biography of hermann hesse


On 2 July Hermann Hesse is born in Calw in the Kingdom of
Wuerttemberg. Both of his parents as well as his maternal grandparents
were missionaries of the Basel Mission who worked in India and who
now run the publishing house ‘Calwer Verlagsverein’, which publishes
brochures for the mission.


The Hesse family lives in Basel where Hesse´s father trains young
missionaries. The family, who previously had Russian nationality as the
father came from Estonia, takes on Swiss nationality. Hermann attends
the mission’s boys’ school.


The Family returns to Calw. Hermann enrols at the Latin school.


At the Latin school in Göppingen he is trained for the Wuerttemberg
state exam, which awards gifted children from Wuerttemberg free
training as priest or civil servant. For this, Hermann’s father obtains
Wuerttemberg citizenship for his son.


He passes the Wuerttemberg state exam in Stuttgart and then goes on
to school at the seminary at Maulbronn Monastery.


He runs away from the seminary feeling hemmed in by his intended
career and dreaming of life as a poet. His parents have his mental
health examined at the psychiatric hospital in Stetten. He rebels against
this treatment. Thanks to third-party intervention a compromise is
reached which enables him to complete his school education at the
secondary school in Cannstadt near Stuttgart.


He passes the one-year voluntary conscription exam. After this he goes
back to live with his parents in Calw and continues his education on his
own in his grandfather’s library.


He begins training with the clock manufacturer ‘Calwer Turmuhrenwerkstatt


He ends his training as a mechanic and starts working as an
apprentice in a bookshop in Tübingen.


He successfully completes his apprenticeship. Alongside his training he
continues his autodidactic education in literature and publishes his first
poems and pieces of prose.


He moves to Basel to work as a bookseller and in his spare time
continues to write.


He travels to Italy and spends several weeks there.


His novel ‘Peter Camenzind’ is published and turns out to be a big
success, being awarded the Austrian ‘Bauernfeld’ prize. With the award
money Hesse is now able to work as a free-lance writer. He marries the
Basel photographer and pianist Maria (Mia) Bernoulli and they start a
family in Gaienhofen, on Lake Constance. In his years at Gaienhofen
(1904-1912) he writes numerous stories, poems and book reviews; his
sons Bruno, Heiner and Martin are born in 1905, 1909 and 1911,


His successful novel ‘Beneath the Wheel’, in which Hesse comes to terms
with the hardships of his school years, is published.


The musician´s novel ‘Gertrud’ is published.


He travels to Ceylon and South-East Asia.


He moves to Berne with his family.


In his novel ‘Rosshalde’ he deals with the problems of marriages
between artists. When the first world war breaks out, Hesse
volunteers but is pronounced unfit for service on account of his
short-sightedness. In articles in Swiss newspapers he appeals to the
warring parties to exercise moderation. From Berne, he starts working
for the prisoner-of-war welfare organisation.


He suffers a breakdown after his wife is diagnosed as mentally ill and
his father dies. He starts psychoanalytic treatment.


Under a pseudonym he publishes the novel ‘Demian, the Story of Emil
Sinclair’s Youth’. Upon the recommendation of his psychoanalyst he
fully concentrates on his writing. He provides for his family and moves
on his own across the Alps to Ticino, where, in the village of
Montagnola, above Lugano, he finds a place which, for his remaining
43 years, becomes second home to him. While continuing to
write he starts water colour painting.


‘Klingsor’s last summer’ is published.


‘Siddhartha – An Indian Tale’, his most successful novel world-wide,
is published.


Second marriage, this time to the singer, Ruth Wenger. Through his
marriage he again acquires Swiss nationality.


He spends the winters in Basel or Zurich and works on ‘Steppenwolf’.


Ruth leaves him. His novel ‘Steppenwolf’, which is testimony of a deep
crisis and ensuing liberation, is published.


The novel ‘Narcissus and Goldmund’ is published, followed by the
short story ‘Journey to the East’ in 1932.


Hesse marries for the third time, this time the art historian Ninon Dolbin.


Hesse concludes his most important literary work with ‘The Glass Bead
Game’ which, for him, is a humanist alternative to the prevailing Nazi
barbarism which he strongly condemns.


Hermann Hesse is awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature, being
heralded as the ‘the worthiest representative of the German cultural
heritage in the field of contemporary literature alongside Thomas Mann’.


Hermann Hesse dies in Montagnola at the age of 85 and is buried
there in the cemetery of Sant’ Abbondio.

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