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The Glass Bees

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3.77  ·  Rating details ·  543 Ratings  ·  53 Reviews
In The Glass Bees the celebrated German writer Ernst Jünger presents a disconcerting vision of the future. Zapparoni, a brilliant businessman, has turned his advanced understanding of technology and his strategic command of the information and entertainment industries into a discrete form of global domination. But Zapparoni is worried that the scientists he depends on migh ...more
Paperback, 209 pages
Published September 30th 2000 by NYRB Classics (first published 1957)
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Hadrian
May 23, 2011 rated it really liked it
Shelves: german, scifi, fiction
Ernst Jünger is perhaps the only author of a WWI book who seems to have enjoyed the experience - or at least felt more alive in the midst of human suffering. Here he wrote a science fiction novel of ideas.

The events of the story are intermittent. A former cavalryman is tipped off about doing some dirty work for the mysterious genius Zapparoni, a titan of industry and molder of society in his image not too out of place in Silicon Valley. Much of the book is either the the narrator's flashbacks o
...more
AC
Dec 22, 2011 rated it it was amazing
What a book! Nothing like what the blurbs would have led me to think…!!

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

This fascinating book is a prolonged m
...more
William1
Apr 09, 2011 rated it really liked it
A dystopian novel about the advent of micro-sized robots by an Italian inventor who must keep his unruly staff placated and happy if he is to continue to be a Steve Jobs-like commercial success. The prose is lean, uncluttered. Very short sentences. Captain Richard is looking for work and finds it--somehow--at the very high-tech factory of the robot manufacturer, Zapparoni. This man, an entrepreneur, has revolutionized modern life with his robots. Nothing is done as it once was for his robots hav ...more
Adam
Jul 22, 2008 rated it really liked it
Glass Bees is made of old man grumbling(wasn’t war awesome when we fought on horseback instead of tanks), memoirs of a veteran, creepy horror story, a pessimistic meditation on an increasingly mechanized surveillance society, and in the end a celebration of human relationships that may or may not make it all worthwhile. The good outruns the bad in this book and the ideas on technology outstrips most sci/fi by non-genre authors(nanotech in 1960) and the idea of a company that provides entertainme ...more
Matthew Hunter
“The moment has now come when I ought to speak of morality. This is one of my weak points: therefore I shall be brief. My unlucky star had destined me to be born when there was much talk about morality and, at the same time, more murders than in any other period...”

Ah, heroic Richard. A war veteran spanning the transformation from "genteel" horseback cavalry-based warfare to mechanized tank-based maelstrom. A relativist when it comes to morality. What does morality mean in an age of weapons of m
...more
Andrew
Dear New York Review Books, I'm so, so glad that you keep flogging these works of the 20th Century continental European avant-garde. How would a mid-century German of... questionable... political persuasion write a science fiction novel? Let's find out. By going into long rants about military technology and the nature of modern man, by lapsing into weird rhapsodic reminiscences, by going into extensive Nietzschean discourse, and centering the whole thing around the weirdly beautiful plot device ...more
Bbrown
Jun 01, 2014 rated it liked it
Shelves: science-fiction
Jünger’s fiction is always interesting to read, primarily for the way he skirts around the edges of a genre while imbuing his works with a spirit all his own. Just as On the Marble Cliffs was a strange take on the fantasy genre, The Glass Bees is a (slightly less) strange take on a science fiction novel. Again, it’s an interesting work, but by splitting its attention in the manner that it does The Glass Bees sacrifices story for philosophical musings of varying quality.

Captain Richards, an old s
...more
Marie-aimée
Jul 18, 2015 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fr, novels, drama
Une drôle d'histoire qui m'a au début surprise, il s'agit plutôt d'une longue méditation sur la modernité. Le personnage est comme attrapé dans un cul-sac de sa vie et ne sait que faire pour en sortir. Tout ce qui doit être n'est plus ce que l'on croit, à l'image de la phrase "la police n'est plus la police". Voici donc un aperçu d'une société qui trompe dans son apparence, mais surtout dont les repères n'en sont plus. Le personnage principal, un ancien cadet démobilisé, se rend à un entretien d ...more
Robert Wechsler
Mar 19, 2016 rated it really liked it
Shelves: german-lit
I was very taken with this novel. It’s amazing how well the first-person narration works despite the fact that it primarily wanders through ideas and the protagonist's past while, in the present, almost nothing happens. There is a great deal here about authority and how we respond to it. And about “weakness,” as well, the difficulty of functioning under authority and of not accepting inequality and bullying. Looming behind the novel is the Second World War, Germany’s role in it, and its aftermat ...more
Gabriel Valjan
Oct 21, 2013 rated it really liked it
In the introduction to the New York Review Book Classic edition, Bruce Sterling praises the slim novella for its prescient descriptions of technology and robots. The novel is about a former cavalry veteran’s desperate search for a job in high-tech. Jünger’s concept of robots is very, very different than Asimov’s. His robots are essentially nanobots. The seemingly hapless Captain Richard is to be interviewed by Zapparoni, whom Sterling describes as “a hybrid of Bill Gates and Walt Disney.” I woul ...more
John David
Oct 04, 2010 rated it really liked it
Shelves: literary-fiction
This review contains plot spoilers.

Ernst Junger is best-known for his “In Stahlgewittern” (“Storm of Steel”), a literary account of the time he spent serving in World War I. Almost four decades later in 1957, he published this novel, one of the dozens he wrote during his life, and one of the better pieces of dystopian fiction I’ve read. The translation by Louise Bogan deserves special praise for its effortlessness and attention to detail. So often translating pieces like this can produce somethi
...more
Ben Loory
Jun 28, 2010 rated it liked it
i'd been meaning to read this for ten years, ever since the nyrb re-released it. everyone talking about it as a lost dystopian masterpiece along the lines of 1984 and brave new world and all that. of course a couple pages in i suddenly remembered that i don't like 1984 or brave new world, so what am i doing? and how come i'm not just re-reading We again instead? i don't know.

anyway, this is a story about a guy who goes to a job interview and stands in his employer's garden and sees some things.
...more
Amy
Dec 20, 2008 rated it really liked it
A simple, futuristic story with little in the way of plot. Nearly the entire story takes place in the mind of one man while he is being interviewed for a job. In the future, pretty much everything can be automated, including bees, all though the story clearly illustrates that all though automatons may be more efficient, they aren't necessarily better. A common enough theme, but a short novel that exemplifies that notion.
Volodymyr Stoyko
Сьогодні тільки та людина здатна вижити, яка більше не вірить у щасливе закінчення, свідомо зрікаючись його.

Відколи у Львові відкрили фірмовий бар Єгермейстер, я прочитав сидячи там вже 4 книги. Ні, не тому, що я багато випиваю, тому просиджую там дорогоцінні години свого життя. Атмосфера часто шумного закладу вимагає неабиякого зосередження, що зрештою має позитивний вплив на процес читання. А якщо книга не звалює на голову усіляких філософських проблем, як у випадку із Сковородою, то вся ця ме
...more
Serhiy
Sep 18, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Здається, найкраще разуміють природу технічного прогресу ті, хто його не люблять. Іншого пояснення, чому ця видана ще в 1957 році книга суголосніша сьогоденню, ніж більшість наукової фантастики тієї доби, я швидко знайти не можу. Юнґеру зрозуміло, що технології - це про здобуття влади, а про не поліпшення життя. Тут і роботи мікроскопічні, а не антропоморфні карикатури, і підприємвства магната Цаппароні схожі на Кремнієву долину, а не на завод, і технології відбирають робочі місця та обрікають л ...more
John Pistelli
Nov 12, 2014 rated it really liked it
The Glass Bees is a short, dense philosophical novel about an old cavalryman, Richard, in need of money--because his life has been marred by an "evil star," which he calls "defeatism," an inability to side with power or conventionality. His old friend and colleague, Twinnings, directs him to a potential job working for the mysterious magnate Zapparoni, a figure who combines Walt Disney and Bill Gates, as Bruce Sterling observes in his introduction: an all-around master of technology and media wh ...more
Nicholas During
Jul 03, 2012 rated it really liked it
An amazing work of speculative fiction. Not much of a narrative, but the theme of technology gone awry hits pretty home in today's world. The idea of mechanical animals being used to spy or kill is pretty current with what I've heard about some of the latest drone-like designs, there was an article in NY Review a year or so ago about just that, supposedly inventors and engineers are studying animals to come up with the best structures to move and survive in difficult/enemy terrain. The concept o ...more
Jeslyn
Mar 18, 2011 rated it really liked it
Ernst Jünger was born in 1895, died in 1998, fought for Germany in both wars, and in the years between saw, experienced, and wrote a LOT.

The Glass Bees is one of his fiction works centering on a job interview between former cavalryman Richard and technological overlord and visionary Zapparoni; in true Jünger form, Richard goes through plenty of reminiscence and philosophizing, which at times slows the pace of the book to a point where I wasn't sure Jünger was going to salvage his story. The bigg
...more
Donald
Aug 08, 2012 rated it it was amazing
A short novel of great weight concerning technology's effect on man and nature. Essentially, it is very critical of how industrialism overthrew the traditional world with its heroic calvary charges and less hurried life.

It concerns an unemployed former calvary officer on the brink of poverty living in what resembles a high-tech Weimar Republic. He laments the passing of the age of the horse and wishes for simpler times. His cadet school friend gives him an opportunity to interview with Giacomo
...more
Andrew
Sep 06, 2012 rated it it was amazing
The plot is simple and straightforward: Captain Richard, an ex-cavalryman and tank inspector, is unemployed and destitute. He desperately needs a job to support his wife, Teresa. A former comrade-in-arms, Twinnings, offers him a morally ambiguous, though lucrative position working for an incredibly wealthy and powerful man named Giacomo Zapparoni who has revolutionized the technological industry through his invention of small automatons. Richard agrees to meet with him for an interview.

Like othe
...more
Tait
Feb 23, 2010 rated it really liked it
Shelves: literature, german
This short strange tale follows an ex-cavalry officer trying to get a job at an automaton factory. While other reviews suggest this novel is science fiction (though closer in fact to the fantastic of Hoffman or Felisberto) marred by seemingly pointless autobiographical-style and often Proustian digressions from the narrator, I actually found this conflict of genres to be integral to the tale. Given that its main theme is the conflict between a classical humanistic worldview and an alienated tech ...more
Caleb
Jun 07, 2013 rated it it was amazing
This book is prescient. Written over 50 years ago, it is about a mysterious and saintly Steve Jobs-like character, if Steven Jobs was an Italian named Zapparoni, and if, instead of iShit, he manufactured flying insects ("glass bees") and other automata. It's all very steampunk, really. His big, mysterious Walt Disneyesque/Willy Wonkian robot factory employs thousands and thousands of workers (so no outsourced slave labor here) who, like Google employees, enjoy Utopian working conditions: making ...more
Max
Jun 08, 2011 rated it liked it
I found this book a bit of a shame - the character of Captain Richard and his inability to keep up with the ever more dystopian future that was unfolding around his was deep and intriguing and as many other reviewers have pointed out, the science fiction in this book is fascinatingly spot-on in its' vision of the future. That said, I felt the protagonist's introspection and self-loathing just a little too much to stomach and was hoping for a Willy-Wonka style character in Zapparoni but was left ...more
Amerynth
I enjoyed reading about Ernst Junger's vision of a dystopian future in "The Glass Bees." Junger seems to have been ahead of his time when thinking about the impact of technology on the human race.

The story follows a narrator who gets a job offer at Zapparoni Works, run by a wealthy man responsible for the growing use of luxury and other types of robots. The job offered is a bit unsavory and our narrator wrestles with questions of morality, showing how his background frames his views.

This was a q
...more
Jonathan Cassie
Jun 20, 2014 rated it really liked it
What must contemporaries have thought of this highly provocative book when it was published? The introduction offered the idea that contemporaries didn't really get it. Boy, must that be true! This book was decades ahead of its time. For me, reading it in 2014, it felt like a sharp and incisive critique of our current values. Materialism, artificial life, colony collapse disorder and the figure of Zapparoni himself - Jobs, Gates, Zuckerberg and so on. Well worth a read.
John Drumm
Aug 01, 2014 rated it really liked it
This to me is like the precursor to "do androids dream of electronics sheep?" Some of the ideas touched upon are explored in Phillip k dicks work, mainly that the advent of robots and realism only leads to confusion and the search for the original source. Very good book, though his inner dialogue I found sometimes slowed to novel down too far. That could just say something about my attention span but still...
Katrinka
Nov 24, 2011 rated it really liked it
Wow. Jünger's prescience, vis-à-vis technology, entertainment, and power is striking-- all with calm weirdness thrown in just to keep you on your toes.
Arne
May 22, 2009 rated it liked it
Actually a sci-fi-novel, written in a creepy and somewhat unaccessible manner, yet fascinating. Also noteworthy because 1) Jünger has done acid and 2) was still handsome at age 100.
Cooper Renner
Aug 22, 2017 rated it really liked it
A very unusual science fiction novel, pondering artificial intelligence, robots, etc.
Michael
Apr 16, 2016 rated it really liked it
Shelves: fiction, s-f
A richly imagined scintillating ride through a serpentine trail of recollections, philosophical musings and encounters which spawn the patterns we see through this window into the narrator’s inner world, reflecting the dystopian reality about him. It’s not quite science fiction, but also not quite anything else. I appreciated the introduction by Bruce Sterling, which I read again after finishing the book: there’s a quality of writing there which is a little intimidating.

The book follows the expe
...more
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NYRB Classics: The Glass Bees, by Ernst Jünger 1 7 Oct 23, 2013 10:43AM  
  • Death in Rome
  • The Guiltless
  • Anton Reiser
  • Halbzeit
  • Pallieter
  • Lieutenant Gustl
  • Cataract
  • The Cathedral
  • Indian Summer
  • The Case of Sergeant Grischa
  • Memoirs of a Peasant Boy
  • The Deadbeats
  • Green Henry
  • Henry von Ofterdingen
  • I Thought of Daisy
  • Fool's Gold (Modern Greek Writers)
  • The Life and Opinions of the Tomcat Murr
  • Down Second Avenue: Growing Up in a South African Ghetto
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Ernst Jünger was a decorated German soldier and author who became famous for his World War I memoir Storm of Steel. The son of a successful businessman and chemist, Jünger rebelled against an affluent upbringing and sought adventure in the Wandervogel, before running away to briefly serve in the French Foreign Legion, an illegal act. Because he escaped prosecution in Germany due to his father's ef ...more
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“Today only the person who no longer believes in a happy ending, only he who has consciously renounced it, is able to live. A happy century does not exist; but there are moments of happiness, and there is freedom in the moment.” 66 likes
“I came to realize that one single human being, comprehended in his depth, who gives generously from the treasures of his heart, bestows on us more riches than Caesar or Alexander could ever conquer. Here is our kingdom, the best of monarchies, the best republic. Here is our garden, our happiness.” 31 likes
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