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MonkeyNotes-Demian by Hermann Hesse
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BACKGROUND INFORMATION

Author Information

Herman Hesse is ranked among the great masters of contemporary literature. He was born in Wirtemberg in 1877. He intended to follow in the footsteps of his father, a Protestant pastor and missionary. Until the end of Hesse’s life, his father remained an inspiring example of living faith. At the same time, however, young Hesse sensed the discrepancy between his father’s practices and beliefs. At times he almost hated his father’s terminology and believed it to be thoroughly out of date.

Hesse rebelled against traditional academic education and worked as a bookseller, antique dealer and mechanic. His first novel, Peter Camenzind, was published in 1904. This novel reflects Hesse’s early life in Basel and Swabia. Gertrude is another novel of a young man who finds himself. He is a musician discovering the secret of artistic existence. His next novel Knulp (1915) signified a turning point in his life. But its roots can be traced to the pre-war period. In 1919, as a protest against German militarism, he moved to Switzerland, where he lived in self-imposed exile until his death in 1962.


Hesse was strongly influenced by his interest in music, the psychoanalytic theories of Jung, and eastern thought. He wrote, "My political faith is that of a democrat, my world outlook that of an individuali2st". His other work include Demian, Klein and Wagner, Klingsor’s Last Summer, Steppenwolf and The Bead Game. Stylistically, Demian (1919) signaled Hesse’s definite break with his early regionalism and impressionism. Klein and Wagner (1919 - 20) tells the story of a man who can cope neither with the exigencies of his existence nor with the newly awakened sensuousness of his subconscious. The giving of oneself, "letting oneself fall" is also the predominant theme of Klingsor’s Last Summer (1919). In his next book Siddhartha, Hesse achieved quite a different meaning, although even this story did not provide his final answer to the problem of existence. Steppenwolf (1927) has a hero called Harry Haller, whose initials are those of Herman Hesse. Harry Haller describes his life as the lovely existence of a beast bourgeois culture. In The Bead Game (1943) he sought to build up a spiritual atmosphere in which he could live, breathe and express the resistance of the spirit.

Hesse won the Nobel Prize for literature in 1946. The Nobel Prize was not the only sign of his growing international fame. The other sign was to be seen in the translations of Hesse’s books into European and non-European languages.

Historical Information

Hermann Hesse went through psycho-analysis under Dr. J. B. Lang and Carl Jung. This led to self-realization. He used the subject of mental chaos leading to self - realization in Demian. He has used this idea intensely in his later novels like Siddhartha and Steppenwolf. He also became aware of the process of unifying opposites. He realized that good and bad exist together. He has emphasized this idea in Demian. There are references to eastern thought too in Demian. There is a reference to "Om" and also a certain type of intense meditation. Hesse had read about Hindu religion and Hindu mythology. He probably got some ideas from there, which he included in Demian. He believed that the wisdom of the east is permanent whereas wisdom of the west is transitory .

In Demian Hesse has made extensive use of symbols, imagery and dreams. He must have understood these because of the psychoanalysis, which he went through. Symbols and images are very important from the point of view of Jungian psychology, Dreams are an important source of information about the working of the unconscious.

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