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Spaces for Happiness in the Twentieth-Century German Novel

Mann, Kafka, Hesse, Jünger


Alan Corkhill

This book offers an in-depth study of the rich tapestry of happiness discourses in well-known philosophical novels by Thomas Mann, Franz Kafka, Hermann Hesse and Ernst Jünger, published between 1922 and 1949. The study is prompted, in part, by an awareness that despite the interdisciplinarity of happiness research, Western literary scholarship has paid scant attention to fictionalized constructs of happiness. Each of the four chapters uses extended textual analysis to explore the sites in which happiness ( Glück) and serenity ( Heiterkeit) are sought, experienced, narrated, reflected upon and enacted. The author theorizes, with particular reference to Bachelard and Foucault, the interfaces between interior and exterior spaces and states of well-being. In addition to providing new interpretive perspectives on the canonical novels themselves, the book makes a significant contribution to a broader history of the idea of happiness through the appraisal of key intellectual cross-currents and traditions, both Western and Eastern, underpinning the novelists’ varied and nuanced conceptualizations and aesthetic representations of happiness.


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CHAPTER THREE - Hermann Hesse: The Quest for the Happiness of Self-Knowledge 75


Chapter Three Hermann Hesse: The Quest for the Happiness of Self-Knowledge Now and then it is good to pause in our pursuit of happiness and just be happy — Guillaume Apollinaire, 1880–1918 Happiness is the absence of the striving for happiness — Chuang-Tzu, 350 BCE Siddhartha (1922): Towards the Joy of Flow Hermann Hesse’s novel-length Indian tale Siddhartha, commenced in Montagnola in the winter of 1919 and published in 1922, aptly lends itself to an interrogation of the various spaces for happiness in three Eastern faith systems – Brahmanic Hinduism, Buddhism and Taoism. Hesse obtained first-hand rudimentary insights into Hinduism and Buddhism during a three-month visit to the Indian subcontinent in 1911, where his grandfather had served as a missionary. He subsequently developed a deep scholarly interest in Oriental sacred texts, but with no reading knowledge of Sanskrit, navigated these ancient sources in translation. At the beginning of the tale, the private space occupied by the wealthy and privileged Brahmin’s son constitutes something of a spiritual void. While able to bring joy to others, there is no joy in his heart, so we are told. The young Hindu, a member of the highly educated sacerdotal caste, has come to reject the comfortable certainties and predictability of the daily ritual prayers and absolutions based on Vedic scripture, most notably the 76 Chapter Three Upanishads (1400 BCE) and the Bhagavad Gita (ca. 5–2 ca. BCE). “Gaben die Opfer Glück?” (S 9;1 “Did the sacrifices give happiness?” Si 75),2 he asks...

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