Hermann Hesse Biography

Hermann Hesse Biography

Hermann Hesse, one of Germany’s most celebrated writers, had a troubled childhood, bouncing from school to school and fighting with his parents. The culmination of these problems occurred in 1892 when he attempted suicide and was placed in two separate mental institutions. He tried several apprenticeships before finally working in a bookshop and beginning his own writing career. Hesse first composed poetry and later moved to writing novels and essays. Always suspicious of authority, Hesse tried to support artists who were persecuted by the Nazis, but he had to endure criticism for not being vocal enough for or against either side. Hesse’s novels, mainly Steppenwolf and Siddhartha, gained popularity in the 1960s because many saw them as aligning with counter-culture values.

Facts and Trivia

  • The rock band Steppenwolf is named after Hesse’s famous book about spiritual crisis.
  • Hesse is the most popular German language author in Japan. This is most likely because an educational minister in Japan once assigned students studying German to read a Hesse novel. The practice stuck.
  • Hesse received the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1946 for his last major work, The Glass Bead Game.
  • In 1933, Hesse helped Bertolt Brecht and Thomas Mann go into exile in an attempt to thwart Hitler’s anti-art campaign.
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