Thursday, July 02, 2009

Alles Gute zum Geburtstag! ...

Hermann Hesse - a man whose works I discovered in my groovy phase, but would come back to in the ensuing years - was born on this day in 1877.

Hesse received the Nobel Prize in Literature for his body of work, which found inspiration in the growth and development of ideas and philosophies that helped shape humanity's attempts to better know itself in the 20th-century ... books, it's been suggested, "which explore an individual's search for authenticity, self-knowledge and spirituality."

Much of that came from Hesse's own, first-hand experience with the ideas and events that helped shape the century. The sometimes-rebellious son of Christian missionaries, young Hesse would experience the culture of India, the endless routine of the factory floor, a series of schools and seminaries, and a stay in a mental institution ... all of which would find its way into his works.

As an adult, there were added experiences that shaped his view of the world around him, his view of the path to finding one's place in that world ... and the words that helped him express those views for millions of readers worldwide. His works found new favor in the west during the counter-cultural movements of the 1960s and 70s, which included a variety of efforts to free the 'true' self, and a renewed appreciation for eastern mysticism.

My first experience with Hesse was "Journey to the East" ... a primer, of sorts, to the rest of his works. I've also enjoyed "Steppenwolf" and "Magister Ludi" ... but my favorite remains "Siddartha."

I may no longer be groovy ... but I remain a fan of the man and his books.


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