HERMANN HESSE: Pilgrim of Crisis by Ralph Freedman

HERMANN HESSE: Pilgrim of Crisis

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Two full-length biographies of Hesse have now appeared within the year, both explaining the many waxings and wanings of Hesse's public following as the fruit of Hesse's ability to express particular, passing cultural moods. Joseph Mileck's was the more detached and scholarly, Freedman's is the more interpretive. Freedman, a novelist and critic, finds crisis--a much abused word, here abused again--to be the key to Hesse's art and life. Crises lurk or erupt everywhere in Hesse's world: in his family, his society, his works, and in his readers. Beginning in a childhood tormented by misunderstanding parents, insensitive teachers, and menial jobs, Hesse's life of crisis eventually centered upon conflicts between his rebellious, independent spirit and his need for stability and social acceptance. Amid these conflicts he was determined to be an artist in persona as well as achievement; hence he reveled in his subjective experiences and self-consciously translated them into fiction--the youth rankled by social constraints, the repressed vagabond, the searcher for ""unity within the self,"" the discoverer of Spirit--with the result that several generations could find their own emotional troubles mirrored in his work. Freedman rightfully underscores Hesse's entanglements of art and life, and this helps to explain Hesse's strong emotional appeal together with his unsatisfying intellectual substance. If you omit Freedman's introductory remarks in the Prologue (a jumble of vague psychological maunderings) and forgive the occasional rhetoric of crisis, the book presents an informative and convincing account of Hesse the archetypal self-conscious modern artist.

Pub Date: Jan. 1st, 1978
Publisher: Pantheon