From the Writer’s Almanac:
It's the birthday of German poet and novelist Herman Hessa, born in Black Forest of Germany (1877), the son of a Baltic-German from
and a woman of Swabian and French-Swiss heritage. Both of his parents were once missionaries in Estonia . India
He went to boarding schools, where he was a precociously brilliant learner but had behavior issues. His parents wanted him to be a minister, so he went to a theological seminary when he was a teenager. But he left after nine months and later said, "From the age of 12 I wanted to be a poet, and since there was no normal or official road, I had a hard time deciding what to do after leaving school."
He apprenticed at a mechanic's shop and also at a bookstore. When he was 22, a small book of his poems was published. After World War I began, he moved to
; he opposed German nationalism and spoke up against the regime's violence, and for this he received a lot of hate mail. He began to travel a lot, spending much time in Switzerland Indiaand . He renounced his German citizenship and instead became a Swiss citizen. Italy
He suffered from recurring bouts of depression and even bought a revolver and left a suicide note when he was a teenager. For several years he underwent Jungian psychoanalysis. His works often involve a protagonist's spiritual search for enlightenment, and Hesse counts among his most characteristic works Siddhartha (1922), Der Steppenwolf (1927), and Die Morgenlandfahrt (1932) [The Journey to the East]. Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, before he became Pope Benedict XVI, said that Steppenwolf is one of his favorite books because it "exposes the problem of modernity's isolated and self-isolating man."
Hessewon the Nobel Prize in literature in 1946.
Shortly before his death, he wrote:
What you loved and what you strove for,
What you dreamed and what you lived through,
Do you know if it was joy or suffering?
G sharp and A flat, E flat or D sharp,
Are they distinguishable to the ear?