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Hermann Hesse

»I am not and will not be obedient!« - Letters 1881-1904

Edited by Volker Michels
Hermann Hesse
Foto: Hermann Hesse
© Gret Widmann

Hermann Hesse, born 1877 in Calw/Württemberg as the son of a Baltic German missionary and the daughter of a Württembergian indologist, died in August 1962 in Montagnola near Lugano, Italy. In 1946, he was awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature, and 1955 the Friedenspreis des Deutschen Buchhandels (Peace Prize of the German Book Trade). After an apprenticeship to become a bookseller, he began to work as a freelance author in 1904. He is one of the most famous German authors of the 20th century.

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This collection of Hermann Hesse’s brilliant early letters conveys the both dramatic and fascinating journey full of obstacles of a gifted missionary’s son, destined for a theological career, who had already decided by the age of twelve that he would become »either a poet or nothing«.

After a childhood spent partly in Calw, partly in Basel, he begins to resist his parents’ plans, escapes the theological seminary, tries to take his own life and is committed to an institution for people with mental handicaps and epileptics. He then finishes secondary school until finally, after various detours, his dream of becoming a poet seems within reach. His first publications arouse the interest of important publishers, such as Samuel Fischer who achieved his greatest success after Thomas Mann’s Buddenbrooks with Hesse’s debut novel Peter Camenzind. After years of protesting and his autodidactic literary studies that he pursued determinedly and which is also documented in these letters, the course for the development of one of the most influential authors of the 20th century is finally set.

It’s not often that a quest for emancipation, ultimately successful, can be portrayed in such a moving and vivid manner as it is done by the example of Hermann Hesse’s youth in the 200 letters contained in this volume.

Other publications

»Ich bin ein Mensch des Werdens und der Wandlungen«/»I’m a person of becoming and of change« (2016)

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»Eine Bresche ins Dunkel der Zeit!«/»A breach into the darkness of time!« (2015)

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»Aus dem Traurigen etwas Schönes machen«/»To make something beautiful out of the sad« (2013)

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