SOUL OF THE AGE by Hermann Hesse


The Selected Letters of Hermann Hesse, 1891-1962
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 The first English edition of Hesse's letters, edited and introduced by the Princeton scholar (Dean of the Graduate School) whose previous studies (The Novels of Herman Hesse, 1965; Herman Hesse, 1966--not reviewed) have established him as a preeminent authority on Hesse's life and work. Born in Germany in 1877, Hesse spent most of his childhood in Switzerland, where his father--a scholar and former missionary- -taught school in Basel. A bright student, he was sent to a German seminary at the age of 12; there, he underwent the first of a series of nervous breakdowns that drove him to the brink of suicide and wrecked his academic career. Abandoning his studies at 16, he found work as an apprentice bookseller and devoted himself to literature. His first novel, Beneath the Wheel, was based on his recollections of school and met with great critical success. His interest in Eastern mysticism, reflected in many of his works (notably Siddhartha), led him to travel extensively throughout the Orient and brought on his renunciation of the formal Christianity of his childhood. Shortly before WW I, Hesse returned to Switzerland, where he lived in self-imposed exile for the rest of his life. Despite the unpopularity he suffered as a result of his pacifism during both wars, he was awarded the Goethe Prize and the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1946. The nearly 300 letters collected here, spanning the years from Hesse's troubled adolescence until the very eve of his death, provide a remarkably vivid portrait of his development as an artist and public figure. Together with Ziolkowski's readable and informative introduction, they succeed in displaying the inner life of one of the greatest writers of our century. An admirable work of scholarship, well organized and intelligently annotated, and an indispensable guide to any future studies of Hesse. (Photographs--not seen.)

Pub Date: Sept. 1st, 1991
ISBN: 0-374-12612-7
Page count: 422pp
Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15th, 1991


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