“The bird fights its way out of the egg. The egg is the world. Who would be born must first destroy a world.”
The marginalized, the lonely; those who are broken inside, and those who deal with demons in their heads and hell in their hearts, have been recognized in the works of Hermann Hesse. The German-Swiss author believed that everyone could identify with their fellow man and that it was okay not to fit into a perfectly structured world. His work reflects the anxieties of those who do not fit into the mold.
Hesse, who won the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1946, gives voice to the misunderstood hearts that believe they are the only ones in the world who have become leftover pieces of the world’s puzzle. He was a poet and novelist, and with his narrative, he managed to reach a public that knows that it is okay not to be the same as others, that it is not a mistake to feel marginalized, and that learning is the way to be able to find tranquility in restlessness.
Demian, Siddhartha, and Steppenwolf are some of his most famous works. Tortuous personalities define these stories; his protagonists feel tormented for not fitting in and try to find themselves through various means that are not always orthodox. On many occasions, they follow a path of vice to understand that the human being is more than that. His characters tend to collapse, but it doesn’t matter because they always have the option to get up and start again. They know that mistakes are not what define us but what they teach us.
Hermann Hesse’s Demian
Demian, written in 1919, is the work with which he marks his promising path: “There were many times I saw myself as a genius, many times as half insane. I was never able to share and join in the others’ pleasures.”
This sentence from the book perfectly exemplifies its protagonist, Emil Sinclair, a boy from a religious family where only what is right in the eyes of God is allowed. His life changes when he meets Max Demian, a stranger who opens a path to different ways of thinking that he had never considered before. He takes away the burden of fear but curses it because it opens his eyes to knowledge and the truth that comes with it.
The novel explores other theories about religion, a knowledge of the world, and the human condition that will surprise the reader at every moment; it portrays, with impeccable skill, the passage from childhood to youth, the existential doubts that define an individual and the dialectic between good and evil.
Demian is a reflection of the Christian values that the author’s parents instilled in him in his childhood, of the doubts and fears he had and, above all, of the pain and suffering he went through when he faced adolescence; Hesse wrote the novel while going through a terrible depression.
Most of us have felt like strangers in this world; many of us have questioned whether the path we are following is the right one, or even doubted who we are. That is why Hermann Hesse’s works seem relatable to some readers because it is possible to connect with the human emotions he describes. We all have an Emil Sinclair inside, that person who never stops questioning what surrounds him.
Translated by María Isabel Carrasco Cara Chards
Photos from Unsplash: Peter Chiykowski / Egidijus Bielskis / Levi Meir Clancy