Saturday, July 02, 2005

A literary birthday ...

I first encountered Hermann Hesse in German class. I don't recall now if it was in high school or college. But the story was called "Der Wolf."
I know I was a sophomore in college when I came upon Steppenwolf. It was an odd Friday noght when I had nothing better to do and I stayed up reading until I finished the book.
I was immensely affected by it (it is also a favorite book of the new Pope).
The version I read was a newly-released Modern Library edition and, except for the New Directions edition of Siddartha, was the only book of Hesse's available in this country at the time (this was at the beginning of 1962). But there was a little bookstore on 15th Street, near Market, that started to stock editions of Hesse's novels published in Britain. Which is how I got to read all of them long before Hesse became a cult author. I haven't read them since and suspect I would not enjoy them as much as I did then. Anymore than I would enjoy being again who I was then.
Hermann Hesse was born on this date in 1877 in Calw, Germany.


  1. I’m surprised that the Pope apparently likes Steppenwolf so much, especially considering his recent comments about rock music. Doesn’t Harry Haller come to accept jazz and dancing? What about the occult aspect of Steppenwolf and all of his other books? Seems strange, but ultimately I guess it is a good sign that he can look past these things. Nietzsche supposedly never went anywhere without a copy of Emerson’s essays in his pocket. Elective affinities I suppose.

  2. Hi B. Kriplur:
    The Pope is reported to have liked the book because it "exposes the problem of modernity's isolated and self-isolating man."
    And yes, Nietzsche called Emerson "a glorious, great nature, rich in soul and spirit" -- and never traveled without a copy of the Sage Of Concord's essays. Nothing surprising there, really, what with Emerson's encouragement of self-reliance and penchant for the aphoristic.