A deftly crafted biography of the author of Siddhartha, whose critique of consumer culture continues to inspire millions of readers.
Against the horrors of Nazi dictatorship and widespread disillusionment with the forces of mass culture and consumerism, Hermann Hesse’s stories inspired nonconformity and a yearning for universal values. Few today would doubt Hesse’s artistry or his importance to millions of devoted readers. But just who was the author of Siddhartha, Steppenwolf, and Demian?
Gunnar Decker weaves together previously unavailable sources to offer a unique interpretation of the life and work of Hermann Hesse. Drawing on recently discovered correspondence between Hesse and his psychoanalyst Josef Lang, Decker shows how Hesse reversed the traditional roles of therapist and client, and rethinks the relationship between Hesse’s novels and Jungian psychoanalysis. He also explores Hesse’s correspondence with Stefan Zweig—recently unearthed—to find the source of Hesse’s profound sense of alienation from his contemporaries.
Decker’s biography brings to life this icon of spiritual searching and disenchantment who galvanized the counterculture in the 1960s and feels newly relevant today.
Shows that Hesse’s life was an uneasy compromise between his spiritual absolutism, which pushed him in the direction of irascible isolation, and his human needs, which encumbered him with wives, children, and houses that he never quite wanted or accepted.
Decker’s wonderfully rich, insightful biography is a welcome reminder of Hesse’s painfully honest exploration of selfhood and is destined to become the standard work on this difficult, reclusive and often self-destructive writer.
Gunnar Decker’s smartly written biography of Hermann Hesse captures the turbulent inner life and stubborn individuality which gave rise to such innovative and widely read novels as Demian, Steppenwolf, and The Glass Bead Game. Weaving in a wealth of sources, Decker unfolds the story of Hesse as the self-styled outsider and his engagement with the great conflicts of his age. In Peter Lewis’s sprightly translation, this outstanding biography will surely rekindle the enthusiasm of readers who witnessed the so-called Hesse boom of the sixties and seventies while also attracting new admirers.
Will likely be the definitive biography…Decker restores depth and context to an author much maligned in his own time and much misinterpreted by later eras.
Top-notch…A masterful, penetrating biography…that deserves the accolade ‘definitive.’…Decker lays bare Hesse’s complex, contradictory personality, his all-consuming dedication to the creative life, his tormented relationships with women, and the cultural and political forces that found their ways into his works…A richly detailed and supremely sensitive portrayal of an artist obsessed with the ‘terrible and magnificent’ act of creation.
Will not be superseded for some time.
The definitive English-language account of Hesse’s life…Decker makes clear that Hesse’s restless soul was the basis of his books, which spoke to many people around the world.
- 800 pages
- 6-3/8 x 9-1/4 inches
- Harvard University Press
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