Ehefrau Ruth Wenger

© Suhrkamp Verlag, Berlin

In spring of 1919, Hesse leaves Berne and moves to Casa Camuzzi in Montagnola, where he immerses himself in work "like a candle burning at both ends," and discovers painting as a source of pleasure and delight. Days spent discovering nature, sharing the enjoyment of life displayed by the people of the Tessin region, or going on extended walks, and nights spent drinking wine, alternate with periods of despair, restlessness, and depression. Time and again, he travels to Zurich and Basel on lecture tours. It is during this time that the attractive singer Ruth Wenger, who spends the summers in Carona with her parents, enters his life. In the biographies, one discovers precious little about Ruth's person, character and interests, yet one thing is certain: that Hesse slowly allows himself to be integrated into the life of the Wenger family and stays with them regularly. A close and enduring friendship develops to Ruth's mother, the writer Lisa Wenger. Statements about the nature of the relationship between Hesse and the 20-year-old Ruth Wenger are in part contradictory. Whether a strong sexual attraction really did exist, or whether this was an aspect that remained more in the background, or whether it was more likely to have been a father/daughter relationship, remains unclear - whatever the case, the two were only rarely able to bear each other's proximity for long. They saw each often but only for short periods, either in Carona or Zurich, where Ruth was studying song. In 1924, they married, yet without much changing in terms of their day-to-day life. Ruth lived chiefly for her many pets - dogs, cats, parrots - which increasingly got on Hesse's nerves. The frequent presence of the Wenger parents was something Hesse felt to be liberating, since this freed him of responsibility on the one hand but also, over time, made him feel superfluous. Both partners soon began to show signs of unhappiness yet it was to be another three years until their divorce in 1927.