Family

Family Hesse, left Hermann © Suhrkamp Verlag, Berlin

"I cannot tell my story without going a long way back. If it were possible, I would go back much farther still to the very earliest years of my childhood, and beyond them to my family origins." It is with these words that Hermann Hesse begins his work Demian. And they apply not only to the figure in his novel but also to Hesse himself. One element resonating throughout the whole of Hermann Hesse's literary work is, in fact, the quest for one's own identity and the bid to understand and get to grips with that identity once discovered. It is virtually impossible to understand Hermann Hesse the writer without knowing something about his origins and the family roots that shaped him, a theme to which he returns time and time again. It was the Basel Mission that brought together the Swabian (Gundert) and Baltic (Hesse) family members in Calw. The world into which Hesse is born is one that, while inwardly stifling, has a more unconfined side, the stern mood of pietism prevailing in the town of his birth and parental home having been offset by the erudition and cosmopolitan character of his parents and grandparents. His two grandfathers, whose name he himself bore, had a quite particular influence on him.