STORIES OF FIVE DECADES by Hermann Hesse

STORIES OF FIVE DECADES

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KIRKUS REVIEW

Although the style changes from the rarefied dreamlike imprecision of the early prose poems to the more classically written later tales, there are perhaps more striking resemblances in this nicely balanced selection of short stories -- namely a persistent use of symbolism, an obsession with the dualistic nature (intellectual vs. animal) of man, and the seeking of an unattainable absolute, be it love or knowledge of the mysteries of the world. The failings of these didactic, allegorical works that are more parable than story are those of his novels -- searches for meaning rather than meaning, characters who are mere mouthpieces for ideas, full of that peculiar, boring, German weltschmerz -- essentially a confusion of philosophy with fiction that has neither, say, Borges' paradoxical brilliance or compression. The prose, which is translated with a commendable lack of obfuscation by Theodore Ziolkowski (except for two stories by Denver Lindley), grows less turgid with time, but one cannot help feeling that Hesse tries to see beyond the shadows of Plato's cave to that pie-in-the-sky Reality, which is of course merely an Idea.

Pub Date: Jan. 3rd, 1972
Publisher: Farrar, Straus & Giroux