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Soul of the Age: Selected Letters of Hermann Hesse, 1891-1962 Hardcover – September 1, 1991

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 347 pages
  • Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux; 1st edition (September 1, 1991)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0374126127
  • ISBN-13: 978-0374126124
  • Product Dimensions: 6.4 x 1.3 x 9.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.6 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (4 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #3,852,644 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Library Journal

About half of the 30,000 letters written by German writer Hesse are extant. This book makes available a major selection of them for the first time in English (see also The Hesse-Mann Letters, 1910-1955 , LJ 5/15/75). Hesse, the 1946 Nobel Laureate in Literature and author of Steppenwolf , Siddhartha , and The Glass Bead Game , personally responded to all his correspondence until his mid-seventies. The letters take the place of an autobiography, as Hesse scholar Ziolkowski (Princeton) points out in the introduction, and cover his adolescence (boys' school, attempted suicide), his three marriages, and his relentlessly honest feelings about Germany's involvement in the world wars. A valuable picture of one of the greatest writers of the 20th century emerges. Highly recommended for German literature collections.
- Ingrid Schierling, Univ. of Colorado at Colorado Springs
Copyright 1991 Reed Business Information, Inc.

From Kirkus Reviews

The first English edition of Hesse's letters, edited and introduced by the Princeton scholar (Dean of the Graduate School) whose previous studies (The Novels of Herman Hesse, 1965; Herman Hesse, 1966--not reviewed) have established him as a preeminent authority on Hesse's life and work. Born in Germany in 1877, Hesse spent most of his childhood in Switzerland, where his father--a scholar and former missionary- -taught school in Basel. A bright student, he was sent to a German seminary at the age of 12; there, he underwent the first of a series of nervous breakdowns that drove him to the brink of suicide and wrecked his academic career. Abandoning his studies at 16, he found work as an apprentice bookseller and devoted himself to literature. His first novel, Beneath the Wheel, was based on his recollections of school and met with great critical success. His interest in Eastern mysticism, reflected in many of his works (notably Siddhartha), led him to travel extensively throughout the Orient and brought on his renunciation of the formal Christianity of his childhood. Shortly before WW I, Hesse returned to Switzerland, where he lived in self-imposed exile for the rest of his life. Despite the unpopularity he suffered as a result of his pacifism during both wars, he was awarded the Goethe Prize and the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1946. The nearly 300 letters collected here, spanning the years from Hesse's troubled adolescence until the very eve of his death, provide a remarkably vivid portrait of his development as an artist and public figure. Together with Ziolkowski's readable and informative introduction, they succeed in displaying the inner life of one of the greatest writers of our century. An admirable work of scholarship, well organized and intelligently annotated, and an indispensable guide to any future studies of Hesse. (Photographs--not seen.) -- Copyright ©1991, Kirkus Associates, LP. All rights reserved.

More About the Author

Hermann Hesse (1877-1962) was born in Germany and later became a citizen of Switzerland. As a Western man profoundly affected by the mysticism of Eastern thought, he wrote many novels, stories, and essays that bear a vital spiritual force that has captured the imagination and loyalty of many generations of readers. In 1946, he won the Nobel Prize for Literature for The Glass Bead Game.

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Customer Reviews

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

5 of 5 people found the following review helpful By Christopher Nelson on September 11, 2004
Format: Hardcover
This is an important book to have if you're a fan of Hesse. There are many personal letters collected here by a reknown Hesse scholar which shed light on Hermann Hesse the man, artist, and writer. These are also the sources for many biographers and it's good to have them available for those of us who like to form their own opinions and thoughts about Hesse's life and works from the man himself. Ziolkowski provides a nice, brief introduction, and reading these personal (often private) letters whether chronologically or at random, is like eavesdropping in on the life of a kindred soul and good friend. Together they create a well rounded, kaleidoscopic view of one of the Twentieth-Century's greatest and most respected writers.
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6 of 7 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on March 30, 2000
Format: Hardcover
Soul of Age contains a good selection of Hesse's letters that provide a very usefull introduction to Hesse. The translations are very good, and the introduction is informative and intresting. Some letters between Jung and Hesse are missing, but you can find them in Michael Serrano's book.
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By Douglas B. Barr on August 28, 2007
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Yes, after reading passages from Hesses' letters in biographies & literary critisism for 20 years, it was very exciting to hear that Noonday was finally publishing a volume of them in English translation. The focus was to try to put them out in an edition that might pass for an autobiography. But many of the letters that dealt with his major criseses, or the inspiration for his major novels, so many important letters still go untranslated.
If they didnt translate the complete 4 volume edition back in the 1970s, when he was so popular with students & youth, I dont hold out too much hope that they will do it anytime soon. I guess my best bet stll is to try & learn Gearman, go online & purchase the German edition. With my luck though, as soon as I have learned the language the set will suddenly appear in bookstores, neatly translated
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By Nancy on July 28, 2013
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
I feel like I've not only met Hermann, but have come to know (and love) him through these letters. The letters cover a wide expanse of time - from his adolescence to old age - and become quite autobiographical. He was an brilliant (and somewhat arrogant) boy humbled by witnessing both world wars and surviving difficult personal struggles. He saw the world through the filter of art - which seemed to both expose and protect him - simultaneously. He lived and wrote as a spiritual teacher, and - though decidedly Christian - was heavily influenced by the Eastern traditions of Hinduism and Buddhism. The beautiful thing about his letters was the way he adapted them to meet the needs of his various readers. It seems that he was a very perceptive man. I had read and enjoyed a number of his books in the past, and I was so pleased to finally meet him! Wish it could have been face to face!
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