Wednesday, June 19, 2024

Third reading: D.W. Buffa on Hermann Hesse's "Demian"

D.W. Buffa's newest novel to be released (July 2024) is Evangeline, a courtroom drama about the murder trial of captain who is one of the few to survive the sinking of his ship.

Buffa is also the author of ten legal thrillers involving the defense attorney Joseph Antonelli. He has also published a series that attempts to trace the movement of western thought from ancient Athens, in Helen; the end of the Roman Empire, in Julian's Laughter; the Renaissance, in The Autobiography of Niccolo Machiavelli; and America in the twentieth century, in Neumann's Last Concert.

Buffa's latest take in his "Third Reading" series is on Hermann Hesse's Demian. It begins:
Thomas Mann and Hermann Hesse both won the Nobel Prize for Literature. Both were born in Germany, and both became citizens of other countries. There was something else these two remarkable writers had in common: their greatest works would not have been possible had Friedrich Nietzsche never lived.

In the introduction to Hesse’s novel, Demian, Thomas Mann wrote:

The electrifying influence exercised on a whole generation just after the First World War by Demian…is unforgettable.” Unforgettable because, “With uncanny accuracy this poetic work struck the nerve of the times and called forth a grateful rapture from a whole youthful generation who believed that an interpretation of their innermost life had risen from their own midst - whereas it was a man already forty-two years old who gave them what they sought.”

Hesse had written Demian over a few months in l917, the third year of the war. It was published just after the war, in l919, the same year he wrote an essay entitled “Zarathustra’s Return” in which he acknowledged “his enormous debt to and reverence for” Nietzsche. The debt could not have been greater. In Steppenwolf, Hesse’s most famous novel, Harry Haller turns his back on what the l9th Century has produced - the bourgeois, Nietzsche’s “last man,” - with as much disgust as Flaubert expressed in Madame Bovary. Through the French Revolution and the forces of industrialization, the world had been turned upside down. Money, comfort, work - everything looked down upon by the aristocracy - was now looked up to as man’s greatest achievements. The noble sense of a scale of rank and values had been replaced by the demand for equality and the right of everyone to their own, uninstructed, opinion. The sense of reverence for the customary, the established way - the morning prayer, as Nietzsche had put it - had been replaced by the morning paper - the daily report of whatever was new. Everyone had become an actor, showing others what they thought others wanted to see, and then, believing what others thought about them, thought that was who they were.

The bourgeois, according to Steppenwolf, which is the name Harry Haller has given himself, is incapable of giving himself entirely either to God or to the flesh. The “absolute is his abhorrence.” He will never follow one path or the other; he always seeks....[read on]
Visit D.W. Buffa's website.

Third reading: The Great Gatsby

Third reading: Brave New World.

Third reading: Lord Jim.

Third reading: Death in the Afternoon.

Third Reading: Parade's End.

Third Reading: The Idiot.

Third Reading: The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire.

Third Reading: The Scarlet Letter.

Third Reading: Justine.

Third Reading: Patriotic Gore.

Third reading: Anna Karenina.

Third reading: The Charterhouse of Parma.

Third Reading: Emile.

Third Reading: War and Peace.

Third Reading: The Sorrows of Young Werther.

Third Reading: Bread and Wine.

Third Reading: “The Crisis of the Mind” and A Man Without Qualities.

Third reading: Eugene Onegin.

Third Reading: The Collected Works of Thomas Babington Macaulay.

Third Reading: The Europeans.

Third Reading: The House of Mirth and The Writing of Fiction.

Third Reading: Doctor Faustus.

Third Reading: the reading list of John F. Kennedy.

Third Reading: Jorge Luis Borges.

Third Reading: History of the Peloponnesian War.

Third Reading: Mansfield Park.

Third Reading: To Each His Own.

Third Reading: A Passage To India.

Third Reading: Seven Pillars of Wisdom.

Third Reading: The Letters of T.E. Lawrence.

Third Reading: All The King’s Men.

Third Reading: The Roman History of Ammianus Marcellinus.

Third Reading: Naguib Mahfouz’s novels of ancient Egypt.

Third Reading: Main Street.

Third Reading: Theodore H. White's The Making of the President series, part I.

Third Reading: Theodore H. White's The Making of the President series, part II.

Third Reading: Thus Spoke Zarathustra.

Third Reading: Fiction's Failure.

Third Reading: Hermann Hesse's Demian.

--Marshal Zeringue