German writer, a Swiss citizen from 1923. A conscientious objector in World War I and a pacifist opponent of Hitler, he published short stories, poetry, and novels, including Peter Camenzind (1904), Siddhartha (1922), and Steppenwolf (1927). Later works, such as Das Glasperlenspiel/The Glass Bead Game (1943), show the influence of Indian mysticism and Jungian psychoanalysis. Above all, Hesse was the prophet of individualism. He was awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1946.
Hesse was born in Calw, Württemberg. He became a mechanic and a bookseller and continued his education by reading. He went to Switzerland and adopted Swiss nationality. In 1911 he made a protracted tour of India.
His early novels, with their vivid portrayal of natural scenery and small-town life, are reminiscent of Gottfried Keller. They are remarkable for their musical prose and sympathetic portrayal of childhood. Siddhartha contains many autobiographical hints. It describes a young man's revolt against the orthodox religious views of his father and his growing interest in Indian mysticism. Steppenwolf is a severe indictment of Western 20th-century urban life with its lack of real culture. It is a highly controversial work, full of psychoanalytic imagery. Other novels are Unterm Rad/The Prodigy (1905), Gertrud (1910), Rosshalde (1914), Knulp (1915), Demian (1919), and Narziss und Goldmund (1930). His poetical works include Gedichte/Poems (1922, 1928-37, 1942, and 1947) and Trost der Nacht/Comfort of the Night (1929).
His poetry, as musical as his prose, by turns sombre and idyllic, is also full of mystical imagery and is a modern echo of German Romanticism. He also wrote Briefe/Letters (1951), and essays (Krieg und Frieden/War and Peace (1946), and Beschwörungen (1955)).
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