The Glass Bead Game: A Full-Cast BBC Radio Dramatisation

Written by:
Herman Hesse

Unabridged Audiobook

Release Date
May 2024
2 hours 7 minutes
A full-cast adaptation of the classic novel by Nobel Prize-winner Hermann Hesse, starring Derek Jacobi – plus a bonus short story

Originally published in 1943, The Glass Bead Game was Herman Hesse’s last novel. It was hailed as his magnum opus, and was instrumental in securing him the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1946. Set in a utopian future society, it explores themes of knowledge, individualism, creativity and spirituality, and has inspired contemporary thinkers from authors to game designers.

Narrated by Derek Jacobi, this two-part radio drama tells the story of Joseph Knecht (Tom Ferguson), plucked from obscurity as a young orphan, admitted to the finest elite school and groomed for greatness in the Castalian Order. This select group of intellectuals live a closeted life of study and devotion to the Glass Bead Game, an elaborate game that is the most complete possible expression of every discipline – from science and mathematics to the arts, music and philosophy.

As the years go by, Joseph strives to grasp the innermost meaning of the Game and understand its complexities and possibilities. He becomes a leading light in the Order, and is sent on a diplomatic mission to bridge the gulf between the Catholic Church and Castalia. But he never stops questioning the system that has swept him so quickly and smoothly to high office. And when he achieves the exalted position of Magister Ludi – Master of the Game – he suffers a crisis of conscience, as his deepening doubts about this idealistic and sanitised society threaten to topple its very foundations…

Also included is The City, a 15-minute fable about the birth and death of a city taken from Herman Hesse's collection of fairy tales and read by Andrew Hilton.


Biographer – Derek Jacobi

Joseph Knecht – Tom Ferguson

Fritz – Toby Hadoke

Music Master – Malcolm Raeburn

Van der Trave – Terence Mann

Plinio – David Seddon

Bertram – Jonathan Keeble

Father Jacobus – David Fleeshman

Young Joseph – Aidan Parsons

Helena – Olwen May

President – Terence Mann

Tito – Oliver Gomm

Dramatised by Lavinia Greenlaw

Produced by Charlotte Riches

Directed by Susan Roberts

First broadcast BBC Radio 4, 18-25 July 2010

The City

Read by Andrew Hilton

Produced by Sara Davies

First broadcast BBC Radio 4, 9 December 2002

© 2024 BBC Studios Distribution Ltd. (P) 2024 BBC Studios Distribution Ltd
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