Demian: A Dual-Language Bookby Hermann Hesse
First major novel by Nobel Prize–winning author explores the fundamental duality of existence through the tale of a troubled young man's confusion about life's conflicting values. Recounted in engaging prose, this brilliant psychological portrait offers a poignant statement of the terrors and torments of adolescence.See more details below
First major novel by Nobel Prize–winning author explores the fundamental duality of existence through the tale of a troubled young man's confusion about life's conflicting values. Recounted in engaging prose, this brilliant psychological portrait offers a poignant statement of the terrors and torments of adolescence.
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A Dual-Language Book
By HERMANN HESSE, STANLEY APPELBAUM
Dover Publications, Inc.Copyright © 2002 Dover Publications, Inc.
All rights reserved.
The German literary sensation of 1919 was tinged with mystery. Who was the brilliant young Emil Sinclair, author of Demian: Die Geschichte einer Jugend? Published by the eminent S. Fischer in the February and April 1919 issues of his house organ Die Neue Rundschau (The New Survey) and immediately afterward as a volume bearing the S. Fischer, Berlin, imprint, it was an immediate success with both the critics and the public. The book was awarded the city of Berlin's prestigious Fontane Prize for the year's best first novel, and Fischer's printers were constantly occupied with new printings. Many of the avid readers were young Germans, who were bewildered with the course that the war and the violent peace had taken, and were now convinced they had found a preternaturally wise mentor among their own age group.
It was hard for those in the German literary mainstream to be aware that this was not "Emil Sinclair's" first publication. He had already signed antiwar articles in Swiss newspapers in 1917 and 1918. Even after the Demian mystery had been clarified, more articles by "Sinclair" were published, and all of them were collected in the 1923 volume Sinclairs Notizbuch (Sinclair's Memo Pad).
One of the most inquisitive admirers of Demian in 1919 was Thomas Mann, himself one of Samuel Fischer's outstanding authors. Replying to Mann's request for information, Fischer, sworn to secrecy (though his own wife had guessed the truth at once), lied: Sinclair was a young Swiss in a very shaky state of health, and the manuscript had been submitted by a third party.
Finally, a couple of particularly acute writers in Germany and Switzerland put two and two together, and the real author of Demian stood up. It was Hermann Hesse, who had been publishing since 1899 and had been a major literary figure in the German-speaking world since 1904! Hesse duly returned the Fontane Prize, which had been improperly awarded, and beginning with the seventeenth printing (during 1920), the novel received the title and the author credit it has borne ever since—Demian: Die Geschichte von Emil Sinclairs Jugend (Demian: The Story of Emil Sinclair's Youth), by Hermann Hesse. Hesse had written the novel very quickly during September and October of 1917, around the time that he first felt it incumbent upon him to publish pseudonymously and anonymously. (He had borrowed the name Sinclair from Isaak von Sinclair, a patron of the great Romantic poet Friedrich Hölderlin.) In the years following the first publication of Demian, Hesse explained repeatedly that he hadn't wanted youthful readers to be put off by advice coming from a quadragenarian; there may have been more cogent reasons for concealing his name (see below).
This Demian incident gives one pause. Is there really anything gained by slowly and painstakingly creating a personal style and pursuing an ever more refined but nevertheless coherent and interconnected set of subjects and themes, if no one recognizes you in your next book? In the case of Hesse, particularly, the writings were eminently autobiographical, each new major work representing a kind of progress report on the author's experiences, and his corresponding philosophy of life, at that point in time.
Hesse was born in 1877 in the little Black Forest town of Calw, where his parents, an ex-missionary and a missionary's daughter who both had lived in India, were now editing Protestant missionary publications. In this cultured but pietistic atmosphere, Hermann, who had two older sisters, was already a problem child by age four: very bright, and gifted in verbal skills, art, and music, he was also rebellious and subject to psychosomatic ailments; God was so obviously on his father's side. Like Sinclair in the novel, he attended a classical grammar school (Lateinschule) in 1890–91, but lasted only a year at the seminary that was to prepare him for the ministry; he ran away and suffered a nervous breakdown. That was followed by only a year of secondary school (Gymnasium), the end of his formal education. After an unhappy year as an apprentice manual worker, he got progressively better jobs in bookstores in Tübingen (where he could observe traditional student life at close hand) and Basel. During these bookstore years (1895–1903) he read omnivorously and taught himself world literature. He also practiced writing, his first volume of verse being published by a vanity press in 1899. (Eventually he was to produce many volumes' worth of novels, stories, essays, articles, poems, travel accounts, book reviews, translations, introductions to new editions of literary classics, and thousands of letters.)
After moving to Basel in 1899 he spent most of his life in Switzerland, becoming a Swiss citizen in 1924. The success of his 1904 novel Peter Camenzind made him part of the S. Fischer stable of writers, permitted him to live thereafter as a free-lance author (frequently with help from generous patrons), and gave him the wherewithal to get married. His wife, a Swiss woman of the eminent Bernoulli family, was intelligent and musical, but neurotically reclusive. Hesse wasn't crushed when he divorced her in 1923, putting his three sons out to board; a year later he made an even more disastrous second marriage, which actually lasted only a few weeks, though it wasn't formally dissolved until three years later. From 1904 to 1912 Hesse and his first wife ran an unsuccessful farm near Lake Constance (his wife didn't accompany him in 1911 when he sailed to parts of South and Southeast Asia on a futile quest for "roots"). From 1912 to 1919 (thus, throughout the war and the Demian period) Hesse lived in Berne.
A number of Hesse's works prior to, or roughly contemporaneous with, Demian shed light on the themes and events of that novel. As early as 1904, Peter Camenzind told of an outsider who takes refuge in taverngoing. Most significant, perhaps, is the 1906 novel Unterm Rad (Under the Wheel), one of many German novels and plays of the time devoted to the troubles of schoolboys, but filled with Hesse's special problems. Here, as so often in Hesse's oeuvre (one need merely think of the two titular heroes of the 1930 Narziss und Goldmund), the author distributes his own traits among more than one character. The hero wants to be a model student at his seminary, but is diverted from his studies by his crush on a fellow student, a poet but also a malcontent who complains about the way they are taught and eventually runs away. The hero is sent home with a nervous ailment. And most pointedly, the hero perceives his hometown as consisting of two separate "worlds"!
The 1907 story "Der Lateinschüler" (The Grammar-School Pupil) is about a sixteen-year-old boy away at school and his romantic involvements.
The 1920 story collection Klingsor (original title Klingsors letzter Sommer [Klingsor's Last Summer]; stories written in 1918 and 1919) includes "Klein und Wagner," practically a textbook case of dual personality, and "Kinderseele" [A Child's Psyche], in which a guilt-ridden young boy is at odds with his father, whom he finds too kind and too understanding (thus, flagrantly superior to himself). In the 1922 novel Siddhartha (writing begun in 1919), the titular hero and his young son find themselves in exactly the same situation.
Nevertheless, even if Demian shares enough stylistic and thematic features with Hesse's earlier work to have made the identification of "Emil Sinclair" easier than it proved to be, there is no doubt that Hesse (and others) were justified in claiming this novel as a decisive turning point in his career, and very possibly the foundation of his international, rather than merely Germanic, fame. Hesse insisted that in Demian he had confronted his most personal problems head-on for the first time, instead of disguising or sublimating them through a variety of literary devices.
Nothing about Demian—neither the plot, nor Hesse's state of mind, nor his use of a pseudonym—can be understood without reference to the First World War. Hesse, still a German citizen in 1914 though already long a resident of neutral Switzerland, was unfit for active duty because of his very weak eyesight. He joined an organization that provided reading matter and other comforts for German soldiers who became prisoners of war, and edited journals and newsletters for them. Though not a militant pacifist (his ideas were obviously too self-contradictory for that), he established friendly relations with the French pacifist (and author of Jean-Christophe) Romain Rolland, to whom he later dedicated Part One of Siddhartha (dedication changed from 1950 on). Hesse's frequent newspaper articles hostile to the German military establishment naturally alienated numerous patriots, but, on top of that, by 1917 a number of unguarded or incautious remarks about opponents of the war had left him persona non grata to almost the entire spectrum of German opinion! This has been seen as the true, though unavowed, reason for his recourse to pseudonyms and anonymity in the years 1917–1919. If he was still to be a spokesman for any cause whatsoever, he couldn't use his own name.
Demian is entirely framed by the war. On the very first page we learn that people are currently "being shot to death in carloads." A few lines later, Emil Sinclair tells us that he will die more easily if he manages to write his story down for the benefit of other young people. A global catastrophe is predicted sporadically within the book (prophecy after the event!), and near the very end it turns out to be the war, which is to have a "purifying" effect, leaving the world ready for a new order of things. (After the entire accumulation of horror and nastiness since the summer of 1914, could someone of Hesse's intelligence and awareness still have sincerely believed in the "purification" in the autumn of 1917? One wonders all the more, since Hesse had published an article calling for the end of the war in August 1917, the month before he began writing Demian.)
But it was not only military actions that influenced and shaped the novel. The year 1916 was traumatic for Hesse. His father, with whom he had maintained his most significant love–hate relationship, died; his wife and his youngest son, who was five, became seriously ill; and he himself went to a rest home near Lucerne. There his chief physician was the psychoanalyst Joseph Lang, a desciple of C. G. (Carl Gustav) Jung. Hesse had been reading psychoanalytical literature since 1914, but now he could learn its lingo and procedures at first hand. And what a subject he was! A number of his characters, especially the Emil Sinclair of Demian, display clearcut symptoms of the Oedipus complex; Sinclair dreams of killing his father, and is later deeply in love with the (androgynous) mother of Max Demian (Demian being unmistakably a projection of Sinclair's own personality, or part of it). Homoerotic tendencies appear unmistakably in Unterm Rad, Demian, Siddhartha, and Narziss und Goldmund. Now Hesse started to immerse himself in the writings of Freud and Jung; their theories of dreams and archetypes are the very stuff of which Demian is made. In 1918 Hesse published the essay "Künstler und Psychoanalyse" (Artists and Psychoanalysis), a true manifesto calling for authors to embody the findings of this new science in their work.
It was probably also in connection with his crisis of 1916 that Hesse started to spend a lot of time painting in watercolor, as Sinclair does in the novel. Eventually Hesse became a very decent Sunday painter and illustrated some of his own minor works. The study of Jung may also have helped to renew his interest in Märchen. This genre, translated only inadequately as "folktale" or "fairy tale," has been significant in German literature for at least two hundred years; the Romantics of the turn of the nineteenth century not only collected more or less genuine folktales (usually doctored up for publication, as in the Grimm collection), but also launched the Kunstmärchen ("literary folktale"; Novalis, E. T. A. Hoffmann, Lamotte- Fouqué's Undine, Chamisso's Peter Schlemihl, etc.), which employed fantasy and dream experience. In 1919 Hesse published a volume called precisely Märchen. The two stories told to Sinclair by Demian's mother (the man in love with a star and the man who lost touch with the world) are somewhat in the nature of parables, but are also Märchen.
Demian also initiated Hesse's lifetime role as a mentor to the young (his true age, when made public, was no obstacle), at first in German- speaking lands only, later—in the 1960s counterculture in the United States and Japan—as a spiritual godfather to hippies, dropouts, addicts, draft dodgers, and burners of flags and draft cards. His "do your own thing" message is potentially dangerous when considered superficially, and few of his post-World War II readers seemed to be aware that it was intended not for "the herd," but for an intellectual elite. Hesse never tired of writing long letters to inquiring youths and maidens; in a significant 1954 response, he singles out Demian from among his works and assures his correspondent that even in this novel, in which an individual resists the traditional commandments and tries to uphold the claims of Nature vis-à-vis the pure intellect, intellect is nevertheless unassailed, and man is faced with the imperative to raise himself to the highest spiritual level, or, if that's too much for him, at least to respect the accomplishments of civilization.
This disturbing elitist, secret-society thought pattern (in its way just as proto-Fascist as the notion of the New Order to be constructed over the ruins of Europe) henceforth becomes a recurring ingredient of Hesse's works, especially in Die Morgenlandfahrt (The Journey to the Orient) of 1932 and his magnum opus, Das Glasperlenspiel (The Glass Bead Game, a.k.a. Magister Ludi), written between 1931 and 1942, published in 1943.
Of the characters in Demian, Emil Sinclair is obviously a self-portrait. Hesse stated in a letter of 1955 that the name Demian came to him in a dream, and that he learned only later that it was a real, though rare, German surname. Some critics have seen the name as an anagram ofJemand ("someone," the i and j counting as the same letter), but most scholars connect the name with the Greek daimon (Latinized as daemon or demon), a sort of guardian angel or inner voice guiding an individual's actions. Socrates was said to have been advised by hisdaimonion (a diminutive form of daimon). The quotation from Novalis in the novel (from theKunstmärchen called Heinrich von Ofterdingen) to the effect that a man's character and his fate are one and the same thing, is based on a statement by the pre-Socratic philosopher Heraclitus (died ca. 480 B.C.) in which the word roughly rendered as "fate" is actuallydaimon. In a letter of 1931, Hesse declares that Demian and his mother are symbols or magical incantations representing something beyond the grasp of mere reason.
The name Pistorius (from the Latin pistor, "baker") is a typical Renaissance Humanistic Latinization (the original family name presumably being something like Beck or Becker). The organist in the novel, who interrupted his divinity studies just as Hesse had done, is based on Hesse's psychoanalyst Lang. Hesse often put his acquaintances into his novels, often with humorously disguised names; for instance, Thomas von der Trave in Das Glasperlenspiel stands for Thomas Mann, whose native city, Lübeck, is situated on the estuary of the river Trave.
Excerpted from Demian by HERMANN HESSE, STANLEY APPELBAUM. Copyright © 2002 Dover Publications, Inc.. Excerpted by permission of Dover Publications, Inc..
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