Hermann Hesse | Highly important series of 62 letters and postcards to Stefan Zweig, 1903-1938
Highly important series of sixty-two letters and postcards by Hesse to Stefan Zweig, 1903-1938
comprising: 18 autograph letters signed, 11 typed letters signed, 29 autograph postcards signed, 3 typed letters and one typed postcard signed ("Hermann Hesse"; "H. Hesse"), FIVE LETTERS WITH DRAWINGS BY HESSE in watercolour and ink or watercolour and pencil, and FOUR TYPESCRIPT POEMS: SYLVESTER, BESINNUNG,NÄCHTLICHER REGEN, AND THE GEDICHTFRAGMENT DES JUNGEN JOSEF KNECHT FROM DAS GLASPERLENSPIEL ('Gelegentlich ergreifen wir die Feder'), HESSE'S LAST MASTERPIECE, three signed and inscribed to Zweig ("...Für Stefan Zweig mit herzlichem Dank für Mozart's 'Veilchen'...Hermann Hesse..."), ONE OF THE POEMS WITH A PEN AND WATERCOLOUR DRAWING
ABOUT HIS WORKS, including Peter Camenzind (noting that it will disappoint him, since it is clumsy and coarse), Demian, Knulp (which he refers to, in addition to Rosshalde and some of his poems, as his favourite works), Siddhartha (acknowledging the similarities to Zweig's Die Augen des ewigen Bruders), Die Marmorsäge, Hans Amstein, and Diesseits, mentioning Zweig's writings, including Paul Verlaine, Jeremias, Die Liebe der Erika Ewald (which he criticizes for its overly lyrical language), Tersites, Brennendes Geheimnis, Amok, Kleine Chronik, and Erasmus, referring to his 1902 collection of poems and requesting Zweig's anthology of Verlaine translations, observing early on in the letters that he is not at all suited to literary correspondences, expressing his sense of alienation from his contemporaries, discussing in frank fashion his character, his isolated way of life, his love of Italian novelists and cities, and, above all, nature, MENTIONING HIS JOY IN PAINTING (his "summer occupation [trans.]"), his education, his preference of birdsong, water and wind to music, his love of the society of artists and architects, his dislike of men of letters, actors and musicians ("painters are always talking about nature, the others always about their works or about colleagues they envy [trans.]"), his dissatisfaction with his work, his rejection of criticism, his fame, the mental illness and institutionalization of his first wife Maria Bernoulli, the break-up of his family and the loss of his children, asking him not to mention this to anyone, explaining candidly the influences on his artistic development, describing the difficulties of writing, his living arrangements at Calw, his work with German prisoners of war, noting that he is not put out by the fact that his little books lie around in tied-up bundles at the publisher's since he realizes he is an odd fellow who has nothing to say to the world, referring to Zweig's doctorate, Lao Tse ("...jetzt in unsrem guten armen Deutschland sehr Mode..."), Camill Hoffmann, Frans Masereel, Ginzkey, Ricarda Huch, Alexander von Bernus, Verhaeren, Wilhelm von Scholz, Ludwig Finckh, Fleischer, Rolland ("...ein prächtiger Mensch..."), Brahms, Ernst Bloch, Albert Ehrenstein, Christoph Schrempf, Fischer Verlag, his marriage plans ("...der Vater sagt sehr rüppig nein..."), communism, his productivity, day-to-day activities, education, literary preferences, travels, and many other matters
...Nach Monaten, die zum Teil furchtbar waren, ist meine Frau gemütskrank geworden und ist seit kurzem in einer Heilanstalt, der Haushalt läßt sich nicht mehr halten, ich muß die Kinder weggeben, zwei sind schon fort. Der Tumult in der Welt und die Unsicherheit aller Zukunft wirken, wennschon im Moment wenig empfunden, auch mit. Ich sitze in tiefen Sorgen allein. Erzählen Sie indeß niemand davon...Sie haben in Ihrem lieben Brief vieles ausgesprochen und angedeutet, das mir zeigt, wie gut Sie mich kennen. Sie haben auch überall richtig gefühlt. Die Schwankung in meiner Produktion, die seit Jahren überwunden ist, ging im Grunde darauf zurück, daß es mir seinerzeit, nach dem ersten Erfolge, zu gut ging. Das ist gründlich anders geworden, ich habe seither aus vielen dunklen Bechern getrunken und bin, vom Inneren noch abgesehen, so viel leidend gewesen, daß ich untergegangen wäre, hätte ich nicht einen festen Punkt in mir selbst gefunden, der mir die Welt entbehrlicher macht. Das ist während des Krieges vollends ganz zum bewußten Erlebnis geworden...Von mir aus gesehen, würde mein Weg etwa so lauten: In der frühen Jugend gelang es mir nicht, aus Trotz gegen Elterliches, innerhalb der religiös-geistigen Welt, in der ich aufwuchs, mich zu entwickeln, d.h. auf meine Art und ohne Verlust meiner Persönlichkeit ein Christ zu werden. Dagegen war es leicht, ein Dichter zu werden, und so blieb mir die Poesie lange Jahre hindurch ein Paradies, in das ich die Konflikte meines persönlich-geistigen Lebens nie ganz herein ließ...
together with some prints of Hesse's poems: Orgelspiel, 4 leaves, no place or date; Leben einer Blume, 2 leaves, no place or date; and Kriegerisches Zeitalter, signed and inscribed by Hesse ("Herzlich grüsst Sie Ihr H Hesse"), 1 leaf, no place or date
the letters comprising c.115 pages in all, various sizes, three on printed stationery of the Deutsche Kriegsgefangenen-Fürsorge, WITH A PRINTED VISITING CARD INSCRIBED AND SIGNED BY HESSE (referring to Zweig's book on Verlaine), 4 pages of photocopies, including a photocopy of a review by Zweig of Hesse's novel Peter Camenzind, the letters dated Basel, Calw, Gaienhofen, Montagnola, Vienna, Bern, Berlin, Zürich and elsewhere, c.January 1903-27 July 1938
THIS IS PERHAPS THE MOST SIGNIFICANT COLLECTION OF HESSE'S LETTERS EVER TO BE OFFERED AT AUCTION.
AN HISTORIC SERIES CHARTING THE CRITICAL EARLY YEARS OF ONE OF THE TWENTIETH CENTURY'S MOST INFLUENTIAL AND INSPIRATIONAL WRITERS.
As an apparently complete documentation of a correspondence with a renowned literary figure - the Austrian novellist, humanist and collector Stefan Zweig - this series of letters would be important enough. Its truly remarkable significance, one which can scarcely be overstated, lies in its witness to the beginnings of Hesse's journey as a writer, one which eventually led to his becoming the most-translated twentieth-century German author: the correspondence begins in the year before the appearance of Hesse's breakthrough novel, Peter Camenzind (1904), when the then impecunious and little-known writer was reaching out to his compeers for their support, and the majority of the letters were written well before the novels which made Hesse world famous - Siddhartha (1922), Steppenwolf (1927), and Das Glasperlenspiel (1943).
In the lengthy second letter (5 February 1903), which contains nothing less than a complete self-portrait of the writer, Hesse lays down the 'ground rules' for his communications with Zweig. He explains that he will not write regularly, but will always gratefully receive Zweig's missives: after all, he jokes, they are not intending to marry each other. He then proceeds with a highly detailed and confessional description of his character to date, his relationship to other people, to literature and above all to nature. Another much later letter (10 February 1923), provides a complementary outline of his personality, as well as detailing in confidential manner ("...nur ganz unter uns gesagt...") the influence of Eastern cultures on his work. Other notable highlights of these letters include Hesse's first quite direct criticism of Zweig's work (of his 1904 novella Die Liebe der Erika Ewald, which Hesse found overly lyrical and vague in its outline), and the descriptions of Hesse's first marriage, including a highly personal account (15 November 1918) of the traumatic consequences of its break-up. The last letter to Zweig, on a postcard dated 27 July 1938 (not published in Donald Prater's 1981 edition of the correspondence), was written under the shadow of the worsening political situation in Europe; four years later Zweig would be dead by his own hand, in exile in Brazil.
Included with the letters are four typescript poems sent by Hesse to Zweig, including one of Hesse's favourites from his last masterpiece Das Glasperlenspiel ("...ein Gedichtfragment des jungen Josef Knecht..."), and six small-format pen and watercolour drawings - beautiful images which not only adorn the individual letters and documents on which they are found, but mutually enrich and complement the text. For Hesse, as he wrote to Helene Welti in 1919, "producing with drawing pen and brush is the wine whose inebriating effect makes life warm and pleasant to an extent that it becomes bearable".
Eleven postcards and one letter contained here are not published in the 1981 edition of Hesse's letters to Zweig by Prater (he appears not to have had access to the originals), including a postcard illustrating a Singapore village, sent by Hesse during his journey of self-discovery to the East in 1911; furthermore, the dates assigned to twelve items in Prater's edition require revision: for instance, the postcard dated 31 July 1916, coloured by the dark days of war, was conjecturally dated by Prater 'c.summer 1910'.
Ursula and Volker Michels, edd., Hesse: Gesammelte Briefe I...II (Frankfurt am Main, 1979); Donald Prater, 'Stefan Zweig and Hermann Hesse', Modern Austrian Literature, vol.14 nos.3/4 (1981), pp.1-70
some creasing, a few small tears
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