Calw

The house in which Hermann Hesse was born

Hermann Hesse is born on July 2, 1877 in the Black Forest town of Calw, his birthplace having been the family home at Marktplatz 6, where his parents Marie (née Gundert) and Johannes Hesse had been living since 1874. Little Hermann is just four years old when his father, a missionary of Baltic German extraction, is posted to Basel to act as co-editor of the mission magazine. In 1886, the family returns to Calw, where the nine-year-old attends the "Reallyzeum." The family first lives in the house of the "Verlagsverein" publishing association and, later, in Ledergasse. The world into which Hermann Hesse is born is one that, while inwardly stifling, also has a more unconfined, cosmopolitan side to it. In 1890, he is sent to the Gymnasium in Göppingen to prepare for the "Landexamen." In these four years, and despite an unhappy time at school, Calw - blithely transfigured by Hesse into the "most beautiful town between Bremen and Naples, between Vienna and Singapore" - became the very epitome of home. His childhood and youth in Calw are motifs that recur in many of his poems and prose works. In 1906, his story Unterm Rad appears, a work that was written principally in Calw and is also set in the town. Similarly, Hermann Lauscher (1900) and Knulp (1915) are also set on the banks of the Nagold. "When I, as a poet, speak of a forest or river, of a meadow or valley, of the shade of a chestnut or the scent of pines, then it is the forest around Calw, the Nagold in Calw, the pine forests or the chestnuts of Calw that are meant, and also the market square, bridge and chapel, Bisschofstraße and Ledergasse, Brühl and Hirsauer Weg," writes Hermann Hesse of his Swabian home, which he disguised in his writings by calling it Gerbersau.