Well, having lost fully one-third of our little book club, and noticing that another third has fallen mysteriously silent, I soldier on alone with Hesse’s Das Glasperlenspiel – which continues to have a noticeably deleterious effect on my writing style.
But there is a horrible fascination to this book – it just unrolls, going on and on as if there is a destination ahead. I’ve got to page 246 without having encountered even the smallest sort of denouement and yet…
And yet I continue to believe that sooner or later something will happen.
The story of Joseph Knecht so far is unremarkable except for the larger context – he is recruited for the elite schools of the intellectual province of Castalia, encounters one or two peers and one or two teachers who prove to be significant in his life, but with one exception they are rather shadowy characters.
Hesse is not interested at all in the following aspects of his hero: his childhood, his parentage, his intellectual development, his interior life, his emotional responses to most things (with the exception of some enjoyment of nature) or even his appearance.
It is a strangely sterile world Hesse creates for Joseph – no food, no sex (no women at all really), no clothing, no weather to speak of, no animals, no buildings except for schools and a monastery.
What are all those words for? Now that I think about it, fewer than half probably refer to Joseph – his love of music and his interest in the Glass Bead Game, though never to the detriment of his other studies.
The rest are spent on the importance of Castalia itself and how it created a true culture which saved the world from the Age of the Feuilleton. (Feuilleton in this case means gossip and Hesse, writing in the ’40s, is eerily prescient about our time.) Castalia exists solely to perpetuate the Bead Game (no beads involved actually), an effort to interweave the history, culture and spirituality of all time into one overarching human experience.
Or something like that.
I have the distinct feeling this book is going to end with a whimper. At the very least, mine.