Hermann Hesse

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Hermann Hesse
Hermann Hesse

Hermann Hesse (July 2, 1877August 9, 1962) was a German author, and the winner of the 1946 Nobel Prize in Literature. He is most famous for his novels Steppenwolf, Das Glasperlenspiel (The Glass Bead Game), and Siddhartha.

Hesse's interests in existential, spiritual, and mystical themes and Buddhist and Hindu philosophy are evident in his works.

Herman Hesse was born in the Black Forest town of Calw in Württemberg, Germany. Hesse is the grandson of famed German missionary Rev. Dr. Hermann Gundert. In 1919, Hesse moved to the town of Montagnola in the south of Switzerland. Hesse became a Swiss citizen in 1923.

A staunch pacifist, Hesse opposed World War I. His feelings about war are reflected in many of this works. During World War II, his writings found strange allies. The German propagandist Joseph Goebbels initially defended Hesse's books. As a result, Hesse was allowed to continue writing. However, after Hesse demanded that certain portions in his book Narcissus and Goldmund dealing with pogroms be left untouched, Hesse found himself on the Nazis' blacklist. Despite this ominous situation, Hesse escaped World War II unharmed.

Like a number of his characters, Hesse had many problems with women. His first marriage to Maria Bernoulli ended sadly, his wife having mental problems. They had three children together. His second marriage was apparently a brief infatuation with singer Ruth Wenger. The marriage lasted less than one year, which the newly married couple spent apart from each other. Hesse's deep emotional crisis, stemming from the preceived inability to relate to people, is reflected in the novel Steppenwolf. His third and final marriage was to Ninon Dolbin Ausländer (1895-1966) in 1931 (she is mentioned briefly in Journey to the East).

Hesse developed a certain conservatism in his later life. In Das Glasperlenspiel, characters denounce all music after Johann Sebastian Bach as superficial and bad, with Ludwig van Beethoven being an extreme example of bad taste. Das Glasperlenspiel, with its William Morris-like idealised medieval style, was extremely popular in the war-torn Germany of 1945.

Hesse died of cerebral hemorrhage in his sleep in Montagnola at the age of 85.



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