They glided in with such a light and nimble tread that they scarcely left a footprint behind them, and built them- selves a little prison in the golden grain, which towered up so high above their heads when they sat down that they could see nothing in the world but the azure sky above. They embraced and kissed each other incessantly, until they finally became tired, or whatever one chooses to call it when the kissing of two lovers outlives itself for a moment or two and, right in the intoxication of the flowering season, ominously suggests the transitoriness of all life.
–A Village Romeo and Juliet, Gottfried Keller
I went over to the window. She too stood up and looked at me. Her eyes were steady and grave, and for a long time she did not avert them.
“Don’t you remember that time in the garden?” I asked.
“Yes, I remember.”
“Helene, that day I thought you loved me. And now I have to go.”
–The Marble Works, Hermann Hesse
“Walk to the Paradise Garden,” from the opera A Village Romeo and Juliet by Frederick Delius; Sir Andrew Davis conducting the BBC Symphony Orchestra at Last Night of the Proms 2000
They followed the others into the smoky, disreputable cafe. Gloomy, who had already ordered champagne, dropped lazily down on a sofa. Lauscher was chalking his billiard cue. The stranger picked up another. He played brilliantly.
–November Night, Hermann Hesse
Now, first of all, ’tis necessary
To show you people making merry,
That you may see how lightly life can run.
Each day to this small folk’s a feast of fun;
Not over-witty, self-contented,
Still round and round in circle-dance they whirl,
As with their tails young kittens twirl.
If with no headache they’re tormented,
Nor dunned by landlord for his pay,
They’re careless, unconcerned, and gay.
–Faust: A Tragedy, Goethe
Auerbach’s Cellar, Graphic weekly (1875)
I glimpsed a group of slender young women playing with a gilded ball. Divided into two camps, they battled gracefully for possession of the glittering bauble that a laughing young girl kept tossing high in the air.
–The Island Dream, Hermann Hesse (translated by Ralph Manheim)
Hesse’s writing was heavily inspired by other literary sources. His first short story, The Island Dream, is clearly inspired by Odysseus’s visit with the Phaeacians. In Book 5 of The Odyssey, Odysseus washes up on a beach, where he discovers a playful group of women in Book 6. The beautiful Nausicaa is the only one who isn’t freaked out by the hairy old man, thanks to Athena’s matchmaking.
So the noble Odysseus crept out from the bushes, after breaking off with his great hand a leafy bough from the thicket to conceal his naked manhood. Then he advanced on them like a mountain lion who sallies out, defying wind and rain in the pride of his power, with fire in his eyes, to hunt down the oxen or sheep or pursue the wild deer.
–The Odyssey, Homer (translated by E.V. Rieu)
Yikes. A tad more aggressive than young Hesse’s placid adventurer.
Nausicaa, William McGregor Paxton (1937)
I was going to organize the list in some logical manner, such as alphabetized by author, but that would quickly land me in Austenland, and I’m not quite ready to get bogged down there. Then I realized, hey, it’s Banned Books Week! What better way to start than with a banned book? There are two books on the list that have been banned, at least that I’m aware of. One is, of course, Ulysses, but if I start with that, I’m sunk before I’ve even begun. The other is Call of the Wild, but I’ve read that in the past couple of years, so I’d like to leave that for a while. (According to Banned Books Awareness, it was banned by fascist governments for being too radical, and also because Jack London was a notorious socialist. It’s also been banned by sensitive parents who thought it was a children’s book because it was told from a dog’s point of view. Ugh, the stupidity.)
Luckily (for me alone), a Texas school board chose this week to ban, among others, Siddhartha by Hermann Hesse. Apparently they missed the point of Banned Books Week.
The books were banned from classrooms because parents complained about, mostly, sex, as well as some other ridiculous things, and the school board acquiesced. Siddhartha was banned because of premarital sex and also it depiction of Buddhist philosophy. Not sure what specifically about its depiction is offensive — that it’s inaccurate or offensive, or just that it’s there? — but I hope to discover that soon. Continue reading Author One: Hermann Hesse