I got to the end of the Glass Bead Game, finally! And boy… did it disappoint.
The final 20% of the book is several poems and three short stories written by the character whose life we just got a long, tired account of. Two of the three stories were actually really good and I thought the book was going to redeem itself with these, since a lot of what made them good was what you learned about the character who supposedly wrote them. But then.
The third and final story, and finale of the book ends with
IT WAS ALL A DREAM
Yes. Seriously. The climax of the story is that a huge portion of the characters life was all a dream/vision and he had some kind of epiphany from this that life itself is pointless and nothing but struggle and pain, so he recedes from life to be a hermit and focus on inner peace.
But come on! Any storyteller should know that this as a climax is awful. If it had not been the FINAL story, and literal end to this book, it wouldn’t have been a terrible story. But as a climax, this is very disappointing and I’d expect an experienced writer to know better.
Yes it was written in the 40’s, and maybe this kind of end wasn’t such an overused trope at the time, but that doesn’t excuse it, as it is just as annoying the first time you experience it.
Anyway. Now it’s finally over and I can stop complaining about it. On to the next thing!
I’m still working my way through The Glass Bead Game.
‘Working’ being the operative word.
The author really likes the word ‘abstruse’ which, I had not heard before and took to be a combination of abstract and obtuse. I wasn’t far off.
Abstruse: difficult to understand; obscure
That’s pretty much the book in a nutshell, too.
It’s not that it’s difficult to understand, though, exactly. More that it’s difficult to care about. It is told not as a story, but as a historical account of some important figure told far after the events. On occasion the prose slips from history book style into actual storytelling. Then it is enjoyable and engaging and thoughtful–but those times are islands of interest in a sea of bore.
I am forcing my way through it though, because I’m hoping eventually it will kick into gear and I’ll figure out how the heck the author won a Nobel prize…
But I’m already 1/3 through and so far, it’s just a bunch of abstruse ramblings that I find myself zoning out and forgetting constantly.
I think I could be happy being a monk/scholar/priest, whatever you want to call it. A person who leaves behind ‘life’ in order to devote themselves to the world of the mind/spirit. If I could spend every waking hour studying, reading, learning, teaching, etc, I think I could give up material possessions and all the things involved in ‘real’ life.
This is what the character in ‘the glass bead game’ has done. He is devoting his life to study and learning, and introspection. This sounds very appealing to me. I sometimes think I could be happy if I could just be left to my own interests with a safe place to sleep and enough food not to starve.
But… the appeal of all the entertainment and other things I consume daily is strong, and might not be so easy to give up…
I’ve started reading ‘The Glass Bead Game’ by Herman Hesse, mainly because the title made me think of go. The story features a fictional game that is very abstract and deals with concepts and ideas as the ‘pieces’. The players are intellectual elites who use pieces of knowledge or pieces of culture to play their games. The opening of the book is a history of the game’s origins and evolution to its current state, in the future world of the novel.
This opening, detailing a fictional future world where intellect and the mind are valued, made me wish our world could be like that. Thinking and knowledge for the sake of it, for the improvement of your own self and your understanding of the world–is not ‘in fashion’ anymore in our world. Knowledge and intellect are valued only as much as they can be used to make money or increase power. Philosophy is laughed at, the arts are considered a waste of time, history is viewed as a political tool, music is for selling tickets.
Can we return to an age of thought and reason and imagination and introspection? It’s what our species does best–what makes us stand out from the other animals. Let’s not let it fall away in favor of fighting and destruction.