Quotes from book
The Glass Bead Game

The Glass Bead Game
Hermann HesseOriginal title Das Glasperlenspiel (German, 1943)

The Glass Bead Game is the last full-length novel of the German author Hermann Hesse. It was begun in 1931 and published in Switzerland in 1943 after being rejected for publication in Germany due to Hesse's anti-Fascist views. A few years later, in 1946, Hesse won the Nobel Prize in Literature. In honoring him in its Award Ceremony Speech, the Swedish Academy said that the novel "occupies a special position" in Hesse's work."Glass Bead Game" is a literal translation of the German title, but the book has also been published under the title Magister Ludi, Latin for "Master of the Game", which is an honorific title awarded to the book's central character. "Magister Ludi" can also be seen as a pun: ludus is a Latin word meaning both "game" and "school". However, the title Magister Ludi is misleading, as it implies the book is a straightforward bildungsroman. In reality, the book touches on many different genres, and the bulk of the story is on one level a parody of the biography genre.


Hermann Hesse photo
Hermann Hesse photo

„Beginners learned how to establish parallels, by means of the Game's symbols, between a piece of classical music and the formula for some law of nature. Experts and Masters of the Game freely wove the initial theme into unlimited combinations.“

—  Hermann Hesse, book The Glass Bead Game

The Glass Bead Game (1943)
Context: Under the shifting hegemony of now this, now that science or art, the Game of games had developed into a kind of universal language through which the players could express values and set these in relation to one another. Throughout its history the Game was closely allied with music, and usually proceeded according to musical and mathematical rules. One theme, two themes, or three themes were stated, elaborated, varied, and underwent a development quite similar to that of the theme in a Bach fugue or a concerto movement. A Game, for example, might start from a given astronomical configuration, or from the actual theme of a Bach fugue, or from a sentence out of Leibniz or the Upanishads, and from this theme, depending on the intentions and talents of the player, it could either further explore and elaborate the initial motif or else enrich its expressiveness by allusions to kindred concepts. Beginners learned how to establish parallels, by means of the Game's symbols, between a piece of classical music and the formula for some law of nature. Experts and Masters of the Game freely wove the initial theme into unlimited combinations.

Hermann Hesse photo

„There is truth, my boy. But the doctrine you desire, absolute, perfect dogma that alone provides wisdom, does not exist.“

—  Hermann Hesse, book The Glass Bead Game

The Glass Bead Game (1943)
Context: "If only there were a dogma to believe in. Everything is contradictory, everything tangential; there are no certainties anywhere. Everything can be interpreted one way and then again interpreted in the opposite sense. The whole of history can be explained as development and progress and can also be seen as nothing but decadence and meaninglessness. Isn't there any truth? Is there no real and valid doctrine?"
The Master had never heard him speak so fervently. He walked on in silence for a little, then said, "There is truth, my boy. But the doctrine you desire, absolute, perfect dogma that alone provides wisdom, does not exist. Nor should you long for a perfect doctrine, my friend. Rather, you should long for the perfection of yourself. The deity is within you, not in ideas and books. Truth is lived, not taught. Be prepared for conflicts, Joseph Knecht — I can see they have already begun."

Hermann Hesse photo

„The deity is within you, not in ideas and books. Truth is lived, not taught.“

—  Hermann Hesse, book The Glass Bead Game

The Glass Bead Game (1943)
Context: "If only there were a dogma to believe in. Everything is contradictory, everything tangential; there are no certainties anywhere. Everything can be interpreted one way and then again interpreted in the opposite sense. The whole of history can be explained as development and progress and can also be seen as nothing but decadence and meaninglessness. Isn't there any truth? Is there no real and valid doctrine?"
The Master had never heard him speak so fervently. He walked on in silence for a little, then said, "There is truth, my boy. But the doctrine you desire, absolute, perfect dogma that alone provides wisdom, does not exist. Nor should you long for a perfect doctrine, my friend. Rather, you should long for the perfection of yourself. The deity is within you, not in ideas and books. Truth is lived, not taught. Be prepared for conflicts, Joseph Knecht — I can see they have already begun."

Hermann Hesse photo

„It is a pity that you students aren't fully aware of the luxury and abundance in which you live.“

—  Hermann Hesse, book The Glass Bead Game

The Glass Bead Game (1943)
Context: It is a pity that you students aren't fully aware of the luxury and abundance in which you live. But I was exactly the same when I was still a student. We study and work, don't waste much time, and think we may rightly call ourselves industrious — but we are scarcely conscious of all we could do, all that we might make of our freedom. Then we suddenly receive a call from the hierarchy, we are needed, are given a teaching assignment, a mission, a post, and from then on move up to a higher one, and unexpectedly find ourselves caught in a network of duties that tightens the more we try to move inside it. All the tasks are in themselves small, but each one has to be carried out at its proper hour, and the day has far more tasks than hours. That is well; one would not want it to be different. But if we ever think, between classroom, archives, secretariat, consulting room, meetings, and official journeys — if we ever think of the freedom we possessed and have lost, the freedom for self-chosen tasks, for unlimited, far-flung studies, we may well feel the greatest yearning for those days, and imagine that if we ever had such freedom again we would fully enjoy its pleasures and potentialities.

Hermann Hesse photo

„What you call passion is not spiritual force, but friction between the soul and the outside world.“

—  Hermann Hesse, book The Glass Bead Game

The Glass Bead Game (1943)
Context: To be capable of everything and do justice to everything, one certainly does not need less spiritual force and èlan and warmth, but more. What you call passion is not spiritual force, but friction between the soul and the outside world. Where passion dominates, that does not signify the presence of greater desire and ambition, but rather the misdirection of these qualities toward an isolated and false goal, with a consequent tension and sultriness in the atmosphere. Those who direct the maximum force of their desires toward the center, toward true being, toward perfection, seem quieter than the passionate souls because the flame of their fervor cannot always be seen.

Hermann Hesse photo
Hermann Hesse photo
Hermann Hesse photo
Hermann Hesse photo

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