The Nobel Prize in Literature 1946
Born: 2 July 1877, Calw, Germany
Died: 9 August 1962, Montagnola, Switzerland
Residence at the time of the award: Switzerland
Prize motivation: “for his inspired writings which, while growing in boldness and penetration, exemplify the classical humanitarian ideals and high qualities of style”
Prize share: 1/1
As a young man, Herman Hesse ran away from education as a minister in the seminary at Maulbronn Monastery. A period of crisis and rebellion ensued before he began working in bookstores in Tübingen and Basel. He made his debut as a poet in 1896, and after the novel Peter Camenzind (1904), he was able to support himself as a writer. As a result of several personal tragedies, Hesse began to undergo psychoanalysis in 1916. The following year the novel Demian, full of Jungian archetypes and symbolism, was published. The book’s pervading theme is how people can accept the dualism between body and spirit.
Herman Hesse’s writings are influenced by Francis of Assisi, Buddha, Nietzsche and Dostoyevsky. A recurring theme is the individual’s search for authenticity, spirituality and balance. Der Steppenwolf (1927) (Steppenwolf) deals with humankind’s ambivalence between instinct and spirit, freedom and piety. Das Glasperlenspiel (1943) (The Glass Bead Game, also published under the name Magister Ludi), a novel of ideas, depicts a mysterious intellectual order whose final test of knowledge and sense of beauty is a mysterious game with glass beads. The search for enlightenment is also a clear theme in the novel Siddhartha.