General musings on Hesse’s interpretation of Nietzsche in “Demian”

It is few and far apart that one finds themselves fully invested in a book. Twice I have been granted such investment. The first in Descartes Meditations, and a second time in Hesse’s Bildungsroman Demian, both for drastically different reasons. Despite both a small volume, it is often with books of a small size that exert the greatest dynamic power.

It would not be odd for me to propose that Hesse feels this same investment in Nietzsche, in his many volumes, as well. I believe there is a meta-interpretive pluralism in Nietzsche’s works, most specifically Thus Spoke Zarathustra that translates into Hesse. Not to say I don’t agree, I wholeheartedly find solace in his interpretation and representationalism in Demian. Hesse senses the loneliness of Nietzsche (or the narrator’s) soul, perceives the fate propelled upon him, and thus suffers with him, and ultimately rejoices at the end of the journey that there had been one man who so relentlessly followed his destiny.

There are criterions of success- the project yields intended and foreseen interpretations- a Bildungsroman story. There are extra textual resources- intentionalist interpretive projects- as with Nietzsche, and there are warranted interpretations- radical or moderate intentionalism- such as the hints at homosexuality or suicide and nihilism.

I cannot help but wonder if Demian, the character, intended these aspects, or if Hesse himself did or vice versa.

This “trying for the will” may be aesthetically beautiful, but morally repulsive- for example, the nazi propaganda of Nietzsche that would arise years after Hesse wrote of Demian. Can one assign praise and/or blame to authors? Can there be a separation of text versus the interpretation, unless the author explicitly communicates the interpretation?
These questions remain at the back of my mind when attempting to analyze a text with great dynamic power imbued from another great work of philosophy.

Posted 12:03AM 10.15.16

Image from 방탄소년단 (BTS) ‘피 땀 눈물 (Blood Sweat & Tears)’ , YouTube

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