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Basel honors Hermann Hesse with a festival and a venue

Basel honors Hermann Hesse with a festival and a venue

The city of Basel is honoring famous resident Hermann Hesse with this week’s festival. On Friday, a plaza will open in the name of the writer who won the Nobel Prize for Literature 75 years ago.

The fact that Hermann Hesse (1877-1922) was a Swiss citizen for nearly his entire life has somewhat established himself in the minds that still celebrate him as a German poet. He is unlikely to know that he was entitled to reside in Basel (and Berne) – after all, Hesse is mainly connected with his subsequent place of residence at Montagnola in Ticino.

Even the cultural city of Basel, which likes to party so much to itself, seems to find it difficult to associate itself with one of the most successful German-language authors. Or better: it seems. Because on Friday, after Berlin, Düsseldorf, Münster and many other cities, Hermann Hesse will receive a place in Basel that bears his name.

Opinions are divided as to whether one can really talk about a square in the exact location on the Rheingasse in Kleinbasel or whether it is just a street bulge.

humble place

A columnist at Basler Zeitung found the place unworthy. Basel writer Alain-Claude Sulzer, winner of the Hermann Hesse Prize in 2009, described “The Quiet Corner” as the place “to commemorate the humble and homesick writer Basler,” as he wrote in Basel.

It is no coincidence that Hermann Hesse-Platz opens this year. 75 years ago, Hessen was awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature. However, he did not give any special importance to this high honor – on the contrary. He wrote to his then-wife Ninon: “The devil will get the damned things.” Stay away from awarding the prize in Stockholm on the condition that he is in poor health.

Marking the 75th anniversary of the Nobel Prize, the Hesse Festival is now held in Basel from Thursday to Saturday. The festival is held decentralized at sites that played an important role in the Basel years in Hesse. In addition to readings, lectures, and concerts, there are also city tours in the program.

For example, the festival will open on Thursday at Basel Mission House. There, Hessen’s father accepted a teacher position in 1881. Hermann was four years old at the time and went to school in Basel until the family left the city in 1886.

Homesickness in Basel Hesse

These were the first memories of Basel to remain. In 1951, in an article published in “Weltwoche,” Hess revealed himself as a true Baszler nostalgia: “I had no other desire than to return to Basel, it seemed that something awaited me there,” he later wrote.

So in 1899 he returned to his beloved city on the knees of the Rhine, and began to work and write as a bookseller – first as a journalist and then as a writer. In Basel, he wrote his first successful novel, “Peter Camensind”, which was published in 1904. In the same year, he married Mia Bernoulli of Basel.

In the winter of 1924/25 the writer returned to Basel, where he lived at first in the Hotel Krafft am Rhein, a few meters from the future Hermann Hesse-Platz. There, and later in a loft on Vogesenstrasse in the district of St. Johann, Hess is said to have written his most famous novel, “Steppenwolf”.

It is not entirely certain whether this is true. What is certain, however, is that Hess set up a “Steppenwolf” in Basel. You can see this for yourself during the festival when the film based on the 1974 novel is shown.

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