Herman Hesse

Discussion in 'General Book Discussion' started by Connavar, Sep 16, 2011.

  1.  
    Connavar

    Connavar New Member

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    Has anyone here read his works ? Siddhartha ?


    Im mostly asking JD and Gollum but also any other classic, modern classic readers.
  2.  
    D_Davis

    D_Davis New Member

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    I have Demian lined up to read at some point.
  3.  
    Connavar

    Connavar New Member

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    I wanted to share my review of his famous works Siddharta to show why im interested in this author. From Goodreads:




    "I knew nothing about this author and the book when i read this. It was refreshing i could let his words decide how i picture him, his works.

    It was a novel that worked on many levels for me, storytelling technique wise it was simple but very effective. Prose wise it was written like it was beautiful old colorful poetry, it sang to me. I was moved by the insightful ideas,thoughts in the novel. I cant believe how powerful, important things he said with only 123 pages. Its easily the best book i have read from the so called high modernism era, school.

    Most of my reading of the novel i spent time thinking about difficult thoughts of the many ideas he wrote about in the novel. It was a novel that show the power of great literature. There are rare books that are more than just mere words. It made me think of scary thought like what do i believe in ? It said more things to me than great philosophy books could. I was moved deeply by the story of Siddhartha and his strong faith,tragedy even though i dont believe in any faith anymore. On the surface the novel looks like its about mystical times, that faith system, Buddha, Nirvana etc. But its a book about the human condition that speak to any human who likes to read. You cant say that about many early modernism books that are more interesting in being new modes, who are emotionally cold books.

    You can guess by how hard it is for me to praise this novel that i can count on one hand how many books that has ever become more than just a novel to me. Books that was written so brilliantly, so powerfully that they change me in a way. Its not hyperbole when i say that about this novel."
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    GOLLUM

    GOLLUM Moderator Staff Member

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    Indeed...I have Siddhartha. It's a very long time since I have had anythnig to do with that book Conn but I know it made a strong impression on me too when I read it.

    I'm glad you've brought up Hesse's name becasue he's on my radar vis a vis a review of The Collected Fairy Tales of Herman Hesse, which intrigues me greatly. The other book by Hesse that is held in quite high regard and of which I have a copy is Narzsis and Goldmund. I haven't read that yet, so I can't comment on it directly but it's probably something you might want to read if you spot it in a local bookstore.

    Along with Grass, Boll, Schmidt and Mann he's probably one of Germany's most significant writers of the 20th Century.

    Cheers.
  5.  
    Connavar

    Connavar New Member

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    Collected Fairy tales ? The way he wrote can be perfect prose wise for those type stories.

    I have read Mann and was impressed somewhat but The Magic Mountain was a bit too cold, lacked emotion, storytelling. Hesse is so far one of my fav european authors of the last century. Which is nice because i wanted to read more German, french, italian, spanish authors. Authors who arent close to home like nordic ones or anglo saxon english speaking like Brits/North America

    I will have to research what to read next, Knulp and Steppenwolf sound very interesting to me.

    He is the ideal non-genre writer really. A modern author who has something important to say and has the craft to make his stories special. If its not epic naturalism,symbolism,realism classics of the 1800s it has to be a modern author who has something that appeals to me. Since generally im not interested in mundane, non-fantastic stories.
  6.  
    GOLLUM

    GOLLUM Moderator Staff Member

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    You'll have to wait for my review on Fairy Tales to find out more....;)

    I can provide recommendations in the field of literature including fantastic literature for all 4 of those countries, my biggest strengths being the Spanish (speaking) and German authors. Italian and French I'll be focusing more on next year.

    I have a spare copy of Steppenwolf. PM me if you are interested. You'll enjoy that one as well I think.

    Knulp I admit to not being familiar with at all.

    Actually J-Sun has just reminded me that The Glass Bead Game is another on my TBR pile. I've often seen it cited as Hesse's greatest work, which should be enough incentive for me to read it.
    Last edited: Sep 18, 2011
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    j d worthington

    j d worthington Moderator Staff Member

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    It has probably been 30 or more years since I last read Hesse, so my memories may be a bit vague but... yes, The Glass Bead Game probably is his best, though as I recall it was a bit more difficult in some ways than the others. Still, beautifully done. In some ways, Siddhartha was his least challenging, but a very fine piece. Steppenwolf has marvelous prose, and is a very disturbing piece. (I'd love to see the film, which I haven't yet been able to, missing it every time it's been around, but I hear quite good things about it.)* Demian, for some reason, I never got around to.

    But, in general, and going on memories from that far back... yes, a goodly portion of Hesse is well worth looking into, whether you're interested in "classic" literature, or sff, as there is at least a great sense of the fantastic in his perceptions and his prose, which is almost unfailingly first rate....



    *for those interested, the band Hawkwind also did a song based on the book... quite a menacing, disturbing piece; very dark, moody, and poetic.
  8.  
    jojajihisc

    jojajihisc vast and cool

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    I tried Demian several years ago and quickly realized it wasn't for me and gave up. Haven't tried anything else by Hesse though.
  9.  
    Extollager

    Extollager Active Member

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    Wow... takes me back to the mid-Seventies... Narcissus and Goldmund, The Journey to the East, Siddhartha all read within a few months and then that was all, though I have Magister Ludi as TBR.

    He seems to get lumped in with Knut Hamsun sometimes, whom I like(d) more: Mysteries, Pan, Hunger, Victoria. I've read some short works by KH too but I don;t know that they made much of an impression other than the funny one about the paranoid guy who imagines getting his throat cut accidentally while the barber is shaving him.

    Hamsun worked on a bonanza farm here in the Minnesota-Dakotas territory over a century ago.
  10.  
    GOLLUM

    GOLLUM Moderator Staff Member

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    Interesting commens regarding KH...:)

    I've never read any shorts by KH only his novels, which are generally brilliant. I would love to know if you have a collection of his short fiction or if there is a book of this kind or if you read his stories from various anthologies? Actually we should also mention KH's Growth Of The Soil for anyone following this conversation if we're talking about masterworks.

    Hamsun is seen, in fact argued by several critics and academics, as a cornerstone, possibly the cornerstone of 20th century European Literature, whereas Hesse isn't viewed on quite the same lofty pedestal but amongst German writers still one of their best of the 20th Century (Thomas Mann and Arno Schmidt are probably my top 2 German writers from the last Century).

    Certinly Hamsun infuenced both Hesse and Mann amongst many, many other writers around the world, so maybe it's not that surprising they get clumped together in that way. Steppenwolf's use of stream of consciuoness techinques is perhaps the best example of Hamsun's overt influence on Hesse? I confess to being a real SOC fan boy...:D

    KH is the superior writer but Hesse is defnitely worth reading.
  11.  
    Stephen Palmer

    Stephen Palmer author of novels

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    I liked Narciss & Goldmund but couldn't manage The Glass Bead Game at all, I found it to be incomprehensible!
  12.  
    Extollager

    Extollager Active Member

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    I know of two recent collections of Hamsun's short stories -- one (which I have) is called Night Roamers and Other Stories; the other is called Tales of Love and Loss. As I said, these didn't make a big impression on me, but that might partly be due to the fact that I was reading so much good fiction that was new to me at about the same time. When I became aware of these two collections, I'd recently struck up perhaps the best literary friendship of my life and was following up leads to new authors all the time. (Hamsun was one of the authors we already had in common.)

    I've owned a copy of Growth of the Soil for many years without having read it.
  13.  
    Connavar

    Connavar New Member

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    Least challinging i can see what you mean since its mytical times type story but i have seen that complex novels doesnt mean anything if the writing isnt very good or great. I was more impressed how he could do so much with simple storytelling. Many of classic great did similar things. Interesting too that several of his novels are barely over 100 pages.

    If his other novels is strong as Siddartha and even better than i will read him because of his writing ability, ideas. I dont need him to read fantastic stories. I have literary classic favs in fantasy fields like Poe,Lord Dunsany and many others. I need classic, modern greats fav in the more mundane types of stories.

    It sounds like i cant read non-fantastic stories when people mention few stories like that by a writer like Hesse. I prefer to read Fantasy, SF overall as a reader but i will also often read by choice authors like Camus, Hesse, other general fiction modern greats because their great stories are not SFF. Personally i dont want to miss anything and take in all kinds of fictional stories :)
  14.  
    j d worthington

    j d worthington Moderator Staff Member

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    Yes, I've seen a growing interest in a wider variety of writings from you over the years, Conn, and it's been a very interesting (and, if I may say so, refreshing) experience.

    However, what I mean by the above is, in part, that the division between what we might consider sff and "mainstream" is, with classic literature especially, almost entirely illusory, as the great writers crossed boundaries not only with complete insouciance, but without even thinking of them as boundaries (in most cases). The fantastic was as legitimate an approach to addressing what a writer wished to say as any other, so that readers who do prefer things with that sort of fantastic approach would be robbing themselves of some marvelous work here by setting his writings off from that field simply because it isn't classified as such by many....
  15.  
    GOLLUM

    GOLLUM Moderator Staff Member

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    Which is why JD I always find it in equal parts comical and irritating how many so-called educated people automaticlly turn thier nose up on something when you happen to mention you are interested in fantastic literature and here is a GREAT book and...as soon as the word fantasy or a derivatie thereof is mentioned they'll often run the other way.

    The ability for people to be willing to suspend belief and to look beyond the lines on the page to the underlying quality of the writing and the fact that the piece is often saying somethnig quite profound and to appreciate that the author is only using the apparent fantastical backdrop as a vehicle to explore various themes is often lost...only annoying the crap out moi even more....:mad:

    Sorry for the rant but it's somethnig important to me.
  16.  
    antiloquax

    antiloquax Trans-MUTE!

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    I think Hesse is such a great writer. I've read "Steppenwolf", "Narcissus and Goldmund" and "The Glass Bead Game" (aka "Magister Ludi"). I enjoyed these very much, and fully intend to read more at some point.
    a
  17.  
    GOLLUM

    GOLLUM Moderator Staff Member

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    True but have you read Arno Schmidt yet?...;) I think he and Mann are the two that I place above Hesse or any other German author of the last century. Gunter Grass I place on a similar level to Hesse.

    Hans Fallada, Herman Broch, Ernst Junger and Heinrich Boll are the others I'm aware of.

    Adds these to the reviews list....:D
  18.  
    antiloquax

    antiloquax Trans-MUTE!

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    No, I haven't read any Arno Schmidt. Of the other writers you mentioned, I have only read "The Lost Honour of Katharina Blum" by Boll. I read this just after reading The Baader-Meinhof Complex and Hitler's Children. Boll explores the impact of the state's response to the Red Army Faction's activities in that novel. The book's structure (sort of a pseudo-documentary) is striking.

    I think that what I like about Hesse is how he addresses the tensions between the spiritual life and artistic endeavour.

    I don't know why I haven't got around to reading any Thomas Mann ....
    a
  19.  
    GOLLUM

    GOLLUM Moderator Staff Member

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    Your description of Hesse's style is quite apt I think.

    The Lost Honour of Katharina Blum is by far Boll's best known work but not his best work. His greatest work IMO is in fact Billiards At Half Past Nine followed very closely by Group Portrait With Lady. The Clown I haven't read but have heard good things about as well as The Train Was On Time. Of these I would recommend Billiards At Half Past Nine first and foremost.

    For Mann start with his short fiction which is also generally of a high standard. Death In Venice is one of the greatest short stories ever written but there's several other notables as well. For novels I would start with Dr. Faustus and then move on to the heavier read in The Magic Mountain. Buddenbrooks I have not gotten around to reading..I think..yet but those 3 novels form Mann's main ouevre. The Lowe-Porter translations are best for Death In Venice and other shorter fiction. For the novels you can't go past the excellent John Woods.

    Cheers.
  20.  
    Connavar

    Connavar New Member

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    Yeah i have seen that too there isnt much boundaries specially classic literature. Readers like me dont care if a classic author wrote fantastic,SF,horror like story. Many classic works feature "SFF" elements. Sorry if i understood what you meant.

    Hence i read Hesse for modern novel class and next books for class talk is 1984 and Lolita.

    I have found a haven in academic,scholars, other literary fans around Uni who doesnt care to put tag on things like critics does on "mainstream and " genre". My last two teachers was talking to me how they agreed on Hammett literary genius and how its right he has been canoized as American great. I have not seen as much literary snobs that i thought.

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