Caroline and Karen are hosting Hermann Hesse reading week and, because my relationship with this author is rather ambivalent, I find myself full of curiosity about your relationship with him.  If you wouldn’t mind answering a few questions in comments, I think the resultant picture might be quite fascinating.

  1. Who introduced you to Hesse?
  2. How old were you when you read your first Hesse?  What was it?
  3. Did you read anything after that? Was this reading formative?
  4. What’s your favourite and why?
  5. If you were initially enthusiastic, has your enthusiasm been maintained?
  6. Are you joining in Hesse Reading Week and, if so, what have you chosen to read and why?

OK. Now I’ll answer my own questions.

  1. One of the members of the rock band Queen! I was – and remain – the biggest Queen fan in the world and in an interview I once read, one of the group mentioned The Glass Bead Game. So, off I went to the library ….
  2. I was 16 and completely mesmerised by TGBG, although I didn’t understand much of it.
  3.  I went on to read Steppenwolf, Peter Camenzind, Demian, Narziss (now Narcissus) and Goldmund.  I was too young really to understand the philosophy, but, this was in the time before I had decided to study German, so I now wonder in hindsight, if reading all this Hesse had something to do with that decision.  Discounting Heidi, Hesse was my first acquaintance with German-language literature.
  4. I loved Narziss and Goldmund, and in the 40 years since “meeting” Hesse, it’s the only one I’ve ever reread and I love it more each time. I take from it, and like, the  message that happiness comes from a balance between worldliness and spirituality.
  5. I mentioned ambivalence earlier and I think that’s proved by my not having reread anything other than Narciss and Goldmund during the last 4 decades.  I did go and see an Italian opera of Siddhartha at the Edinburgh fringe a couple of years ago.  The production was impressive but I was underwhelmed  by the implications of the plot.  Siddhartha may have renounced worldliness for the simple life, but in the course of reaching this destination, he left behind not one, but two pregnant women.  Very dubious behaviour.
  6. After that experience, I doubt I would ever have picked up Hesse again without the encouragement of Hesse Reading Week. I want to read something new to me.    I don’t have time for The Fairy Tales, so it looks like I’ll be reading Gertrude.

So now that I’ve spilled the beans, what about you?