|Siddhartha is considered as the
most outstanding of Hermann Hesse's fictions. The novel's universal appeal
remains unmatched in its simplicity and lyrical quality.
The novel is
Siddhartha's story of his triumph over human agony, fear and a desire to
possess. His search for a life devoid of any attachments is indeed arduous,
but one on which he learns something new at every step. His wanderings and
strivings ultimately lead him to the final fulfilment.
Here's an autobiography of Hermann Hesse, collected from
I was born in Calw in the Black Forest on July 2,
1877. My father, a Baltic German, came from Estonia; my mother was the
daughter of a Swabian and a French Swiss. My father's father was a doctor,
my mother's father a missionary and Indologist. My father, too, had been a
missionary in India for a short while, and my mother had spent several years
of her youth in India and had done missionary work there.
My childhood in Calw was interrupted by several years of living in Basle
(1880-86). My family had been composed of different nationalities; to this
was now added the experience of growing up among two different peoples, in
two countries with their different dialects.
I spent most of my school years in boarding schools in Wuerttemberg and some
time in the theological seminary of the
monastery at Maulbronn. I was a good learner, good at Latin though only
fair at Greek, but I was not a very manageable boy, and it was only with
difficulty that I fitted into the framework of a pietist education that
aimed at subduing and breaking the individual personality. From the age of
twelve I wanted to be a poet, and since there was no normal or official
road, I had a hard time deciding what to do after leaving school. I left the
seminary and grammar school, became an apprentice to a mechanic, and at the
age of nineteen I worked in book and antique shops in Tübingen and Basle.
Late in 1899 a tiny volume of my poems appeared in print, followed by other
small publications that remained equally unnoticed, until in 1904 the novel
Peter Camenzind, written in Basle and set in Switzerland, had a quick
success. I gave up selling books, married a woman from Basle, the mother of
my sons, and moved to the country. At that time a rural life, far from the
cities and civilization, was my aim. Since then I have always lived in the
country, first, until 1912, in Gaienhofen on Lake Constance, later near
Bern, and finally in Montagnola near Lugano, where I am still living.
Soon after I settled in Switzerland in 1912, the First World War broke out,
and each year brought me more and more into conflict with German
nationalism; ever since my first shy protests against mass suggestion and
violence I have been exposed to continuous attacks and floods of abusive
letters from Germany. The hatred of the official Germany, culminating under
Hitler, was compensated for by the following I won among the young
generation that thought in international and pacifist terms, by the
Rolland, which lasted until his death, as well as by the sympathy of men
who thought like me even in countries as remote as India and Japan. In
Germany I have been acknowledged again since the fall of Hitler, but my
works, partly suppressed by the Nazis and partly destroyed by the war; have
not yet been republished there.
In 1923, I resigned German and acquired Swiss citizenship. After the
dissolution of my first marriage I lived alone for many years, then I
married again. Faithful friends have put a house in Montagnola at my
Until 1914 I loved to travel; I often went to Italy and once spent a few
months in India. Since then I have almost entirely abandoned travelling, and
I have not been outside of Switzerland for over ten years.
I survived the years of the Hitler regime and the Second World War through
the eleven years of work that I spent on the Glasperlenspiel (1943) [Magister
Ludi], a novel in two volumes. Since the completion of that long book,
an eye disease and increasing sicknesses of old age have prevented me from
engaging in larger projects.
Of the Western philosophers, I have been influenced most by Plato, Spinoza,
Schopenhauer, and Nietzsche as well as the historian Jacob Burckhardt. But
they did not influence me as much as Indian and, later, Chinese philosophy.
I have always been on familiar and friendly terms with the fine arts, but my
relationship to music has been more intimate and fruitful. It is found in
most of my writings. My most characteristic books in my view are the poems
(collected edition, Zürich, 1942), the stories Knulp (1915),
Demian (1919), Siddhartha (1922), Der Steppenwolf (1927) [Steppenwolf],
Narziss und Goldmund. (1930), Die Morgenlandfahrt (1932) [The
Journey to the East], and Das Glasperlenspiel (1943) [Magister
Ludi]. The volume Gedenkblätter (1937, enlarged ed. 1962)
[Reminiscences] contains a good many autobiographical things. My essays on
political topics have recently been published in Zürich under the title
Krieg und Frieden (1946) [War and Peace].
I ask you, gentlemen, to be contented with this very sketchy outline; the
state of my health does not permit me to be more comprehensive.
Biographical note on Hermann Hesse
Hermann Hesse (1877-1962) received the Goethe Prize of
Frankfurt in 1946 and the Peace Prize of the German Booksellers in 1955. A
complete edition of his works in six volumes appeared in 1952; a seventh
volume (1957) contains essays and miscellaneous writings. Beschwörungen
(1955) [Evocations], a volume of late prose, and his correspondence with
Romain Rolland (1954) were published separately.
Nobel Lectures, Literature 1901-1967.
Hermann Hesse died in 1962.
A Brief Background of Hermann Hesse
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
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
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