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The Glass Bees (New York Review Books Classics) Paperback – 1 Oct 2000

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Product details

  • Paperback: 224 pages
  • Publisher: NYRB Classics (1 Oct. 2000)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0940322552
  • ISBN-13: 978-0940322554
  • Product Dimensions: 12.7 x 1.5 x 20.3 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 190,829 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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About the Author

Ernst Jünger (1895-1998) was born in Heidelberg and early on developed a fascination with war. As a teenager, he ran away to join the French Foreign Legion, then enlisted in the German Army of the first day of World War I. Jünger's first book, Storm of Steel, provided a graphic account of his experiences. Jünger kept his distance from the Nazis, and his 1939 novel On the Marble Cliffs presented an allegorical account of the destructive nature of Hitler's rule. One of the most controversial of twentieth-century German writers, Jünger was the recipient of numerous literary prizes, and continued his career as a writer until his death at the age of 102.

Bruce Sterling is the author of many short story collections, nonfiction books, and novels, three of which were selected as New York Times Notable Books of the Year. He lives in Austin, Texas.

Louise Bogan (1897-1970) was an American poet who was appointed the fourth Poet Laureate to the Library of Congress in 1945.

Elizabeth Mayer (1884-1970) was a German-born American translator and editor whose homes in New York served as artistic salons for many émigré writers.

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21 of 21 people found the following review helpful By on 9 Nov. 2000
Format: Paperback
Born in 1895, and passing away at the Olympian age of 102, Ernst Jünger stands as one of the most important figures in modern literature. He is also one of its most controversial. In "The Glass Bees", Jünger presents a meditation on the dark side of technological progress. There is clearly some of the author himself in the novel's main protagonist, the gentlemanly cavalry officer Captain Richard. However, like his creator, Richard is no reactionary luddite. The Captain needs a job, and needs one badly. Therefore, he seeks employment in the Zapparoni works. This vast complex produces the miniscule mechanised insects of the book's title. Richard is alarmed by these seemingly sinister attempts to play God. Yet, simultaneously, he is fascinated, and becomes further embroiled in Zapporoni's surreal yet hyper-real world. The line between good and evil appears increasingly blurred, and Richard struggles to maintain his balance on this most precarious of moral tight-ropes. True to form, Jünger does not offer any easy solutions to the quandary in which the character finds himself. Nor does he comment on the rights and wrongs of Zapparoni's enterprise. This is not to belittle the incisiveness of Jünger's text, however. As always, his tightly wound words shimmer with an iridescent beauty. Through his flawless combination of poetic lushness and pointed brevity, Jünger proves himself a true master of the written word. Indeed, the author's typically detached observational style actually adds to the weight of his parable. To a considerable extent, Richard's Faustian relationship to technology is comparable to our own. As such, "The Glass Bees" remains as powerful and relevant to us now as ever.Read more ›
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Luc REYNAERT TOP 1000 REVIEWER on 28 Jun. 2013
Format: Paperback
Ernst Jünger's novel is a mix of '1984' by George Orwell and `Brave New World' by Aldous Huxley.

The entrepreneur Zapparoni tries to develop an artificial man which should have all human characteristics, like the robot in Fritz Lang's Metropolis. These artificial human beings should allow him to establish an ingenious unbeatable security system. With the workforce in his factory, which is under continuous surveillance `without being chained', he produced very sophisticated prototypes: glass bees. These artificial bees can already be used for testing candidates for a job in his factory.

It is surprising to see Ernst Jünger as a moralist in this novel. He attacks those responsible for all environmental pollution, which puts the tranquility of the forests, the depths of the seas and the whole atmosphere in danger.
In addition, he raises a very topical issue and asks why those, who are changing so profoundly our lives, are not simply satisfied with collecting all fame, power and wealth? Why do they still want at all costs to be considered as saints?
For Ernst Jünger, in all circumstances people must always remain extremely vigilant. The preaching of morality by the masters of our world is only a show, which is as absurd as asking a shark to undergo an inspection of his teeth.

This novel with its elements of horror and violent incidents is probably the most humane one by the author, although its end is controversial.
In his other major works, Ernst Jünger used the power of his magic writing to praise war (the virility of a soldier's life) and not peace. Thomas Mann aptly characterized him as the man who enjoyed barbarism.
Not to be missed.
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3 of 4 people found the following review helpful By M. N. Dixon on 29 Oct. 2012
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
After reading Junger's brilliant metaphorical novella 'On the Marble Cliffs' I had high expectations of this book. I was to be disappointed. The novel has an interesting idea at its core and some of the science fiction elements are remarkably prescient for 1957 (nano technology, the subsuming of global political power into commercial forms) but the writing relies heavily on needless digression and the action is limited to what seems about 30 minutes real time at most. The narrator meets a man about a job then waffles on for the most part of the book about past military campaigns (rather vague affairs in themselves) and past friends who seem completely superfluous to the plot. His eventual meeting with Zaparoni is something of an anticlimax and the story seems to end without having said very much. However, it gets three stars because I did find the odd flash of Junger genius in his descriptions, quite near the end, of the countryside and the glass bees themselves - here his halucinatory powers seem to revive somewhat and it's almost worth waiting for.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) 18 reviews
47 of 51 people found the following review helpful
Top Ten ? Definitely in the Top 100 for the 20th Century 14 April 2004
By Jonathan Armstrong - Published on
Format: Paperback
How do you even begin to do justice to a novel like this? I would imagine that this could very well be a polarizing novel. (Keep in mind my personal philosophy is largely derived from Rene Guenon, et al.) However, I don't think anyone could doubt the quality of the prose itself.

As stated, very little actually happens. Actually, the "action" herein is probably a mere tenth or so of the length, but don't be fooled - Junger will string you along for a few pages, and then hit you with a philosophical passage that begs reading and re-reading. This is a science fiction novel by technical definition, although there is little actual emphasis on the technology; it is presented more as an allegory for the modern age.
The plot is very simple. Captain Richard, an aging war veteran, is given a job interview by the "great Zapparoni" (who is sort of mixture between Walt Disney and Rupert Murdoch). Richard, despite having no short amount of noblisse oblige (nurtured in an earlier, more noble era) nevertheless has cultivated an identity based on failure, largely resulting from being out of step with the current age. He is a man caught between two worlds - he cannot bear to destroy himself even in lieu of the pointlessness of modern existence, yet is unwilling to sacrifice himself to the new technological gods, who demand little more than technical efficiency and blind obedience at the expense of human perfection.
When I was reading this novel, I was reminded of Spengler's introduction to _The Decline of the West_, in which he differentiated between "men of action" and "men of contemplation". Men of action, Spengler said, are the logical result of the particular era they live in (sadly, the figures of Bill Clinton and George W. Bush probably exemplify our own era.) Richard, on the other hand, is a man of contemplation, if perhaps not a great one. He paradoxically realizes that he is trapped in circumstances beyond his control while the "men of action" - who can do little but mirror the values of the modern age - do not stop even for a second to consider anything at all.
Richard knows that Zapparoni, who has built an empire based upon animatronic robots, is little more than the logical product of his age. Richard must come to terms with Zapparoni - who is less a figure than a representation of the modern industrial age. It is a world where "efficiency" and predictable order take precedence over any mere human interest, and "progress" is little more than the continual play of technological novelty.
Richard realizes that no reads Herodotus any more; he pontificates on the nature of the man who is infinitely adaptible. In a telling scene, a former horseman and comrade-in-arms is now a petty bureaucrat in the public transportation system of his city, and elicits little more than disdain for their old days in the army.
I won't give the conclusion away, but the end result isn't a happy one - and it will doubtlessly not sit well with those of us who simply "do what we have to do to get by" in lieu of overwhelming feelings of powerlessness and anomie that characterize the modern age (even as Americans possess the highest standard of living of any people in the history of planet.) This novel poses many questions: to what degree do we limit the possibility of human perfection by striving for technical perfection? Is it possible for the person inherently out of touch with the values of the modern age to find meaning in existence? And most importantly: do human values have any place in the modern era at all?
In the end, I believe Junger has created perhaps the most succinct testimony to modern spiritual death yet written.
17 of 17 people found the following review helpful
Millennium bugs 22 April 2002
By Philip Challinor - Published on
Format: Paperback
Captain Richard trained as a swashbuckling cavalry officer, but increasingly mechanised forms of warfare forced him to become a tank technician. Now, down on his luck after a life that reads like a radically compressed history of the twentieth century, he approaches the industrialist Zapparoni for a job. As the book came out in the 1950s and its author was born before the turn of the century, Zapparoni's products are called "robots" or "automata"; but they're a far cry from Asimov's Robots and Mechanical Men. As Bruce Sterling points out in his intriguing introduction, some passages from The Glass Bees, taken out of context, might easily have come from a computer magazine of the 1990s, blaring the wonders of miniaturisation and CD-ROM. The bulk of the novel comprises Richard's meditations before, during and after his interview with Zapparoni, and Junger's prescience is impressive not only in terms of the technology he envisages, but also in terms of its effect. Richard notes, for example, that the artificial bees' total efficiency in collecting nectar - not a drop left inside - will simply cause the flowers to die off through lack of cross-pollination. Written with brilliant and chilly clarity, and climaxing in an episode of restrained horror and terrifying ambiguity, The Glass Bees is an examination of the moral and cultural price of technology, from the perspective of a man who had seen plenty. However, although Sterling compares him with Celine, Junger is neither rancorous nor misanthropic. Indeed, despite the fact that Richard's wife is mentioned only a few times and never appears in person, the book is also a rather touching affirmation of human love.
44 of 50 people found the following review helpful
Machine in the garden.... 3 Mar. 2001
By Dianne Foster - Published on
Format: Paperback
A couple of decades ago The Washington Post interviewed a number of illustious writers and asked each of them to name the 10 best books they had ever read. I read the lists, mentally judging whether or not I would have selected the same books and noting the books I had not read that I might. The lists included the usual references to MOBY DICK, HUCKLEBERRY FINN, and the BIBLE, but one list included THE GLASS BEES by Ernst Junger.
For reasons unknown to me, I am attracted to any book with the word bees or honey in the title, but the fact that the protagonist Captain Richard was a German veteran also caught my interest. I had read many books, articles, etc. by and about U.S. soldiers and veterans, but had not read anything by or about German veterans and I wanted to know more. Also, at the time I discovered THE GLASS BEES the newspapers were filled with articles about unemployed Vietnam veterans, so the fact that Captian Richard was also unemployed further intrigued me.
Now I don't like science fiction, but, by the time I realized THE GLASS BEES was science fiction (at least it was when the book was written), I found myself hooked on a book I would never have gone out of my way to read, about things I did not want to know. I am a gardener, and I love nature, but this book presents a terrifying look into a world anyone who loves nature will abhor.
THE GLASS BEES is about the war technological forces are waging against nature. Have you read THE MACHINE IN THE GARDEN by Leo Marx? This is the next step. Forget the locomotive engine crashing through the underbrush, the technology in this book makes the locomotive engine look positively benign. Siegfried Mandel wrote in a New York Times review that THE GLASS BEES presents "scenes as harrowing and thought-disturbing as any created by Karel Capek, George Orwell or Aldous Huxley."
When Junger wrote THE GLASS BEES he was aware of the tecnological improvisations of the Nazis including the crematoriums and rockets. The Nuremburg trials had uncovered one scientific horror after another. Junger could foresee the future when capitalistic forces would rule and everything would be artificial. Unfortunately, he was a prophet. Today our food, houses, clothing, medicines, you name it are all artificial. And, we are ruled by a dozen international corporations.
THE GLASS BEES is one of the top ten books I have ever read and it ought to be mandatory reading for high school students. I think of Junger's book everyday. And, just in case I might forget, over my patio, next to the wind chimes, I've hung a glass bee.
14 of 16 people found the following review helpful
A great achivement 18 Jun. 2000
By "lampros" - Published on
Format: Paperback
Many people in Europe consider Juenger a cultural Titan of the XX's century, some sort of new Goethe who has crossed the whole century ( he lived 102 years dying just two years ago). This is one of his most famous novels where he muses about the rol and meaning of technology in a very heideggarian and nietzchian way. Unfortunaly we still don't have his main work. his Journals from the second world war, translated into English
7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
A prophecy that has already occured. 15 Feb. 2002
By Moises I. Orozco - Published on
Format: Paperback
The Glass Bees is a short novel about power, technology and nature. It's also the story of a life; the life of a veteran german captain that has lived in two very different worlds: the "old" world where words like "courage" or "pride" still meant something and a "new" world where the words have lost their meaning, where the power of the State has almost been surrended to huge high-tech transnational firms and where efficency criteria leads the behaviour of most of the peolple. The story tells the way in which the old world's man tries (unsuccsesfully most of the times)to fit himself in the new world.
In my opinion The Glass Bees is an outstanding novel althoug -I have to say it- not one of the 10 best books I have ever read as another reviewer says.
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