German poet and novelist, who has depicted in his works
the duality of spirit and nature, body versus mind and individual's
spiritual search outside restrictions of the society. Hesse was awarded
the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1946. Several of Hesse's novels depict
the protagonists struggle for enlightenment. A spiritual guide assists the
hero in his quest and shows the way beyond everyday world.
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. 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. He was a
bookshop clerk, as a mechanic and as a book dealer in Tübingen, where he
joined literary circle called Le Petit Cénacle. 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, a
Rousseauesque 'return to nature' story, 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 in India
in 1911 gave start to Hesse's studies of Eastern religions and novel
SIDDHARTHA (1922). It was based on the early life of Gautama Buddha. The
culture of ancient Hindu and the ancient Chinese had a great influence on
Hesse's works. For several years in the mid-1910s Hesse underwent
psychoanalysis under Gustav Jung and his assistant J.B. Lang.
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 replay 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.
He also promoted the interests of prisoners of war. Hesse, who shared with
Aldous Huxley belief in the need for spiritual self-realization, was
condemned for his persistent pacifism.
Hesse's breakthrough novel was DEMIAN (1919). It was
highly praised by Thomas Mann, who compared its importance to James
Joyce's Ulysses and André Gide's The Counterfeiters. The novel attracted
especially young veterans of the WW I, and reflected Hesse's personal
crisis and interest in Jungian psychoanalysis. Demian was first published
under the name of its narrator, Emil Sinclair, but later Hesse admitted
his authorship. It was a Faustian tale of a man torn between his orderly
bourgeois existence and a chaotic world of sensuality. In is said to
provide an unusual justification of German soldiers, who were said to have
killed their enemies impersonally.
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). The protagonist, Harry Haller, is a
self-absorbed man in midlife crisis, who must chose between life of action
and contemplation. Haller faces his shadow self, named Hermine. This
Doppelgänger figure introduces Harry to drinking, dancing, music, sex and
drugs, teaching him to find his true self.
During the Weimar Republic (1919-1933) Hesse stayed aloof from politics.
His books continued to be published in Germany during the Nazi regime, and
were defended from individual attacks by an official circular in 1937,
though he was placed on the Nazi blacklist in 1943.
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. The setting is in the future in the imaginary
province of Castilia, an intellectual, elitist community, dedicated to
mathematics and music. Knecht ('servant') is chosen by the Old Music
Master as a suitable aspirant to the Order. He goes to the city of
Waldzell to study, and there he catches the attention of the Magister
Ludi, Thomas von der Trave (an allusion to Hesse's rival Thomas Mann). He
is the Master of the Games, a system by which wisdom is communicated.
Knecht dedicates himself to the Game, and on the death of Thomas, he is
elected Magister Ludi. After a decade in his office Knecht tries to leave
to start a life devoted to realizing human rights, but accidentally drowns
in a mountain lake. - In 1942 Hesse sent the manuscript to Berlin for
publication. It was not accepted by the Nazis and the work appeared first
time in Zürich.
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. Hesse's other central works include In Sight of
Chaos (1923), a collection of essays, the novel Narcissus and Goldmund
(1930), set in the Middle Ages and repeating the theme of two contrasting
types of men, and Poems (1970).
In the 1960s and 1970s Hesse became a cult figure for
young readers. The interest declined in the 1980s. In 1969 the Californian
rock group Sparrow changed their name to Steppenwolf after Hesse's
classic, and released 'Born to be Wild'. Hesse's books have gained readers
from the New Age movements and he is still one of the bestselling
German-speaking writers throughout world.
[Chapter 1- 6]
Layout: Nhi Tuong - Hai Hanh
Update : 01-2-2003