German-born poet, novelist and painter Hermann Karl Hesse, who won the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1946, died on August 9, 1962. The author’s work, which explores an individual’s quest for self-knowledge and spirituality, was popular and influential in the German-speaking world. In the 1950s, however, Hesse’s popularity began to wane and after Hesse’s death in 1962, posthumously published writings, including letters and previously unknown pieces of prose, contributed to a new level of understanding and appreciation for his works around the world.
On his 57th anniversary, here are 5 books by the author that one must read:
Siddhartha (1951): Perhaps the author’s most famous book, Siddhartha is about the spiritual journey of self-discovery of a man named Siddhartha during the time of the Gautama Buddha. The first part of the book is dedicated to Romain Rolland and the second part to Wilhelm Gundert. In the book, Hesse’s portrayal of Siddhartha’s journey emphasizes that the totality of conscious events in human life enables an individual to attain enlightenment.
Demian (1919): In the Bildungsroman, first published under the pseudonym ‘Emil Sinclair’, the name of the narrator of the story, the main character is caught between good and evil. He is seen breaking away from and then rebelling against the superficial ideals of the world of appearances, finally achieving self-realization.
Steppenwolf (1927): The story memorably portrayed the main character’s rift between his humanity and his wolf-like aggression and homelessness. Notably, the book is presented as a manuscript written by the main character, a middle-aged man named Harry Haller.
The glass bead game (1943): Hesse’s last full-length novel, another bildungsroman sees the protagonist’s upbringing in his youth, his decision to join a particular order, his mastery of the game and his advancement in the order’s hierarchy to eventually become Magister Ludi turn into.
Peter Camenzind (1904): The author’s first novel, the book contains a number of themes that would become the author’s main themes in many of his later works, most notably the individual’s quest for a unique spiritual and physical identity.