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Thread: Is Hesse's prime skill the beauty of his writing or the thoughts that he creates.

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    Question Is Hesse's prime skill the beauty of his writing or the thoughts that he creates.

    I think Herman Hesse's work is classified in to two obvious categories that conflict in every one of his novels but some drift more to one then the other. Flesh and Spirit are two conflicting componets in all of Hesse's novels. I think that the novels are often split down this line to put you in to deep thought or wonder in aww at how beautiful his writing is. I feel Steppinwolf is one of those were you are pulled in to a deep meditation on Hesses conjured up ideas and his philosiphy. Yet in Narcissus and Goldmund you do not see this as often or as deep, but instead these ideas are replaced by the horror of mankind and the beauty of love.
    If any one else has something to add -

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    precious... subterranean's Avatar
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    Hi Master,

    I only have read Siddharta and Journey to the East, which I found very interesting, thus I'm afraid that I can't give further comment regarding your thread topic. However, I do think that the main topic in both books is indeed about spiritual quest, which could take one's entire life.


    "there are people in the world so hungry that God can not appear to them except in the form of bread"

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    Hesse's work

    Just checking in with a brief observation from someone who was deeply influenced by Hesse's writings back when they were shaping a generation.
    I only recently stumble upon what I think is some of the most lucid, incisive and enlightening words ever written to convey just what Hesse was all about.

    A piece called 'Hermann Hesse: Poest of the Interior Journey' was included in one of the earliest editions of the Psychedelic Review. It was written by two of the pioneers of psychedelics, Timothy Leary and Ralph Metzner.

    I include here the link.

    http://www.maps.org/psychedelicrevie.../012167lea.pdf

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    Although I loved the simple beauty of "Siddhartha," I think "Steppenwolf" was Hesse' best novel. It captured the disillusionment (and hope) of the post-World War I era by following the spiritual quest of one man from that generation. Aside from the Magic Theater, my favorite part of the book is Haller's sudden and somewhat self-disgusted realization that he finds comfort in living close to ordinary middle-class people, even though he considers himself an outsider.

    Your mind is always the price of admission to self-realization because consciousness deals in half-truths and metaphors, not reality.

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    It is difficult to talk about the beauty of an author's writing when we are reading a translation. Having read (Siddhartha) and (Narcissus and Goldmund) in English, the depth of Hesse's thought is what makes his novels appealing.

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    I love everything in Hesse. And I think that this sort of euphoric idolatry cannot go wrong. He knows what it is to be human, and that's exactly what I like about him. Your mind can have millions of thoughts, and of those, he can captivate the one that most defies (that is how you right it?) you. Of these kind of people, there are not many in this world, I have to say.
    I could continue writting about him until night, but I'll be too dull to read!


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    off topic in what way?
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    Quote Originally Posted by MagisterLudi
    from someone who was deeply influenced by Hesse's writings back when they were shaping a generation.
    Sunshine mornings on the cold campus, and a girl who told me carrot juice was the very best thing. Such was that generation.

    In response to the original post in this thread, our revered Herman Hesse was unhappy in love. Specifically, the lady of his dreams turned him down. These things turn philosophers gray.

    He said so much in Steppenwolf. In case anyone has missed the allusion, the steppenwolf was the wolf of the Russian steppes, epitomizing loneliness as much as wilderness. (If you live in North America, adjust to this being a different creature from the wolf that we know as representing cohesion and harmony in family structure.)

    The brooding intellectual philosopher, who was the steppenwolf, was very upset indeed when he faced the possibility that his wall of intellectualism was only that, a wall—and worth less, perhaps, than the easy sensuality introduced to him by his two much younger acquaintances.

    Despite the grayness, and despite the abject loneliness; despite all the emptiness he found in his self-seekings: I remember his dinner scene, when the steppenwolf makes his terribly honest appearance within the dishonesty of society, as one of the funniest bits of literature I have ever read.

    In honour of Mr. Hesse, don't you younger students be overly analytical or quantitative regarding this author. If what he wrote makes you feel, perhaps more than it makes you think, then perhaps you're dead right in your understanding of the man.

    Contradictory? You bet. Other intellectuals who wrote so much in words about their feelings, trying terribly hard to dance with their minds, included Walt Whitman and D. H. Lawrence.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Grongle
    Sunshine mornings on the cold campus, and a girl who told me carrot juice was the very best thing. Such was that generation.

    In honour of Mr. Hesse, don't you younger students be overly analytical or quantitative regarding this author. If what he wrote makes you feel, perhaps more than it makes you think, then perhaps you're dead right in your understanding of the man.

    Contradictory? You bet. Other intellectuals who wrote so much in words about their feelings, trying terribly hard to dance with their minds, included Walt Whitman and D. H. Lawrence.

    Must body and mind be segregated, can the two beings unite and transpire to the superior being of understanding and knowledge. Thought and esthetics forming, and incessantly reacting with one another. The being is one, simple and united. Hesse provoked the thought of unification in almost all is novels. Siddartha, uniting pleasurable "desire" with "peace of mind" . Goldmund's search for peace and understanding in a world of chaos, uniting the western "thought" with the physical "feeling" of desire, were lustful people's only chance for happiness. For not all saw like Goldmund, who enjoyed life and could find happiness behind societies shades.

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    I went (and am still going through) a very difficult time in my life that I have struggled with for years. Reading Hesse's Demian gave me great solace, and I cried with every new line I read because Hesse was transferring a small piece my pain on his pages. The key of Hesse is not the manner in which he writes, though it is beautiful and distinct, but the provocative psychological ideas that he conveys. These ideas are my reality, and I thank Hesse deeply for helping me get through the days.

    Oh, and in reply to the previosu comment, Hesse has definetely touched me emotionally AND mentally, though I think the ideas that Hesse presented I already had prior to reading Demian, he just put them together in one novel. Just like the Bible touches the emotional and mental chords of millions, Demian and Hesse's works have impacted me.
    Last edited by Reason is a cow; 06-21-2006 at 11:19 PM.

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    I've just finished reading an English translation of Narziss & Goldmund and I'm keen to keep reading Hesse. I think the beauty of his writing can be described as gentle rain, a light drizzle until you are soaked in his ideas. His writing unfolds benevolently whereas, many authors hammer their beliefs in each page.

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    I most remember "Siddharta", which I read 25 years ago when doing my A-levels. I have read almost all Hesse wrote (the fiction at least) and have to say that for me, the best ones were "Siddharta", "Das Glasperlenspiel" and the fairy tales. I have to say that "Siddharta" influenced me a lot at the time but it wears off after some years. Hesse is one of the authors people should read when they are young. Later in life you see it as a bit of drizzle. Anyways, I don't think "Siddharta" is about unifying emotion and reason, body and spirit. It is about knowing your bodily needs, living them, experiencing them, getting past them. To find peace you have to leave it all behind you, but you can only do this if you have known them first. Siddharta loved bodily lust, but it didn't satisfy him, he went hungry, he worked hard, but still the same. It was not his destination but part of his way towards it. It is a bit like: keep it all in but rise above it. I think that he is favouring spirit although this preference is painful. It becomes much clearer in "Das Glasperlenspiel". Which, I think, should be read last because Hesse, being a great author, disillusions you about himself there. First however, you need to have that illusion in order to see its futility.
    It's life, Jim, but not as we know it.

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    Artist and Bibliophile stlukesguild's Avatar
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    "Das Glasperlenspiel"... I think, should be read last because Hesse, being a great author, disillusions you about himself there. First however, you need to have that illusion in order to see its futility.


    Thorwench;

    Interesting statement. Could you eleborate? I went through my period of being a Hesse fanatic (right about the time I was discovering Baudelaire as well ), and I read a good many of his novels (Steppenwolf, Demian, Narcissus and Goldmund, and The Glass Bead Game or Magistar Ludi). A negative criticism I have read about Hesse is that he essentially writes the same novel again and again... the same theme of intellectual/spiritual quest/development... (isn't the term Bildungsromanze or something like that?). Anyway... I remember this critical essay which noted that as an author of ideas, Hesse was somewhat second-rate in comparison with Mann... but as a writer he was definitely first class. I don't know how much I can agree with this. I do sense that he has one great quest theme running through nearly all of his novels but they definitely take on very different forms from Steppenwolf to The Glass Bead Game. I don't know that this is something to be criticized. many authors or artists have a given theme which they repeat in variation. Hesse actually plays with this variation of sorts in the three differing "stories" of the Glass Bead Game, which I absolutely love.
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    Hesse's work

    I think Hesse's work was probably inspired by the magickal movement of the times. writers like aleister crowley where exposing the secrets of magick . this angered the powers that be in germany. Hesse would have had to have been aware of this. this was a conflict that existed between the Stoic or ascetic life versus Epicureanism. both though opposites were geared towards the same goals of spritual improvement. this is highly expanded upon in non-fictional works by magickal authors. I think my opinion of which style of life was better in Hesse's work was based on my prejudices at the time. obviously there was always a conflict between two friends. One was blonde hair blue, eyed, feminine, and led a free life. the other was dark haired, dark eyed, masculine, and led a monastic life. this was not always literal ( if I remember correctly), but this was an underlying theme throughout the books. for instance siddhartha concentrated on only the masculine. The main character was both in steppenwolf.
    Last edited by micromo66; 02-09-2007 at 12:55 AM.

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    Quote Originally Posted by The Knight View Post
    It is difficult to talk about the beauty of an author's writing when we are reading a translation. Having read (Siddhartha) and (Narcissus and Goldmund) in English, the depth of Hesse's thought is what makes his novels appealing.
    I agree completely. Since I know absolutely no German, I read a few English translations and was struck not so much by his writing style as by the spot-on profundity of his thoughts. I think Hesse summed it up best himself in Siddhartha:

    "The words are not good for the secret meaning, everything always becomes a bit different, as soon as it is put into words, gets distorted a bit, a bit silly [...] what is one man's treasure and wisdom always sounds like foolishness to another person."

    Hesse's works are characterized by his awareness that words are largely impotent--and, in my opinion, are strengthened by that same awareness. But it'd be great to hear from someone who has read Hesse in German as well, to see what sorts of things may have slipped through the cracks....

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