Hermann Hesse

Demian
  • Demian

  • Demian is a coming-of-age story that follows a young boy's maturation as he grapples with good and evil, lightness and darkness, and forges alternatives to the ever-present corruption and suffering that he sees all around him. Crucial to this development are his relationships with a series of older mentors, of who the titular Demian is the most charismatic, otherworldly and ultimately influential.

    Many have noted the influence of Jungian psychology upon this novel and it is fascinating to see Herman Hesse's interests in the self, existence and free will play out through through the lens of early twentieth-century Europe; Christian imagery and themes are ever-present, as is the shadow of the First World War.

Herman Hesse was born in southern Germany in 1877. Hesse concentrated on writing poetry as a young man, but his first successful book was a novel, Peter Camenzind (1904). During the war, Hesse was actively involved in relief efforts. Depression, criticism for his pacifist views, and a series of personal crises led Hesse to undergo psychoanalysis with J. B. Lang. Out of these years came Demian (1919), a novel whose main character is torn between the orderliness of bourgeois existence and the turbulent and enticing world of sensual experience. This dichotomy is prominent in Hesse's subsequent novels, including Siddhartha (1922), Steppenwolf (1927), and Narcissus and Goldmund (1930). Hesse worked on his magnum opus, The Glass Bead Game (1943), for twelve years. This novel was specifically cited when he was awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1946. Hesse died at his home in Switzerland in 1962.

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