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Herman Hesse

Discussion in 'Author Discussion' started by HBinjection, Oct 7, 2002.

  1. HBinjection

    HBinjection New Member

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    How about Herman Hesse. I've read three of his novels, "Steppenwolf", "Demian", and "Siddhartha" (sp?). I enjoyed each of them. I read them all in English translation. Has anyone read them in German?
     
  2. Marie

    Marie kickbox

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    I've read both "Demian" and "Siddhartha" (not in German though :)). I've liked both but I've preferred "Siddhartha", if I remember well, it shows a more optimistic side of Hesse's personal philosophy... Which one has he written first?
     
  3. HBinjection

    HBinjection New Member

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    Of those two Siddartha is my favorite as well. Didn't care for the last bit of Demian.

    I'm not sure which was written first. I lent out my copies of each so I can't check the copywrite date right now. I'll check online.

    I wonder if other people who have read these books found them as deeply 'personal' as I did. It may sound silly, but have you seen the movie 'The Neverending Story' where the kid reads a book and he slowly realizes that it is about himself. Kind of creepy.

    Well, that's the sensation I get from Hesse. Perhaps it's because his novels are so psychological.
     
  4. Dawn

    Dawn kickbox

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    OK, you've peaked my insterst. What genre do Hesse's book fall in? Not that it matters, but I'm curious.
     
  5. HBinjection

    HBinjection New Member

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    Stumped

    That's a good question, Dawn. I'll try to answer.

    Siddhartha is written in epic style. Very lyrical. There are versions on tape. It's great to listen to it read aloud.

    For the other two I suppose, 'magical realism?'

    Hesse was a Christian missionarie's son, I think (don't crucify me if my facts are a little off). His novels deal with spiritual searches. People that his protagonists meet seem to have supernatural qualities.

    If your question meant 'where can I find his stuff in the bookstore?' then here are straight answers.

    In my bookstores he is in the Classics section (Not Greek of Latin:) ) or in the literature section (where all the old books are).

    He's very good.
     
  6. Dawn

    Dawn kickbox

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    I believe that answers my question. Which book would you recommend for starters?
     
  7. HBinjection

    HBinjection New Member

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    Try Siddhartha first. It's different from the rest but the hero is a little more heroic and likeable. The other two might seem a little dark.


    Steppenwolf was my first and I loved it. It's about an old man.

    Demian is about a young man.

    Siddhartha is about a young man who grows old.
     
  8. Marie

    Marie kickbox

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    That's the feeling I had about "Demian", that it was a bit dark... There was a strong biblical symbolism if I recall: doesn't he believe he his distinguished from others by the mark of Cain?

    I realize that I have Steppenwolf on my shelves. I should think about reading it too, once... :)

    I think it happens a lot with this kind of novels ("buildungsroman" or Self-development stories). I've read that a lot of men relate to Somerset Maugham's "Of Human Bondage" (that has some similarities with "Demian" I think) . I didn't relate to Hesse's novels (maybe because I'm a woman?), but I sometimes get the feeling you mention (I get that from passages of books, rarely from a whole story).

    About the Neverending Story (no connection with what I said before): It is maybe the only fantasy book I have read (until now that I've finished "The Hobbit"), I read it at 15, but it made a long-lasting impression. The film was really weak compared to the book...
     
  9. HBinjection

    HBinjection New Member

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    Are there any books that anyone else identifies strongly with?

    I tend to identify with characters in fiction frequently. I see how their lives symbolically resemble my own. I suppose you're right about the bildungsroman, (haven't used that word since lit crit class:) ), it really lends itself to that kind of experience.

    I found that Hesse's books, more than any others, gave me that sensation. It's really a lot of fun. Not always totally pleasant though. They lead me to a lot of self-examination. For me it's a religious experience, and I use 'religious' in as literal a sense as I can.

    I think I'm a navel-gazer by nature, though. My brain is hardwired for it.

    About Demian and the mark of Cain. It's all downright Luciferian. Faustian. He does mention Goerthe(spelling?) so I know he's read him. Unfortunately, I haven't.
     
  10. Dawn

    Dawn kickbox

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    Thanks for the info. They all sound intriguing. I'll give Siddhartha a try first and let you know what I think.
     
  11. HBinjection

    HBinjection New Member

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    Hey Dawn,

    How's the weather in the Big Easy!

    I heard there is a flooding problem?

    Are your books high and dry?
     
  12. Dawn

    Dawn kickbox

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    The Big Easy's wet and windy at the moment. We escaped the worst of the severe weather, thankfully. Books are fine, thank you very much. :p

    As far as flooding...which one? :D We're always under that threat. If you mean flooding the recent tropical storm and hurricane, we had some difficulty but our neighbors in other parts of the state got it much worse. Especially in the low-lying areas near the coast. Those areas are unprotected...they're outside the levee system. They're still mopping up, I'm sure.

    By the way. I read Siddhartha, per your suggestion. Reminded me how little I know about Eastern religion and philosophy. I'm still digesting it. I'll get back to you.
     
  13. Wynter

    Wynter New Member

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    Ahh, Hesse.....Steppenwolf was by far my favourite of his...I have quite a few of his other novels in my collection but have been so consumed with others that I havent read them yet. Steppenwolf was definitely highly personal to me....I've read it three or so times, underlined and memorized passages....just one of those books that sticks with you, and shows you new things everytime
     
  14. HBinjection

    HBinjection New Member

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    Wynter,

    Glad you revived this thread.

    What are some of the passages or events in Steppenwolf that affected you particularly? Or else, what themes interest you the most.

    I think that most people who love that book are seekers, (as described in the song by The Who), people who wonder about about man's place, but usually reject science in favor of philosophy or religion. Romantics I suppose.

    That's enough of a superficial similarity to Hesse's heroes to merit a connection with those readers, but I'd like to believe there is something else. Perhaps it was just cleverness on Hesse's part, but there were so many events in his novels that are analogous to events in my own life that it's spooky.

    Part of me just wants to believe in something mystical, and the other part of me can rationalize it in many different ways. But then there are all these other parts....
     
  15. Dawn

    Dawn kickbox

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    You're alive! Welcome back.
     
  16. Wynter

    Wynter New Member

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    HBinjection........on a general note Steppenwolf made me look at myself (and humanity for that matter) in a different light. There is a passage (located in the treatise, i believe) which speaks of harry being on to something within himself....that he has identified himself as a two-fold being which is more than most....though he is still limiting himself, and that perhaps we are thousand-fold beings. I found this thought fascinating and familiar...it made perfect sense. Why should we limit ourselves....saying that somedays we are 'not ourselves' if we act 'out of the ordinary'....
    This leads into the passage where he talks of the judge condemning a man such as himself, and also of scientists condemning those with traces of schizophrenia, though there is a possiblity that they might actually be on to something.
    Also, i could easily relate to the whole dual-nature thing. I'm sure that many of us have felt as though we are battling internally with two 'parts' of ourselfves...
    As you can tell, I could go on and on with this, but i suppose i should shush for the moment....what about you? any specific passages?
     
  17. HBinjection

    HBinjection New Member

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    Sorry Dawn,

    I just started a new job and I've been very busy. Not too busy to read books, fortunately. And I have been reading the forum, just haven't had time or anything important enough to say to draw me from my slumber...

    Regardless, I'm back!


    Wynter,

    Thanks for posting back. I identify with the theme of internal conflicts as well.

    It's been a few years since I read Steppenwolf, but I remember it pretty well. To answer your question, however, I'll draw from two of Hesse's novels that are fresher in my mind, Demian and Siddhartha, as well.

    Hesse's heroes in these novels are always searching for truth, and when they find a new worldview to their liking, they embrace it as the whole truth and begin to see things through that lens, for lack of a better term. It becomes his central philosophy and all else suddenly appears to have sprung out from that central truth, making him feel wise and superior. Soon, however, he sees the error of his thinking, and he is as a babe in the wood again, and so he goes searching for another philosophy to supplant the previous one, and regain that feeling of mastery.

    At the end of all this searching, he realizes that he was gaining wisdom through his searches, but that all of his old ways of thinking all had value, and that the real truth is an amalgam, (or a gestalt to use a term my favorite author, Phil Dick, seemed to adore,and I think its from Jung, whom Hesse seems to be familiar with and so it seems appropriate)

    I have the nasty habit of latching on to "secret sciences" like birth order, personality profiles, astrology. I didn't take them so seriously at first, but I gave each of them (and many other kooky philosophies and many more "legitimate" philosophies i.e. Christianity, Evolutionary biology, romanticism......) a fair shake and found some grain of truth in each. Astrology is the least legit feeling of those worldviews, and yet it's so easy to study a little bit and feel that your eyes are being opened to something big and cosmic.

    Regardless of the legitimacy of any of these philosophies, (some I now embrace, others I scoff at), the reason I was attracted to them was the fun and excitement of that mystical experience. The feeling that you understand the whole, even if you cannot describe or understand all the parts. That's the feeling I get when I read Hesse, hence my ramble.

    Sorry for the length of this post. I hope you have a big monitor or else your eyes are bleeding by now.

    It's so hard to talk about this subject, isn't it? It's so esoteric and, dare I say, crackpot, that it eludes lucidity.

    There I go again.

    ET
     
  18. froggerz40

    froggerz40 New Member

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    "The Glass Bead Game"! Regarded by some as being Hesse`s masterpiece. It`s a long read but it wasn`t long enough:) It also won the Nobel Prize in 1946. "I hear music and see men of the
    past and future. I see wise men
    and poets and scholars and artists
    harmoniously building the hundred
    gated cathedral of Mind."
     
  19. HBinjection

    HBinjection New Member

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    What's "The Glass Bead Game" about?
     
  20. kskyhappy

    kskyhappy New Member

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    steppenwolf

    old thread but it's time it was resurrected. the reason? because i'm reading steppenwolfe at the moment and really enjoying it. whilst i've not finished it yet and am quite intrigued as to where it is going to end. at the moment it reminds me of patrick hamilton's Hangover square and Kafka's the trial.

    The story is a polemic set in one man's psyche, the man in question believes his soul is divided into two essential beings, man and the steppenwolf. The two are at great odds always tugging at his conscience. Whilst the book deals with perhaps weighty matters, it is off set by the fantastic, or at least the promise of an illusory fantastic.

    so far i'm half way through, and the best bit is i know i'm on safe ground with Hesse, so i'm really looking forward to the rest of the book.

    the glass bead game? fantastic book any synopsis of mine would do it great injustice. however i wouldn't want to be accused of taking dead men seriously! so let us say it set in a kind of campus dedicated to all forms of higher learning, the culmination of which is the glass bead game, which condenses human learning down to the form of a game. if you're a fan of Hesse please read this book, it is definately my favourite and gets two thumbs up :)

    ksky
     

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