Hermann Hesse was a fiction writer and poet whose work was heavily influenced by
While he didn't write self help books, his work caused readers to
expand their thinking and undergo self inquiry.
He became very popular with the counter culture of the sixties,
which promoted free thinking, spiritual experimentation, and
psychedelics. His most notable works include "Siddhartha" and
Background Of Hermann Hesse
Hermann Hesse was born in Germany on July
2, 1877. He lived to the age of 85 and died in Switzerland on August 9, 1962.
had a strict upbringing and showed signs of depression at a young age. His
grandfather spoke several languages and was a doctor of philosophy. He
encouraged young Hermann Hesse to read from the volumes of world literature in
his vast library. Reading, writing, and music were all important parts of his
family life while growing up, and heavily influenced the course of his life.
Hesse's teen years were tumultuous. He became friends with the wrong crowd,
became rebellious, and took up drinking. Depression continued to haunt Hesse and
he even attempted suicide.
As a young adult, Hermann Hesse worked in a bookshop
and surrounded himself with his love of reading. Soon he was writing poems and
stories of his own. His first published works were failures, but slowly his
writing became more popular.
Hermann Hesse continued to struggle with
depression into his adult life. He sought relief from psychoanalysis and knew
Carl Jung personally. Psychotherapy seemed to fuel his creativity and passion
During his long life he penned numerous poems, short stories, and
books. The writings of Hermann Hesse touched so many people that he became world
renowned. Schools were named after him in Germany, theatres where named after
him in the United States.
The popularity of his books surged after his death in
1962 as the hippie movement embraced his theme of the quest for enlightenment.
His books became popular reading among university students and some even became
required for certain high school and college classes.
Hermann Hesse received
numerous prestigious awards for his work throughout the decades of his career.
In 1946, he earned the Nobel Prize in Literature for his book "The Glass Bead
Important Books by Hermann Hesse
the ninth novel written by Hermann Hesse. It was originally
published in 1922 and is still widely read today. It tells the
story of a spiritual journey taken by an Indian man during the
time of Buddha. It was written in German as was much of the
other work by Hermann Hesse, and not published in the United
States until 1951 when it went on to influence a generation of
youth during the 60s. To better understand his character who
was in pursuit of enlightenment, Hesse became reclusive while
writing this book and immersed himself in Buddhist and Hindu
" was published in 1927 and
was the tenth book written by Hermann Hesse. This book was an
international best seller although Hesse claimed his work was
misunderstood. The story is about spiritual crisis and it
combined autobiographical elements and was influenced by
Hesse's obsession with psychoanalysis. The title was derived
from the wild and homeless nature of the wolf of the steppes
that conflicted with the protagonist's more spiritual nature.
In an important passage in the book, the characters attend The
Magic Theatre where they experience fantasies of the mind. The
Magic Theatre that was founded in 1967 in San Francisco and
became one of the most prominent theatre companies in the US,
took it's name from this element found in Steppenwolf. Some
members of the counterculture understood the passage to be
referring to the use of psychedelic drugs. This work by
Hermann Hesse was made into a film in 1974 that starred Max
• "Narcissus and Goldmund
" was published in
1930. When translated into English, the book was titled "Death
and the Lover." This book earned Hermann Hesse much acclaim.
The story tells about a young man who left a Catholic
monastery and wandered around Medieval Germany in pursuit of
the meaning of life. This book reflects a recurring theme in
Hesse's works of the struggle to find oneself and the conflict
of opposing opposites within a person.
• "Journey to
" was published in 1932. In this short novel, Hermann Hesse tells the story of a man who joins a religious sect
called The League. The League has many prestigious members,
some real and some fictional, that include a character from
"Siddhartha," Plato, Don Quixote, Pythagoras, and Mozart. Part
of the sect heads to the East to search for the ultimate truth
and in their journey they travel through space and time. All
does not go well as they quickly lose a beloved member of the
group and the rest of them are reduced to arguing and
distress. Years later, after a lifetime of bitterness and
disillusionment, the main character discovers the lost member
was actually the president of their sect who was giving them a
test of faith which they all miserably failed at the time.
• "The Glass Bead Game
" was the last novel written by
Hermann Hesse. It was published in 1943. The novel is set
hundreds of years into the future in a location in Europe that
has been set aside to nurture the mind. The city was reserved
for intellectuals who ran boarding schools and played the
Glass Bead Game. The game is incredibly sophisticated and
requires years of study in the arts and sciences to play. The
book is a psychological coming of age story set in a utopian
society. Hesse is said to have been inspired to write the
"Glass Bead Game" as a response to the oppression of Nazi
Germany that was unfolding as he wrote the work.
The Legacy of Hermann Hesse
The influence of Hermann
Hesse has lived on for decades past his death. Even though he
didn't write self help books, he still influenced many
He drew from great thinkers such as Jung and
Nietzsche. He studied Eastern mysticism extensively. His own
life was filled with despair, adversity, and search for
meaning. All these aspects played out in his stories. His
characters were extensions of himself.
By reading about his
pursuit of enlightenment, readers over the decades have been
nudged to question the meaning of life and search for their
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Hermann Hesse Nudges Readers to Seek Enlightenment and the Meaning of Life
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