hesse revised

When Caroline at Beauty is a Sleeping Cat suggested the idea of a Hermann Hesse Reading Week (back during the German Literature Month last November), I jumped at the idea, delighted to co-host. Hesse is an author with whom I have a long history; I first read his work in my 20s, and I was absolutely absorbed by his books, with their vivid ideas and fascinating tales.

Hesse was a Nobel prize-winner, with an illustrious writing career: his first novel “Peter Camenzind” was published in 1904, and his final one “The Glass Bead Game” in 1943. It was this latter, widely considered his masterpiece, which was cited in particular when he receive the prize; but his works are wide-ranging, from the earlier, more pastoral and evocative tales, to the later novels dealing in high concepts of morals, ethics and meanings.

hesse covers

Hermann Hesse’s works were very fashionable in the late 20th century, in particular works like “Demian” and “Steppenwolf” which drew on lifestyles and beliefs being adopted by the counter-culture. They also reflected his anti-war views which of course were much in vogue, and his spiritual side typified by his love of Buddhism. However, I do feel that he may have slipped out of sight of modern readers, so I’m really happy to be involved in any kind of initiative which brings his works to potential readers!

In recent years I’ve read his “Knulp” for the first time and revisited “Siddhartha”. However, I’d like to go back to at least one of his later and more substantial works for this reading week; there are plenty to choose from and so actually deciding which book(s) will be the hardest thing!

What’s surprising is how scattered Hesse’s work is in translation; a few books are available as Penguin Classics, but some of the earlier ones only appear to be in older, out of print versions. Surely he’s an author that needs to be brought to modern readers in a nice new edition of his complete works!

hesse spines

So what Hesse to read? Well, as far as I know, not all of his works have been translated into English, but here is a partial list of possible titles, based on what I could see online and what I have on my shelves. I imagine Caroline may well be reading in the original language but alas, I will have to stick with the versions other people have kindly rendered understandable for me…

Peter Camenzind (1904)
Beneath the Wheel (also published as The Prodigy)(1906)
Gertrude (1910)
Rosshalde (1914)
Knulp (1915)
Strange News from Another Star (1919)
Demian (1919)
Klingsor’s Last Summer (1920)
Wandering (1920)
Siddhartha (1922)
Steppenwolf (1927)
Narziss and Goldmund (1930) (yes, I know it’s now translated as “Narcissus” but I’m sticking with my original Penguin!)
Journey to the East (1932)
The Glass Bead Game (1943)

If the War Goes On (collected 1978)
Stories of Five Decades (collected 1954)

There is also poetry, which I may try to track down, and plenty of autobiography and essays. For me, I think I shall definitely revisit “Steppenwolf” but apart from that I’m not sure. “The Glass Bead Game” is calling too and also “Narziss and Goldmund. However, I appear not to own “Peter Camenzind” so there’s another possibility.

Narziss!

Narziss!

So please do join in if you fancy exploring the work of this wonderful German writer; I may well put up a separate page and please leave any comments and links to reviews, thoughts on Hesse or anything else relevant. Check out Caroline’s blog where she’ll be posting and linking too. Hermann Hesse Reading Week promises to be a great experience and we’ll look forward very much to a joint rediscovery of this great German author!

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