Hermann Hesse
By: Joshua Glenn | Categories: HiLo Heroes, Radium Age SF

In the Sixties and Seventies, American countercultural types embraced certain novels — Siddhartha (1922), Steppenwolf (1927), Narcissus and Goldmund (1930), Journey to the East (1932) — by the German-born Swiss author HERMANN HESSE (1877-1962). The Magic Theatre in San Francisco, not to mention the prog/hard rock bands Yes, Kansas, Hawkwind, and Steppenwolf, paid tribute to Hesse’s shamanistic proto-existentialism; that is, to his obsession with the individual’s noble, alienating quest for “authenticity.” Post-Seventies, we’ve learned to think of Hesse as a Salinger-esque author of quatsch coming-of-age romances beloved by adolescents and adultescents. In fact, Hesse was a psychonaut who roamed far and wide in his travels and studies; an experimentalist (Steppenwolf is a Cubist fiction); a friend of Dadaist Hugo Ball; and the author of a terrific philosophical novel for which all his others were preliminary studies. Written during the 1930s, The Glass Bead Game (1943, aka Magister Ludi) is a Radium Age science fiction that imagines a 25th-century community (Castalia) whose members are dedicated to studying all Eastern and Western arts and scholarship — in order to dialectically synthesize them in a complex game. In the end, Hesse’s protagonist, Knecht, who has become the Magister Ludi, decides that this realization of the utopian Argonaut Folly for which Nietzsche pleads in Human, All Too Human is an ambiguous utopia, and quits it. So much for synthesis!

ALSO BORN THIS DATE: Lindsay Lohan.

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READ MORE about the Psychonauts generation (1874-83).

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In 2012–2013, HiLoBooks serialized and republished (in gorgeous paperback editions, with new Introductions) 10 forgotten Radium Age science fiction classics! For more info: HiLoBooks.

MORE RADIUM AGE SCI FI ON HILOBROW: HiLoBooks homepage! | What is Radium Age science fiction? | Radium Age Supermen | Radium Age Robots | Radium Age Apocalypses | Radium Age Telepaths | Radium Age Eco-Catastrophes | Radium Age Cover Art (1) | SF’s Best Year Ever: 1912 | Radium Age Science Fiction Poetry | Enter Highbrowism | Bathybius! Primordial ooze in Radium Age sf | War and Peace Games (H.G. Wells’s training manuals for supermen) | J.D. Beresford | Algernon Blackwood | Edgar Rice Burroughs | Karel Čapek | Buster Crabbe | August Derleth | Arthur Conan Doyle | Charlotte Perkins Gilman | Cicely Hamilton | Hermann Hesse | William Hope Hodgson | Aldous Huxley | Inez Haynes Irwin | Alfred Jarry | Jack Kirby (Radium Age sf’s influence on) | Murray Leinster | Gustave Le Rouge | Gaston Leroux | David Lindsay | Jack London | H.P. Lovecraft | A. Merritt | Maureen O’Sullivan | Sax Rohmer | Paul Scheerbart | Upton Sinclair | Clark Ashton Smith | E.E. “Doc” Smith | Olaf Stapledon | John Taine | H.G. Wells | Jack Williamson | Stanisław Ignacy Witkiewicz | S. Fowler Wright | Philip Gordon Wylie | Yevgeny Zamyatin

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Joshua Glenn is an author, publisher, and semiotic analyst. He is co-author (with Mark Kingwell and the cartoonist Seth) of THE IDLER'S GLOSSARY and THE WAGE SLAVE'S GLOSSARY, co-editor of the object-oriented story collections TAKING THINGS SERIOUSLY and (with Rob Walker) SIGNIFICANT OBJECTS, and co-author (with Elizabeth Foy Larsen) of the family activities guide UNBORED and three forthcoming spinoffs, including UNBORED Games. He is editor of HILOBROW and publisher of the Radium Age science fiction imprint HiLoBooks. Also: Glenn manages a secretive online community known as the Hermenautic Circle; he is founding editor of the e-book club Save the Adventure; and he's a frequent co-host of Boing Boing's podcast GWEEK. In the ’00s, Glenn was an editor, columnist, and blogger for the Boston Globe's IDEAS section, he co-founded the international semiotics website SEMIONAUT, and contributed to CABINET, SLATE, and elsewhere. In the ’90s, he published the high-lowbrow zine/journal HERMENAUT, worked as a dotcom and magazine editor, and contributed to THE BAFFLER, FEED, and elsewhere. His publishing company is King Mixer, LLC; and his semiotic analysis consultancy is Semiovox LLC. He lives in Boston with his wife and children.