The Glass Bead Game – Herman Hesse


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To the next person who reads this book:

Set in remote Castalia in the twenty-third century, Joseph knecht becomes the Magister Ludi. We follow Knecht from childhood throughout the course of his life.

I liked this book because of its eastern influence – we imagine a monastery, a minimal existence in which meditation is practiced three times a day.

The idea of belonging to a scholarly, monk-like society is very appealing – the culture of Castalia is described so well I think it is what drew me to the book.

This novel deals constantly with themes of a ‘spiritual awakening,’ as well as that of a student growing into master, the two being one, with a shared fate.

Interesting is the decline of this world and its need to be balanced with the mainstream society which funds it existence.

A complete world set in the future, at a time where war is a thing of the past an politics and mainstream society are seen as conquest and the struggle for power.

But the Castalian world is not without its own sinister implications: It is a world primarily of assimilation, integration and conformity.

This force of conformity comes from the ‘Order’, as the novel explores what it means to become apart of it. The existence of the order is dependent on the willingness of the people to assimilate, which for me, felt almost similar to totalitarian rule.

Favourite tales from this story were those centred around the music master, and the hermit who taught Joseph to understand the rules of I Ching.

Hesse has a wonderfully accurate way of describing; he details this world in such a way that as a reader, I was gifted with several personal revelations.

At the End of Joseph’s tale is a collection of his works. Poetry from his childhood, which as a Castalian, was his first rebellion, and three lives – stories where one writes of a certain epoch by imagining they are characters immersed in the time period. Even these speak of the main themes that run through out the entire novel; the cycle from student to master and spiritual awakenings.

This novel had an end that was unpredictable, but satisfying, in that it was so wonderfully orchestrated it couldn’t have ended in any other way.