Critical Context

(Literary Essentials: World Fiction)

Rosshalde marked a turning point in the Hesse canon, for in it he signaled his own freedom from efforts to divide himself between bourgeois family life and the demands of his work. After he returned from India, Hesse knew that his married life could last no longer; Rosshalde was written to exorcise that particular demon. Most critics find it to be one of the best of his prewar novels; it is certainly one of the most realistic and most structurally tight of his novels. Some critics find it to be the work of a playwright, because of the dramatic unities of time, place, and character that it embodies. The plot line is classically and tragically simple in its inevitability. Most of the story is carried by dialogue, with a minimum of description of the external world. In its straightforward style and the simplicity of its basic situation, it lacks the mysticism that made such Hesse works as Demian (1919; English translation, 1923) so widely popular in the 1960’s in the United States.

The general critical opinion of the novel is that while it is the work of a consummate craftsman, it does not match the penetrating psychological portraits of such masterpieces as Siddhartha (1922; English translation, 1951) and Der Steppenwolf (1927; Steppenwolf, 1929). It is also inferior to his great Kunstlerroman, Narziss und Goldmund (1930; Death and the Lover, 1932; also as Narcissus and Goldmund, 1968). Consequently, although Rosshalde has an important place in the artistic career of Hermann Hesse, it lacks both the stylistic facility and the mystic profundity of the later works which made him one of the most widely read German authors of the twentieth century.