Hermann Hesse, writing in the twentieth century, extolled many of the virtues of the past. His unique style, dependent upon German Romanticism, adapted the issues of the modern age. Using subject matter from various sources, Hesse built fictional worlds that mirrored reality. In the novel Siddhartha, Hesse deals specifically with the spiritual quest. Although writing about the spiritual landscape of India, this work addresses the desire for meaning that the entire world felt after the events of World War I.
Born in Germany in 1877, Hesse would live through the complete change in existence that occurred in the twentieth century. Coming from a family of devout Protestants, Hesse had been exposed to the traditional Christian existence. He began to write while still in his teens. A lifelong pacifist, Hesse would continue to fight against the violence of his age. The works of Hesse were always tinged with the notion of the outsider (The Steppenwolf) or the search for meaning (Siddhartha). Utilizing a higher artistic style than many of his colleagues, Hesse acknowledged Romanticism in his work. His subject matter could be highly simple in the case of Gertrude or extremely complex like Magister Ludi:The Glass Bead Game, for which he would win the Noble Prize in the year 1946. Until his death in 1962, Hesse would struggle to find meaning in the horrible events in his lifetime.
Although Hesse concerns himself with the same issues of isolation and meaninglessness that Franz Kafka addresses, he utilizes a poetic writing style to bring out the beauty of his subject. The lofty style helps "with the construction of an ideal as an escape from his emotional crisis of the war years" (Ziolk...
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...ction of the previous paths. Humanity could no longer be content with religion or with consumer needs. A spiritual truth had to be found, but it would require a long journey and many failures along the way. Mankind could learn as much about the beliefs of the past in order to discover "the condition of the present world and a revelation of the relationship of all things to one another" (Ziolkowski 154), the lesson that all things are interconnected. All of the past, present and future are inextricably linked as part of a continuous flow.
Freedman, Ralph. Hermann Hesse: Pilgrim of Crisis. New York: Pantheon Books, 1978.
Hesse, Hermann. Siddhartha. New York: New Directions Publishing Corporation And Bantam Books, 1951.
Ziolkowski, Theodore. The Novels of Hermann Hesse: A Study in Theme and Structure. Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1965.
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