SOUL OF THE AGE

THE SELECTED LETTERS OF HERMANN HESSE, 1891-1962

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. 1, 1991

ISBN: 0-374-12612-7

Page Count: 422

Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 1991

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Kin “[find] each other’s lives inscrutable” in this rich, sharp story about the way identity is formed.

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THE VANISHING HALF

Inseparable identical twin sisters ditch home together, and then one decides to vanish.

The talented Bennett fuels her fiction with secrets—first in her lauded debut, The Mothers (2016), and now in the assured and magnetic story of the Vignes sisters, light-skinned women parked on opposite sides of the color line. Desiree, the “fidgety twin,” and Stella, “a smart, careful girl,” make their break from stultifying rural Mallard, Louisiana, becoming 16-year-old runaways in 1954 New Orleans. The novel opens 14 years later as Desiree, fleeing a violent marriage in D.C., returns home with a different relative: her 8-year-old daughter, Jude. The gossips are agog: “In Mallard, nobody married dark....Marrying a dark man and dragging his blueblack child all over town was one step too far.” Desiree's decision seals Jude’s misery in this “colorstruck” place and propels a new generation of flight: Jude escapes on a track scholarship to UCLA. Tending bar as a side job in Beverly Hills, she catches a glimpse of her mother’s doppelgänger. Stella, ensconced in White society, is shedding her fur coat. Jude, so Black that strangers routinely stare, is unrecognizable to her aunt. All this is expertly paced, unfurling before the book is half finished; a reader can guess what is coming. Bennett is deeply engaged in the unknowability of other people and the scourge of colorism. The scene in which Stella adopts her White persona is a tour de force of doubling and confusion. It calls up Toni Morrison’s The Bluest Eye, the book's 50-year-old antecedent. Bennett's novel plays with its characters' nagging feelings of being incomplete—for the twins without each other; for Jude’s boyfriend, Reese, who is trans and seeks surgery; for their friend Barry, who performs in drag as Bianca. Bennett keeps all these plot threads thrumming and her social commentary crisp. In the second half, Jude spars with her cousin Kennedy, Stella's daughter, a spoiled actress.

Kin “[find] each other’s lives inscrutable” in this rich, sharp story about the way identity is formed.

Pub Date: June 2, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-525-53629-1

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Riverhead

Review Posted Online: March 15, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2020

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ANIMAL FARM

A FAIRY STORY

A modern day fable, with modern implications in a deceiving simplicity, by the author of Dickens. Dali and Others (Reynal & Hitchcock, p. 138), whose critical brilliance is well adapted to this type of satire. This tells of the revolt on a farm, against humans, when the pigs take over the intellectual superiority, training the horses, cows, sheep, etc., into acknowledging their greatness. The first hints come with the reading out of a pig who instigated the building of a windmill, so that the electric power would be theirs, the idea taken over by Napoleon who becomes topman with no maybes about it. Napoleon trains the young puppies to be his guards, dickers with humans, gradually instigates a reign of terror, and breaks the final commandment against any animal walking on two legs. The old faithful followers find themselves no better off for food and work than they were when man ruled them, learn their final disgrace when they see Napoleon and Squealer carousing with their enemies... A basic statement of the evils of dictatorship in that it not only corrupts the leaders, but deadens the intelligence and awareness of those led so that tyranny is inevitable. Mr. Orwell's animals exist in their own right, with a narrative as individual as it is apt in political parody.

Pub Date: Aug. 26, 1946

ISBN: 0452277507

Page Count: 114

Publisher: Harcourt, Brace

Review Posted Online: Nov. 2, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 1946

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