The Glass Bead Game

Anybody else reading The Glass Bead Game? Got an opinion? Wanna discuss it?

Well, if you imitate what you contemplate, I am going back to Hogwarts, thanks. I can deal with early 20th C. sexism--as a book-reading feminist I'd probably go nuts if I couldn't--but it seems like Hesse veers off into gynophobia. There is just one woman--one female character--in the book and Hesse does not even grace her with a name. She is just P's Mrs. (And that sounds more intimate than it really is. She has no raison d'etre apart from the marriage.) And outside of the nubile village maidens who satisfy the students' lust--saving them, I suppose, from other sins of the flesh--there are no mothers, no sisters, no female friends to soften the academic funk. The more I think on this, the more it eats at me. And not only does Mrs. not have any real identity, but she is so inept as a mother that only a drastic act can redeem her spoiled son.

Well, fold, spindle, and file all that!

According to Google I am not the first person to compare The Glass Bead Game to the Harry Potter books. (Massive Spoilers Alert!)

The Great Snape Debate 1

Justin Patrick Moore's picture

I read this about nine years ago. When JMG's post about this went up, I followed a lot of the links to books and articles by people who've started developing their own way of playing the Glass Bead Game. There seems to be quite a bit of potential for its further development.

Basic principles of the Glass Bead Game can be applied to writing: seeking connections between the disciplines of various fields.

I see the game as playing with the magical Art of Correspondence on a grand scale.

I'd be interested to see or hear about other peoples work in developing the Glass Bead Game and will report further on my own attempts at this.

I have been slogging though it for a few weeks- thinking, "where is he going with this?" I am glad to know there's a twist at the end (spoiler alert, there's a twist at the end...) Reading it through a writer's viewpoint, it is interesting to see how Hesse played with our background knowledge- the narrator has to assume that everyone knows about the game, the way a writer now doesn't have to explain the rules of soccer to describe a match.

I haven't read the "short fiction" at the end yet, but I finished the narrator's part yesterday - the ending felt both contrived and anti-climatic, like Hesse didn't know what else to do with the character! The writing was turgid, but as mentioned, there were parts that seemed almost sublime -and gave me a lot to think about! (which might be why it took me several weeks to read). I understand that the "narrator" is the "unreliable" type, who doesn't understand the main character the way the reader is supposed to, but at times that was really difficult to parse. How much was Hesse's POV and how much was "unreliable narrator"? But it was an intriguing read, and I'm looking forward to discussing it with a friend who's an ex-hippie and said she read it "annually" for years in her 20's... reading it at 56, I'm sure I'm coming at it very differently than I would have at 20!

I did make it thru The Glass Bead Game. And yes, I thought the first half was a lot of pretentious twaddle--but Hesse set us up with a pretentious, naive narrator who spews twaddle. As this fictional biographer begins to grok his "awakened" subject Knecht, the book actually approaches the sublime, I thought. And then Hesse rips the rug out from us. What the...? The tacked on parts at the end were interesting.

I'm reading a very interesting book on language analysis. I would love to do a computer comparision of speeches from the Music Master and Professor Dumbledore. --Though I am definitely not going to say that on TAR. J.K. Rowlings, in my opinion, has adequately answered my 21st century objections to Hesse.

Hint to Literature Majors: I'd love to see a paper on "Herminone Granger and the Glass Bead Game."

Skim read it 10 years ago, I thought it dreary pretentious twaddle, and I thought that Hesse really ducked the issue at the end (won't give the spoiler, but you'll see what I mean). I loved other Hesse work. Perhaps it's time to read it again.