El Coyote Gordo (supergee) wrote,
El Coyote Gordo

Respectable sf

Fifty years ago, I was reading Hermann Hesse because that’s one of the things dope-smoking hippies did. When I got to The Glass Bead Game, I thought, “Wow! This is sf, the kind of sf I love! Why didn’t anyone tell me?” Here is John Hertz discussing the book in precisely those terms.

And here’s what I wrote about it a while back: It's a science fiction book. There is a novum, a new thing, in the form of the Game, and we are told much about the impact this has on society, institutions, and individuals. OK, so it's more Galaxy than Astounding, but it's science fiction.

The game itself, and the sfnal effort to describe the indescribable in telling us about it, are remarkable. Joseph Knecht is a fascinating character. You can see the book as a romantic call to flee from mere abstractions into life itself, or you can see it as a cynical warning to stick with a good abstract gig if you've got one because life itself will kill you. I've looked at it from both sides now, as the song says, and it works either way. One small fun fact: Like John Brunner's The Whole Man (another favorite of mine that I read at about the same time), this one started as a frame tale.

and also Hesse, like soap operas and country music, is unfairly judged by his supposed audience. I first learned of him from Colin Wilson, and one of the few misses in Dwight Macdonald's demolition of Wilson is his bafflement at someone taking that much time over a minor, (then) obscure Swiss writer. The early stuff is romantic; as the title indicates, Beneath the Wheel is almost pure "I fall upon the thorns of life! I bleed!" Demian and Steppenwolf have some literary merit to go with the self-dramatization (Area Teen Is the Only Existentialist in the World). Journey to the East is almost as good as The Glass Bead Game.

Thanx to File 770

  • Mitch, Mitch, Mitch

    Moscow Mitch McConnell objects to being called Moscow Mitch just because he is blocking bills to keep the Russians from hacking the 2020 election…

  • Mansplainer of the week

    JPMorgan Chase capo di tutti capi Jamie Dimon offers to explain banking to Elizabeth Warren.

  • Too Big to Fail

    Goldman Sachs asks judge to force Google to unsend an e-mail. ETA: And Merrill Lynch is bullshit on America, but the Ministry of Truth is making…

  • Post a new comment


    default userpic

    Your reply will be screened

    Your IP address will be recorded 

    When you submit the form an invisible reCAPTCHA check will be performed.
    You must follow the Privacy Policy and Google Terms of use.
  • 1 comment