Hermann Hesse
Born in

Calw, Württemberg, Germany

July 2, 1877

Died

August 9, 1962

About Hermann Hesse

Hermann Hesse was a German-Swiss poet, novelist, and painter. In 1946, he received the Nobel Prize in Literature. His best known works include Steppenwolf, Siddhartha, and The Glass Bead Game (also known as Magister Ludi) which explore an individual's search for spirituality outside society.

Hesse was born in the Black Forest town of Calw to a Christian missionary family. Both of his parents served with a Basel Mission to India, where Hesse's mother Marie Gundert was born in 1842. Hesse's father, Johannes Hesse, was born in 1877 in Estonia, the son of a doctor. The Hesse family had lived in Calw since 1873, where they operated a missionary publishing house under the direction of Hesse's grandfather, Hermann Gundert.

Hesse spent his first years of life surrounded by the spirit of Swabian piety. In 1880 the family moved to Basel, Switzerland, for six years, then returned to Calw. After successful attendance at the Latin School in Göppingen, Hesse began to attend the Evangelical Theological Seminary in Maulbronn in 1891. Here 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.

During this time, 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.

In the early summer of 1894, he began a fourteen month mechanic apprenticeship at a clock tower factory in Calw. The monotony of soldering and filing work made him resolve to 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 he returns to later in his novel, Beneath the Wheel.

On October 17, 1895, Hesse began working in the bookshop Heckenhauer in Tübingen, which had a specialized collection in theology, philology, and law. Hesse's assignment there consisted of organizing, packing, and archiving the books. After the end of each twelve hour workday, Hesse pursued his own work further, and he spent his long, idle Sundays with books rather than friends. Hesse studied theological writings, and later , Lessing, Schiller, and several texts on Greek mythology. In 1896, his poem 'Madonna' appeared in a Viennese periodical.

By 1898, Hesse had a respectable income that enabled his 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 Holderlin and Novalis. In letters to his parents, he expressed a belief that "the morality of artists is replaced by aesthetics."

In the fall, Hesse released his first small volume of poetry, Romantic Songs and in the summer of 1899, a collection of prose, entitled One Hour After Midnight. Both works were a business failure. In two years, only 54 of the 600 printed copies of the former were sold, and the latter received only one printing and sold sluggishly. Nevertheless, the Leipzig publisher Eugen Diederichs was convinced of the literary quality of the work and from the beginning regarded the publications more as encouragement of a young author than as profitable business.

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Quotes by Hermann Hesse