TALES OF STUDENT LIFE by Hermann Hesse

TALES OF STUDENT LIFE

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KIRKUS REVIEW

The Hesse vogue reached an apex in the tumultous '60's when his novels of slightly unstable and melancholy seekers after troth swung into sync with the troubles of a generation. This latest publication of fragments and rough drafts are barrel-bottom remnants for the cult. Editor Theodore Ziolkowski says in his introduction that these three ""exercises in symbolic autobiography"" are valuable, ""representing as they do the archetypal structure of Demian, the preliminary plot of Narcissus and Goldmund, and a discarded section of The Glass Bead Game."" If, however, they had to stand on their own feet as fiction rather than critical addenda, they'd expire swiftly of insubstantiality. All three are stories about the conflict within the soul of a theology student (the names change, but not the pinched and dreamy face) who is losing his zeal to both worldliness and doubt. Each of the students is provided with a wise mentor with whom he can take up those ""old philosophical questions of life"" and discuss the varieties of religious experience. ""Berthold"" and ""Friends,"" both dated 1907-08, break off abruptly and unsatisfactorily, though the all-male triangle of ""Friends"" offers a bit more in the way of character before sinking into didacticism. And if you compare the odd parables appended to The Glass Bead Game to the two versions of Joseph Knecht's reincarnated ""Fourth Life"" (1934), you may well agree with Hesse that their excision was no loss to the book.

Pub Date: Jan. 26th, 1975
Publisher: Farrar, Straus & Giroux