Recollections of Martin Hesse

Tuesday, June 19, 1951

 

The last evening. We sit, the way we do every evening, at first without light in the library. When it gets dark, my father asks for light. Later, the full moon rises, and travels on its way in silence while we sit there together. I talk of Turu "Regenmacher" and father speaks of the moon. Of Bruno, for example, who as a little boy first saw the full moon, and then later saw it on the wane, and said: "Dri trampt!" As a little boy, Bruno once said something rather distressing that my father had often thought about since. After someone had died, Bruno wants to know something about death, and my father says to him that all people become old or sick, and then die. To which Bruno responds: "Yes, so why do they have to live?" This gets us talking about the miracle of all life. Reverence for this miracle, father explains, is piety. For him, it is in music that the process of waxing, waning, and dying - all those mysterious things such as, for example, a beautiful lunar landscape - is expressed most uniquely and most perfectly. All this is what he feels when listening to beautiful music. For father, the two greatest miracles are MUSIC and LANGUAGE.

 

He explains to me how mysterious language is, each word being charged with a thousand associations which, when written down, always create something entirely different from that which was intended. French, German, English, then Italian and Spanish, are the most brilliant and inspiring languages, while Finnish and Swedish, he says, are somewhat more primitive. Yet far loftier than all of our languages, he adds, is Greek. Father speaks of a young Jew from the Palatinate who was a visiting for several weeks and knew a lot of oriental languages. He also read the Bible in Hebrew.

 

He then spoke of the aging and dying of languages, and how peoples try, to varying degrees, to halt this process. "The force with which a sun (also a language) shoots its rays into the world is unable to last forever, for it will become old and faded and die." On more general subjects: father spoke of grandfather in Weissenstein, saying that he had been an original yet somewhat tyrannical and often angry man, while grandfather Gundert was a wise old scholarly type living a quiet, contemplative life.

 

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