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To Re-Read Hesse

Hermann Hesse, 1877–1962

474 words

Translated by Alex Kurtagic

Unfortunately, the deep writer and poet Hermann Hesse was falsified and vulgarized by a world in decline. He needs to be re-read today by the same eyes that were once shaken by his mystery.

Demian, for example, was always understood by the readers of Hesse’s time to be a symbolic work, where, in addition, is reflected the Masonic legend of Eve and the “sons of the widow” (Demian, one of them), and of Sinclair (a name representative of the great hereditary masters of the Scottish Masonry), who also interprets the Jungian conception of the “Self” with the “anima” already linked to the Self; the Absolute Man. That is Demian’s character (the “Self” of Sinclair). Demian is also a follower of the Gnostic god, Abraxas, which unites opposites within him.

Now, Steppenwolf is a marvelous play on symbols along the lines of The Magic Flute, by Mozart (a composer admired by Hermann Hesse). Mozart’s Tamino and Pamina, Papageno and Papagena, are in Hesse’s work Hermann (Harrier) and Hermine, the female equivalent of Hermann (unfortunately, in the Spanish translation Hermine’s name has been changed). That is to say, in this work is presented once again the mysterious and profound play on metaphysics of Mozart and Jung, of Orpheus and Plato: of the “anima” and the “animus.”

About Hesse’s transcendental work, The Glass Bead Game, of which the Secretary General of the United Nations during the sixties, Dag Hammarskjöld, declared that, were he confined to a desert island, the only thing he would want to have with him would be this marvelous work. And Henry Miller, author of Tropic of Cancer, wrote to me saying that for him Siddhartha was the most important book he had ever read, because it summarized in a few pages all of Zen Buddhism. And he told me, also, that on his headboard he always had the book C. G. Jung and Hermann Hesse: A Record of Two Friendships, about my conversations with the writer.

Unfortunately, he had not been able personally to meetHermann Hesse, because, having gone to visit him in Montagnola, he found on the front gate to his house a sign in German that said “Bitte keine Besüche.” Miller knew German and was able to translate it: “Please, no visitors.” Fortunately, I knew no German and was able to enter, to be received by Hermann Hesse, and until today feel that I was graced, blessed by the gods, for having been able to know him and honor myself with his friendship.

In memory of those great times and that mystery, I have desired to write these lines, showing that Hermann Hesse is a writer for eternity, not for a particular time, but for immortality.

Yes! We must read his books again. And resurrect him . . .



  1. Ryan Oblivion
    Posted March 8, 2011 at 3:33 pm | Permalink

    Interest in Hesse has declined considerably in recent years. It’s too bad because I think The Glass Bead Game and Narcissus and Goldmund are still worth reading.

  2. April Gaede
    Posted March 9, 2011 at 11:40 pm | Permalink

    If what matters in a person’s existence is to accept the inevitable consciously, to taste the good and bad to the full and to make for oneself a more individual, unaccidental and inward destiny alongside one’s external fate, then my life has been neither empty nor worthless.

    I read this in Gertrude when I was about 18 or 19 and have tried to live this theme to this day. I even have a quote book from back then that I wrote it down in.

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