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Bach and Herman Hesse’s “Age of the Feuilleton”


Herman Hesse

And what there is to conquer
By strength and submission, has already been discovered
Once or twice, or several times, by men whom one cannot hope
To emulate—
Eliot / Four Quartets / East Coker

Once upon a time, in the Gone World of 1943, Herman Hesse wrote The Glass Bead Game. It’s a very long, very literary and, frankly, very tedious novel about a far future in “a fictional province of central Europe called Castalia, which was reserved by political decision for the life of the mind; technology and economic life are kept to a strict minimum.”  It’s a book of vision and a book of literary indulgences, many of which are fortunately lost in translation. The Glass Bead Game is a deep book that, deep down, is boring to our modern teeny-tiny TikTok tastes. Much of the book centers on and predicts our “modern tastes” and the slow-rolling decadence that is pulling down statues, smearing great paintings with soup, and mangling words, families, and friends; all in a great grist mill determined to grind us all down into a compostable powder. Yes, “all our yesterdays have lighted fools the way to dusty death” and  come to this — the “Age of the Feuilleton.”

The Age of the Feuilleton has now gone beyond the point where this descent into the vile, the average, the mundane can be reversed. We shall have to get used to the idea that a large number of our fellow citizens have minds that are either colonized, stupefied, or Satanic. Our “arts” are degraded smears and lumps, our educational institutions overrun with Wokeism, and our “culture” is, of necessity, about to be transformed into “Gun Culture” (with a side of “kind words.”)

All because of the Internet and its constant tsunami of feuilletons such as Twitter and TikTok. The “Age of the Feuilleton” is our age and it becomes less beautiful by the second. It is an age obsessed with “Starting a Conversation” as if having conversations rather than debates somehow humanizes our increasing animalistic estrangement from each other. I always have a slight inward cringe when I read or hear the word “conversation.” It always brings to mind the line from John Cage, “We no longer have time for the ‘good’, the ‘beautiful,’ or whether or not something is ‘true.’ We have only time for conversation.”  We have time for Taylor Swift, but no time for Bach. 

We have become increasingly more stupid and there seems to be no bottom to such stupidity since we have, evidently, decided to lionize the Stupids.

Here is, I apologize in advance, the number-one song on Planet Earth in the Stupid Year of 2022:

Stunning in its stupidity, “Shape of You” is a moron’s masterpiece made for the marching morons and has made the forgettable Sheeran a formidable presence on this dying planet right down to his Sumo fat suit.

We can’t reverse this global slide into imbecility, but we can — for a moment — hear the echo of the greatness of Bach across a three-hundred-year gulf as we reflect on how we came to be mired in our swamp of stupidity. It began quite simply with the feuilleton and continued to deepen our innate simple-mindedness. Here Herman Hesse explains it all to us . .  . after a bit of explaining about what it is that Hesse is explaining.


The Age of Us, as Seen by Herman Hesse   Hesse’s book is credited to be the first and only science fiction novel to receive the Nobel Prize (for Literature — wouldn’t it be cool if it won for chemistry?). The book takes place in a distant future where people take perfecting art, particularly music, to be the only true and worthwhile calling. According to the premise of the book, “the Age of Feuilleton” is essentially what we live in now at the end of the 20th century.

Much more to this post over in the Members Section of The New American Digest.

Comments on this entry are closed.

  • ed in upstate ny November 10, 2022, 2:51 PM

    I listened for 00:18

    • Vanderleun November 10, 2022, 3:30 PM


  • Rob De Witt November 10, 2022, 4:08 PM

    I would hazard that most of the readers of this piece have probably only experienced the work of J.S. Bach as background music/sonic wallpaper, and hence have no idea what they’re listening to. A brilliant lead analyst at my first computer gig – assembler language on “the biggest mainframe West of the Pentagon” – came to me after a couple of years (because he knew I was a Bach freak) to share that until he read Douglas Hofstadter’s Godel, Escher, Bach he assumed all those notes were simply random. He believed, of course, that the San Francisco Rock Renaissance of the ’60s represented mankind’s greatest cultural breakthrough.


    Read it, and begin to understand why people like me are so scornful of – and offended by – rock “music.” Read it and begin to understand the great legacy of humanity awaiting you just the other side of adolescent complaint.

    Read it and begin to apprehend what Einstein meant when he said “The majority of the stupid is invincible, and will be with us always.” We can only fight back with every breath. Our only salvation is in embracing our intellectual capacity; the most depressing possible consideration is that God, in making Man in his image, intended Ed Sheeran to be his greatest achievement.

  • ghostsniper November 10, 2022, 6:48 PM

    Seems like a big part of this country now is based on the mindset of 8th year olds at most. Just tonight I found out my bank as taken on a mascot for fux sake. A cartoon turtle and it’s in TV commercials. Why in the fuk did they do that? My next door neighbors wife’s first and last job, a job that lasted 45 years, worked at that bank until she “retired” 2 years ago. The mother of my neighbor across the road also worked at that bank, for 48 years, and retired from there 5 years ago. This ain’t a new bank. But there they are, turning into 8 year olds. Not because of the turtle, but for other reasons, I may very well kick that bank to the curb this upcoming year. Maybe the best part about growing old is that I won’t have to live in this prison as long as some others will. The walls are closing in.

  • Yankee Tango November 11, 2022, 10:32 AM

    Boy howdy that Ed Sheeran piece is a piece of crap. While not as bad as rap, it still has sort of a melody, it still sucks mightily.

  • Steve (retired/recovering lawyer) November 11, 2022, 12:56 PM

    Taylor Swift, whose music I have thus far done my best to ignore, is the biggest female recording persona (yes, bigger even than the execrable Beyonce Knowles) currently working. She has at least nineteen songs that use the identical chord progression, I, V, vi, IV. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=U8ImkF7FMPw
    Gotta hand it to the girl, when she gets into a groove, she really GETS INTO A GROOVE! Or rut, if you prefer. Of course, this says something about the state of popular taste, at least to the same extent that the “election” of John Fetterman says something about the state of electoral intelligence in Pennsylvania.