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Full text of "ModernGermanLiterature18801950"

MODERN   GERMAN   LITERATURE

Hermann Hesse began with an ironical analysis of the artistic
temperament: Hinterlassene Schriften und Gedichte Hermann "Lauscfan
(1901), and followed this up with a kind Qt'mvtttt&Kunstlerroman:
Peter Cammgnd (1904); the artist divests himself of his artistry
and levels himself to the humdrum existence of the ordinary mortal;
here we have, not (as with Thomas Mann) the contrast with the
tortured mentality of the artist of the happy normal being, but a
sheer decadent surrender of personality. At least on the face of it:
an ironical treatment of the glorification of the artist (Kunstler-
verhimmlmg) may be the undertone; or, more likely, persiflage of
the author's self. Hesse was the son of a missionary, and he was
sent to the Protestant Theological College at Maulbronn1 to be
fitted for the same calling. Actually he earned his living for a time
as a bookseller. Like Peter Camensind he was a scholarship boy who
failed in his calling and found himself again by lake and mountain
as a child of nature. Peter Camenzind returns to his native Swiss
village of Nimikon; Hesse too elected to live in Switzerland,
though not till 1912; previously he had lived at Gaienhofen on
the Lake of Constance. In \Jnterm #^(1905) the autobiographical
element is glaring: the hero goes from Calw to the Seminary at
Maulbronn, breaks down under the strain of study, is sent home
ill, and drowns himself. As in Strauss's Freund Hem - which may
have influenced Hesse - the school system is blamed for the lad's
martyrdom; in both novels there is a ring of reality in the gentle
unfolding of the process of mental exhaustion. In the following
novels the psychology deepens gradually. Gertrud (1910) has a
musician for hero, and tells a tale of marital failure and of fading
skill 'Kosshalde (1914) is finely psycho-analytical. Veraguth, a fam-
ous painter, lives at Rosshalde, his country estate, but in an atelier
in the grounds, while his estranged wife lives in the mansion,
Man and wife meet for meals only. There are two sons: one, at
the university, takes the mother's side (Sohn-Vater-Kampf); the
other, Pierre, is a child. Veraguth would separate from his wife if
she would let him have Pierre, all that remains to him in life except
his work; but this she will not agree to. This state of affairs is
revealed to an old friend, a rubber planter in the Far East, who
spends a holiday at Rosshalde; he by cautious questioning probes
the painter's state of mind, and shows him where healing might

1 Where Hdlderlin studied before proceeding to the higher Seminarf at
Tubingen.