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Beneath the Wheel Paperback – July 1, 2003

ISBN-13: 978-0312422301 ISBN-10: 031242230X Edition: Reprint

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 192 pages
  • Publisher: Picador; Reprint edition (July 1, 2003)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 031242230X
  • ISBN-13: 978-0312422301
  • Product Dimensions: 8.2 x 5.4 x 0.6 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 6.4 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (39 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #517,624 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

Review

“A remarkable mixture of affection, gentle humor, compassion, light irony, bitterness, and cold, angry indignation.” —The Sacramento Bee

“Can be read for sheer pleasure. Hesse’s peculiarly supple lyricism, his brittle irony, and his stunning descriptions of nature are marvelously carried over into the English.” —The Saturday Review

“[A] Black Forest Catcher in the Rye, a work infused with that sense of homesickness that Kurt Vonnegut, Jr., quite rightly said was so prominent in Hesse’s novels.” —The National Observer

About the Author

Hermann Hesse was born in Germany in 1877 and later became a citizen of Switzerland. As a Western man profoundly affected by the mysticism of Eastern thought, he wrote novels, stories, and essays bearing a vital spiritual force that has captured the imagination and loyalty of many generations of readers. His works include Steppenwolf, Narcissus and Goldmund, and The Glass Bead Game. He was awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1946. Hermann Hesse died in 1962.

More About the Author

Hermann Hesse (1877-1962) was born in Germany and later became a citizen of Switzerland. As a Western man profoundly affected by the mysticism of Eastern thought, he wrote many novels, stories, and essays that bear a vital spiritual force that has captured the imagination and loyalty of many generations of readers. In 1946, he won the Nobel Prize for Literature for The Glass Bead Game.

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Customer Reviews

4.4 out of 5 stars
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Overall this is a very good book and I would reccomend it to all Hesse fans.
"cjjdnc"
I like this better than all of Hesse's other books because it paints such a vivid picture of the downfalls of modern education.
kbarth17
It's a beautiful contrast of the real and the ideal; the simple life and the complexity of adolescence.
RR

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

46 of 48 people found the following review helpful By Andrew M. Schirmer on May 19, 2000
Format: Paperback
I couldn't have read this book at a better time. Like a lot of American high-schoolers in the "fast track" to college, I was feeling way overworked. I never had time anymore to enjoy nature, good books or anything else. It seemed that my life was school, and nothing else.
On a whim, I picked this up. "Beneath the Wheel," or "Unterm Rad" (auf Deutsch) is the story of a brilliant young man (in the prodigy sense) who is worked to death by those who unconsciously care nothing for him, but to see his advancement.
While I never experienced anything as extreme as Hans, this book really made me question why I was doing what I was doing. Why was I working myself to death in high school? Was I learning anything? Was I growing as a person?
This book is wonderful because Hesse tells the story is such a simple and poetic way; and it is translated marvelously. Simply a joy to read. I can read it over and over again. So, take heed, reader. Enjoy this book and spend many an afternoon questioning the merits of forced education; and different systems of learning. A good technical follow-up is "Teaching As A Subersive Activity." Check it out.
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53 of 60 people found the following review helpful By D. Roberts VINE VOICE on June 15, 2002
Format: Paperback
BENEATH THE WHEEL is the tragic story of young Hans Giebenrath. Young Hans is a precocious, possibly genius young man from a small one-horse German village. It's a working class town that is known for its steadfast character of its denizens, but not for the scope & breadth of their erudition. Hans is the exception to the rule: he is far & away intellectually superior to his peers, and he knows it.
So bright is Hans that he is selected to attend a German monastery to continue his academic studies. So prestigious is this academy that it would be comparable to an American student being accepted to Princeton or Stanford. It is on this journey that we join young Hans; so full of promise as well as a wee bit of arrogance.
In some ways, this book could be described as the anti-CATCHER IN THE RYE. Instead of extolling education as something worthwhile as opposed to merely banal, Hesse has a far less flattering view of the educational system. The crux of the book is found in the following passage:
"A schoolmaster will prefer to have a couple of dumbheads in his class rather than a single genius, and if you regard it objectively, he is of course right. His task is not to produce extravagant intellects but good Latinists, arithmeticians and sober decent folk." (99-100)
Here it becomes evident that Hesse has little regard for a German pedagogic system which places pragmatism above nourishing persons of exceptional mental acumen. Most of the rest of the book revolves around the nucleus of this passage.
The whole tone and style of this book very much reminds me of Thomas Mann. The theme of transition from adolesence to adulthood is present in Mann's works as well.
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17 of 17 people found the following review helpful By Linda Linguvic HALL OF FAMETOP 1000 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on January 26, 2002
Format: Paperback
Herman Hesse wrote this novel in 1906, long before he became known as one of the greatest writers in the 20th century. Obviously autobiographical, it tells the story of a Hans, young boy from a small village in the Black Forest region of Germany, who was pushed to study for exams so that he could gain admittance into a famous school that prepared boys for the ministry. Under the tutelage of the schoolmaster and the minister, he is pushed almost beyond endurance to master Greek, Latin, Hebrew, mathematics and other subjects. His childhood is spent in unrelenting study and he even has to give up his love of fishing. And then when he passes his exams and is admitted to the school, the pressure gets even worse. No wonder he gets splitting headaches!
Immediately, the reader is drawn into the story and we become the young Hans, and see the world through his eyes. We are there with him during the long hours of study and we meet his schoolmates, one young man in particular, a poet, who rebels against the system that is forcing the students to keep pushing themselves from getting crushed "beneath the wheel." Young Hans starts to have episodes of forgetfulness and fainting and eventually has a nervous breakdown and is sent back to his village in disgrace. The inevitable conclusion is tragic.
I can easily see the making of the great writer in Hesse's youthful novel. He's a master of simply stating the contradictions around him without making the connections obvious. And his descriptions of the beauty of nature are wonderful. He captures the essence of the heavy price we pay in doing what is expected of us without question. There's historical significance here too because, as we read, we have the hindsight to know what later happened in Germany.
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10 of 10 people found the following review helpful By RR on June 19, 2006
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
As an educator, I just had two of my gifted students read this novel, and am pleased that I can now read it with multiple lenses. I re-read it recalling my own experiences of high pressure and one-up-manship from an affluent Catholic suburban high school. But now, as a teacher, I see all the dangers in creating gateways and irreversible standards for present day students where colorless logic and linguistics have sadly replaced the need for creativity, independence, and integrity.

Set in pre-World War Germany of the early 1900s, it's also a remarkable read when you compare it to the state of affairs of modern America. These timeless themes have surprisingly remained the same: social status over spiritual discovery, labels and test scores over substance and meaning, product over process. One must ask, are we headed in the same direction as early 20th century Germany?

How many Hans Giebenrath's will we neglect in our lifetime? How many times will we set up an education system where genius is stifled? It makes you wonder how many great minds are lost in the rat race of modernity.

This classic is a great way to generate discussion between teacher and student, especially the student who strives for excellence yet struggles to maintain sanity and identity in a world that has unfortunately favored high SAT's and social rank over family, honor, friendship, and art for art's sake.

It's a beautiful contrast of the real and the ideal; the simple life and the complexity of adolescence.
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