This was less powerful than most other Hesse I've read so far, other than Demian I guess. It leans way more on the intellectual and the philosophical than it does the introspective and the personal, so while it was still super interesting, it didn't have the same impact.
It’s a fictional biography about a student and eventual master of this cloister-like super-school. You go to live there at a young age and never leave! There’s no real conflict to speak of, it’s just this nice little journey watching this guy grow and learn. Everything feels soft, everyone’s pretty nice, everything goes smoothly.
At the center of the school and book is the glass bead game, which isn't really a game and it doesn't really involve glass beads. The game itself isn't all that well defined. It’s left sort of vague and grandiose, but as I understand it, it’s based on finding and drawing connections between multiple fields and subjects. The primary examples were between music and math with some philosophy thrown in as well. So a game begins with some artistic or mathematical or philosophical prompt, maybe with a second separate idea that the player then has to tie those ideas together. That’s how I understood it at least. They never “show” a game being played so it’s not concrete at all. Not having a full understanding of the game felt limiting. I wonder if Hesse had a complete picture of the game in his own mind and decided not to get into it, or if he just wanted the core idea.
While this one gives way less cause to look inward than previous Hesse, it’s through line of all disciplines being connected is interesting, but I don’t know if it extends beyond interesting for me. It holds learning and academia in such high esteem and treats it with such reverence that’s a little contagious. I came out of this wishing I could dedicate myself to that concentrated almost monastic level of study.
The ending though, I don't know. It came out of nowhere. I really don't know what to think of it. I try to assume everything an author does is for a reason and then try to figure out what the reason was, but I don't know. The only things I can piece out don't really slot in thematically.