Since 9 August 2022 is Hermann Hesse’s 60th Jahrzeit (death anniversary), I’m devoting the month of August to a celebration of his life and works. Today we’re exploring his legacy in the form of awards, prizes, and medals named for him, as well as museums, colloquia, stamps, music, and more.
In 1956, in celebration of Hesse’s approaching 80th birthday (2 July 1957), Fördergemeinschaft der Deutschen Kunst eV (the Association for the Promotion of German Art) in Karlsruhe, Germany created the Hermann Hesse Literature Prize. They felt it was very important to support postwar German literature, and Hesse immediately gave his consent when he was asked about it in 1955:
“I agree with the Karlsruhe Hesse Prize. Since the young poet gains something from it, it may at least be reminded of the past and tradition through my name.”
Originally, the winner got 10,000 marks. Today, it earns 15,000 Euros plus a sponsorship prize of another 5,000 Euros.
The Calwer Hermann Hesse Prize has been awarded since 1990, on 2 July, Hesse’s birthday, for international literary works in his tradition. They can be either original works or translations, and up to three people can win the award every year. The Calwer Hermann Hesse Foundation also awards a scholarship.
Thrice a year, a writer or translator spends three months in Calw, Hesse’s hometown, to provide them with literary inspiration for their work. They’re provided with an apartment and a monthly salary of 2,000 Euros. The prize itself was originally 20,000 marks, but is now 20,000 Euros.
Since 2017, Calw’s International Hermann Hesse Society has also awarded the International Hermann Hesse Society Prize.
Calw additionally shows its great love and respect for its native son through the Hermann Hesse Medal of the City of Calw, awarded since 1964. Recipients demonstrate “outstanding merit or creative work in the civic, social or scientific field or a special connection with the city of Calw.” Winners include politicians, artists, Hesse scholars, literary historians, and bookbinders.
In 1964, Calw archivist Walter Staudenmeyer created a memorial to Hesse above the city’s new archive. Some of the items were on loan from Marbach’s Schiller National Museum, and have since been returned. However, in their place, new additions to the collection were made through the purchase of Hesse’s watercolours and letters, first editions, and other treasures.
A permanent museum was created with these objects in March 1990. Other members of Hermann Hesse’s family, like his maternal grandfather Hermann Gundert, are also celebrated here. Lectures and special programmes are regularly held.
In Calw, there are also commemorative plaques at Hesse’s birthplace and residence from 1889–94, and the publishing house Calwer Verlagsverein, which both sides of his family worked for.
Hesse’s birthplace, Copyright Frank Vincentz
On 13 September 1991, German astronomers Freimut Börngen and Lutz Dieter Schmadel discovered an inner main belt asteroid at the Thuringian State Observatory Tautenberg in the Tautenberg Forest of the state of Thuringia. It was designated as 9762. Seven years later, on 8 December 1998, it was named Hermannhesse (one word).
Hesse Museum, Copyright Silesia711
In 1948, 84-year-old Richard Strauss wrote a four-song cycle based on Hermann Hesse’s poems “Frühling” (“Spring”), “September,” “Beim Schlafengehen” (“When Falling Asleep”) and Joseph von Eichendorff’s poem “Im Abendrot” (“At Sunset”). Since these were among Strauss’s final completed works, his friend Ernst Roth posthumously titled them Vier Letzte Lieder (Four Last Songs) when he published them in 1950.
Strauss thought about setting two more Hesse poems, “Nacht” (“Night”) and “Höhe des Sommers” (“Height of Summer”), to music, and started work on a choral setting of the Hesse poem “Besinnung” (“Reflection”), but abandoned the project because it was too complicated.
All the poems except “Frühling” deal with Death, which perhaps appealed to Strauss as he neared the end of his life. The musical settings of these poems are full of acceptance, calm, and coming full circle.
Strauss passed away in September 1949.
The songs are meant for a soprano, and scored for a piccolo, three flutes (the third doubling as a second piccolo), two oboes, an English horn, two clarinets, a bass clarinet, three bassoons (the third doubling as a contrabassoon), four horns, three trumpets, three trombones, a tuba, a timpani, a harp, a celesta, and strings.
Casa Camuzzi, a castle-like palazzo with an exotic, terraced park in Hesse’s adopted hometown of Montagnola, Switzerland, where he lived from 1919–31, contains a museum celebrating his life and works. It opened on 2 July 1997, his 120th birthday.
Another Hesse museum is located in Gaienhofen, Germany. There’s also a special cabinet in Tübingen, Germany, where he apprenticed and worked in an antiquarian bookstore.
Many streets, squares, and schools throughout Switzerland and Germany are named for him, and in 2023, the Württemberg Black Forest Railway from Stuttgart is scheduled to be renamed the Hermann-Hesse-Bahn.
In 2002, to mark his 125th birthday, Deutsche Post issued a stamp of Hermann Hesse.
The manuscripts, artwork, and other artifacts from his estate are kept in various archives and libraries in Switzerland, Germany, and Austria. Since 1977, the International Hermann Hesse Colloquium has been held in Calw every few years, and since 2000, the Silser-Hesse Days have been held in Sils-Maria, Switzerland every summer.
http://www.hermann-hesse-preis.de/ (Hermann Hesse Literature Prize)
http://www.hermann-hesse.de/stiftung (Calwer Hermann Hesse Foundation)
http://www.lieder.net/lieder/assemble_texts.html?SongCycleId=55 (German text of Four Last Songs)
http://www.hessemontagnola.ch/ (Hermann Hesse Montagnola Museum)