RonPrice

RonPrice
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2012-11-03 06:54:20 (UTC)

HERMANN HESSE and ME

Part 1:

I do not feel quite the same about my writing as the philosopher Johann Wolfgang von Goethe(1749-1832) felt about his writing, namely, that it contains "fragments of a great confession."(1) Mine is a very modest confessionalism; its fragments do not amount to “fragments of a great confession.” Goethe's insisted on engagement with the outside world as the way to grow and develop. I agree with Goethe in this. Even though my life by my late adulthood, that is by the age of 60, as a writer and author, poet and publisher, editor and researcher, online blogger and journalist has more solitude than sociality, most of my 7 decades of living have been intensely engaged with the outside world: its people, places and things. Now my engagement is largely literary.

In contrast to that Genevan philosopher and writer, Jean Jacques Rousseau(1712-1778) whose writing was, among other things, a tortured subjectivity with sometimes embarrassing & annoying self-disclosures, my literary subjectivity in neither tortured nor characterized by embarrassing self-disclosures, at least from my point of view, if not from the point of view of all my readers.

Part 2:

My autobiographical work---to compare my writing with yet another famous writer--- is and has been for me what the novel was for German novelist Hermann Hesse(1877-1962). Hesse saw his novels as transformations of himself adapted to the circumstances of his fiction. I see my work, especially my poetry, in some ways like Hesse's, that is, as an "adventure of self-discovery"(2) shaped from and by autobiographical reality. There is also some sense of that personal transformation in the act of writing.

Hesse's literary undertaking was a reappraisal of his inner growth. Hesse said that he wrote mainly when he was enjoying a mood of contemplation and self-examination. So is this true of me and my writing. The literary ways and means of Hesse and I are similar in so many ways. He saw his writing as an objective observation, at least as objective as he could be, of his surroundings and himself; as an analysis of the passing moment both in the present and the past. His desire to think and write often focused on himself and the act of writing, on the psychology of the artist, the poet and the literary man; on the passion, the seriousness and some of the vanity of life which attempts, in part, the apparently impossible(3).

Both Hesse and I began our writing in our late teens and 20s. We each went from strength to strength with age, although Hesse was much more prolific than I from his 20s to 40s during which time I was occupied with 50 hours a week as a teacher, responsibilities in the Baha’i community, and a goodly portion of the simply social. He also won the Nobel Prize in literature and so any comparison of my writing with his is the comparison of a writer in the big leagues to a minor-league player.

Part 3:

In one essay, Hesse reflected wryly on his lifelong failure to acquire a talent for idleness. Boredom was not part of his experience. He speculated that his average daily correspondence, especially after 1946 when he received the Nobel Prize, was in excess of 150 pages. I, too, in my role as a teacher and as a student over more than 50 years, 1949 to 1999, have found idleness and boredom to be a serious issue in society and the source of many social problems. That sense of emptiness and lack of meaning is accompanied by a pursuit of, or passive waiting for, trivial, insubstantial stimulations and distractions that are ultimately unfulfilling. I recall experiencing boredom in about the mid-1950s in the long hot summer days. In the last 50 years boredom has not entered my life.

There is also a political nature and significance of the modern phenomenon of boredom whose historical manifestations can be traced back to Attic Greece in the West. Examining the decline in political participation through a wide historical lens, and attributing it to a transformation in Western culture that began under the Roman Empire, boredom has a long history.(4)-Ron Price with thanks to(1-2)Hermann Hesse, Autobiographical Writings, editor T Ziolkowski, Jonathan Cape, London, 1973, p.p. ix-xiii, (3)ibid., p.248, and (4)Isis Leslie, “From Idleness to Boredom: On the Historical Development of Modern Boredom,” Critical Studies: Essays on Boredom and Modernity, editors Barbara Dalle Pezze and Carlo Salzani , Rodopi Pub., pp. 35-59(25).

You died, Hermann, within days
of the death of Marilyn Monroe
& two weeks before I began my
travelling-pioneering life for a
Canadian Baha’i community with
its linking to my studies, my many
jobs,my entire long-life-narrative.

I had no idea that you had died, Hermann,
although I came to read your books in the
1970s and 1980s....I knew of your bipolar
disorder just today in the evening of life.(1)

Music and poetry filled your home as it
filled mine as child-adolescent…but you
withdrew into reading and writing-a-soul-
searching inwardness….in your teens and
twenties resulting in your winning fame &
the Nobel Prize in literature: 1946 at 69.

In a space of a few years you became,
mirabile dictu, the most widely read-(2)
and-translated European author of the
20th century inspite of your BPD,life-(3)
crises, headaches, & marital problems.

My withdrawal was in my late 50s, far
too late to ever be famous or read;(4)
your immense popularity did not come
until after your death. Who knows what
my story will be, Hermann? I wish you
well in your new home, presumably in the
land of lights, that mysterious Kingdom.

(1) Hermann Hesse's grandfather Hermann Gundert, a doctor of philosophy and fluent in multiple languages, encouraged Hermann to read widely, giving him access to his library. This library was filled with the works of world literature. All this instilled a sense in Hermann Hesse that he was a citizen of the world.*Wikipedia, 16/9/’12.

My maternal grandfather, Alfred Cornfield, an autodidact and an influence on my life until he died in 1958 when I was 13, was a deep reader and writer. His autobiography was published in 1980.1 He was one of several influences in addition to the Baha’i Faith that, by the end of my adolescence, instilled in me my sense that I was also a citizen of the world

(2) Latin meaning ‘marvellous to relate’
(3) bipolar 1 disorder
(4) By 2012 I had millions of readers in cyberspace but, on the world-wide-web with its 400 million sites and 2 billion users, my writing was a needle in a haystack.
(5) As Hesse put it in his The Glass Bead Game, the study of history means “submitting to chaos and nevertheless retaining faith in order and meaning. It is a very serious task.” -http://www.notable-quotes.com/h/hesse_hermann.html

Ron Price
16/9/'12 TO 31/12/'12

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