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Hesse & the Feuilleton

1,901 words

All that mattered in these pieces was to link a well-known name with a subject of current topical interest. The reader may consult Ziegenhalss for some truly startling examples; he gives hundreds.

— Hermann Hesse, The Glass Bead Game

I was recently asked if Hermann Hesse is a man of the Right. My answer, such as it was, was a qualified yes. By the Kerry Bolton standard, Hermann Hesse is indeed a man of the Right. Given that this standard allows men like Aleister Crowley to make the cut, I’d advise you to exercise your own judgment. At first glance, Hesse wasn’t a picture-perfect Right-winger. His third (!) wife was Jewish, he was critical of the National Socialist regime — accusing it of sacrificing the individual at the altar of the state — and he made some very strong anti-war noises during the great war, tellingly while helping wounded soldiers, as he was deemed unfit for military service. He was no Ernst Jünger. And have you seen the people who swear by Hesse? They smell of weed and patchouli and introduce themselves as Mooncalf Satyagrahamcracker.

However, the esteemed señor Miguel Serrano assures me in two brief pieces that modernity has attempted to falsify and absorb Hesse, to make him palatable to Mx. Satyagraham, who tries to shoehorn false Buddhism in her mind using Siddhartha as rhetorical cover, to make Steppenwolf into social proof for angsty teenagers who imagine themselves uniquely tortured by circumstance. Maybe the key to understanding whether Hermann Hesse is on our side is in re-reading Hesse; specifically, his most imposing work, the one you’ll never hear about from the hippies and angsty teens. Here I’m talking about The Glass Bead Game, or Magister Ludi.

I won’t presume to talk about the entire work, merely the introductory part, where Hesse talks about events and ideas leading to the society established in his good future. What is relevant to our analysis here is what he terms the Age of the Feuilleton. You can read most of the text describing this age, which is our age, here, even though The Glass Bead Game was written in the 1930s.

The first image to spring to my mind when contemplating the feuilleton-reader is the Reddit user, the archetypal bugman who yearns to be seen as an intellectual, who “loves reading,” or in our modern era, “loves science.” I am also unpleasantly reminded of my musical education textbooks which included blurbs about funny occurrences in the lives of great composers, the most egregious of which includes Gioachino Rossini preparing a pasta sauce out of his friend’s lost glove. How is my appreciation of music enhanced by knowing this tale? Is the aria of Figaro more or less pleasant to the ear, is the libretto more or less edifying? Not in the slightest. In fact, once I did muster myself to see the opera itself, I found myself playing mental whack-a-mole as this annoying factoid bobbed and weaved around my persistent attempts to enjoy the show. But it’s a great story to tell at parties and a good intermezzo chat-up line if you’re the kind of shameless rake who goes stag to the opera.

The consumer of feuilleton is the kind of person who revels in perfunctory and superficial knowledge, or more correctly, facts, factoids, trivia, and curios. There’s no point to these, outside of self-adornment and self-aggrandizement as an intellectual. These people wear their snippets of knowledge like women wear jewelry. They serve to signal. . . something. But any woman can put on a diamond necklace, and any old grey, pitiful mediocrity can put on the airs of the great thinker.

The difference is, of course, that no diamond of any size can wash out the liver spots from a wrinkly cleavage. But a scruffy beard and a gaze which is two parts resentment, two parts arrogance, and one part dejection (trademark of Žižek Philosophies Ltd.), indeed, philosophum facit, or at least confers the status of a philosopher upon the wearer.

You can buy The World in Flames: The Shorter Writings of Francis Parker Yockey here.

Adopting ideas, ideologies, thought systems, or really, anything based on fashion is a deeply feminine trait, as well as a trait of the bourgeois (who are feminine as a social group). Indeed, just as women have evolved to be creedally fluid, since that gives them a free option to sleep with the enemy in the event that the tribe is conquered and the men slaughtered, so is the bourgeoisie creedally fluid and accepting of new creeds and fashions. Why? They just want to grill, fer chrissakes, and grilling can indeed be achieved under most systems. The bourgeoisie has a free option — they can quite fashionably accept an imposed new creed, repeat back to the conqueror his new catechism with sufficient accuracy that he spares them, and then go to work as a tax base.

Or so they hope.

In our newest iteration of interracial conquest, the white middle class of Europe and America is likelier to be grilled than left in peace to grill. As an aside, all of you single dissidents looking for a redpilled woman are on a wild goose chase. What’s far likelier is that you’ll find your garden variety woman and redpill her through a process similar to homesteading, or in Locke’s words, through mixture of man’s labor with untamed nature.

As per Hesse, the feuilleton reader attempts to smother his dread in the face of a world shorn of meaning with useless and superficial facts. Is there a better description of our intellectual life, here at the tail end of modernity? Hesse also has incredulous words, from the viewpoint of the Biographer (The Glass Bead Game is a fictional biography) for the existence of the crossword puzzle, which apparently serves as an affirmation to the feuilleton reader that yes, his vast heap of accumulated facts is meaningful. Here we can conceptualize the braced feuilleton and crossword puzzle as the mirror image of the lecture and test. Successful memorization of the lecture leads to success on the test. It’s a good enough simulacrum of knowledge that mediocre minds can point to it as evidence of their intellectual adequacy.

The constantly shifting nature of feuilletons lends itself well to a world of no tomorrow and to people with no conception of the future. Here we find a rift between the old bourgeoisie, who built for the ages, and the urban professional of Hesse’s tame who morphed into the bugman of today. Hesse lived in the world with a new feuilleton every day. We live in the world a new Tweet every second. Hesse lived in the world of men without chests pretending to be profound. We live in a world of spiritual eunuchs pretending to be world-changing philosophers.

Hesse construed the pedagogic province of Castallia as an answer to the Age of the Feuilleton, which exists for the pursuit of knowledge and the refinement of the spirit. Much like Johnathan Swift before him, Hesse places music and mathematics at the apex of intellectual achievement and interest. He sees the resultant society as bright and positive through his deeply German (Schwabian) eyes, where the deeply practical Anglo-Irish Swift saw uselessness and pretentiousness. Hesse’s Castallia, though not without its problems, is one answer to the problems of the age of the feuilleton. Its chief method is the separation of the highest intellectual achievement from the rest of society, making it a costly activity (Castallians must not take wives or have children), thus weeding out those who won’t make a serious commitment to such a life. It is, of course, an imperfect solution, but at the essence of what it means to be Right-wing is the acceptance of society’s imperfection, even as we strive for personal perfection.

Modernity is in many ways the age of the bugman, and modernity itself may be a symptom of the proliferation of the bugman neurotype. (I have my own theory as to how this happens, related to my conception of mental illness, but this is a story for another time.) The feuilleton did not create the bugman. Rather, it arose as a response to the proliferation of the bugman neurotype. Let’s say Donald Trump follows through on his promise to ban TikTok. Let’s say he ups the ante and bans Reddit and Twitter. We will still have the problem of Redditors and Twitterers. Even we, who are creators, can be caught in the maelstrom of feuilletons and neo-feuilletons. There hasn’t been a Jeelvy article on Counter-Currents for almost two weeks, but I’ve made three “big brain threads” on Twitter dot com. Thinkers and creators are, after all, men, and men want to be recognized, adored, and respected. Suppliers go where the demand is. Twitter could go tits up tomorrow, but the neurotype that craves it will persist. It is still the predominant one in our societies. The Dissident Right is mostly of the type that can under no circumstances live as bugmen — those that violently (though for the time being non-criminally) resist bugmannery.

If you’re reading Counter-Currents, you’re reading the anti-feuilleton. Suppose you share some of the stories you’ve read here at a party (not the Rossini one). Suppose you tried to chat up a girl at the opera with tales of Victorian enchantment? Oh, there’s a great deal of facts here, some of them somewhat haphazardly presented, but they all serve a purpose, they fit into a coherent framework, and they follow a telos.

Another thing you’ll notice about the bugman neurotype: they are highly organized men with disorganized thoughts. Contrast that to Dissident Rightists, who tend to have highly structured minds and orderly thought processes, even when they’re wrong. I’d wager a guess that many of you are intellectual mess types with cluttered desks that look disorderly to the uninitiated, but actually follow a certain subjectively defined order. Personally, I live in a house where every horizontal surface has a thick layer of books on it and a plastic bag left in the middle of the dining room is not to be touched under any circumstances (I have my reasons). But nobody has ever accused me of having a disorganized mind. Counter-Currents has a mission. It isn’t so much a webzine as a university, the university of the Dissident Right.

Hermann Hesse was spiritually of old Europe. His anti-war message called for the recognition of European common heritage. His opposition to National Socialism was opposition to its imperfections, a characteristically German idealism coupled with an aristocratic individualism we see explored in Demian and Steppenwolf. In Siddhartha, we see a fascination with old India and eastern mysticism characteristic of the old European soul. In The Glass Bead Game, we see a vision of a society devoted to the mind, but shorn of the invigorating frictions of life, born of reaction to pretense and soullessness.

So, to answer my erstwhile interlocutor from the beginning of the article: yes, Hermann Hesse is a man of the Right.

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  1. Dennis
    Posted September 25, 2020 at 9:39 am | Permalink

    Excellent stuff. In my teens and early 20s I had always avoided Hesse, dismissing him on the basis of the image I had of him as a “hippy writer.” Then one day I came across a copy of Demian in the remainder/discount section of the bookstore that included a positive blurb from The National Review (I was more of a normie conservative then, so an endorsement from NR was like the Good Housekeeping Seal-of-Approval to me at the time!), bought it, and soon realized that there was more to Hesse than I had thought (the Thomas Mann intro helped break the previous “hippy” image I had as well by helping to better situating Hesse in his true cultural milieu). I went on to read everything by or about Hesse I could get my hands on and soon realized the US ’60s generation’s hippy-dippy reading of Hesse was really a caricature and misreading (especially of Siddhartha and Steppenwolf – as you point out, they seemed to be unfamiliar with much else).

    A couple years ago a US translation was finally released of Gunnar Decker’s massive recent German biography, “Heese: The Wanderer and His Shadow.” Probably incomparable as far as thorough detail of the life goes (and he had greater access to more archive materials than older biographers), though I still prefer Joseph Mileck’s 1970s bio, which I think has a deeper understanding of the works themselves, which in the end are what remains and what will last.

    From a dissident right perspective, in addition to his personal correspondence and friendship with Serrano, Hesse had some qualified admiration for Evola, though the brief mention of Evola in Decker’s bio makes Hesse seem more dismissive of Evola than I had previously thought.

  2. Jay Donald
    Posted September 26, 2020 at 5:55 pm | Permalink

    Post-COVID, I now have a new way to describe my solo trips to the opera: I’m a “shameless rake who goes stag to the opera.” I remember distinctly going alone to a performance of Wagner’s Siegfried. I wasn’t going to miss that performance, as I believe the usual suspects will eventually try to prevent any more performances of Wagner’s work.

    To my disappointment, the other opera goers were mostly boomers, some of whom had even brought with them their restless grandchildren. Those few young women I saw were merely there for the Instagram opportunity. No Wagner-loving young women to chat up! Many patrons reveled in the “fashionableness” of the event, unaware of Wager’s excellence and the cultural significance of his work.

    Lastly, I just wanted to express my appreciation for Counter-Currents. I came across dissident right-wing thought as a “normie”campus conservative. Reading articles on Counter-Currents helped me stay sane after days of listening to pink-haired PhDs squawk about the patriarchy and critical-race theory.

  3. Alex Bell
    Posted September 30, 2020 at 6:47 am | Permalink

    Very interesting. I’ve always loved Hesse. He is very poetic, and earnest. But I think many on the DR would find his work refreshing. Especially when compared with what the mainstream calls literature these days. I’m currently reading Miguel Serrano’s book about Hesse and Jung.

    Give him a shot, people. Don’t be put off by that shitlib you used to know who had a copy of Siddhartha on their bookshelf.

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