Hermann Hesse was born on the 2nd of July in 1877, in the Black Forest town of Calw, Germany. He was an intelligent child of Johannes Hesse, a missionary in India, and his mother, Marie Gundert, too, served as a missionary in India for years. It was, therefore, natural for two religious figures to come close to each other. His father’s Baltic German heritage and his tales from Estonia positively instilled a sense of religion and spiritual identity in young Hermann. On the other hand, his mother’s love for music and poetry also paved the way for his creative development.
Hermann Hesse started his educational journey from a Latin School, Göppingen, where he did really well. Later, in 1891, he attended the Evangelical Theological Seminary of Maulbronn Abbey. During the first month at Abbey, he enjoyed producing essays and translating Greek poetry into German; however, after a year, he became rebellious and fled from the school. Following this, he attended various schools and institutions and had severe clashes with his parents over this issue. The constant suffering and depression led him to attempt suicide. He was also admitted to a mental hospital in Stetten im Remstal for some time. After being recovered from the illness, he started working as a bookshop apprenticeship and mechanic apprenticeship but these did not suit his nature.
Hermann Hesse won many awards on account of his services to literature. First, he won the Bauernfeld-Preis award in 1906, and later, in 1928, he was presented with Mejstrik-Preis of the Schiller Foundation in Vienna. In 1936, he won the Gottfried-Keller-Preis and Goethe Prize in 1946. His other achievements include Nobel Prize in Literature, Wilhelm Raabe Literature Prize, Pour le Mérite, and Peace Prize of the German Book Trade.
Some Important Facts of His Life
- He received the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1946.
- He received Honorary Doctorate from the University of Bern in 1947.
- He is widely known for his spiritual work,
- Steppenwolf Theater in Chicago was named after his novel, Steppenwolf and in Germany, many schools are named after him.
Although Hermann Hesse led a traumatic life, all those obstacles could not impede his writing abilities; rather, they contributed to his writing in one or the other way. His interest in literature grew while working in the bookshop in Tübingen during his childhood. There he started reading theological writings, gothic fiction and Greek mythology. Soon he started writing and his first piece of writing, Madonna, Published in 1896. After this, he published his small volume of poetry, Romantic Songs, almost the same year. His next two attempts, “Grand Valse” and One Hour After Midnight brought him a business failure. Despite this, his first novel, Peter Camenzind, was a big hit. This acclaimed work followed by two other publications, Gertrud and Rosshalde, which were published in the years 1910 and 1940 respectively. However, his universally acclaimed work, Siddartha, appeared in 1922. The novel provided glimpses of India during the time of Buddha and presented his quest for enlightenment. His other major attempt, Der Steppenwolf, depicts the tension between bourgeois acceptance and self-realization of a middle-aged man. His other notable attempts include The Glass Bead Game and Narziss und Goldmund.
After establishing his career as a writer, Hermann Hesse earned huge success in life. He gained immense popularity on account of his thoughtful ideas and unconventional style. His mastery lines in shedding light on the duality of human nature and self-realization. Most of his works show his interest in Jungian concepts of introversion, idealism, the collective unconscious, and symbols. He is widely known as the author of crisis, which means that in most of his works, he subjects himself to self-analysis to find the real identity. He never deals with fanciful subjects and unnecessary details in his pieces; instead, he prefers focusing on the dual aspects of human nature he witnessed in the world around him. Also, Hermann Hesse’s works demonstrate simple yet complex diction to enhance the unique perspective presented to the readers. The recurring thematic strands in most of the writings are lost, the quest for identity, and spirituality. Regarding literary devices, he often turns to metaphors, imagery, and similes to create a unique style.
Some Important Works of Hermann Hesse
- Best Novels: Some of his best books include Der Steppenwolf, (Journey to the East, Demian, Peter Camenzind, Siddartha, Narcissus and Goldmund, and Knulp.
- Other Works: Besides writing novels, he tried his hands on poetry and prose. Some of them include Stories of Five Decades, Crisis: Pages from a Diary, Hours in the Garden and Other Poems and Autobiographical Writings.
Herman Hesse’s Impacts on Future Literature
Herman Hesse started his writing career at his young age and became popular in his life. His unique writing style and literary qualities of his masterpieces brought praiseworthy changes to the world of literature. That is why he left a significant influence on a diverse range of writers and critics and other influential figures of the German-speaking world. The ways he has expressed his complex ideas have set standards for future generations to follow him.
- “Wisdom cannot be imparted. Wisdom that a wise man attempts to impart always sounds like foolishness to someone else … Knowledge can be communicated, but not wisdom. One can find it, live it, do wonders through it, but one cannot communicate and teach it.” (Siddhartha)
- “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.” (Narcissus and Goldmund)
- “That is where my dearest and brightest dreams have ranged — to hear for the duration of a heartbeat the universe and the totality of life in its mysterious, innate harmony.” (Gertrude)
- “Oh, love isn’t there to make us happy. I believe it exists to show us how much we can endure.” (Wer lieben kann, ist glücklich. Über die Liebe)