also see the weekly standard's irmscher piece
As the translator of three Hesse novels – Beneath the Wheel, Peter Camenzind and, with conviction, DEMIAN – perhaps you will allow me to comment on what I regard as the customary superficial manner in which Adam Kirsch discusses the work of German language authors.
I came to translating Hesse, via Roger KIein, Harper & Row editor, as someone who had translated some Brecht, stylistically demanding later Ernst Juenger with Louise Bogan, and as a Musil translator [ also a dissertation subject, to whose work I was drawn notby the customary literary references but via my interest in physic, A. Mach] and thus I found Peter Camenzind as well Beneath the Wheel to be stylistically anachronistic thus unrewarding on the linguistic level, whereas Demian, written under the aegis of a Jungian analysis -Kirsch absolutely needed to note as much if he read the book - that familiarized this translator with the concept and practice of projection, was also stylistically more agreeable.
Thus what I chiefly find lacking in Kirsch’s reductionism of Hesse’s life and work to an on-going adolescent revolt is not only sufficient note he takes of the development of Hesse’s lead characters from Camenzind to via Emil Sinclair and Goldmund and beyond, -by way of the wild civilizationally unhappy Harry Haller, the Steppenwolf, who goes - prophetically it evidently seemed to Hesse’s American followers through a wild drug- & sex filled revolt against modern life
[“ The story in large part reflects a profound crisis in Hesse's spiritual world during the 1920s while memorably portraying the protagonist's split between his humanity and his wolf-like aggression and homelessness.]] Kirssch also fail to note Hesse's– his development as an artist from moderately realistic beginnings to the very considerable complexity of Steppenwolf and to the amazing formalism of Narciss and Goldmund. That is, maybe you never find another story but your adolescent trauma but you can find ever more beautiful and interesting ways of telling it & that is where your efforts and neglect of your wife are then devoted to!
However, Kirsch is spot on in noting that Hesse never wanted followers, I recall editing a selection of Hesse letters for Farrar, Straus, a firm to which I then brought two of my translations and 20 Hesse titles after Roger Klein ended his own life prematurely, letters where Hesse keeps advising all those who beseech him that they are asking the wrong person. Hesse I think will be an author who will continue to be fruitfully read , as he was by the American kids of the 60 and 70, who project their own wishes onto a writer who certainly knew a thing of two about projecting within the on-going American night mare. Sincerely, Michael Roloff, Seattle