“Masked Ball”


Masked Ball

-“Masked Ball,” Hermann Hesse, 1926

While I lived like a young man of the world, danced a lot, took part everywhere in the superficial pleasures of the modern world which I had previously not known at all and often found charming in their naive boisterousness – at the very same time I was constantly concerned with the most serious problems that life had given me.

-Hesse in a letter dated 1926, Hermann Hesse: A Pictorial Biography, 


Life Story Briefly Told

Hesse family 1889

From my thirteenth year on, it was clear to me that I wanted to be either a poet or nothing at all…. It was permissible and even considered an honor to be a poet; that is, to be successful and famous as a poet – unfortunately by that time one was usually dead. But to become a poet was impossible, and to want to become one was ridiculous and shameful, as I very soon found out.

Hermann Hesse: A Pictorial Biography, Volker Michels

[Image: Hesse (far left) and family, 1889 (age 12); source:]



“The scorpion, however, dangerous though he was and hidden no doubt somewhere within an inch of me, was all the same not so bad perhaps. Possibly he might even betoken something friendly. It seemed to me extremely likely that he had something to do with Molly. He might be a kind of messenger from her — or an heraldic beast, dangerously and beautifully emblematic of woman and sin. Might not his name be perhaps Vulpius?”

Steppenwolf, Hermann Hesse

[Image: Christiane Vulpius by Goethe]

Steppenwolf – Goethe

V0002295 Johann Wolfgang von Goethe. Line engraving by C. Hess after

“It was an engraving and it represented the poet Goethe as an old man full of character, with a finely chiseled face and a genius’ mane. Neither the renowned fire of his eyes nor the lonely tragic expression beneath the courtly whitewash was lacking…Perhaps I found it exasperating only because of a certain pretentious virtuosity. In any case, and whatever the cause, this empty and self-satisfied presentation of the aged Goethe shrieked at me at once as a fatal discord, exasperated and oppressed as I was already.”

Steppenwolf, Hermann Hesse

[Image: Johann Wolfgang von Goethe. Line engraving by C. Hess after F. G. von Kügelgen, 1810]