Hermann Hesse's voyage to the East Indies, recorded in journal entries and other writings translated into English for the first time, describes the experiences that influenced his greatest works.
HERMANN HESSE (1877-1962) was born in Calw, Germany. He was the son and grandson of Protestant missionaries and was educated in religious schools until the age of thirteen, when he dropped out of school. At age eighteen he moved to Basel, Switzerland, to work as a bookseller and lived in Switzerland for most of his life. During World War I, Hesse worked to supply German prisoners of war with reading materials and expressed his pacifist leanings in anti-war tracts and novels. Hesse's lifelong battles with depression drew him to study Freud during this period and, later, to undergo analysis with Jung. When Hesse's first marriage ended, he moved to Montagnola, Switzerland, where he created his best-known works. Hesse won the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1946. SHERAB CHODZIN KOHN has been teaching Buddhism and meditation for more than forty years. He the author of A Life of the Buddha; he has edited a number of the books of his teacher, the Tibetan meditation master Chogyam Trungpa; and he has also translated many works including Siddhartha by Hermann Hesse, You Are Here by Thich Nhat Hanh, and Stories of God by Rainier Marie Rilke. He lives in Boulder, Colorado.
"In 1911, German novelist Hesse, his famous works
Steppenwolf and Siddhartha still before him,
undertook a three-month-long journey to Singapore, as recounted in
the luminous journal entries and poems collected here and
translated into English for the first time. In evocative prose,
Hesse describes the stillness of a 'hot dark-blue night' aboard
ship in the Suez Canal, the only sound 'the soft rolling of a
railroad train from Cairo that appeared atop the long, desolate
bank'; the 'thick, horrid smell of coconut oil' that permeates
Malaysian villages; and the spell cast on him and other travelers
by the 'tangled, green eternity' of an Indonesian jungle.
Elsewhere, Hesse marvels at how well the 'pleasantly weathered'
buildings in Malaysia match their environment, predicting they will
outlast the 'guilt-laden existence' of newer European-built
dwellings. A favorite Hesse theme, the conflict between the
spiritual and the physical, is explored in the collection's only
fiction selection, 'Robert Aghion,' set in India (which Hesse
planned to but didn't manage to visit), about a young missionary's
crisis of faith. The emerging beauty of Hesse's later work shines
in these writings, though they will appeal mostly to the author's
"Handsomely presented and intelligently translated, Singapore Dream and Other Adventures is essential reading for connoisseurs of travel writing, as well as admirers of Hermann Hesse's work."