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62 of 66 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Hesse's Magnum Opus, November 17, 2002
This review is from: The Glass Bead Game: (Magister Ludi) A Novel (Paperback)
This book is to Hesse as "The Brothers Karamazov" is to Dostoevsky. Throughout it are the same ideas that have been put forth in earlier works, often with similar characters, but with a fuller and more articulate expression than before. Like Dostoevsky, he finally figured out how to say *everything* he had to say in one volume. So it comes as no surprise that those only concerned with certain aspects (particularly the more spiritual ones) of Hesse's writing would find it disjointed and tedious. If you want to read more of Hesse's stories about tormented and/or confused souls looking for meaning in the world, this isn't your book - go reread Damien and Steppenwolf. This book has that esoteric search, but its main character, Joseph Knecht, pursues this search as a curiousity and not out of some desperate need. I'm sure that's why several people seem to find him lacking compared to other Hesse protagonists - they're expecting a conflict in him that isn't there.
As I read these other reviews I find it fascinating that everyone seems to come away from the book with such different things that they were struck with. In my case, this was the socio-political commentary. Through this book, Hesse comments on our own time and on a fictional opposite to it, thoroughly exposing the flaws in both. I remember most distinctly Knecht's letter of resignation from Magister Ludi, where he tells his colleagues that although they understand the importance of their society's existence, they made the fatal mistake of not educating the people who support them. That they cannot take the existence of what they have for granted, for the day would eventually come when all they built would be dismantled. Perhaps this was because I read this book when I was in an institution that resembled much of what Hesse wrote about, and exactly when Congress cut the NEA.
Reading this book changed my view of the world most in that it changed my expectations of it. More to the point, I abandoned my expectations. I am much more apt to let other people be themselves. To explain how or why would take far too long, suffice it to say that there is more to this book than a pursuit for spiritual meaning or a balance of intellectual and physical need, but also balance on many other levels, and Hesse explores all of them in his classic manner - first by their disparity, then by their eventual unity. A stunning conclusion to the career of one the greatest writers of all time.
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Tracked by 3 customers

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Showing 1-5 of 5 posts in this discussion
Initial post: Jun 1, 2010 11:59:18 AM PDT
Last edited by the author on Jun 1, 2010 12:07:38 PM PDT
Maple Leaf says:
It has been a long time since I read Magister Ludi (The Glass Bead Game) but every week, or more, I repeat a poem that came out of the book. The Glass Bead Game: (Magister Ludi) A NovelThe poem is on page 444 and is titled in the Winston translation 'Stages'. At the heart of this poem is "In all beginnings dwells a magic force For guarding us and helping us to live" and ends with this "Even the hour of our death may send Us speeding on to fresh and newer spaces, And life may summon us to newer races So be it, heart: bid farewell without end!" Wonderful. It was a great shock to me to find in a thrift store a different translation. The title is now "Steps" and the lines I've memorized and quoted this translation's reads: "A magic dwells in each beginning and protecting us it tells us how to live." and "Maybe death's hour too will send us out new-born toward undreamed-of lands, maybe life's call to us will never find an end ... Courage, my heart, take leave and fare thee well!" This illustrated for me the importance of a good translation. Oh my, did it ever.

In reply to an earlier post on May 22, 2011 4:45:09 PM PDT
Last edited by the author on May 22, 2011 4:47:34 PM PDT
Avtar Gill says:
Could you please provide details (publisher, translator's name, etc.) about the second version that you mentioned in your post? Thanks.

Posted on Aug 19, 2011 7:35:32 AM PDT
William, thank you for your fine review!

Posted on Aug 19, 2011 10:30:20 AM PDT
Maple Leaf says:
Best review yet of my favorite Hesse. I probably say that because, in general, it's the way I think of the book. The gem of "Stages" is pure gild.
Thanks.

In reply to an earlier post on Aug 19, 2011 10:43:05 AM PDT
Maple Leaf says:
Sorry no. Can't find either book. My 'library' in great need of organizing.
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