Klingsor's Last Summer by Hermann Hesse; translated by Richard and Clara Winston
New York : Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 1970. First American edition. Stated "First printing, 1970" on the copyright page. Hardcover. 217 pages ; 22 cm. $6.50 dust jacket. Tape residue on front and rear endpaper, as well as the inner dust jacket flap. No markings to pages. Binding is firm.
Klingsor's Last Summer
Translated by Richard and Clara Winston
This is the first English-language edition of Klingsor's Last Summer, which was originally published in 1920, a year after Demian and two years before Siddhartha. The book has three parts: a story called A Child's Heart, followed by Klein and Wagner and Klingsor's Last Summer, Hesse's two longest and finest novellas. These novellas, along with Siddhartha (the three works were republished in 1931 under the title The Inward Way), axe the first fruits of the period that began in the spring of 1919, when Hesse settled in the Ticino mountain village of Montagnola to start a new life without his wife and children.
A Child's Heart, written in January 1919, in Basel, concerns the transmutation of a boy's innocence into knowledge of good and evil, and the painful guilt that accompanies this process. He is a boy who might very well become the bourgeois criminal Klein or the artist Klingsor.
Both Klein and Wagner (written in May-June 1919, immediately after the arrival in Montagnola) and Klingsor's Last Summer (written shortly after) are set in a southern landscape that reflects Hesse's life that summer; both novellas have heroes who are more or less Hesse's age at the time; and in both the hero's death is preceded by a grand vision of unity in which the polarities of life are resolved. In effect, the two works are complementary — different answers to the same question.
Friedrich Klein is a thief who would steal freedom. He breaks out of the worthy, middle-class world and makes his way through crime and despair to an ultimate insight into life's meaning. Hesse exposes himself mercilessly in this novella of escape, wrenching loose, letting go, and as a result Klein and Wagner bears detailed comparison with another masterpiece of the genre, Death in Venice.
The expressionist painter Klingsor is a more direct self-portrait of the Hesse of 1919. Klingsor, with death in his eyes, hears the music of decline and fall. ("We are immersed in doom, all of us; we must die, we must be born again. . . . We are going under, friends.") His intoxicated spirit is mirrored in the fervent, exuberant language—unparalleled elsewhere in Hesse—of the novella that gives its title to this volume. Richard and Clara Winston, the distinguished translators of The Glass Bead Game, have responded with a particular triumph of the translator's art.
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