Short Stories, Irish literature, Classics, Modern Fiction, Contemporary Literary Fiction, The Japanese Novel, Post Colonial Asian Fiction, The Legacy of the Austro-Hungarian Empire and quality Historical Novels are Among my Interests

Wednesday, November 2, 2016

The Glass Bead Game: Magister Ludi by Hermann Hesse

This will be the fifth year The Reading Life has participated in German Literature Month.  This event is one  of the reason it is great to be part of the international book blog community.  Last year I was motivated to read world class literary works by writers like Thomas Mann, Hermann Broch, Stefan Zweig, Hermann Hesse as well as lesser know treasures.  I learned a lot from the many very erudite posts by coparticipants and from those by our very generous hosts Caroline of Beauty is a Sleeping Cat and Lizzy of Lizzy's Literary Life.  You will find excellent reading suggestions and planned events on their blog.  To participate all you have to do is to post on any work originally written in German and put your link on the event blog.  

For German literature Month during 2013 and 2014  I have posted on novels by the German Nobel Laureate Hermann Hesse.  About forty five years ago I was very into Hesse it is good to return.   I am glad I have gotten back into his work.  I do wish I had a 45 year old book blog post to look back on to see what I thought of Steppenwolf or Shidhartha back in the long ago.  

The Glass Bead Game: Magister Ludi is considerd to be Hesse's greatest work. Hesse said it was.  At 562 pages it is the longest.  It is set far in the future and centers on the playing of a game, the glass bead game.  This is a purely intellectual game whose components are music, philosophy, mathematics, and art.  The central character has gained entrance to a highly elite academy devoted to pure studies.  Many of the students are devotees of the glass bead game.  We are never given an account of the rules of the game but we grasp that games are infinitely complex and things of beauty.  

We follow the career of a student who will become a master of the game.  The narrative spins an ever more complicated account of the game.  It is fascinating to try to understand what Hesse is conveying,  Is he suggesting that human intellectual activity is but a game or is the game the only available path to enlightenment.  

 This is a very demanding book, drawing you into the society in which the games occur.  

  Is The Glass Bead Game an attack on escapist pursuits or is it a glorification of pure intellect, music especially.  To Hesse neophytes, first read his shorter works but when the time is right, I suggest you try your luck with the glass bead game.  

I am so glad I have  at last read this book.

Mel ü


Fred said...

Mel u,

This is my favorite of Hesse's works. I think it's a rejection of the ivory tower academic life, on the one hand, but, on the other hand, the outside world isn't that great either, is it?

Mudpuddle said...

tantalizing post... i read this many years ago but remember almost nothing about it: those were the days (he said...) when seemingly everyone was reading Hesse; i know i was... how fast the time passes... maybe it's time for a replay of some sort...

Fred said...

Magister Ludi and Steppenwolf are my favorites. At least those are the two I reread after the Hesse craze had dissipated.

Marina Sofia said...

Like Mudpuddle, I also read this and Siddhartha as a student, at the time when everyone was reading Hesse (plus, we were studying Japanese and Chinese, so we felt obliged to see what his thoughts on Asian religions were), but don't remember all that much about it. I do see this as quite topical today, when the outside world has become so unappetising and frightening that intellectual games and challenges start to look really appealing.

Mel u said...

Fred,it is the most challenging of the six or so Hesse worksI have read.perhaps Iike Stepenwolf, maybe partially for memory of old reading times reasons. Thanksverynuch for your comments

Mel u said...

Mudpuddld. It seems,any read Hesse in their early twenties or late teens then return to him decades later,as I have.thanks for your comment

Mel u said...

Marina Sofia. Your reading pattern of Hesse seems much like mine. Thanks for your comment