize how special he is.

It's not merely that this left us without much conflict, it was annoying reading about someone effortlessly achieving things that sound like they would be cool to do. There followed a brief, interesting period of conflicting political machinations, but that soon faded, leaving us with our protagonist's thoughts and inner turmoil.

Or, rather, it left us with our narrator's apparent invention of those thoughts. Some of the book is presented as source material--speeches, letters--but most of it seems to be whatever Mr. Frame Story felt was going on at the time.

This creates another layer of distance and complexity which compounds the difficulty of any attempt to figure out what, if anything, Hesse is getting at. The narrator constantly seems to think he knows exactly what all the characters were thinking at any point in time, down to their fears, childhood aspirations, and goals for the future. Either Hesse is taking vast liberties with the setup, or this guy is one of the most unreliable narrators we could be blessed with.

So, I'm not really sure what Hesse's philosophy is, or even what the character's philosophies were, though I could say something about the narrator's. The whole thing felt like a very low-key farce to me, which would parallel other literature between the world wars. It is interesting as an analysis of the hardships facing academia in the face of the sort of widespread political changes, materialism, and conflict that marked the period leading up to WWII.

A lot of cynicism there: the failure of governments, of order, academics, ideas, values. Perhaps it is a deep satire paralleling the inter-war concerns of 'Darkness at Noon' and 'It Can't Happen Here', but if so, it's one of the least impassioned satires I've ever read; not that it would be more impassioned if we consider it a spiritual tome.

Or maybe Hesse is just dull, in earnest, and I don't remotely agree with him. That would accord with my memory of Siddhartha, which I found to be full of a rather short-sighted and egotistical personal philosophy centering on Blavatskianisms like the 'law of attraction', which still haunts the self-help section to this day.

Let's say that I hope it's a bizarre satire, because I was unable to drag any other poignant message from it.
Profile Image for Owlseyes .
1,670 reviews269 followers
July 4, 2018

(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!...at 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. They are quite familiar with the idea of reincarnation (*) and, annually, they have to elaborate a composition (called "A life") which narrates the author in three periods of time, say, for example in Imperial Rome...or in Periclean Athens ...or Austria in Mozart's time; it's up to each one. Language of that period is researched.

(*) I am pleased to got to know recently, that, since 2003, Buddhism has been part of the curriculum of public schools in Berlin; but now, private schools in other German states have been including the matter in their lessons; example: The Internationale Friedensschule (International Peace School) in Cologne.

Profile Image for Emilio Gonzalez.
179 reviews71 followers
June 17, 2022
Dudaba un poco antes de comenzar a leer este libro porque algunas reseñas lo describían como aburrido, sin embargo a mi lejos de aburrirme me pareció un libro sublime que habla sobre encontrar nuestro lugar en la vida. Es uno de esos libros que se disfrutan con una lectura pausada y sin apuro; ahora, si están buscando una trama vertiginosa, acá no la van a encontrar seguro.

La historia se desarrolla aproximadamente en el año 2400, en una provincia llamada Castalia regida por una orden monástica de intelectuales dedicados a la espiritualidad y a la enseñanza.
A la orden ingresan desde las provincias aledañas los niños seleccionados por poseer algún talento excepcional, y una vez ingresados ya no vuelven jamas a ver a sus familias. Dentro hay escuelas donde se enseñan distintas disciplinas como por ejemplo música, filología o matemáticas, pero hay una escuela especial, dedicada al orgullo de Castalia, un juego nacido con los inicios de la orden y que representa mejor que nada a la provincia, y es el juego de los abalorios. De que se trata el juego? Se van a desilusionar si esperan saberlo porque el autor nunca lo aclara en detalle, pero en serio que no importa, lo que se sabe es que requiere de mucho estudio y sensibilidad con el fin de conectar todas las disciplinas de la orden en un único punto.
La novela en sí, es la biografía de Joseph Knecht, quien ingresa a la orden a los 8 años por sus habilidades en la música y fue ascendiendo hasta convertirse en Magister Ludi, la máxima autoridad del juego de los abalorios en toda Castalia.
Pero aparecerá Plinio, un viejo amigo de Joseph de su época de estudiante que viene del exterior para confrontar los pros y los contras de la vida mundana versus la elitista vida de los Castalios.

Es un libro en el que acompañamos a Joseph Knecht tratando de encontrar su camino en la vida, y en el medio nos encontramos con un ambiente excelentemente logrado, con mucho clima de espiritualidad y en el que abunda la filosofía pero desde lo cotidiano y no desde lo teórico. Y final no podría ser mejor porque termina con tres cuentos bellísimos que redondean la idea canalizadora de todo el libro.
Super recomendable.
Profile Image for Salma.
400 reviews1,120 followers
April 30, 2013
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 فيه أن أعذب نفسي فأجبرتها على مواصلة قراءة الرواية (لعبة الكريات الزجاجية) و التي بلغت عدد صفحاتها (628)... مقاومة النعاس الغريب الذي ينتابني كلما فتحتها... و هكذا أنهيتها بعد مجاهدة دامت أياما طوالا لا أدري كم دامت لمللي...0

الغريب أني أتحدث عن رواية من روايات هيرمان هسه العزيز بهذه الطريقة الممجوجة أنا التي لم تعشق مؤلفا أكثر منه... و لم تحرص على أن تقرأ الأعمال الكاملة لأي مؤلف إلاه...0

و الأغرب ما يُقال عنها من أنها من أعظم الروايات التي كتبها... بل إنها حائزة على جائزة نوبل عام 1946

لذلك و خلافا لعادتي من تبرئة ساحة ذائقتي حين لا أستسيغ كتابا �� اتهام المؤلف فإني أتهمني بأني لم أفهمها تماما و لذلك لم تعجبني... أو لأكون أكثر دقة لم تعجبني أول خمسمئة صفحة منها

ليس هناك من أحداث أقصها عليكم... فروايات هيرمان عادة تقوم على الأحداث الداخلية لبطلها...القصة بتبسيط ساذج تتحدث عن حياة يوزف كنشت و قد دخل في كستاليا و هي طائفة تعيش في عزلة عن العالم الخارجي و تكرس حياتها للعلم و المعرفة... ذات نسيج هرمي... و أعظم أشكالها العلمية تتجلى في لعبة الكريات الزجاجية... و هي لعبة تعيد الفنون إلى أصولها الرئيسية و تمزج ما بين الشعر و الفن و التاريخ و الموسيقى... لا تسألوني عن كيفية هذه اللعبة فهيرمان لم يخبرنا عن تفاصيلها... هي لعبة متخيلة على أية حال... فما هي ماهية اللعبة التي تحول الألف إلى باء مثلا!!! على أية حال يدخل يوزف هذه الطائفة و يدرس ثم ليصبح مدرسا ثم رئيسا للطائفة ثم ليعتزلها و يموت...0

طبعا الرواية تحتاج إلى معرفة واسعة و إطلاع كبير على الآداب و خاصة الموسيقى و الشعر الرومانتيكي الأوربي و خصوصا الألمانية منها... إذ أنها تقوم على تحليلها و ربطها ببعضها... و لذلك لم تعجبني و لم أستشعر مدى الجهد الذي بذله هيرمان في كتابتها... لأني أصلا لا أعرف عن ماذا يتحدث...0

ما يعجبني عادة في روايات هيرمان هو الصراع الذي يعيشه البطل تتنازعه رغبات جسده و توق روحه... هو البحث الدؤوب و الحائر عن المطلق و الكمال... عن السكينة و الصفاء... هو العزلة الروحية التي تكتنف كلماته... هو تلك الصوفية الغريبة...0
إلا أن يوزف في هذه الرواية بدا ساكنا مطمئنا منذ البداية و حتى النهاية... و حتى في سني شبابه!!! مما جعلني أشعر أن هيرمان كتبها و قد تقدم في السن... بعد أن حاز على شيء من السكينة و الهدوء اللتين كانا يبحث عنهما في رواياته كلها...0

المهم أن قصة حياة يوزف تنتهي عند الصفحة (483) و ما بعد ذلك هو الأعمال التي خلفها يوزف من أشعار و ثلاث قصص قصيرة(صانع المطر، كاهن الاعتراف،السيرة الهندية)... و كما ورد على لسان الراوي نفسه الذي يروي سيرة يوزف "بقيت من أعمال يوزف كنشت ثلاث من السير، سنوردها بنصها و نعتبرها بمثابة أثمن جزء من كتابنا كله" ص153
و برأيي بالفعل هذه الأعمال هي أهم و أجمل من القصة ذاتها _رغم أن الكتاب كله هو الرواية_ و ربما لو اكتفى بها لكان كافيا بنظري... حسن قد أحببت هذا الجزء المتبقي من الرواية لدرجة أني وددت لو أعرف الألمانية لأقرأ أشعاره بلغتها و موسيقاها...0

المخيف بهيرمان حقا هو بعض عباراته التي تحسه ينقلها من عالم آخر... و كأنه كان يشهد شيئا... و كأنه أدرك أخيرا... قد كشف الغطاء و لو لوهلة...0

أدعكم مع بعض منها...0

"كانت أيامه هي إصباحات لا يمكن تفريقها عن الأمسيات، أعياد لا يمكن تفويتها عن الأيام العادية، ساعات من الهمة لا يمكن تفريقها عن ساعات الفتور و الخور إلا قليلاً، كانت أيامه تنساب كسولة في تعب مشلول و فتور. و اعتقد الرجل أن ما به مصدره شيخوخة و حَزن. و قد حزن لأنه كان يتوقع أن تأتيه شيخوخته التدريجية من خبو نار غرائزه و انفعالاته بصفاء و يسر في حياته و أن تتقدم به خطوة نحو الإنسجام الذي يتوق إليه و إلى راحة النفس الناضجة التي تمناها، فلما بدت الشيخوخة على غير ما كان يرجو، و لم تأته إلا بهذا البوار المتعب الحزين المطبق، و بهذا الشعور بالتخمة المستعصية. كان يحس بالتخمة من كل شيء: مجرد الوجود، من التنفس، من نوم الليل، من الحياة في كهفه على حافة الوادي، من حلول المساء و من حلول الصباح... نعم، لقد اشتاق إلى نهاية، لقد حل به التعب، لقد زاد الأمر و فاض و أصبحت حياته بلا معنى و بلا قيمة، بل لقد أحس في بعض الأحيان يوسوس له أن يضع حدا لحياته و أن يعاقب نفسه و يأتي عليها... حتى كان لا يمسك غصن شجرة إلا و يختبر صلاحيته في تحمل جثته كمنتحر، و لا ينظر إلى صخرة مائلة في المنطقة إلا ليتبين ما إذا كانت تصلح ليهوي عليها إلى الموت. و لقد قا��م الغواية و وقف في وجهها و لم يضعف، و لكنه كان يعيش يومه في لهيب من كراهية الذات و الرغبة في الموت، و ثقلت عليه العيشة و أصبحت شيئا لا طاقة له على احتمالها" ص565-566
هذا المقطع قرأته بدهشة غريبة... أكان يعرفني يا ترى ... لكن لا أخفي أن أملي قد خاب بالشيخوخة المتأملة...0

"كان دازا يعرف نصف ما تعنيه كلمة (مايا) و يخمن النصف الآخر... (مايا) كانت هي حياة دازا، و شباب دازا، و سعادة دازا الحلوة و بؤسه المرير... (مايا) كانت الحب و لذته، (مايا) كانت الحياة كلها. حياة دازا و حياة الناس أجمعين، و كل شيء كان في نظر هذا اليوجي الهرم (مايا)، كان شيئا يشبه عبث الطفولة، يشبه التمثيلية و المسرحية و الخيال، كان لا شيء في جلد مزركش، كان فقاعة صابون، كان شيئا يمكن أن يضحك الإنسان منه بمتعة ما و يحتقره في الوقت نفسه، و لا يأخذه مأخذ الجد بحال من الأحوال" ص
607 يعني فيكم تقولو إنو (المايا ) هي الحياة الدنيا... مو هيك على أية حال هذا المقطع مأخوذ من (السيرة الهندية) و هي آخر ثلاثين صفحة... برأيي تعدل بل و تزيد على كل ما تقدمها من صفحات...0

بإمكاني أن ألخص القول أن لعبة الكريات الزجاجية تعيد كل العلوم و الفنون و المعارف البشرية إلى أصولها الأساسية لتصل إلى نهاية و غاية واحدة... إلى الذي يصدر عنه كل شيء و إليه المنتهى...0
و لذك كانت أعلى أشكال العلوم... و لا يتقنها إلا الكبار...0

أريد أن أنهي الكلام بأحد المقطوعات الموسيق��ة التي ذكرها في روايته هذه و قصيدة
أما المقطوعة الموسيقية فهي هذه التوكاتة لباخ
جمال حد الفزع و الرهبة
تتجاوز كل الكلام

و قصيدة أخرى كان لي معها قصة بلهاء، حيث كنت قرأتها سابقا و قبل الرواية في مكان ما، و أخذت بلبي تماما إلى درجة أحسست فيها بخدر لذيذ في رأسي و كنت مستعدة أن أدفع حياتي مقابل أن يجيبني أحدهم أين أجد هذه المعرفة، حتى أني توسلت كالشحاذين لبعضهم علهم يخبروني
لأكتشف بعد سنين أنه لا وجود لها إلا في الجنة
عسى أن يكرمنا بفضله


كنت ضيفا في دير بالجبل،
و دخلت، عندما ذهب الجميع إلى الصلاة،
قاعة للكتب. في بهجة نور المغرب
لمعت هادئة على الحائط بحروف
عجيبة كعوب ألف مجلد من البرشمان.
فتناولت ممتلئا شغفا بالعلم و سحرا
أول كتاب، كتجربة، و قرأت:
"الخطوة الأخيرة إلى تربيع الدائرة"
ففكرت سريعا أن آخذ هذا الكتاب معي!
و كتابا آخر من الحجم الكبير مجلدا بالجلد المذهب
على كعبه عنوان بالحروف الصغيرة:
"كيف أكل آدم من الشجرة الأخرى"...
من الشجرة الأخرى؟ من أية شجرة، شجرة الحياة؟
و هكذا كان آدم خالداً؟ لم يكن من العبث إذن،
على ما رأيت أني أتيت إلى هنا، و لمحت
كتابا كبيرا كعبه و قطعه و حوافيه
تشع في ظلال بألوان الطيف العديدة.
كان عنوانه المرسوم باليد:
"المعاني المقابلة للألوان و الأنغام،
إثبات أن كل لون و انكسار
يقابله نوع من الأنغام يتبعه كإجابة له".
لكم تلألأت لي مفعمة المعنى
جوقات الألوان! و بدأت أحس،
و كل لمسة لكتاب أكدت إحساسي:
أن تلك مكتبة الفردوس.
كل الأسئلة التي ألحت علي،
و كل ضروب الظمأ التي حرقتني،
لها هنا جواب، و كل جوع له خبز
من الفكر محفوظ هنا. لأنني كلما سألت
مجلدا بنظرة سريعة، وجدت لكل مجلد
عنوانا مكتوبا ينبئ بالكثير.
كان لكل حاجة هنا شفاء،
كانت هنا كل الثمار دانية القطف،
كل الثمار التي يتمناها كل تلميذ،
و التي يتلهف على الحصول عليها جريئا كل أستاذ.
كان هناك المعنى، المعنى الأعمق الأصفى،
لكل حكمة، و شعر و علم،
كانت هناك القوة السحرية لكل سؤال
و معها المفاتيح و المصطلحات، كانت هناك
أرق روح الفكر محفوظة في كتب عظيمة
سرية لم يسمع بها سامع.
كانت هناك
مفاتيح لكل نوع
من الأسئلة و الأسرار
ملكاً لمن تمنحها له منة الساعة السحرية.

فوضعت و كانت يداي ترتعشان،
على منضدة للقراءة أحد هذه المجلدات،
و حللت رموز الكتابة المصورة السحرية،
تماما كما يفعل الإنسان في الحلم
كثيرا، ما لم يتعلمه أبدا، بسهولة اللعب و بنجاح.
و بعد قليل كنت فرحان
في الطريق إلى أماكن فكرية ذات نجوم، داخلاً في الأبراج الفلكية،
حيث تقابلت فيها كل ما رأت
الأمم من وحي و من فكر متخذ صوراً،
تراث خبرة عالية عمرها آلاف السنين،
تقابلت منسجمة ارتباطات جديدة مجددة،
يعتمد بعضها على بعض
و يفر شابا من المعارف و الرموز و الابتداعات القديمة
على الدوام سؤال جديد أسمى مما قبله.
حتى أني و أنا أقرأ في دقائق أو ساعات،
سرت مرة ثانية طريق الإنسانية كلها،
و تلقيت من علومها القديمة و الحديثة
كلها، في ذاتي معنها العميق.
قرأت و رأيت
أشكال الكتابة المصورة
تنتظم اثنين اثنين، ثم ترجع،
و تترتب لرقصة جماعية، ثم تتفرق
و تنصب في تشكيلات جديدة،
أشكال رمزية عديدة كررتها المرايا المتقابلة،
تتخذ معاني جديدة لا تنتهي و لا تفرغ.

و بينا أنا هكذا مبهور من المناظر،
أبعد النظر عن الكتاب لإراحة العينين هنيهة،
رأيت: أنني لم أكن هنا الضيف الوحيد.
كان يقف في القاعة متجهاً إلى الكتب،
رجل عجوز، ربما أمين المحفوظات،
رأيته جادا، منهمكا في عمله،
مشغولا عند الكتب، و لاح لي ذا أهمية،
أهمية غريبة، أن أعرف نوع و معنى
العمل الكاد. فرأيت هذا الرجل الهرم
يتناول بيده المسنة الرقيقة
كتابا، فقرأ ما كان على كعب الكتاب
مكتوبا، و نطق بفمه الشاحب
العنوان كأنه يتنسمه - عنواناً خلاباً،
ضمان ساعات قراءة لذيذة!
و مسحه رفيقا بإصبعه القادر على المسح،
و كتب مبتسماً عنوانا جديداً، عنوانا آخر،
عنوانا آخر مختلفا تماما، ثم راح يتجول
و مد يده إلى كتاب آخر، تارة هنا، تارة هناك،
فيمسح عنوانه، و يكتب عنوانا آخر.
فنظرت إليه حيران وقتا طويلا و عدت.
لما تمنع عقلي على الفهم،
إلى الكتاب الذي قرأت فيه
سطورا قليلة. لكني لم أجد
سلاسل الصور التي نعمت بها لتوي،
و انفصل عالم الرموز و لاح كأنه
يفر مني، و لم أكن قد جلت به إلا قليلا،
و كان يغص بمعنى العالم.
ترنّح و دار و لاح كأن السحاب يغطيه،
و ينساب بعيدا دون أن يخلف وراءه شيئا
إلا بريقا رماديا على برشمان فارغ.
و على كتفي أحسست يدا
فرفعت بصري، فإذا الشيخ المجد يقف بجانبي
فنهضت. و تناولت مبتسما
كتابي، فتملكتني رعدة
مثل الارتعاش، و انزلق إصبعه
كالاسفنج عليه. و على الجلد الفارغ
كتب عناوين جديدة، و أسئلة و وعودا جديدة،
كتب أحدث انعكاسات لأقدم الأسئلة
و ريشته تفصل الحروف تفصيلا.
ثم أخذ معه صامتا الكتاب و الريشة... 0
Profile Image for robin friedman.
1,815 reviews242 followers
May 1, 2023
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 of the mind and the spirit and their relationship to the more basic, mundane concerns of human beings, the book's theme struck home with me when young and still does. Many people with intellectual, spiritual interests will feel the tug of "The Glass Bead Game". It is a work of art, deeply insightful, but long and in places something of a bore.

Written in 1943, the book is set in a fictitious academic community called Castalia in the distant future, probably the 25th century. There is a feeling of distancing in the setting and yet also a feeling of immediacy in the problems addressed in the book. Castalia is meant as a scholarly community devoted to study rather than to professional work in subjects such as law or medicine which continue to be taught at more conventional universities for the more usual students interested in education as a means to a career. The book's primary character, Joseph Knecht, becomes an student at Castalia in early adolescence when his gift for music is recognized by the mysterious music-master who mentors Knecht for most of his life. Knecht remains in the Castalian community where he learns and rises and ultimately is accepted into the highest reaches of its hierarchy. Some, but not all, the scholars at Castalia play what is known as the Glass Bead Game. The details of the game remain obscure but its point is to find the underlying ideals and unity underlying all human knowledge. A heavy sense of philosophical idealism and monism underlies the game. Knecht becomes a master of the game and at the age of 40 becomes the "Magister Ludi" the person in the Castalian order with highest responsibility for the game, its teaching, and its annual festival. At the height of his powers, Knecht becomes disillusioned with Castalia and leaves the order for the outside world to teach and soon dies.

The book is slow and extraordinarily detailed. This befits its theme but makes for a lengthy, deliberate reading experience. "The Glass Bead Game" shows beautifully the allurements of the life of the mind with focus on music, literature and mathematics. Castilians are also taught meditation; and the book combines both Eastern and Western wisdom. Readers who have ever been in love with study or spirituality will understand the appeal developed in this book.

Hesse also describes the necessarily slow awakening and change in Joseph Knecht. In his early days at Castalia, Knecht became known as a debater who eloquently championed the values of the order against a challenger from the outside world. As Knecht advances, he meets others who challenge his commitment, including his brilliant but highly erratic best friend, a historian-monk in the Benedictine Order, and a reclusive sage of Ancient China. These characters are slowly and well-developed and are modeled on various historical figures. Knecht's interactions with these and other individuals and his own reflections ultimately result in his leaving the order. He continues his love of the mind and the spirit. He concludes that matters of mind and spirit must not be pursued in isolation as in Castalia but rather in the messy world outside the order. And so people of a certain bent will think about themselves and their actions, in Castalia, in Hesse's day, and in ours.

The book has an unusual organization. It is recounted by a nameless, pedantic narrator. It begins with a long introductory chapter about Castalia and its history before proceeding for most of the length of the book with the biography of Knecht. The final 100 pages or so of the work are an appendix with includes poems and three lives written by Knecht during his years as a student. These are integral to the book and show the issues Knecht faced during his life transported to earlier, far different times.

The book is highly internalized with little in the way of action. Readers should be prepared to spend some time with the work which under the best of circumstances will be a struggle to read in places.

Not every reader will care to follow this book. I was glad to visit Castalia, Joseph Knecht, and Hesse again and to think about how the themes addressed in the book have played out in my own life.

Robin Friedman
Profile Image for Matt.
752 reviews533 followers
January 17, 2016

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 talent from the best students of the outer world and teaches them to join the austere order, to devote their life and eventually become glass bead players. Josef Knecht is one of them, Knecht's life the subject of the story. He'll become Magister Ludi, the primary master of the game, the one who everyone looks up to.

Hesse provides an uptopia here, but it's one that's bound to fail. The place, Castalia, is nothing but an ivory tower on feet of clay. The glass bead game, to me, is so far evolved and sophisticated as it is, that even the scholars and teachers cannot provide anything of real substance. Everything changes, but nothing is new. Glass bead players don't create, they merely ruminate. They pick and choose the best bits to fit them into their game. It's without purpose. Hesse foresees the downfall of occidental culture long before it happened and tells it through the eyes of his protagonist. Knecht finally breaks the cycle and does what no master of the game has done before. He learned the lesson and changed his job, but it's too late. Knecht's bequest is this: A poem.

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Profile Image for Spasa Vidljinović.
98 reviews23 followers
March 26, 2019
Čitajući Igru staklenih perli setio sam se negativnih komentara i pregleda Heseovih romana koji su uglavnom opisivani kao gomila nerazumnih, pseudofilozofskih spisa. Takođe na pamet mi je pala i jedna sintagma iz teorije književnosti pod nazivom aktivno čitanje teksta, koja označava čitanje uz pomoć primarne i sekundarne literature tj. Izvora, i na taj način mogućnost da se pronikne dublje u njegovo značenje. Tako i sam ranije čitajući romane ovog pisca nisam do kraja shvatao poentu i niti koje povezuju celine njegovih knjiga, figure likova i šta one predstavljaju u stvari, mada nisam imao negativan stav prema Heseovom delu. U cilju saznavanja prethodno navedenog potrebno je pročitati dosta građe iz starogrčke mitologije i filozofije, Ničeovih i Jungovih dela (mislim da je Hese i sam bio Jungov pacijent), Biblije i hinduističih spisa.

Knjiga spada u bildungs romane. Razvoj mladog Jozefa Knehta, protagoniste, praćen je od perioda tinejdž uzrasta, u kom postaje izabran da se priključi vaspitanju i obrazovanju da uđe u Red, tj. da postane Igrač staklenih perli. Ova igra je sinteza umetnosti, matematike, estetike, jezika, (praćena obaveznom meditacijom), koja se kroz roman ne objašnjava do kraja. Kastalija, država Igrača, je prava utopijska republika slična Platonovoj državi. U potpunosti je ovo muška priča, nema ženskih likova praktično do samog kraja, gde je Igra sama sebi cilj. Celo okruženje daje utisak monaške kelije, pojavljuje se samo jedan ženski lik u prvom delu knjige, koji nije bitan za radnju romana.
Životni put protagoniste predstavlja paradigmu napredovanja u jednoj strogoj hijerarhijskoj strukturi, gde je on potpuno poslušan organizaciji kojoj pripada, i ide utabanim putem do vrha strukture čiji je deo. Antikonformizam se kod njega budi na kraju (prvog dela romana) gde on daje ostavku, napušta Kastaliju, prelazi da živi kod porodice svog prijatelja, a tu i umire, tako što se udavi u jezeru.

Knehtovo ime sadrži izvesnu simboliku, jer ono na nemačkom znači sluga, a on se celog života odricao privatnosti i nagonskog dela svog bića da bi bio u službi višeg cilja. Kastalija je dobila naziv po nimfi koju je Apolon preobrazio u čudotvornu fontanu na Parnasu, čija voda daje poetsku inspiraciju. Arhetipsko je jako bitno za Hesea. Likovi koji imaju ovu ulogu su zastupljeni na više mesta u ovom romanu, a delu vezanom direktno za igru to je Majstor muzike, Knehtov mentor i uzor, koji je dostigao prosvetljenje i zrači neverovatnom energijom, iako nije vezan niti za jedan religiozni koncept. Slika koju Kneht ima pred sobom nakon saznanja da je postao Majstor Igre, u stvari je flešbek iz mladalačkog doba gde se njegov lik stapa sa Majstorom muzike u jedan uroboros krug večnosti, stalnog vraćanja na početak.

Heseov ceo opis Knehtovog života i transformacija, liči na priču O tri preobražaja duha iz Ničeovog dela Tako je govorio Zaratursta. Prvi stadijum, kamile, gde on služi, trpi, možemo poistovetiti sa njegovim delom života od uvoda do vremena dok je počeo da se premišlja. Drugi stadijum je lav, gde se on bori protiv obaveza, dužnosti, prekida lanac konformizma i odlazi u nepoznato. Treći, dete, gde on otpočinje novi život, novi ciklus odlaskom van Kastalije.

Drugi deo romana nosi naslov Tri životna puta. To je u stvari prikaz tri Knehtove reinkarnacije. Prva je naslovljena sa Kišotvorac, druga sa Ispovednik, a treća Indijski životni put. U prvoj je stavljen u pradavna paganska vremena matrijarhata, gde se pojavljuje pod imenom Kneht. Kroz priču saznajemo da je postao kišotvorac, neka vrsta plemenskog vrača koji odgovara samo Majci, ženi starešini sela. On je pored toga i snalažljivi prirodnjak, koji poštuje Mesec, neka vrsta njegove emanacije, koji oseća sve što se dešava na tom nebeskom telu. U pradavna vremena matrijarhata su se poštovala lunarna božanstva, a na kraju Kišotvorac biva žrtvovan kao sveti kralj, što se to radilo tom periodu da se odbrovolji boginja plodnosti.

U delu naslovljenom pod Ispovednik, Kneht je Jozefus Famulus, sveti čovek, pustinjak koga pohode mnogi radi ispovesti i neke vrste pokajanja, a najviše duševnog olakšanja. Radnja se dešava u ranohrišćanskom periodu, poznatom po delima ovakvih podvižnika, u današnjem Izraelu i Palestini. Jozefus (Kneht se zove Jozef) postaje prezasićen ispovestima, smatra sebe nedostojnim i traži svetog oca kojem bi se on ispovedio. Kad ga pronalazi, počinje da mu služi, saznavši na kraju da je i njegov gospodar imao iste dileme kao i Jozefus, i da je krenuo da ga traži iz istih razloga kao on njega.

Indijski životni put je poslednje opisana Knehtova reinkarnacija, koja se odigrava u staroj Indiji, a ovde je Kneht princ Daza, koji beži od zle maćehe, i postaje pastir. Upoznaje starog mudraca, za koji će ostati vezan ceo život. Tokom priče ubija svog polubrata i vraća se svetom starcu, koji mu daje prikaz tzv. maju kako bi izlgedalo da on preuzme presto od brata koje g je ubio i koji mu je preoteo ženu. Ovde dat prikaz nirvane u kojoj se mudrac nalazi, maja pojavni oblici stvarnosti koje mogu da stvore bogovi i sveci...

Roman počinje posvetom Hodočasnicima na Istok, jer je Heseova familija radila u Indiji, deda je bio sinolog, a otac portestantski misionar. Hese se zalagao za neku vrstu nadreligiozne duhovnosti, (ovo sam čuo od jedne profesorice nemačkog, nisam izmislio) spoja nespojivog na prvi pogled. Inače je Igra staklenih perli roman koji je posebno naveden kao razlog njegovog dobijanja Nobelove nagrade.
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271 reviews123 followers
August 16, 2015
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 mathematics. It seems to embody a symbolic representation of all knowledge and manipulation of those symbols. It’s a unifying design which shows the connections and the unity between all branches of knowledge and arts. Or it is like music as it is an aesthetic composition of individual symbols.

Castalian order is a highly formalised, monastic order where the mind and scholarly traditions are enshrined. It place’s importance on hierarchy, structure and tradition. It’s an almost platonic kind of communism with its dispassionate monasticism and elite caste. It lacks anything sensual, experiential and personal and so is incomplete.

Whether in the idea of the game itself, or in the relationship between Castalia and the outside world, Or in Joseph Knechts relationships with others like plinio Designori, this novel is steeped in Hegelian dialectics. Man’s spiritual journey and the idea of contemplation and psychological liberation, the individual and the hierarchy, and the values of tradition are some of the major themes dealt with in the novel. The importance of a teacher-student/master-apprentice relationship is also highlighted.

This was by no means an easy read and i took my time with it. But this is Hesse's masterpiece and is full of ideas.
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