German-born poet, novelist and painter Hermann Karl Hesse, who won the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1946, passed away on August 9, 1962. The author’s work, which explores an individual’s search for self-knowledge and spirituality was popular and influential in the German-speaking world. However, during the 1950s, Hesse’s popularity began to wane, and after Hesse’s death in 1962, posthumously published writings, including letters and previously unknown pieces of prose, contributed to a new level of understanding and appreciation of his works around the world.
On his 57th death anniversary, here are 5 books by the author one must read:
Siddhartha (1951): Perhaps the most well-known book by the author, Siddhartha deals with the spiritual journey of self-discovery of a man named Siddhartha during the time of the Gautama Buddha. The first part of the book is dedicated to Romain Rolland and the second part to Wilhelm Gundert. In the book, Hesse’s portrayal of Siddhartha’s journey highlights that the totality of conscious events of human life allows an individual to attain enlightenment.
Demian (1919): The Bildungsroman, first published under the pseudonym ‘Emil Sinclair’, the name of the narrator of the story, sees the protagonist being caught between good and evil. He is seen getting detached from and then revolting against the superficial ideals of the world of appearances, eventually attaining self-realization.
Steppenwolf (1927): The story memorably portrayed the protagonist’s split between his humanity and his wolf-like aggression and homelessness. Notably, the book is presented as a manuscript written by its protagonist, a middle-aged man named Harry Haller.
The Glass Bead Game (1943): Hesse’s last full-length novel, another bildungsroman sees the main character’s education as a youth, his decision to join a particular order, his mastery of the Game, and his advancement in the order’s hierarchy to eventually become Magister Ludi.
Peter Camenzind (1904): The first novel by the author, the book contains a number of themes that would become the author’s main themes in many of his later works, most notably the individual’s search for a unique spiritual and physical identity.