Hesse celebrations begin in Switzerland

Hesse spent most of his life in Switzerland. Hermann Hesse Museum, Montagnola

A year of events marking the 125th anniversary of the birth of Hermann Hesse has begun with "Crossing Borders", an exhibition in Winterthur about the writer's travels.

This content was published on February 7, 2002 minutes

Although born in Germany, Hesse spent most of his life in Switzerland and acquired Swiss nationality. The Hermann Hesse Foundation, which is organising the year of celebrations, is based in the village of Montagnola in Canton Ticino. Hesse lived in the canton for the final 43 years of his life and died in Montagnola in1962.

"When he received the Nobel prize for literature in 1946," says Regina Bucher, director of the foundation, "Hesse had already lived in Ticino for nearly 30 years. People in Ticino tend to forget how closely associated he was with the canton."

But local awareness of his links with Ticino can be expected to grow this year. Record numbers of visitors are expected at the Hesse museum in Montagnola, where street celebrations are planned on his date of birth, July 2.

The Winterthur exhibition, in the Volkart Haus museum, features photographs of the poet and author taken during his travels to Italy, Sri Lanka, Indonesia and Malaysia.

Hesse exhibition

Outside Ticino, other Hesse exhibition locations include Milan, Brussels and Zurich.

The Zurich exhibition, in the Swiss national museum, focuses on the author's stay in Zurich and two of his most distinguished works, "Siddhartha" (1922) and "Steppenwolf" (1927). Both books were written in Switzerland, and deal with the search for "one's true self".

Entitled "A Journey through my inner Hell", it will depict him as a modern man at odds with himself during a turbulent period of 20th century European history. The exhibition will also cast light on a less well-known aspect of his life - as a painter.

As Hesse wrote in his autobiography: "One day I discovered an entirely new joy. Suddenly, at the age of 40, I began to paint. Not that I considered myself a painter or intended to become one. But painting is marvelous; it makes you happier and more patient. Afterwards you do not have black fingers as with writing, but red and blue ones."

The exhibition in Zurich includes original water colours by Hesse and opens on March 22. The Winterthur exhibition ends on March 8.

swissinfo with agencies

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