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Magister Ludi
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
Format: Mass Market Paperback
Hermann Hesse, mystical madman genius, blessed 20th century culture with an irresistable body of work. Magister Ludi, like so many of Hesse's novels, takes the reader inside the mind of its central character. Joseph Knecht, a human MENSA meeting, is given every opportunity to develop his intellect to its fullest potential. The majority of the book follows Joseph's charmed life from childhood music lessons to his apex as master of the glass bead game, a metaphor for the most balanced expression of music, philosophy, mathematics, and all that is and will be. Set in a futuristic, utopian nosuchplace long after the last of the great wars, the story begins and ends in an intellectual arena which seems to exist outside of time. Many readers may grow tired of the scores of pages dedicated to the ramblings, conflicts, and introspections of a scholar. However, the truly devoted reader will find unparalleled examples of Hesse's penchant for both harsh reality and eastern mysticism in the last hundred pages. The posthumous writings of Joseph Knecht, a collection of "homework assignments" written by the Magister Ludi in his youth, yields some beautiful poems and parables.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
on July 23, 1998
Format: Mass Market Paperback
Another reviewer in this space criticised Magister Ludi because there is "No story, no compelling narrative, the constant fallback position of incessant gnattering about the nature of the mind." This is not a story, and the narrative is meant to support the theme of the book: an exploration of the dangers of purely intellectual pursuit of the world. It's a novel of ideas and one which provokes a patient reader to think about themes which are frequently glossed over or ignored in contemporary fiction. Readers who appreciate irony, subtle humor, and reference to real personages will enjoy this work. The idea that the whole of human culture, science, art, thought and understanding could be embodied in something called a "game" is an apt starting point for this cleverly constructed extension of HH's earlier works - without being mired in a specific age or setting, as in Siddhartha, Narcissus & Goldmund, etc. Hesse earned the Nobel Prize in Lit! erature for this provocative novel: deservedly so.
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Format: Mass Market Paperback
The Glass Bead Game is divided into four distinct parts. Part 1, the general introduction to the game, is likely to be the least interesting to the general reader and may be skipped without concern that important information to understand the story will be lost. Part 2 is the fictional biography of Jospeph Knecht, the Magister Ludi of the title of the novel. As other reviewers have noted, the entertainment value of this biography is slight. The story starts slowly with Knecht's childhood and education and then moves to the point in the middle of the novel where he is appointed Magister Ludi (teacher of the game). I was interested in the various problems Knecht faced as Magister in the future world called Castalia. Knecht slowly moves toward enlightenment and we watch his steady progress. His journey becomes more interesting as he faces obstacles, not only with the ruling elite of Castalia, but also in himself. Everyone recognizes that Knecht is an extraordinary human being, but he challenges the status quo and has genuine concerns about the future of Castalia that not everyone wants to hear. The end of Knecht's story comes as an abrupt surprise to the reader.

Joseph Knecht's poetry comprises Part 3 of the novel. The poems help us to understand the inner life and world of Knecht and are useful in that regard. The poems are worth reading even if they did not relate directly to the story.

In Part 4, the final section of the book, Hesse gives us three long stories related to the novel. Many readers will find these stories the most entertaining part of the novel. In fact, another review suggests readers begin their reading of the novel with these stories - not a bad idea. The stories are well told and genuinely interesting. I read the poems along with the stories; some poems - Stages - I read several times.

Summary: Many people will not get beyond the general introduction to The Glass Bead Game (Part 1); watching paint dry is how some readers have described it. Joseph Knecht's story (Part 2) will interest those readers who love the work of Hermann Hesse and want to read his final novel, his crowning achievement, as some have called it. I am in this category of readers and read with interest this final novel. The poetry and short stories which complete the novel are genuinely entertaining and similar in style to much of Hesse's other work. If the general reader starts at the end and enjoys the short stories and poetry, skips the general introduction, and then moves quickly through the early life of Joseph Knecht, reading The Glass Bead Game may be an enjoyable experience.
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Format: Paperback
_What is the Glass Bead Game? It is no less than the highest reason that an entire future civilization exists. It is the grand and ongoing synthesis of all knowledge into a unified, integrated whole (a Unio Mystica.) It is an attempt to forge a holographic intellectual world where all is interconnected and reflected in every part. This is a mission to weave the golden thread of significance and meaning through every part of a culture- science and the arts and the spiritual are all unified into a system of concentric, interpenetrating rings. All this is primarily accomplished by using the language of music and mathematics as common universal symbolism (the "glass beads" are part of a symbolic physical aid that was once used for this purpose.)

_It is no wonder that the book places the first origins of the game with Pythagoras, Gnostics, and Socratic ethics. No wonder that the League of Journeyers to the East also figure prominently in its development. To some extent the Game has been the goal of all sensitive and introspective individuals and groups down through the ages.

_All of this stands in stark contrast to our own Feuilletonistic Age where all knowledge, all culture, is unsynthesized, chaotic, and largely meaningless babble.

_The crisis that develops from this is that even if you accomplish this grand synthesis in some isolated ivory tower refuge of intellectual contemplatives- it isn't enough. It is necessary to reach out to the entire society once it is achieved in the same way that a bodhisattva attempts to enlighten the rest of mankind instead of individually passing onto Nirvana. The entire society must be made whole and sacred and not just an isolated elite. This is the realization that comes even to the Magister Ludi, the Master of the Game.

_For the game to be ultimately meaningful we have to coach everyone to eventually become Masters.
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VINE VOICEon February 8, 2006
Format: Paperback
_What is the Glass Bead Game? It is no less than the highest reason that an entire future civilization exists. It is the grand and ongoing synthesis of all knowledge into a unified, integrated whole (a Unio Mystica.) It is an attempt to forge a holographic intellectual world where all is interconnected and reflected in every part. This is a mission to weave the golden thread of significance and meaning through every part of a culture- science and the arts and the spiritual are all unified into a system of concentric, interpenetrating rings. All this is primarily accomplished by using the language of music and mathematics as common universal symbolism (the "glass beads" are part of a symbolic physical aid that was once used for this purpose.)

_It is no wonder that the book places the first origins of the game with Pythagoras, Gnostics, and Socratic ethics. No wonder that the League of Journeyers to the East also figure prominently in its development. To some extent the Game has been the goal of all sensitive and introspective individuals and groups down through the ages.

_All of this stands in stark contrast to our own Feuilletonistic Age where all knowledge, all culture, is unsynthesized, chaotic, and largely meaningless babble.

_The crisis that develops from this is that even if you accomplish this grand synthesis in some isolated ivory tower refuge of intellectual contemplatives- it isn't enough. It is necessary to reach out to the entire society once it is achieved in the same way that a bodhisattva attempts to enlighten the rest of mankind instead of individually passing onto Nirvana. The entire society must be made whole and sacred and not just an isolated elite. This is the realization that comes even to the Magister Ludi, the Master of the Game.

_For the game to be ultimately meaningful we have to coach everyone to eventually become Masters.
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4 of 10 people found the following review helpful
on June 13, 1997
Format: Mass Market Paperback
There are certain books I feel compelled to read, whether enjoyable or not. I plowed through `Moby Dick` and did likewise with `Ulysses`, painful though each task was. Am I any better for sychiatrist.
I have to say I found myself in the same situation with Hesse`s `The Glass Bead Game`. This is the breathless biography of Joseph Knecht, Magister Ludi of utopian Castilia and leader of the Glass Bead Game (a bizarre symbological synthesis of music, science and the arts).

Hesse tries to make some sweeping indictments of modern technological culture. In the end, what he ends up doing is boring you half to death. I read and enjoyed his `Steppenwolf` and `Siddartha`, so no doubt that he knew his stuff. But I fear that his self-proclaimed magnum opus falls far short of the mark. Again and again he lapses into rambling discourses on the nature of intellectualism and pedantry, tepid enough to send you rushing for a hot shower.
Now admittedly, better readers than I have praised this book to the skies, but I must say that I don`t get it. No story, no compelling narrative, the constant fallback position of incessant gnattering about the nature of the mind. My advice to those who read this - coffee, and lots of it.
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