How nice, after three chronological tales of the lives of book-smart but socially hopeless rural men (Peter Camenzind, Beneath the Wheel, Gertrude), to find something different. All three previous books featured charismatic (but tragic) urban friends in contrast to the dull hero; Rosshalde‘s hero, Johann Veraguth, a painter, has more character and vibrancy than his predecessors, at least in the life of his mind. His marriage may be a sham, but once there was love. He still has an enigmatic friend who shows him how meaningful life can be, but in this case the friend comes to no tragic end, and Veraguth follows him with little hesitation. After the little matter of the family that’s holding him to his home is dealt with rather tidily.

The failed marriage at the centre of the story was autobiographical, apparently, as are many details, although much of what I’ve found on that seems to be inaccurate, so I’m not going to reproduce it here. But above is a picture of the house Hesse had built around the time he was writing his early novels and struggling in his marriage and flirting with the East.

The maturity of Hesse’s style and philosophy is evident here, even though this was early days. My next read should be Knulp, which was the last novel before Hesse changed tack completely with Demian, but I’m off to India soon, so I’ll step away from the order a bit and read Siddhartha, naturally.

(Image source: Hermann Hesse Haus Gaienhofen)


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