Other Literary Forms (Critical Survey of Short Fiction, Second Revised Edition)
Although Hermann Hesse is known primarily for his novels, he also wrote poems and essays on art, literature, and society as well as short stories. In addition, he wrote reviews and articles for numerous journals and newspapers and compiled critical editions of a wide variety of literary works.
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Achievements (Critical Survey of Short Fiction, Second Revised Edition)
Hermann Hesse’s maiden novel Peter Camenzind (1904; English translation, 1961) won the Bauernfeld Prize of Vienna in 1904, the first of myriad awards bestowed on the author in his lifetime. Interestingly, most of Germany’s prestigious awards were not accorded to Hesse until after World War II, when he was near seventy. Other significant awards include the Goethe Prize and the Nobel Prize in Literature, both awarded in 1946. Hesse also contributed the so-called cult book Demian (1919; English translation, 1923), which took the German literary scene by storm when it was published, providing, as Hesse’s biographer Joseph Mileck purports, “a veritable bible for German youth.” This same novel produced a huge following in American colleges in the 1960’s and 1970’s, with its focus on the unintegrated hero as outsider and his accompanying quest for a self-identity, a matrix of personal values, and a means of facilitating moral and philosophic commitment.
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Other literary forms (Critical Survey of Long Fiction, Fourth Edition)
In 1899, Hermann Hesse (HEHS-uh) published a collection of his poems under the title Romantische Lieder (romantic songs), and this was to be the first volume of a truly prodigious literary output. In addition to his longer prose works, Hesse wrote several volumes of poems, fairy tales, and short prose pieces. Hesse was also a prolific letter writer and reviewer: In the course of his lifetime, he reviewed more than twenty-five hundred books, and his correspondence fills many volumes. Hesse’s essays, which typically express pacifist views or a humanitarian identification with all humankind, have appeared both as separate volumes and as a part of his massive collected works.
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Achievements (Critical Survey of Long Fiction, Fourth Edition)
By the beginning of World War I, Hermann Hesse had become, in the German-speaking countries of Europe, a solid literary success. His poems, prose vignettes, and novels sold well, and he was tantamount to a habit with German readers by 1914. At the outbreak of the war, however, this situation soon changed in Germany, the result primarily of Hesse’s outspoken disparagement of militarism and chauvinism. After the war, Hesse once again became a popular author, especially among younger readers, but this popularity lasted only until the advent of National Socialism, and in 1939, Hesse was officially placed on the list of banned authors, having long since been vilified as a “Jew lover” and unpatriotic draft dodger (from 1890 to 1924, Hesse was a German, not a Swiss, citizen). Throughout and despite this ebb and flow of critical celebration, Hesse continued to write.
After World War II, Hesse was once again sought after—personally and as a writer—as one who could offer moral guidance to a spiritually bankrupt and physically crippled Germany. He became, almost overnight, a celebrity, and was awarded a series of literary prizes, including the Goethe Prize and the Nobel Prize in Literature, both in 1946. Although some still voiced doubts about Hesse as a writer and insisted he was not of the stature of a Thomas Mann, a Bertolt Brecht, or a Franz Kafka, Hesse’s popularity in Germany lasted until about 1960, when it rapidly declined. It was at that time,...
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Discussion Topics (Magill's Survey of World Literature, Revised Edition)
How do you account for the burst of popularity for Hermann Hesse’s fiction in the United States in the 1960’s?
Compare Hesse’s Beneath the Wheel to American school novels, such as J. D. Salinger’s The Catcher in the Rye (1951) and John Knowles’s A Separate Peace (1959).
Comment on Thomas Mann’s suggestion that The Glass Bead Game gave the American reader the opportunity “to dare to laugh.”
What is your understanding of Siddhartha’s discovery that “every sin carries the hope of grace within it”?
Trace the right of passage through which Henry Haller must move in Steppenwolf.
By what means does Hesse make his works both spiritual autobiographies and stories of Everyman?
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Other literary forms (Critical Survey of Poetry: European Poets)
Though Hermann Hesse (HEHS-uh) is best known among English-speakers for his novelsespecially Demian (1919; English translation, 1923), Der Steppenwolf (1927; Steppenwolf, 1929), Siddhartha (1922; English translation, 1951); Narziss und Goldmund (1930; Death and the Lover, 1932; also known as Narcissus and Goldmund, 1968), and Das Glasperlenspiel: Versuch einer Lebensbeschreibung des Magister Ludi Josef Knecht samt Knechts hinterlassenen Schriften (1943; Magister Ludi, 1949; also known as The Glass Bead Game, 1969)he wrote a significant volume of work in other genres. He began composing poems as a precocious child, and despite his output in other literary forms, he continued writing verse throughout his long life. Many of his novels, in fact, contain rhymes, and since the 1950’s much of his poetry has been adapted for musical pieces, especially in Europe. In addition to numerous collections of poems, Hesse wrote volumes of short stories, fairy tales, essays, articles, lectures and other nonfiction. He also edited several periodicals and served as editor for dozens of books, particularly from 1910 to 1926.
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Achievements (Critical Survey of Poetry: European Poets)
Hermann Hesse authored millions of words including hundreds, perhaps thousands, of poems. Much of his verse from the mid-1930’s onward was self-published in small private editions featuring his hand-painted watercolors as gifts for friends and remains uncollected. Hesse first achieved recognition in 1904, winning the Wiener Bauernfeld Prize for his novel Peter Camenzind (English translation, 1961). He received the Fontane Prize for Demian in 1920, but returned it because the award was intended for new writers. In 1936, he was honored with Zurich’s Gottfried-Keller Prize for Literature. In 1946, he received both the Nobel Prize in Literature and the Goethe Prize. He added the Wilhelm Raabe Prize (1950) and the Peace Prize of the German Book Trade (1955) to his laurels and was made a Knight of the Order of Merit in 1955. More than forty years after his death and eighty years since he adopted Swiss citizenry, Hesse continues to be one of the best-selling German-language authors in the country of his birth.
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Bibliography (Cyclopedia of World Authors, Fourth Revised Edition)
Boulby, Mark. Hermann Hesse: His Mind and Art. Ithaca, N.Y.: Cornell University Press, 1967. An extensive examination of Hesse’s novels from the perspective that there are definable, basic, and yet complex structural patterns revealed in a survey of all the longer works. Underlying the examination is the assertion that the pivotal point of Hesse’s work is his universalization of a personal conflict in artistic from. Provides an in-depth analysis of each of the major novels, including the earlier Peter Camenzind and Beneath the Wheel.
Brink, Andrew. Obsession and Culture: A Study of Sexual Obsession in Modern Fiction. Madison, N.J.: Fairleigh Dickinson University Press, 1996. Examines sexual behavior in Hesse’s works and others of the twentieth century.
Donovan, Josephine. Gnosticism in Modern Literature: A Study of the Selected Works of Camus, Sartre, Hesse, and Kafka. New York: Garland, 1990. A good study of Hesse’s fiction that reveals gnosticism.
Field, George Wallis. Hermann Hesse. New York: Twayne, 1970. This work concentrates on the novels, integrating Hesse’s themes with biographical concerns and outlining some of the historical and literary influences on the author, such as the tradition of the Bildungsroman (the novel of personal evolution)....
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