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Today, forty years after Timothy Leary's suggestion that hippies read Hermann Hesse while "turning on," Hesse is once again receiving attention: faced with ubiquitous materialism, war, and ecological disaster, we discover that these problems have found universal expression in the works of this master storyteller. Hesse explores perennial themes, from the simple to the transcendental. Because he knows of the awkwardness of adolescence and the pressures exerted on us to conform, his books hold special appeal for young readers and are taught widely. Yet he is equally relevant for older readers, writing about the torment of a psyche in despair, or our fear of the unknown. All these experiences are explored from the perspective of the individual self, for Hesse the repository of the divine and the sole entity to which we are accountable. This volume of new essays sheds light on his major works, including Siddhartha, Der Steppenwolf, and Das Glasperlenspiel, as well as Rohalde, Klingsors letzter Sommer, Klein und Wagner, and the poetry. Another six essays explore Hesse's interest in psychoanalysis, music, and eastern philosophy, the development of his political views, the influence of his painting on his writing, and the relationship between Hesse and Goethe.
Contributors: Jefford Vahlbusch, Osman Durrani, Andreas Solbach, Ralph Freedman, Adrian Hsia, Stefan Höppner, Martin Swales, Frederick Lubich, Paul Bishop, Olaf Berwald, Kamakshi Murti, Marco Schickling, Volker Michels, Godela Weiss-Sussex, C. Immo Schneider, Hans-Joachim Hahn.
Ingo Cornils —
Ingo Cornils is Senior Lecturer in German at the University of Leeds.
A Companion to the works of Hermann Hesse, ed. by Ingo Cornils. Camden House, 2009. 438p bibl index afp ISBN 1-57113-330-5; ISBN 9781571133304. Reviewed in 2010apr CHOICE.
Hesse's multifaceted work continues to intrigue readers, because his literary treatment of personal problems and his reactions to the political events of the first half of the 20th century still resonate. Like Hermann Hesse Today, ed. by Cornils and Osman Durrani (2005), the present volume comprises 16 essays and an introduction. Most of the authors, who represent the elite of 21st-century Hesse criticism, contributed to both volumes. Most of the essays in the present volume view Hesse in a positive light, though Kamakshi Murti, in treating women and homoeroticism, takes Hesse to task for freezing women into an archetype of the mother figure, thus depriving them of agency; she views Hesse as representative of colonialism and promoter of Western Orientalism's assumption of superiority over the East. Though these ideas need more investigating and some rebuttal, this essay is the most interesting contribution in this outstanding collection, which treats all of Hesse's major works (The Glass Bead Game [Magister Ludi], Demian, Siddhartha, Steppenwolf), his early work (Beneath the Wheel, Rosshalde), his most popular work (Narcissus and Goldmund), and his minor works, poetry, paintings, political views, relationship to music, and interest in dreams and psychoanalysis. All German quotations are translated into English.
Summing Up: Highly recommended. Lower-division undergraduates through faculty. -- R. C. Conard, University of Dayton