Basel

In the course of Hermann Hesse's life, there were two Basel periods: his childhood from 1881 to 1886, and the time he worked there as a bookseller from 1899 to 1904. The brief years spent in Basel - father Hesse had been posted to Switzerland from Calw to edit the missionary magazine - remained firmly etched in the memory of the little Hermann: "Home for me was Swabia and Basel on the Rhine," Hesse later wrote. His Basler Kinderzeit - the family lived on Müllerweg - was immortalized both fondly and vividly in Hermann Lauscher and in the story Der Bettler. Yet it was also a phase marked by the first major conflicts with parental authority. "The boy has life, enormous strength, a powerful will, and really quite astounding powers of comprehension for his four years. Where will it all lead?" his mother noted in her diary on March 27, 1882, before going on to complain about his passionately persistent and tempestuous character. In 1886, the family returns to Calw. Not until he is an adult does Hesse see his "favourite town" once again. After completing his time as an apprentice and assistant in Tübingen, he goes to Basel in September 1899 to work as a bookseller. "I had no other wish but to come to Basel," Hesse writes in his Basler Erinnerungen. He first works in the Reich'sche Buchhandlung, and from April 1901 in the Wattenwyl antiquarian bookstore, where he remains until spring of 1903. In Basel, he sought and found a new, intellectually stimulating environment, and he manages to build up a circle of educated and culturally active acquaintances. He is frequently to be encountered at the home of historian and state archivist Rudolf Wackernagel, and devotes himself to educating himself in the fine arts, visits to the Basel Academy of Art becoming one of his favourite pastimes. While in Basel, Hesse also discovers his love of travelling and hiking. In spring of 1901, he spends two months travelling in the north of Italy. During his second journey to Italy 1903, he is accompanied by Basel-based photographer Maria Bernouilli. A year later, the two marry and decide to go and live in the country. In Gaienhofen on Lake Constance, they come across an empty farmhouse, and on August 10, 1904 they move in.

 

Childhood in Basel 1881-1886