The Jewish Cemetery

a Glass Bead Game

Terence MacNamee


Here is a summary of my reconstruction of the method of the Game from Hermann Hesse (the Latin terms are mine, not his, but the sort of thing he would have used):

1. The Sentence (sententia) is a general statement of the meaning to be contemplated throughout this particular game.

2. Then come the Tropes (tropi), a series of exponents of the initial Sentence. Each is linked to a quoted text or image.

3. There is a Gloss (glossa) on each trope, an interpretive statement which prescribes how to contemplate the text given.

4. Finally, the Sentence Gloss (glossa sententiae) sums up and prescribes a final contemplation on the lessons of the whole game.

Here is a sample game. For brevity, glosses on tropes are omitted. So is grammatical analysis of the sentence patterns, but the mechanism will be apparent to anyone familiar with linguistic theory.


The Jewish Cemetery

Prologue:

View Chagall's "The Jewish Cemetery Gate". Read the Hebrew inscription over the gate (Ezekiel 37, xii): "I will cause you to come up out of your graves." Enter the cemetery.

Sentence:

Man makes man an object in the context of death.

Round 1

Sub-sentence 1:

In the place of death, one person presents another with an object taking the place of a living human being.

Tropes:

Trope 1: (Letter from Goethe to Caroline Herder, 1790) In the Jewish cemetery in Venice, Goethe's servant jestingly presents his master with a ram's skull, pretending it is a Jew's skull.

Trope 2: (Hamlet) In the graveyard at Elsinore, Hamlet shows Horatio a human skull in place of the departed Yorick.

Trope 3: (Orphic myth) In the Underworld, Hermes presents Orpheus with the shade of Eurydice.

Trope 4: (Goethe's Faust) At Walpurgisnacht, Mephisto shows Faust a ghostly figure resembling Gretchen.

Trope 5: (Genesis) In the land of Moriah, Abraham sacrifices to God a ram as a substitute for Isaac.

Round 2

Sub-sentence 2:

The modern European scientist makes man into an object.

Tropes:

Trope 1: (Goethe in the cemetery again) Goethe, in a flash of inspiration, sees that the human skull is the product of differentiation of the vertebrae.

Trope 2: (Phrenology) Gall explains human mental function as differentiation of the brain surface, resulting in protuberances of the skull.

Trope 3: (Phrenological museum) Gall collects interesting skulls after the death of their owners for his private phrenological collection.

Trope 4: (Physical anthropology, Rassenkunde): Broca and others differentiate superior and inferior races of man by measurement of their skulls and brains.

Trope 5: (Criminology) Lombroso differentiates criminal dispositions by anatomising the brains of executed criminals.

Trope 6: (Nazism) Professor of Anatomy in Strassburg offers for sale Jews' brains and other body parts in formalin, shipped from the death camps, for medical teaching purposes in the universities of the Reich.

Sentence gloss:

When man is made into an object, he is ready to become a victim. A ram takes Isaac's place, but if man is reduced to an animal, he can be sacrificed anew. Only way to be free of this: by regarding both nature and man with piety.

Epilogue:

View Chagall's cemetery gate again. Instead of Hebrew inscription, read last line of Goethe's 1790 letter: "Now I stand before another gate, until fortune hands me the key to it too."

End of game

Lusor victoriensis scripsit.


copyright (c) Terence MacNamee 1995, 96, presented here with permission of the author.


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HipBone Games rules, boards, sample games and other materials are copyright (c) Charles Cameron 1995, 96. See Concerning Copyright for full copyright details.