Books: The Swabian Solipsist


by Ralph Freedman; Pantheon;432 pages; $15

In the late '60s and early '70s, the spine-cracked paperback editions of Hermann Hesse (Steppenwolf, Siddhartha, Magister Ludi) stood in a haphazard pile beside every mattress on the floor, next to the roach clips and Earth Shoes. The American counterculture claimed the Swabian mystic as a guru of its own discovery, its subterranean priest. That was perhaps an instructive case of self-absorbed audience imitating self-obsessed author. In fact, Hesse during his astonishingly long career had been appropriated by three other generations (in Germany,...

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