Hermann Karl Hesse was a German novelist, poet, and water color painter active from the late 19th to early 20th centuries, and while his works have run relatively under the radar in the Western Hemisphere, Hesse did win the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1946. Some of his best known works include Demian, Siddhartha, The Glass Bead Game, and Steppenwolf, which yes, to answer your question, the Canadian-American rock band from the 60s and 70s did name their group after Hesse’s incredible tale of discovery. Hesse’s writing was often an exploration of an individual’s search for authenticity, self-knowledge, and spirituality, paired with an effort to break out of the established rules and modes of civilization. Let me be very honest about Hesse’s initial reception amongst readers – his writing was never quite popular amongst critics – in fact, it was often described as ‘inaccessible’ for the majority American readers (MUCH was lost in translations back then). During a time of world wars, much of Hesse’s work tends to be appreciated greatly by a younger audience, but then outgrown as adolescence fades into the harder realities of being an adult in functional society. Much of his focus relays to a young, brooding man struggling to find his place in a world that does not seem to understand him, and while there are an infinite number of us who can directly relate to the feeling, our focus shifts with age, wherein we become less preoccupied with our own ego and self. Hesse is a fascinating character, the product of an absurdly strict Christian upbringing, struggles with mental health, two world wars, three wives, and a constant frustration with never truly feeling as successful of a writer as he desired. This episode falls during a time when we are all feeling isolated, quarantined due to the Covid 19 pandemic spreading all over our country and the world, and I hope if we can take away one thing from Hermann this week, it is that even in a time when we are forced to confront our own selves, it is important never to forget that we all need to be looking out for each other as best we can.
So let’s dive in shall we, and discuss all things Hermann Hesse this week on Legacy: the Artists Behind the Legends.