Max E. Noordhoorn
Hermann Hesse, the German-Swiss poet, novelist, and essayist known for his psychologically perceptive works, was born in Calw, Württemberg, to a family of missionaries. He studied theology at the Maulbronn Seminary, which he left after only six months in 1892, signaling the beginning of a three-year-long crisis. He became an apprentice mechanic in Calw and a bookseller in Tübingen and then worked in the book trade in Basel before turning to a career in writing. Not having enjoyed formal university training, he educated himself by reading voraciously in world and German literature, art history, and history, as well as in Eastern and Western philosophy. His family's Pietist tradition and scholarly Oriental background, as well as his introspective-analytical bent, shaped his thought and his work, which is strongly autobiographical in nature. His early writings are rooted in the German Romantic and regionalist traditions.
Hesse established himself with his wife, Maria Bernouilli, in Gaienhofen on Lake Constance in 1904. Here he enjoyed the company of artists, undertook lecture tours, and traveled often to Italy, which stimulated his interest in art. In 1912 he moved to Bern, where he lived until 1919, when he decided to leave his family (his wife was suffering from progressive mental illness) to settle in Montagnola (Ticino, Switzerland). Rosshalde (1914) is the setting for a novel depicting the illness and death of a boy, symbolic of the breakdown of a marriage. He lived in Montagnola from 1919 on, divorcing his wife in 1923. He was briefly married to Ruth Wenger (1924-27) before entering into a lasting marriage to Ninon Dolbin in 1931.
During World War I he worked in the German-Swiss Center for Prisoners of War in Bern and established a journal for internees. Being an ardent pacifist, he condemned chauvinism and militarism. He had possessed Swiss citizenship up to age fourteen and resumed it in 1923. Following the war, he made a plea for