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Hermann Hesse

Between the Perils of Politics and the Allure of the Orient


Joseph Mileck

Moral conviction, not political inclination, determined Hermann Hesse’s participation in German sociopolitical matters. The belief that artists, the ever-alert guardians of human values and cultural heritage, were society’s admonishing conscience, determined Hesse’s sociopolitical engagement, fashioned his considerable body of political articles, and made him a chronic persona non grata in Germany. It was likewise not the spiritual lure of the Orient that drew Hesse eastward – for him, the East was less a spiritual journey than an aesthetic adventure. Although Hesse remained a Westerner in thought and belief, his art acquired an enriching exotic cast and his essays and reviews an added Eastern dimension.
This bipartite study focuses upon these two evolving major engagements – Hesse’s continuous adult sociopolitical involvements and his lifelong preoccupation with Eastern thought and belief, both firmly rooted in his family’s passionate Pietist dedication to the service of God and humankind – and their impact upon both Hesse and his writings.