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Hermann Hesse and Japan

A Study in Reciprocal Transcultural Reception


Neale Cunningham

Hermann Hesse once stated that his Japanese readers understood him best among all his readers worldwide – a little known fact among readers of Hesse in the West. This book examines Hesse’s reception in Japan and of Japan in the context of a transcultural reception process. It traces the different phases of Hesse’s reception in Japan and contextualises this reception in terms of the regional setting of East Asia and the cultural authority of imperial Japan. The role of transcultural mediators as figurative nodes in the world literature system is analysed, with a particular focus on the key role played by Hesse’s «Japanese» cousin, Wilhelm Gundert. Finally, Hesse’s epistolary exchange with his Japanese readers is unfolded to show how deep affinities arise, which result in the creation of a type of «spiritual» capital. This epistolary exchange, together with the translation of the Zen bible Pi Yen Lu by Wilhelm Gundert, inspired Hesse to write a series of three unique Zen-poems as a means of expressing a lifelong search for transcendence.

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Bibliographic information published by Die Deutsche Nationalbibliothek

Die Deutsche Nationalbibliothek lists this publication in the Deutsche Nationalbibliografie; detailed bibliographic data is available on the Internet at

A catalogue record for this book is available from the British Library.

Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data

Names: Cunningham, Neale, 1958- author.

Title: Hermann Hesse and Japan : a study in reciprocal transcultural reception / Neale Cunningham.

Description: Oxford ; New York : Peter Lang, [2021] | Series: Transnational cultures, 2297-2854 ; vol. no. 4 | Includes bibliographical references and index.

Identifiers: LCCN 2020057363 (print) | LCCN 2020057364 (ebook) | ISBN 9781789973686 (hardback) | ISBN 9781789973693 (ebook) | ISBN 9781789973709 (epub) | ISBN 9781789973716 (mobi)

Subjects: LCSH: Hesse, Hermann, 1877-1962--Appreciation--Japan. | Hesse, Hermann, 1877-1962--Knowledge and learning. | Japan. | Hesse, Hermann, 1877-1962--Friends and associates. | Gundert, Wilhelm, 1880-

Classification: LCC PT2617.E85 Z6758 2021 (print) | LCC PT2617.E85 (ebook) | DDC 838/.91209--dc23

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