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on 24 November 2015
One of the most thought-provoking and immersive books I've read in a very long time. Hermann Hesse is brilliant, bringing together an overlapping mindscape of sociology, politics, philosophy and economics to boot. The development of the characters is done in such a way, that one feels a connection to each and every one of them, even understanding their perceptions and philosophies where appropriate. As the story journeys towards it's inevitable end, it does so with a style that captivates the reader until the very last page. Well done, Hermann Hesse.
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on 14 December 2010
As a cheeky teenager this masterpiece was the coolest SF/fantasy and a surprising loot from the school library in Japan (it was a Japanese edition immaculately translated from the original German).
Now, almost 30 years later, revisiting the same novel through this superb English edition has brought me the most serene satisfaction, almost an intellectual ecstasy as it shows nothing but the ultimate humility and compassion of the author who was way ahead of his time.
Someday, a Peter Jackson figure might challenge the impossible task of creating a 3D film out of it, who knows.
Because you have been created from the elements of this world, you return everything you are given to where it belongs in the end. Be thankful and be fulfilled. And know that you have been loved all through your life.
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on 12 July 2016
The basic premise is the author imagines a future intellectual game embracing the highest of human intellect, ideals and knowledge. The main character Joseph Knecht progress in the community eventually realising he needs to leave for the real world. What’s so bad?

This is an unreadable, pointless, overblown dirge. Anything that happens, happens in the most unemotional, unengaging, uninteresting in fact every ‘un’ you can imagine. The main reason goes like this – the basic premise may as well have said “the highest ideal of intellect is my local post office, everyone knows the management of postal delivery is vital to society, I don’t need to explain further; now here’s the clever guy who’s got some issues with that; allow the author 515 pages to bore you in explaining why….”. There is absolutely no story dynamic.

Further (sorry if this is a spoiler) the issue which finally confirmed this is a poor novel is that the aforementioned clever guy at the culmination had to write an extended memo to his leader to explain himself and his view of the future. The author must surely have realised, given the premise of the glass bead game, that Joseph needed to play the game to make the point?

Also don’t get me started on the premise that music of the classical period and maths represented the supreme ideals translated to the game: a game of intellect has to embrace the dark side of humanity. When one of the players needed to learn Chinese characters to play, one realised the premise that any one individual could play alone was preposterous; and that learning and human knowledge would be being constantly added to the game were ignored too. I could go on and on, and bore you with the futility and poorly imagined premise, but that would be being as bad as the author.

Even as a work of intellect and philosophy (mentoning Hagel etc) there was not even one worthy quote to give you.

In a nutshell this writing is its own Glass Bead Game.
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on 4 May 2014
Glass Bead Game is a must read for any thinking person.

The book completely exceeded my expectations, I wish that I had read it years ago. The Glass bead Game is beautifully written and encompassed everything we need to live a fulfilled life, to not judge others, to follow our heart and our interests. It is 'A truly important book'
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on 4 February 2017
This book is an amalgamation of all the higher things that a human being should aspire to presented through Joseph Knecht's life journey. Hesse manages to make his concepts of a higher life by The Glass Bead Game which is an abstracted form of the progress of life.
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on 27 January 2009
This is often regarded as Hesse's masterpiece. I wouldn't necessarily disagree with that - it's a philosophical novel with a profound and relevant message. It's also more readable than one might think.

However, the problem to my mind is that the basic thesis Hesse outlines in this novel can be reduced to a few sentences. On the one hand, he gives us the players of the Glass Bead Game, who are cut off from ordinary society and entirely devoted to abstract & purely intellectual pursuits which have little to do with real life (the Game). On the other hand, he gives us the inhabitants of the towns below, who are entirely devoted to material ambitions (busines and politics) which have no basis in intellectual thought.

The thesis, therefore, is that those who conduct their lives purely on an intellectual level are out of touch with real life and tend towards unreality, while those who live their lives purely on a material level can never achieve any form of enlightenment, insight or spiritual progress. It would be desirable to fuse these two elements so that they are interdependent, but there are many difficulties in achieving this.

The novel explores these issues at great depth and length, through the life of the main protagonist (whose name I can't recall...). My problem - possibly it's a matter of temperament - was that having grasped the basic conflict over the course of the first 100 pages, the next 400 seemed rather superfluous.

Hesse's short stories are great, though - definitely recommend those in 'Strange Light from Another Star' (also the title of a Blur track).
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on 21 February 2004
Before coming to 'The Glass Bead Game' I had read 'Steppenwolf' and 'Siddhartha'. Both - to my sensibilities at the time - were sensitive, intelligently-written and sparkling works of prose that wrestled with some engaging questions. I knew that 'The Glass Bead Game' was considered Hesse's 'magnum opus'...and picked it up with a high degree of excitement. I was very interested to see what this fascinating man had created in order to seal his worldwide reputation.
And what a crashing disappointment. From the outset, as I read through the preliminary 'General Introduction For The Layman' I began to feel a vague unease. As I delved into the childhood, youth and middle-age of the central character Joseph Knecht I experienced - by turns - indifference, irritation and finally incredulity. Here was one of the driest, highfalutin pieces of twentieth century literature I had read for a long time: and by a man who should know better!
I won't give a detailed run-down of the plot: other reviews have done that already. But I have a few comments that I must pass on. 'The Glass Bead Game' is an imaginary biographical account of the Magister Ludi (Chief Glass Bead Game Player) Joseph Knecht. This style of writing cannot sustain genuine literary interest if it isn't supported by a credible plot. I would argue that the story of one man's rise to the summit of an intellectual utopia - and his voluntary withdrawal from it - does not sustain 400 pages of muddled intellectual musing.
The ideas and tenets of the 'Castalian' society in which The Glass Bead Game thrives are often contradictory - not to mention half-baked, watery and overstated. Hesse's use of language in this novel is of a high aesthetic standard: I can't argue against that. He writes with genious and skill. But his ultimate point is so laboured and dissected that any joy one may have received from his prose is quashed. This 'novel' (can I even call it that? It strikes me more as a confused manifesto) generalizes MASSIVE cosmic themes that cannot be adequately imparted to a reader in Hesse's chosen medium: I read through the words 'peace', 'truth', 'self' and 'divine' so many times - along with a thousand other similar ones that each have so many different meanings - that ultimately this book ceased to 'mean' anything to me at all.
Such overblown pomposity is disappointing: especially when it hides behind the screen of complex, high-flown language. The ideas behind it are not finished ones: nor do they offer any kind of satisfactory answer to any of the other questions tackled in Hesse's other - much, much better - works.
And why place Knecht's 'posthumous' writings - consisting of some immature poetry and an extra 100 pages of his supposed 'studies' - at the finish? They are utterly irrelevant and bring nothing to the work itself.
I always finish a book and hence I followed this baffling contruction to the bitter end. I almost wish I hadn't, now, as it succeeded in tarnishing my fondness for Hesse's unique intellectual touch. In this dry, de-humanised work of rhetoric it flies a mile wide of the mark.
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on 24 February 2015
Don't usually read these types of books but it was insightful, philosophical and theelogical all at the same time as having an amazing storyline
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on 18 June 2005
The Glass Bead Game (Master Ludi), by Herman Hesse, is a great book. Hesse intergrates thoughts and plots from his previous books and delivers a masterpiece. It is better to read his other books first to understand The Glass Bead Game in depth.
The appendices with the poems are not closely connected to the plot and are written by Hesse at an earlier period.
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on 9 December 2011
I am very happy to read some reviews that capture (what I think is) the essence of this book.
There are moments of such transcendental, meditative beauty in this jewel of a book that one gets shivers. I can only compare the effect of the most beautiful parts with meditation.
It is not surprising that some reviewers would welcome 3D enactments of the book's universe.
It is clearly a magnum opus, full of quality through and through. Give it time and immerse yourself in it.
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