“We are sun and moon, dear friend; we are sea and land. It is not our purpose to become each other; it is to recognize each other, to learn to see the other and honor him for what he is: each the other’s opposite and complement.”
“O how incomprehensible everything was, and actually sad, although it was also beautiful. One knew nothing. One lived and ran about the earth and rode through forests, and certain things looked so challenging and promising and nostalgic: a star in the evening, a blue harebell, a reed-green pond, the eye of a person or a cow. And sometimes it seemed that something never seen yet long desired was about to happen, that a veil would drop from it all, but then it passed, nothing happened, the riddle remained unsolved, the secret spell unbroken, and in the end one grew old and looked cunning … or wise … and still one knew nothing perhaps, was still waiting and listening.”
“Each man had only one genuine vocation - to find the way to himself….His task was to discover his own destiny - not an arbitrary one - and to live it out wholly and resolutely within himself. Everything else was only a would-be existence, an attempt at evasion, a flight back to the ideals of the masses, conformity and fear of one’s own inwardness.”
“When someone is seeking,” said Siddartha, “It happens quite easily that he only sees the thing that he is seeking; that he is unable to find anything, unable to absorb anything, because he is only thinking of the thing he is seeking, because he has a goal, because he is obsessed with his goal. Seeking means: to have a goal; but finding means: to be free, to be receptive, to have no goal. You, O worthy one, are perhaps indeed a seeker, for in striving towards your goal, you do not see many things that are under your nose.”
Siddhartha is a 1922 novel by Hermann Hesse that deals with the spiritual journey of self-discovery of a man named Siddhartha during the time of the Gautama Buddha. The book, Hesse's ninth novel, was written in German, in a simple, lyrical style. It was published in the U.S. in 1951 and became influential during the 1960s. Hesse dedicated Siddhartha to Romain Rolland and Wilhelm Gundert.
The word Siddhartha is made up of two words in the Sanskrit language, siddha (achieved) + artha (what was searched for), which together means "he who has found meaning (of existence)" or "he who has attained his goals".
In fact, the Buddha's own name, before his renunciation, was Siddhartha Gautama, Prince of Kapilvastu. In this book, the Buddha is referred to as "Gotama".
The story takes place in ancient Nepal. Siddhartha, the son of a Brahmin, decides to leave behind his home in the hopes of gaining spiritual illumination by becoming an ascetic wandering beggar of the Samanas. Joined by his best friend Govinda, Siddhartha fasts, becomes homeless, renounces all personal possessions, and intensely meditates, eventually seeking and personally speaking with Gautama, the famous Buddha, or Enlightened One. Afterward, both Siddhartha and Govinda acknowledge the elegance of the Buddha's teachings. Although Govinda hastily joins the Buddha's order, Siddhartha does not follow, claiming that the Buddha's philosophy, though supremely wise, does not account for the necessarily distinct experiences of each person. He argues that the individual seeks an absolutely unique and personal meaning that cannot be presented to him by a teacher; he thus resolves to carry on his quest alone.
Siddhartha crosses a river and the generous ferryman, whom Siddhartha is unable to pay, merrily predicts that Siddhartha will return to the river later to compensate him in some way. Venturing onward toward city life, Siddhartha discovers Kamala, the most beautiful woman he has yet seen. Kamala, a courtesan, notes Siddhartha's handsome appearance and fast wit, telling him that he must become wealthy to win her affections so that she may teach him the art of love. Although Siddhartha despised materialistic pursuits as a Samana, he agrees now to Kamala's suggestions. She directs him to the employ of Kamaswami, a local businessman, and insists that he have Kamaswami treat him as an equal rather than an underling. Siddhartha easily succeeds, providing a voice of patience and tranquility, which Siddhartha learned from his days as an ascetic, against Kamaswami's fits of passion. Thus Siddhartha becomes a rich man and Kamala's lover, though in his middle years realizes that the luxurious lifestyle he has chosen is merely a game, empty of spiritual fulfillment. Leaving the fast-paced bustle of the city, Siddhartha returns to the river and thinks of killing himself. He is saved only by an internal experience of the holy word, Om. The very next morning Siddhartha briefly reconnects with Govinda, who is passing through the area as a wandering Buddhist.
Siddhartha decides to live out the rest of his life in the presence of the spiritually inspirational river. Siddhartha thus reunites with the ferryman, named Vasudeva, with whom he begins a humbler way of life. Although Vasudeva is a simple man, he understands and relates that the river has many voices and significant messages to divulge to any who might listen.
Some years later, Kamala, now a Buddhist convert, is travelling to see the Buddha at his deathbed, accompanied reluctantly by her young son, when she is bitten by a venomous snake near Siddhartha's river. Siddhartha recognizes her and realizes that the boy is his own child. After Kamala's death, Siddhartha attempts to console and raise the furiously resistant boy, until one day the child flees altogether. Although Siddhartha is desperate to find his runaway son, Vasudeva urges him to let the boy find his own path, much like Siddhartha did himself in his youth. Listening to the river with Vasudeva, Siddhartha realizes that time is an illusion and that all of his feelings and experiences, even those of suffering, are part of a great and ultimately jubilant fellowship of all things connected in the cyclical unity of nature. After Siddhartha's moment of illumination, Vasudeva claims that his work is done and he must depart into the woods, leaving Siddhartha peacefully fulfilled and alone once more.
Toward the end of his life, Govinda hears about an enlightened ferryman and travels to Siddhartha, not initially recognizing him as his old childhood friend. Govinda asks the now-elderly Siddhartha to relate his wisdom and Siddhartha replies that for every true statement there is an opposite one that is also true; that language and the confines of time lead people to adhere to one fixed belief that does not account for the fullness of the truth. Because nature works in a self-sustaining cycle, every entity carries in it the potential for its opposite and so the world must always be considered complete. Siddhartha simply urges people to identify and love the world in its completeness. Siddhartha then requests that Govinda kiss his forehead and, when he does, Govinda experiences the visions of timelessness that Siddhartha himself saw with Vasudeva by the river. Govinda bows to his wise friend and Siddhartha smiles radiantly, having found enlightenment.
• Siddhartha: The protagonist.
• Govinda: A friend and follower of Gotama.
• Siddhartha’s Father: A Brahmin who was unable to satisfy Siddhartha's quest for enlightenment.
• The Samanas: Traveling ascetics who tell Siddhartha that deprivation leads to enlightenment.
• Gotama: A spiritual leader Buddha, whose Teachings are rejected but whose power of self-experience and self-wisdom is completely praised by Siddhartha.
• Kamala: A courtesan and Siddhartha's sensual mentor, mother of his child, Young Siddhartha. Dies of a snake bite while on a pilgrimage, hoping to see the Buddha before she dies, leaving Young Siddhartha with Siddhartha and Vasudeva.
• Kamaswami: A merchant who instructs Siddhartha on business.
• Vasudeva: An enlightened ferryman and spiritual guide of Siddhartha.
• Young Siddhartha: Son of Siddhartha and Kamala. Lives with Siddhartha for a time but runs away.
In Hesse’s novel, experience, the totality of conscious events of a human life, is shown as the best way to approach understanding of reality and attain enlightenment – Hesse’s crafting of Siddhartha’s journey shows that understanding is attained not through intellectual methods, nor through immersing oneself in the carnal pleasures of the world and the accompanying pain of samsara. It is the completeness of these experiences that allow Siddhartha to attain understanding.
Thus, the individual events are meaningless when considered by themselves—Siddhartha’s stay with the Samanas and his immersion in the worlds of love and business do not lead to nirvana, yet they cannot be considered distractions, for every action and event gives Siddhartha experience, which leads to understanding.
A major preoccupation of Hesse in writing Siddhartha was to cure his 'sickness with life' (Lebenskrankheit) by immersing himself in Indian philosophy such as that expounded in the Upanishads and the Bhagavad Gita.
The reason the second half of the book took so long to write was that Hesse "had not experienced that transcendental state of unity to which Siddhartha aspires. In an attempt to do so, Hesse lived as a virtual semi-recluse and became totally immersed in the sacred teachings of both Hindu and Buddhist scriptures. His intention was to attain to that 'completeness' which, in the novel, is the Buddha's badge of distinction."
The novel is structured on three of the traditional stages of life for Hindu males (student (brahmacarin), householder (grihastha) and recluse/renunciate (vanaprastha)) as well as the Buddha's four noble truths (Part One) and eight-fold path (Part Two) which form twelve chapters, the number in the novel.
Ralph Freedman mentions how Hesse commented in a letter "[my] Siddhartha does not, in the end, learn true wisdom from any teacher, but from a river that roars in a funny way and from a kindly old fool who always smiles and is secretly a saint."
In a lecture about Siddhartha, Hesse claimed "Buddha's way to salvation has often been criticized and doubted, because it is thought to be wholly grounded in cognition. True, but it's not just intellectual cognition, not just learning and knowing, but spiritual experience that can be earned only through strict discipline in a selfless life".
Freedman also points out how Siddhartha described Hesse's interior dialectic: "All of the contrasting poles of his life were sharply etched: the restless departures and the search for stillness at home; the diversity of experience and the harmony of a unifying spirit; the security of religious dogma and the anxiety of freedom."
Eberhard Ostermann has shown how Hesse, while mixing the religious genre of the legend with that of the modern novel, seeks to reconcile with the double-edged effects of modernization such as individualization, pluralism or self-disciplining.
Steppenwolf (orig. German Der Steppenwolf) is the tenth novel by German-Swiss author Hermann Hesse. Originally published in Germany in 1927, it was first translated into English in 1929. Combining autobiographical and psychoanalytic elements, the novel was named after the lonesome wolf of the steppes. The story in large part reflects a profound crisis in Hesse's spiritual world during the 1920s while memorably portraying the protagonist's split between his humanity and his wolf-like aggression and homelessness. Hesse would later assert that the book was largely misunderstood.
Background and publication history
In 1924 Hermann Hesse married singer Ruth Wenger. After several weeks, however, he left Basel, only returning near the end of the year. Upon his return he rented a separate apartment, adding to his isolation. After a short trip to Germany with Wenger, Hesse stopped seeing her almost completely. The resulting feeling of isolation and inability to make lasting contact with the outside world led to increasing despair and thoughts of suicide.
Hesse began writing Steppenwolf in Basel, and finished it in Zürich. In 1926 he published a precursor to the book, a collection of poems titled The Crisis: From Hermann Hesse's Diary. The novel was later released in 1927. The first English edition was published in 1929 by Martin Secker in the United Kingdom and by Henry Holt and Company in the United States. That version was translated by Basil Creighton.
The book is presented as a manuscript written by its protagonist, a middle-aged man named Harry Haller, who leaves it to a chance acquaintance, the nephew of his landlady. The acquaintance adds a short preface of his own and then has the manuscript published. The title of this "real" book-in-the-book is Harry Haller's Records (For Madmen Only).
As the story begins, the hero is beset by reflections on his being ill-suited for the world of everyday, regular people, specifically for frivolous bourgeois society. In his aimless wanderings about the city he encounters a person carrying an advertisement for a magic theatre who gives him a small book, Treatise on the Steppenwolf. This treatise, cited in full in the novel's text as Harry reads it, addresses Harry by name and strikes him as describing himself uncannily. It is a discourse on a man who believes himself to be of two natures: one high, the spiritual nature of man; the other is low and animalistic, a "wolf of the steppes". This man is entangled in an irresolvable struggle, never content with either nature because he cannot see beyond this self-made concept. The pamphlet gives an explanation of the multifaceted and indefinable nature of every man's soul, but Harry is either unable or unwilling to recognize this. It also discusses his suicidal intentions, describing him as one of the "suicides": people who, deep down, knew they would take their own life one day. But to counter that, it hails his potential to be great, to be one of the "Immortals".
By chance, Harry encounters the man who gave him the book, just as the man has attended a funeral. He inquires about the magic theater, to which the man replies, "Not for everybody." When Harry presses further for information, the man recommends him to a local dance hall, much to Harry's disappointment.
When returning from the funeral, Harry meets a former academic friend with whom he had often discussed Oriental mythology, and who invites Harry to his home. While there, Harry is disgusted by the nationalistic mentality of his friend, who inadvertently criticizes a column Harry wrote. In turn, Harry offends the man and his wife by criticizing the wife's bust of Goethe, which Harry feels is too thickly sentimental and insulting to Goethe's true brilliance. This episode confirms to Harry that he is, and will always be, a stranger to his society.
Trying to postpone returning home, where he fears all that awaits him is his own suicide, Harry walks aimlessly around the town for most of the night, finally stopping to rest at the dance hall where the man had sent him earlier. He happens on a young woman, Hermine, who quickly recognizes his desperation. They talk at length; Hermine alternately mocks Harry's self-pity and indulges him in his explanations regarding his view of life, to his astonished relief. Hermine promises a second meeting, and provides Harry with a reason to live (or at least a substantial excuse to continue living) that he eagerly embraces.
During the next few weeks, Hermine introduces Harry to the indulgences of what he calls the "bourgeois". She teaches Harry to dance, introduces him to casual drug use, finds him a lover (Maria), and, more importantly, forces him to accept these as legitimate and worthy aspects of a full life.
Hermine also introduces Harry to a mysterious saxophonist named Pablo, who appears to be the very opposite of what Harry considers a serious, thoughtful man. After attending a lavish masquerade ball, Pablo brings Harry to his metaphorical "magic theatre," where the concerns and notions that plagued his soul disintegrate as he interacts with the ethereal and phantasmal. The Magic Theatre is a place where he experiences the fantasies that exist in his mind. The Theater is described as a long horseshoe-shaped corridor with a mirror on one side and a great many doors on the other. Harry enters five of these labeled doors, each of which symbolizes a fraction of his life.
• Harry Haller – the protagonist, a middle-aged man
• Pablo – a saxophonist
• Hermine – a young woman Haller meets at a dance
• Maria – Hermine's friend
In the preface to the novel's 1960 edition, Hesse wrote that Steppenwolf was "more often and more violently misunderstood" than any of his other books. Hesse felt that his readers focused only on the suffering and despair that are depicted in Harry Haller's life, thereby missing the possibility of transcendence and healing.
Hermann Hesse in 1926
In the moment of climax, it is unclear whether Haller actually kills Hermine or whether the "murder" is just another hallucination in the Magic Theater. It is argued[by whom?] that Hesse does not define reality based on what occurs in physical time and space; rather, reality is merely a function of metaphysical cause and effect. What matters is not whether the murder actually occurred, but rather that at that moment it was Haller's intention to kill Hermine. In that sense, Haller's various states of mind are more significant than his actions.
It is also notable that the very existence of Hermine in the novel is never confirmed; the manuscript left in Harry Haller's room reflects a story that completely revolves around his personal experiences. In fact when Harry asks Hermine what her name is, she turns the question around. When he is challenged to guess her name, he tells her that she reminds him of a childhood friend named Hermann, and therefore he concludes, her name must be Hermine. Metaphorically, Harry creates Hermine as if a fragment of his own soul has broken off to form a female counterpart.
Later German Edition
From the very beginning, reception was harsh. American novelist Jack Kerouac dismissed it in Big Sur (1962) and it has had a long history of mixed critical reception and opinion at large. Already upset with Hesse's novel Siddhartha, political activists and patriots railed against him, and against the book, seeing an opportunity to discredit Hesse.
Even close friends and longtime readers criticized the novel for its perceived lack of morality in its open depiction of sex and drug use, a criticism that indeed remained the primary rebuff of the novel for many years. However as society changed and formerly taboo topics such as sex and drugs became more openly discussed, critics[which?] came to attack the book for other reasons; mainly that it was too pessimistic, and that it was a journey in the footsteps of a psychotic and showed humanity through his warped and unstable viewpoint, a fact that Hesse did not dispute, although he did respond to critics by noting the novel ends on a theme of new hope.
Popular interest in the novel was renewed in the 1960s ― specifically in the psychedelic movement ― primarily because it was seen as a counterculture book, and because of its depiction of free love and explicit drug usage. It was also introduced in many new colleges for study, and interest in the book and in Hermann Hesse was feted in America for more than a decade afterwards.
"Treatise on the Steppenwolf"
The "Treatise on the Steppenwolf" is a booklet given to Harry Haller and which he finds describes him. It is a literary mirror and, from the outset, describes what Harry had not learned, namely "to find contentment in himself and his own life." The cause of his discontent was the perceived dualistic nature of a human and a wolf within Harry. The treatise describes, as earmarks of his life, a threefold manifestation of his discontent: one, isolation from others, two, suicidal tendencies, and three, relation to the bourgeois. Harry isolates himself from others socially and professionally, frequently resists the temptation to take his life, and experiences feelings of benevolence and malevolence for bourgeois notions. The booklet predicts Harry may come to terms with his state in the dawning light of humor.
References in popular culture
Hesse's 1928 short story "Harry, the Steppenwolf" forms a companion piece to the novel. It is about a wolf named Harry who is kept in a zoo, and who entertains crowds by destroying images of German cultural icons like Goethe and Mozart.
The name Steppenwolf has become notable in popular culture for various organizations and establishments. In 1967, the band Steppenwolf, headed by German-born singer John Kay, took their name from the novel.
The Belgian band DAAU (Die Anarchistische Abendunterhaltung) is named after one of the advertising slogans of the novel's magical theatre. The innovative Magic Theatre Company, founded in 1967 in Berkeley and which later became resident in San Francisco, takes its name from the "Magic Theatre" of the novel, and the Steppenwolf Theatre Company in Chicago, founded in 1974 by actors Terry Kinney, Jeff Perry, and Gary Sinise, took its name from the novel. The lengthy track "Steppenwolf" appears on English rock band Hawkwind's album Astounding Sounds, Amazing Music and is directly inspired by the novel, including references to the magic theatre and the dual nature of the wolfman-manwolf (lutocost). Robert Calvert had initially written and performed the lyrics on 'Distances Between Us' by Adrian Wagner in 1974. The song also appears on later, live Hawkwind CD's and DVDs.
"Be Here Now"(1971), by author and spiritual teacher Richard Alpert (Ram Dass) contains an illustration of a door bearing a sign that reads "Magic Theatre - For Madmen Only - Price of Admission - Your Mind." This references an invitation that Steppenwolf's Harry Haller receives to attend an "Anarchist Evening at the Magic Theatre, For Madmen Only, Price of Admission Your Mind."
The Black Ice, by Michael Connelly, has J. Michael Haller making a reference to the author when he mentioned that, if his illegitimate son took his surname, he'd be "Harry Haller" instead of Harry Bosch.
Steppenwolf was also referenced in the film Mall (2014).
ART WORK BY HESSE
Hermann Hesse. July 2 1877 – August 9 1962 was a German born Swiss poet, novelist, and painter. His best-known works include Steppenwolf, Siddhartha, and The Glass Bead Game, each of which explores an individual's search for authenticity, self-knowledge and spirituality. In 1946, he received the Nobel Prize in Literature.
Hermann Karl Hesse was born on 2 July 1877 in the Black Forest town of Calw in Württemberg, German Empire. His parents served in India at a mission under the auspices of the Basel Mission, a Protestant Christian missionary society. Hesse's mother, Marie Gundert, was born at such a mission in India in 1842. In describing her own childhood, she said, "A happy child I was not..." As was usual among missionaries at the time, she was left behind in Europe at the age of four when her parents went to India.
Hesse's father, Johannes Hesse, the son of a doctor, was born in 1847 in the Estonian town of Paide (Weissenstein). In his own way, Dr Hesse was just as tyrannical as Dr Gundert.
Johannes Hesse belonged to the German minority in the part of the Baltic region, which was then a part of the Russian Empire, thus his son Hermann was at birth both a citizen of the German Empire and the Russian Empire.
Hesse had five siblings, but two of them died in infancy. In 1873, the Hesse family moved to Calw, where his father worked for the Calwer Verlagsverein, a publishing house specializing in theological texts and schoolbooks. Hesse's grandfather Hermann Gundert managed the publishing house at the time, and Johannes Hesse succeeded him in 1893.
Hesse grew up in a Swabian Pietist household, with the Pietist tendency to insulate believers into small, deeply thoughtful groups. Furthermore, Hesse described his father's Baltic German heritage as "an important and potent fact" of his developing identity. His father, Hesse stated, "always seemed like a very polite, very foreign, lonely, little-understood guest."
His father's tales from Estonia instilled a contrasting sense of religion in young Hermann. "[It was] an exceedingly cheerful, and, for all its Christianity, a merry world... We wished for nothing so longingly as to be allowed to see this Estonia ... where life was so paradisiacal, so colorful and happy." Hermann Hesse's sense of estrangement from the Swabian petty bourgeoisie further grew through his relationship with his grandmother Julie Gundert, née Dubois, whose French-Swiss heritage kept her from ever quite fitting in among that milieu.
From childhood, Hesse appeared headstrong and hard for his family to handle. In a letter to her husband, Hermann's mother Marie wrote: "The little fellow has a life in him, an unbelievable strength, a powerful will, and, for his four years of age, a truly astonishing mind. How can he express all that? It truly gnaws at my life, this internal fighting against his tyrannical temperament, his passionate turbulence [...] God must shape this proud spirit, then it will become something noble and magnificent – but I shudder to think what this young and passionate person might become should his upbringing be false or weak."
Hesse showed signs of serious depression as early as his first year at school.
In his juvenilia collection Gerbersau, Hesse vividly describes experiences and anecdotes from his childhood and youth in Calw: the atmosphere and adventures by the river, the bridge, the chapel, the houses leaning closely together, hidden nooks and crannies, as well as the inhabitants with their admirable qualities, their oddities, and their idiosyncrasies. The fictional town of Gerbersau is pseudonymous for Calw, imitating the real name of the nearby town of Hirsau. It is derived from the German words gerber, meaning "tanner," and aue, meaning "meadow."
Calw had a centuries-old leather-working industry, and during Hesse's childhood the tanneries' influence on the town was still very much in evidence. Hesse's favorite place in Calw was the St. Nicholas-Bridge (Nikolausbrücke), which is why the Hesse monument was erected there in 2002.
Hermann Hesse's grandfather Hermann Gundert, a doctor of philosophy and fluent in multiple languages, encouraged the boy to read widely, giving him access to his library, which was filled with the works of world literature. All this instilled a sense in Hermann Hesse that he was a citizen of the world. His family background became, he noted, "the basis of an isolation and a resistance to any sort of nationalism that so defined my life."
Young Hesse shared a love of music with his mother. Both music and poetry were important in his family. His mother wrote poetry, and his father was known for his use of language in both his sermons and the writing of religious tracts. His first role model for becoming an artist was his half-brother, Theo, who rebelled against the family by entering a music conservatory in 1885. Hesse showed a precocious ability to rhyme, and by 1889–90 had decided that he wanted to be a writer.
In 1881, when Hesse was four, the family moved to Basel, Switzerland, staying for six years and then returning to Calw. After successful attendance at the Latin School in Göppingen, Hesse entered the Evangelical Theological Seminary of Maulbronn Abbey in 1891. The pupils lived and studied at the abbey, one of Germany's most beautiful and well-preserved, attending 41 hours of classes a week. Although Hesse did well during the first months, writing in a letter that he particularly enjoyed writing essays and translating classic Greek poetry into German, his time in Maulbronn was the beginning of a serious personal crisis.
In March 1892, Hesse showed his rebellious character, and, in one instance, he fled from the Seminary and was found in a field a day later. Hesse began a journey through various institutions and schools and experienced intense conflicts with his parents. In May, after an attempt at suicide, he spent time at an institution in Bad Boll under the care of theologian and minister Christoph Friedrich Blumhardt. Later, he was placed in a mental institution in Stetten im Remstal, and then a boys' institution in Basel. At the end of 1892, he attended the Gymnasium in Cannstatt, now part of Stuttgart. In 1893, he passed the One Year Examination, which concluded his schooling. The same year, he began spending time with older companions and took up drinking and smoking.
After this, Hesse began a bookshop apprenticeship in Esslingen am Neckar, but quit after three days. Then, in the early summer of 1894, he began a 14-month mechanic apprenticeship at a clock tower factory in Calw. The monotony of soldering and filing work made him turn himself toward more spiritual activities. In October 1895, he was ready to begin wholeheartedly a new apprenticeship with a bookseller in Tübingen. This experience from his youth, especially his time spent at the Seminary in Maulbronn, he returns to later in his novel Beneath the Wheel.
On 17 October 1895, Hesse began working in the bookshop in Tübingen, which had a specialized collection in theology, philology, and law. Hesse's tasks consisted of organizing, packing, and archiving the books. After the end of each twelve-hour workday, Hesse pursued his own work, and he spent his long, idle Sundays with books rather than friends. Hesse studied theological writings and later Goethe, Lessing, Schiller, and Greek mythology. He also began reading Nietzsche in 1895, and that philosopher's ideas of "dual...impulses of passion and order" in humankind was a heavy influence on most of his novels.
By 1898, Hesse had a respectable income that enabled financial independence from his parents. During this time, he concentrated on the works of the German Romantics, including much of the work from Clemens Brentano, Joseph Freiherr von Eichendorff, Friedrich Hölderlin, and Novalis. In letters to his parents, he expressed a belief that "the morality of artists is replaced by aesthetics".
During this time, he was introduced to the home of Fräulein von Reutern, a friend of his family's. There he met with people his own age. His relationships with his contemporaries were "problematic", in that most of them were now at university. This usually left him feeling awkward in social situations.
In 1896, his poem "Madonna" appeared in a Viennese periodical and Hesse released his first small volume of poetry, Romantic Songs. In 1897, a published poem of his, "Grand Valse", drew him a fan letter. It was from Helene Voigt, who the next year married Eugen Diederichs, a young publisher. To please his wife, Diederichs agreed to publish Hesse's collection of prose entitled One Hour After Midnight in 1898 (although it is dated 1899).
Both works were a business failure. In two years, only 54 of the 600 printed copies of Romantic Songs were sold, and One Hour After Midnight received only one printing and sold sluggishly. Furthermore, Hesse "suffered a great shock" when his mother disapproved of "Romantic Songs" on the grounds that they were too secular and even "vaguely sinful."
From late 1899, Hesse worked in a distinguished antique book shop in Basel. Through family contacts, he stayed with the intellectual families of Basel. In this environment with rich stimuli for his pursuits, he further developed spiritually and artistically. At the same time, Basel offered the solitary Hesse many opportunities for withdrawal into a private life of artistic self-exploration, journeys and wanderings. In 1900, Hesse was exempted from compulsory military service due to an eye condition. This, along with nerve disorders and persistent headaches, affected him his entire life.
In 1901, Hesse undertook to fulfill a long-held dream and travelled for the first time to Italy. In the same year, Hesse changed jobs and began working at the antiquarium Wattenwyl in Basel. Hesse had more opportunities to release poems and small literary texts to journals. These publications now provided honorariums. His new bookstore agreed to publish his next work, Posthumous Writings and Poems of Hermann Lauscher. In 1902, his mother died after a long and painful illness. He could not bring himself to attend her funeral, afraid that it would worsen his depression.
Due to the good notices he received for Lauscher, the publisher Samuel Fischer became interested in Hesse and, with the novel Peter Camenzind, which appeared first as a pre-publication in 1903 and then as a regular printing by Fischer in 1904, came a breakthrough: from now on, Hesse could make a living as a writer. The novel became popular throughout Germany. Sigmund Freud "praised Peter Camenzind as one of his favorite readings."
With the literary fame, Hesse married Maria Bernoulli (of the famous family of mathematicians in 1904, settled down with her in Gaienhofen on Lake Constance, and began a family, eventually having three sons. In Gaienhofen, he wrote his second novel, Beneath the Wheel, which was published in 1906. In the following time, he composed primarily short stories and poems. His story "The Wolf," written in 1906–07, was "quite possibly" a foreshadowing of Steppenwolf.
His next novel, Gertrude, published in 1910, revealed a production crisis. He had to struggle through writing it, and he later would describe it as "a miscarriage". Gaienhofen was the place where Hesse's interest in Buddhism was re-sparked. Following a letter to Kapff in 1895 entitled Nirvana, Hesse had ceased alluding to Buddhist references in his work. In 1904, however, Arthur Schopenhauer and his philosophical ideas started receiving attention again, and Hesse discovered theosophy. Schopenhauer and theosophy renewed Hesse's interest in India. Although it was many years before the publication of Hesse's Siddhartha (1922), this masterpiece was to be derived from these new influences.
During this time, there also was increased dissonance between him and Maria, and in 1911 Hesse left for a long trip to Sri Lanka and Indonesia. He also visited Sumatra, Borneo, and Burma, but "the physical experience... was to depress him."
Any spiritual or religious inspiration that he was looking for eluded him, but the journey made a strong impression on his literary work. Following Hesse's return, the family moved to Bern (1912), but the change of environment could not solve the marriage problems, as he himself confessed in his novel Rosshalde from 1914.
At the outbreak of the First World War in 1914, Hesse registered himself as a volunteer with the Imperial army, saying that he could not sit inactively by a warm fireplace while other young authors were dying on the front. He was found unfit for combat duty, but was assigned to service involving the care of prisoners of war.
While most poets and authors of the war participating countries quickly became embroiled in a tirade of mutual hate, Hesse, seemingly immune to the general war-enthusiasm of the time, wrote an essay titled "O Friends, Not These Tones" ("O Freunde, nicht diese Töne"),[a] which was published in the Neue Zürcher Zeitung, on November 3.
In this essay he appealed to his fellow intellectuals not to fall for nationalistic madness and hatred. Calling for subdued voices and a recognition of Europe's common heritage, Hesse wrote: [...] That love is greater than hate, understanding greater than ire, peace nobler than war, this exactly is what this unholy World War should burn into our memories, more so than ever felt before.
What followed from this, Hesse later indicated, was a great turning point in his life: For the first time, he found himself in the middle of a serious political conflict, attacked by the German press, the recipient of hate mail, and distanced from old friends. He did receive continued support from his friend Theodor Heuss, and the French writer Romain Rolland, who visited Hesse in August 1915. In 1917, Hesse wrote to Rolland, "The attempt...to apply love to matters political has failed."
This public controversy was not yet resolved when a deeper life crisis befell Hesse with the death of his father on 8 March 1916, the serious illness of his son Martin, and his wife's schizophrenia. He was forced to leave his military service and begin receiving psychotherapy. This began for Hesse a long preoccupation with psychoanalysis, through which he came to know Carl Jung personally, and was challenged to new creative heights. During a three-week period in September and October 1917, Hesse penned his novel Demian, which would be published following the armistice in 1919 under the pseudonym Emil Sinclair.
By the time Hesse returned to civilian life in 1919, his marriage had shattered. His wife had a severe episode of psychosis, but, even after her recovery, Hesse saw no possible future with her. Their home in Bern was divided, their children were accommodated in pensions and by relatives, and Hesse resettled alone in the middle of April in Ticino. He occupied a small farm house near Minusio (close to Locarno), living from 25 April to 11 May in Sorengo. On 11 May, he moved to the town Montagnola and rented four small rooms in a castle-like building, the Casa Camuzzi. Here, he explored his writing projects further; he began to paint, an activity reflected in his next major story, "Klingsor's Last Summer", published in 1920. This new beginning in different surroundings brought him happiness, and Hesse later called his first year in Ticino the fullest, most prolific, most industrious and most passionate time of my life.
In 1922, Hesse's novella Siddhartha appeared, which showed the love for Indian culture and Buddhist philosophy that had already developed earlier in his life. In 1924, Hesse married the singer Ruth Wenger, the daughter of the Swiss writer Lisa Wenger and aunt of Méret Oppenheim. This marriage never attained any stability, however.
In 1923, Hesse received Swiss citizenship. His next major works, Kurgast (1925) and The Nuremberg Trip (1927), were autobiographical narratives with ironic undertones and foreshadowed Hesse's following novel, Steppenwolf, which was published in 1927. In the year of his 50th birthday, the first biography of Hesse appeared, written by his friend Hugo Ball. Shortly after his new successful novel, he turned away from the solitude of Steppenwolf and married art historian Ninon Dolbin, née Ausländer. This change to companionship was reflected in the novel Narcissus and Goldmund, appearing in 1930. In 1931, Hesse left the Casa Camuzzi and moved with Ninon to a large house (Casa Hesse) near Montagnola, which was built according to his wishes.
In 1931, Hesse began planning what would become his last major work, The Glass Bead Game (aka Magister Ludi). In 1932, as a preliminary study, he released the novella Journey to the East. The Glass Bead Game was printed in 1943 in Switzerland. He was awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1946.
In a conversation with Miguel Serrano, Herman Hesse commented about the belief in God:
"You should let yourself be carried away, like the clouds in the sky. You shouldn’t resist. God exists in your destiny just as much as he does in these mountains and in that lake. It is very difficult to understand this, because man is moving further and further away from Nature, and also from himself."
As reflected in Demian, and other works, he believed that "for different people, there are different ways to God"; but despite the influence he drew from Indian and Buddhist philosophies, he stated: “Christianity, one not preached but lived, was the strongest of the powers that shaped and moulded me".
Hesse observed the rise to power of Nazism in Germany with concern. In 1933, Bertolt Brecht and Thomas Mann made their travels into exile, each aided by Hesse. In this way, Hesse attempted to work against Hitler's suppression of art and literature that protested Nazi ideology. Hesse's third wife was Jewish, and he had publicly expressed his opposition to anti-Semitism long before then.
Hesse was criticized for not condemning the Nazi party, but his failure to criticize or support any political idea stemmed from his "politics of detachment [...] At no time did he openly condemn (the Nazis), although his detestation of their politics is beyond question." From the end of the 1930s, German journals stopped publishing Hesse's work, and the Nazis eventually banned it.
The Glass Bead Game was Hesse's last novel. During the last twenty years of his life, Hesse wrote many short stories (chiefly recollections of his childhood) and poems (frequently with nature as their theme). Hesse also wrote ironic essays about his alienation from writing (for instance, the mock autobiographies: Life Story Briefly Told and Aus den Briefwechseln eines Dichters) and spent much time pursuing his interest in watercolours. Hesse also occupied himself with the steady stream of letters he received as a result of the Nobel Prize and as a new generation of German readers explored his work. In one essay, Hesse reflected wryly on his lifelong failure to acquire a talent for idleness and speculated that his average daily correspondence exceeded 150 pages. He died on 9 August 1962, aged 85, and was buried in the cemetery at San Abbondio in Montagnola, where Hugo Ball and the great conductor Bruno Walter are also buried.
In his time, Hesse was a popular and influential author in the German-speaking world; worldwide fame only came later. Hesse's first great novel, Peter Camenzind, was received enthusiastically by young Germans desiring a different and more "natural" way of life at the time of great economic and technological progress in the country (see also Wandervogel movement).
Demian had a strong and enduring influence on the generation of home-returners from the First World War.; similarly, The Glass Bead Game, with its disciplined intellectual world of Castalia and the powers of mediation and humanity, captivated Germans' longing for a new order amid the chaos of a broken nation following the loss in Second World War.
In the 1950s, Hesse's popularity began to wane, while literature critics and intellectuals turned their attention to other subjects. In 1965, the sales of Hesse's books by his publisher Suhrkamp reached an all-time low. However, after Hesse's death in 1962, posthumously published writings, including letters and previously unknown pieces of prose, contributed to a new level of understanding and appreciation of his works.
By the time of Hesse's death in 1962, his works were still relatively unknown in the United States. A memorial published in the New York Times went so far as to claim that Hesse's works were largely "inaccessible" for American readers. The situation changed in the mid-1960s, when Hesse's works suddenly became bestsellers in the United States.
The revival in popularity of Hesse's works has been credited to their association with some of the popular themes of the 1960s counterculture (or hippie) movement. In particular, the quest-for-enlightenment theme of Siddhartha, Journey to the East, and Narcissus and Goldmund resonated with those espousing counter-cultural ideals. The "magic theatre" sequences in Steppenwolf were interpreted by some as drug-induced psychedelia, although there is no evidence that Hesse ever took psychedelic drugs or recommended their use.
To a large part, the causes of the Hesse-Boom in the United States can be traced back to enthusiastic writings by two influential counter-culture figures: Colin Wilson and Timothy Leary.
From the United States, the Hesse renaissance spread to other parts of the world, and even back to Germany: more than 800,000 copies were sold in the German-speaking world in 1972–1973. In a space of just a few years, Hesse became the most widely read and translated European author of the 20th century. Hesse was especially popular among young readers, a tendency which continues today.
Hesse's Siddhartha is one of the most popular Western novels set in India. An authorized translation of Siddhartha was published in the Malayalam language in 1990, the language that surrounded Hesse's grandfather, Hermann Gundert, for most of his life. A Hermann Hesse Society of India has also been formed. It aims to bring out authentic translations of Siddhartha in all Indian languages and has already prepared the Sanskrit translation of Siddhartha.
One enduring monument to Hesse's lasting popularity in the United States is the Magic Theatre in San Francisco. Referring to "The Magic Theatre for Madmen Only" in Steppenwolf (a kind of spiritual and somewhat nightmarish cabaret attended by some of the characters, including Harry Haller), the Magic Theatre was founded in 1967 to perform works by new playwrights. Founded by John Lion, the Magic Theatre has fulfilled that mission for many years, including the world premieres of many plays by Sam Shepard.
Throughout Germany, many schools are named after him. In 1964, the Calwer Hermann-Hesse-Preis was founded, which is awarded every two years, alternately to a German-language literary journal or to the translator of Hesse's work to a foreign language. There is also a Hermann Hesse prize associated with the city of Karlsruhe.
1906 – Bauernfeld-Preis
1928 – Mejstrik-Preis of the Schiller Foundation in Vienna
1936 – Gottfried-Keller-Preis
1946 – Goethe Prize
1946 – Nobel Prize in Literature
1947 – Honorary Doctorate from the University of Bern
1950 – Wilhelm-Raabe-Preis (de)
1954 – Pour le Mérite
1955 – Peace Prize of the German Book Trade
Demian, 1919(1899) Eine Stunde hinter Mitternacht. Novella.
(1900) Hermann Lauscher
(1904) Peter Camenzind
(1906) Unterm Rad (Beneath the Wheel; also published as The Prodigy)
(1908) Freunde. Novella.
(1913) Aus Indien (Out of India)
(1915) Knulp. (Also published as Three Tales from the Life of Knulp)
(1916) Schön ist die Jugend. Novella.
(1919) Strange News from Another Star. (Originally published as Märchen) Collection of short stories written between 1913 and 1918.
(1919) Demian (published under the pen name Emil Sinclair)
(1919) Klein und Wagner
(1920) Klingsors letzter Sommer (Klingsor's Last Summer)
(1927) Der Steppenwolf
(1930) Narziß und Goldmund (Narcissus and Goldmund; also published as Death and the Lover)
(1932) Die Morgenlandfahrt (Journey to the East)
(1943) Das Glasperlenspiel (The Glass Bead Game; also published as Magister Ludi)
(1966) El lobo estepario (based on Steppenwolf)
(1971) Zachariah (based on Siddartha)
(1996) Ansatsu (based on Demian)
(2003) Poem: I Set My Foot Upon the Air and It Carried Me
(2012) Die Heimkehr