Casa Camuzzi

© Suhrkamp Verlag, Berlin

In May 1919, Hermann Hesse leaves Berne and moves south sans family. In the town of Montagnola above Lake Lugano in Tessin, he discovers the picturesque Casa Camuzzi, a romantic little palace in which he rents three rooms. At the time, he himself is probably unaware of the fact that he has found a place in which to live until the end of his days. Montagnola marks the beginning of a decisive shift in the life of the 42-year-old Hesse, who is going through a deep personal and artistic crisis. His first marriage has failed, cracks have begun to appear in his image of the world following the First World War, and the savings he has in German bank accounts are being eaten up by inflation. And as a writer, too, Hesse is facing a debacle. Yet all this changes very abruptly under the Mediterranean sun. The pent-up psychic tension is quite literally released into a burst of creative energy and production that lays the foundation for his literary fame. The first summer is also the summer of Klingsor (a mirror image of Hesse), who paints and, like Hesse, lives in Casa Camuzzi. Hesse, too, begins to paint with passion and intensity after moving to Tessin, producing countless brightly coloured aquarelles depicting the Mediterranean scenery around him. Yet this does not prevent him from writing. It is in his new home as a writer that his most important works are produced. In addition to Klingsors letzter Sommer, these include Siddhartha, Der Steppenwolf, and Narziss und Goldmund. After twelve years at Casa Camuzzi, Hesse moves to Casa Rossa, later Casa Hesse, which is given to Hesse and his third wife, Ninon, to use for as long as they live by their Zurich friends Elsy and Hans C. Bodmer. Now in his fifties, Hesse here writes, in tranquil and more composed frame of mind, his later works, most notably Das Glasperlenspiel (1943). As was the case in Gaienhofen, Hesse lives in harmony with nature, gardening being a natural and essential part of his everyday routine. Under National Socialism, Casa Hesse becomes a meeting point for the politically persecuted, among them Thomas Mann, Bertolt Brecht, and Heinrich Wiegand. Additionally, sackfuls of mail from readers arrive in Montagnola. Now that he has become a moral authority for many people, Hesse is an assiduous and highly disciplined correspondent who is said to have responded to more than 35,000 letters. On August 9, 1962, shortly after his 85th birthday, Hermann Hesse dies. He is burred in the St Abbondio cemetery.