Hermann Hesse

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Hermann Hesse (1877-1962), German poet and novelist, who has depicted in his works the duality of spirit and nature, body versus mind and the individual's spiritual search outside the restrictions of the society. Hesse was awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1946.

Hermann Hesse was born into a family of Pietist missionaries and religious publishers in the Black Forest town of Calw, in the German state of Wüttenberg on July 2, 1877. His parents expected him to follow the family tradition in theology. Hesse entered the Protestant seminary at Maulbronn in 1891, but he was expelled from the school. After unhappy experiences at a secular school, Hesse worked in several jobs.

In 1899 Hesse published his first works, Romantische Lieder and Eine Stunde Hinter Mitternacht. Hesse became a freelance writer in 1904, when his novel Peter Camenzind gained literary success. The book reflected Hesse's disgust with the educational system. In the same year he married Maria Bernoulli, with whom he had three children. A visit to India in 1911 interested Hesse in studies of Eastern religions and culminated in the novel Siddhartha (1922). It was based on the early life of Gautama Buddha. The culture of the ancient Hindus and the ancient Chinese had a great influence on Hesse's works.

In 1912 Hesse and his family took a permanent residence in Switzerland. In the novel Rosshalde (1914) Hesse explored the question of whether the artist should marry. The author's reply was negative. During these years his wife suffered from growing mental instability and his son was seriously ill. Hesse spent the years of World War I in Switzerland, attacking the prevailing moods of militarism and nationalism. Hesse's breakthrough novel was Demian (1919). It was a Faustian tale of a man torn between his orderly bourgeois existence and a chaotic world of sensuality.

Leaving his family in 1919, Hesse moved to Montagnola, in southern Switzerland. In 1922 appeared Siddhartha, a novel of asceticism set in the time of Buddha. Its English translation in the 1950s became a spiritual guide to the generation of American Beat poets. Hesse's second marriage to Ruth Wenger (1924-27) was unhappy. These difficult years produced Der Steppenwolf(1927). During the Weimar Republic (1919-1933) Hesse stayed aloof from politics.

In 1931 Hesse married his third wife, Ninon Dolbin, and began in the same year work on his masterpiece Das Glasperlenspiel, which was published in 1943. In 1942 Hesse sent the manuscript to Berlin for publication. It was not accepted by the Nazis and the work appeared for the first time in Zürich. . Hesse's other central works include In Sight of Chaos (1923), a collection of essays, the novel Narcissus and Goldmund (1930) and Poems (1970).

After receiving the Nobel Prize Hesse wrote no major works. He died of cerebral hemorrhage in his sleep on August 9, 1962 at the age of eighty-five. He is still one of the best-selling German writers throughout the world.

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Recent Forum Posts on Hermann Hesse

Looking for a quote

Hello, There is a quote I remember generally, about the author dreading all the superfluous words he has written in his life come to haunt him. I thought it is from the Steppenwolf but I'm reading it again and again and can't find it. I'm starting to think maybe it's not from there, maybe not from Hesse at all. Anyone has an idea where can I look for it ? Thanks :)


Part 1: I do not feel quite the same about my writing as the philosopher Johann Wolfgang von Goethe(1749-1832) felt about his writing, namely, that it contains "fragments of a great confession."(1) Mine is a very modest confessionalism; its fragments do not amount to “a great confession.” Goethe insisted on engagement with the outside world as the way to grow and develop. I agree with Goethe in this. Even though my life by my late adulthood, that is by the age of 60, as a writer and poet had more solitude than sociality, most of my 7 decades of living have been intensely engaged with the outside world: its people, places and things. In contrast to that Genevan philosopher and writer, Jean Jacques Rousseau(1712-1778) whose writing was, among other things, a tortured subjectivity with sometimes embarrassing and annoying self-disclosures, my literary subjectivity in neither tortured nor characterized by embarrassing self-disclosures, at least from my point of view. Part 2: My autobiographical work---to compare my writing with yet another famous writer--- is and has been for me what the novel was for German novelist Hermann Hesse(1877-1962). Hesse saw his novels as transformations of himself adapted to the circumstances of his fiction. I see my work, especially my poetry, in some ways like Hesse's, that is, as an "adventure of self-discovery"(2) shaped from and by autobiographical reality. There is also some sense of that personal transformation in the act of writing. Hesse's literary undertaking was a reappraisal of his inner growth. Hesse said that he wrote mainly when he was enjoying a mood of contemplation and self-examination. So is this true of me and my writing. The literary ways and means of Hesse and I are similar in so many ways. He saw his writing as an objective observation, at least as objective as he could be, of his surroundings and himself; as an analysis of the passing moment both in the present and the past. His desire to think and write often focused on himself and the act of writing, on the psychology of the artist, the poet and the literary man; on the passion, the seriousness and some of the vanity of life which attempts, in part, the apparently impossible(3). Both Hesse and I began our writing in our late teens and 20s. We each went from strength to strength with age, although Hesse was much more prolific than I from his 20s to 40s during which time I was occupied with 50 hours a week as a teacher, and responsibilities in the Baha’i community. He also won the Nobel Prize in literature and so any comparison of my writing with his is the comparison of a writer in the big leagues to a minor-league player. Part 3: In one essay, Hesse reflected wryly on his lifelong failure to acquire a talent for idleness. Boredom was not part of his experience. He speculated that his average daily correspondence, especially after 1946 when he received the Nobel Prize, was in excess of 150 pages. I, too, in my role as a teacher and as a student over more than 50 years have found idleness and boredom to be a serious issue in society and the source of many social problems. It is an opinion I first came across in the writings of the English philosopher and activist Bertrand Russell as far back as my university days: 1963-1967. That sense of emptiness and lack of meaning is accompanied by a pursuit of, or passive waiting for, trivial, insubstantial stimulations and distractions that are ultimately unfulfilling, or they only partially satisfy and appease the hunger. There is also a political nature, a political-institutional significance or underpinning of the modern phenomenon of boredom. Boredom's historical manifestations can be traced back to Attic Greece in the West. Such an historical examination focuses on the decline in political participation through a wide historical lens, and attributes it to a transformation in Western culture that began under the Roman Empire.(4)-Ron Price with thanks to(1-2)Hermann Hesse, Autobiographical Writings, editor T Ziolkowski, Jonathan Cape, London, 1973, p.p. ix-xiii, (3) ibid., p.248, and (4)Isis Leslie, “From Idleness to Boredom: On the Historical Development of Modern Boredom,” Critical Studies: Essays on Boredom and Modernity, editors Barbara Dalle Pezze and Carlo Salzani , Rodopi Pub., pp. 35-59(25). You died, Hermann, within days of the death of Marilyn Monroe & two weeks before playing my last game of baseball on a hot August afternoon on the mound for the Burlington All- Stars, and beginning a travelling-pioneering life for the Canadian community of Baha'is with its linkeage to my studies, my many jobs, & indeed, my entire life-narrative-story...... I had no idea that you had died, Hermann, although I came to read your books in the 1970s and 1980s....I knew of your bipolar disorder just today in the evening of life.(1) Music and poetry filled your home as it filled mine as child-adolescent…but you withdrew into reading & writing-a-soul- searching inwardness......in your teens and 20s resulting in your winning fame & the Nobel Prize in literature in 1946!! In a space of a few years you became, mirabile dictu, the most widely(2) read-and-translated European author of the 20th century inspite of your BPD,(3) life-crises, headaches, marital problems. My withdrawal was in my late 50s, far too late to ever be famous or widely read;(4) your immense popularity did not come until after your death. Who knows what my story will be, Hermann? I wish you well in your new home, presumably in the land of lights, that mysterious Kingdom!!! (1) Hermann Hesse's grandfather Hermann Gundert, a doctor of philosophy and fluent in multiple languages, encouraged Hermann to read widely, giving him access to his library. This library was filled with the works of world literature. All this instilled a sense in Hermann Hesse that he was a citizen of the world.*Wikipedia, 16/9/’12. My maternal grandfather, Alfred Cornfield, an autodidact and an influence on my life until he died in 1958 when I was 13, was a deep reader and writer. His autobiography was published in 1980. He was one of several influences in addition to the Baha’i Faith that, by the end of my adolescence, instilled in me my sense that I was also a citizen of the world. (2) Latin meaning ‘marvellous to relate’ (3) bipolar 1 disorder (4) By 2012 I had millions of readers in cyberspace but, on the world-wide-web with its 400 million sites and 2 billion users, my writing was a needle in a haystack. 5 As Hesse put it in his The Glass Bead Game, the study of history means “submitting to chaos and nevertheless retaining faith in order and meaning. It is a very serious task.” -http://www.notable-quotes.com/h/hesse_hermann.html Ron Price 16 September 2012

English Translation Steppenwolf

I am looking for an English translation of Steppenwolf by Herman Hesse. I prefer to read the first translation from 1927, but two more by Creighton and a recent one by Horrocks exist. Has anybody read more then one of these translation? Which one is said to be closest to the original? Does anyone know where to get the first translation (preferably online)? Thank you and kind regards, Eline

The short stories at the end of the glass bead game

What do you think of these short stories? Aren't they so short sweet and beautiful. I especially like the one about the two wise men. Anyone read these have any light to shed? weren't they supposed to be past lives of joeseph schnet? is that right? :iamwithstupid:

Steppenwolf- Where does the preface fit in?

For me, one of the parts of Steppenwolf that got me thinking was the preface. It is a fictional intro to the main body of the book, which is purported to be a manuscript written by Harry Haller. The preface is by a fellow lodger. In it, he states that he doubts that the events in manuscript are real, and that if he had not met Haller he would have immediately dumped it in the trash. At the end, he says that he will leave it up to the reader to make up his mind for himself. The manuscript contains a strange tale, and I am not sure how to interpret it. It is interesting, though, to put it in the context of the preface. The reader is reminded that Haller's story may be just words on paper. On the other hand, the author of the preface is an ideal example of just what Haller despises in the middle class. The author would throw the manuscript, which is about Haller railing against people like him throwing something like that in the trash, in the trash. In the end, though, he doesn't, because Haller made an impression on him. I hope that makes sense. In any case, I certainly thought the preface added an extra level to what was a very good book. Anyone else have any thoughts?

Name of a short story.

I'm almost positive it was Hesse who wrote it. The story is about a naïve little boy who leaves his rural home. He sings songs about love and the land and animals around him. He meets a girl along the way and experiences his first pang of heartache when she refuses to go along with him. With a few more instances of unhappiness he realizes life isn't exactly what he thought it was. It ends with him climbing aboard a river boat and sailing off into the night with it's respective captain. Not the best paraphrasing, but I'm short on time. Any help?

Hesse's darker stories

Hello :) I am looking for titles of works by Hesse which are darker than the ussual ones, like The Man of the Forest, or The end of dr. Knelge (both of which are excellent in my view). So, anyone got suggestions?

Plot title confusion, please help

I thought the story about a gifted schoolboy, academic who goes to university to have a profound reappraisal of his life, only to return to his village to work for a blacksmith was Peter Camenzind. I've just realised it's not. Please can someone tell me the correct title? Thanks in anticipation. K.R.


has anyone read this? i picked it up yesterday and bought it based on the authors intro. if you've read it, what were your thoughts?

Rebel theme in H. Hesses "Steppenwolf"

I'm working on my subject to the oral matura(sth like british A-Levels) exam. I have a subject about which a have to make a speech. Mine is: "Theme of a rebelious hero in literature". Apart from books from classics of polish literature I'm seeking for sth from modern written word. Sb told me that "Steppenwolf" will fit in my subject, but the problem is that I didn't read that book. Could sb who read it tell me is there any rebel motive in that book, and is it significant(I mean: Could I really say sth about it?). From reviews I can only see that the main problem of that novel is seeking one's identity in modern world, partly by rebel, true, but it seems not the (one of) main point. Thanks in advance for help:).

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