Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Hermann Hesse

Tessiner Landschaft
Watercolor and ink on paper
32 x 36 cm
location unknown

"As a body everyone is single, as a soul never." (Hermann Hesse)

Hermann Hesse (1877-1962) was a German 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.

He was born in Calw in the Black Forest on July 2, 1877. His father, a Baltic German, came from Estonia; his mother was the daughter of a Swabian and a French Swiss. His father had been a missionary in India for a short while, and his mother had spent several years of her youth in India and had done missionary work there.

He spent most of his school years in boarding schools in Wuerttemberg and some time in the theological seminary of the monastery at Maulbronn. From the age of twelve he wanted to be a poet, and since there was no normal or official road, he had a hard time deciding what to do after leaving school. He left the seminary and grammar school, became an apprentice to a mechanic, and at the age of nineteen he worked in book and antique shops in Tubingen and Basle.

Late in 1899 a tiny volume of his poems appeared in print. In 1904 the novel Peter Camenzind had a quick success. He married a woman from Basle and moved to the country. At that time a rural life, far from the cities and civilization, was his aim. Since then he has always lived in the country, first, until 1912, in Gaienhofen on Lake Constance, later near Bern, and finally in Montagnola near Lugano. Soon after he settled in Switzerland in 1912, the First World War broke out, and each year brought him more and more into conflict with German nationalism; ever since his first shy protests against mass suggestion and violence he had been exposed to continuous attacks and floods of abusive letters from Germany. In Germany, he had been acknowledged again since the fall of Hitler. In 1923, he resigned German and acquired Swiss citizenship.

Of the Western philosophers, he had been influenced most by Plato, Spinoza, Schopenhauer, and Nietzsche as well as the historian Jacob Burckhardt. But they did not influence him as much as Indian and, later, Chinese philosophy. He had always been on familiar and friendly terms with the fine arts.