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Hesse: The Wanderer and His Shadow

Hesse: The Wanderer and His Shadow

Hesse: The Wanderer and His Shadow

By Gunnar Decker
Translated by Peter Lewis

“Top-notch….A masterful, penetrating biography…that deserves the accolade ‘definitive.’…Decker lays bare Hesse’s complex, contradictory personality, his all-consuming dedication to the creative life, his tormented relationships with women, and the cultural and political forces that found their ways into his works….A richly detailed and supremely sensitive portrayal of an artist obsessed with the ‘terrible and magnificent’ act of creation.”—Kirkus Reviews, starred review

“Shows that Hesse’s life was an uneasy compromise between his spiritual absolutism, which pushed him in the direction of irascible isolation, and his human needs, which encumbered him with wives, children, and houses that he never quite wanted or accepted.”—Adam Kirsch, The New Yorker

Against the horrors of Nazi dictatorship and widespread disillusionment with the forces of mass culture and consumerism, Hermann Hesse’s stories inspired nonconformity and a yearning for universal values. Few today would doubt Hesse’s artistry or his importance to millions of devoted readers. But just who was the author of Siddhartha, Steppenwolf, and Demian?

Gunnar Decker weaves together previously unavailable sources to offer a unique interpretation of the life and work of Hermann Hesse. Drawing on recently discovered correspondence between Hesse and his psychoanalyst, Josef Lang, Decker shows how Hesse reversed the traditional roles of therapist and client, and rethinks the relationship between Hesse’s novels and Jungian psychoanalysis. He also explores Hesse’s correspondence with Stefan Zweig―recently unearthed―to find the source of Hesse’s profound sense of alienation from his contemporaries.

Decker’s biography brings to life this icon of spiritual searching and disenchantment who galvanized the counterculture in the 1960s and feels newly relevant today.

800 pages
Harvard University Press, 2018
6.7 x 1.7 x 9.2 inches
ISBN 9780674737884

$39.95 $39.95