View Full Version : The Glass Bead Game review by ---->

04-12-2002, 13:01:53
PS this isn't really a review it's just some thoughts directed to others who have already read the book

From the offset, the glass bead game reminded me very much of a book by one of Hesse's contemporaries, Doctor Faustus by Thomas Mann. Partly this was in the writing style, or perhaps more accurately, in the style of the translation. Mainly in the subject matter, a biography of a genius whose main love is music. Unfortunately both books also disappointed me immensely.

The Glass Bead game's most serious flaw is that the central crux of the book, the game itself, is never clearly defined and described, rather the reader is left to take hesse's word for it that the game itself is this incedible synthesis of art, philosophy, music and all other human endeavour. Without ever being shown why, the whole edifice is entirely unconcivincing. Rather Hesse comes across as a name-dropper, mentioning nietzsche, strauss, hegel, etc. without ever explaining the significance of their work. Again, the references to eastern philosophy and the i-ching just sound naive and dilettantish, mentioned for the sake of attempting to create the appearance of an intellectual melting pot which is never actually realised.

At this point i might also add that for a story set in an imagined future world, hesse's novel seems strangely rooted in the germany in which he lived. Barely a foot is stepped outside of the boundaries of the fatherland throughout the novel, which only serves to weaken the alternate reality hesse is attempting to create. Similarly the obsession with the involvement of the catholic church as a sometime enemy, sometime friend of the game only helps to root the book in the world in which hesse lived, a world which he is apparently unable to escape in his own imagination of the future.

The writing, which is often good, is let down by the clumsy attempts to portay the book as the work of a researcher into the life of the main chacater Joseph Knecht. All too often we are given glimpses into the mind, the sensations and thoughts of Knecht that would be completely beyond the power of the researcher to report. Why Hesse didn't simply bite the bullet and write the novel from kencht's own perspective, as he seems to yearn to constantly, is beyond me.

In his pursuit of the intellectual ideal, and in his description of what appears to be almost an entirely male environment, hesse manages to create an entirely non-sexual world, another sign of the patent unreality of his setting. So strange and intense were Knecht's close platonic relationships with his male friends that i found myself assuming that hesse was coding some homosexual subtext into the book, probably out of desperation that there might be something of interest in it.

The end result of these factors is that interest in Knecht and his world of the the glass bead game is extremely difficult to muster. After a few hundred pages of relentlessly banal description of semi-monastic existence and college politics i couldn't give a flying fuck what happened next.

Ultimately the glass bead game comes across as a book that is very much the product of its time and a book which has not aged well at all. In the internet age, the age of post modernism, where trends and themes in culture are constantly examined across disciplines and across time periods, Hesse's game comes across as a pale shadow of modern intellectual reality, an evolutionary dead end, a failed experiment.

04-12-2002, 21:15:02
Congratulations, in that review you came off as more elitist and pretentious than Hesse himself.

05-12-2002, 10:20:05
strange criticisms to make, is it possible to criticise a book with such high-blown ideas as the glass bead game without using the same language? should i have written 'it's shit' instead?

if being elitist means i have a rigorous critical faculty that demands high standards from things that aim at high art then i'm proud to be an elitist

05-12-2002, 10:29:57
You kind of skip round the idea of what the books about without actually ever really telling us what it is. I have no idea after reading that what relevance the game has to the main character. I think it could be seen as elitist 'causeyou need to have read the book, or know what it's about before that review will really mean anything to you.

OK so it doesn't sound like it's a book with a standard plot as such but, even if the game isn't defined, there must be some relation with the game to the person the book is a biography of. Or something. Or is it a metaphor or something?

In other words, it probably makes sense to you why the book failed to achieve it's aims but I still have no idea what it's aims were. All I can glean is that it's set in the future, written as a biography of a music loving genius by some kind of reasearcher and it's set in some kind of alternate future in Germany. And the Catholic church is involved somewhere.

05-12-2002, 10:34:53
the thread title is a misnomer because i knew that several posters here had already read the book so i had no real intention of telling non-readers about it.

so the thread title should be 'why i hate the glass bead game - intended only for people who have already read it'

05-12-2002, 10:37:56
That makes a lot more sense then. :D

Maybe you should edit that into the start of the first post.

06-12-2002, 15:44:29
if being elitist means i have a rigorous critical faculty that demands high standards from things that aim at high art then i'm proud to be an elitist
What about being a ponce?

I enjoyed it. Certain bits really, really didn’t work, but I found that with all the Hesse books I’ve read.

Certainly parts that you’ve criticised, such as the change in tone from the prim and scholarly to the friendly and the way some events are hastily skimmed, improved it for me.

You're right most of the time, but the things is that I don't care. I didn't see the book as one that was primarily about delving into the lives of the famous names that Hesse mentioned, or a tutorial on Eastern philosophy.

is it possible to criticise a book with such high-blown ideas as the glass bead game without using the same language?
At the risk of being pedantic, you have criticised the book in a different language to the one it was written in.

06-12-2002, 16:13:32
Haben irgendein von Ihnen es auf Deutch gelesen?

07-12-2002, 22:36:38
We've got a games forum you know.

Sultan Bhargash
10-12-2002, 03:20:40
The Glass Bead Game is the most difficult/least interesting to me of Hesse's works.

By this point in his career he had been getting wierder and wierder and this entry makes the next jump in his logic to something that doesn't make sense the first, second, maybe more readings.