Book Review: The Seasons of the Soul – The Poetic guidance and spiritual wisdom of Hermann Hesse

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Author: Hermann Hesse (translated by Ludwig Max Fischer, PhD)
Publisher: Random House
Book Publication: 2011

Vowing at an early age “to be a poet or nothing at all,” Hermann Hesse rebelled against formal education, focusing on a rigorous program of independent study that included literature, philosophy, art, and history. One result of these efforts was a series of novels that became counterculture bibles. These books, including Siddhartha and Steppenwolf, remain widely influential today.

Another, lesser-known result was a body of evocative spiritual poetry. Now available for the first time in English, these vivid, probing short works reflect deeply on the challenges of life and provide a spiritual solace that transcends specific denominational hymns, prayers, and rituals.

The Seasons of the Soul offers valuable poetic guidance for those longing for a more meaningful life, seeking a homecoming in nature, and a renewed relationship with the divine. Extensive quotations from Hesse’s prose introduce each theme addressed in the book: love, imagination, nature, the divine and the passage of time.

The book’s foreword by author and religious scholar Andrew Harvey illuminates anew this towering literary figure. Thoughtful commentary throughout from translator Ludwig Max Fischer will help readers understand the poems within the context of Hesse’s life.

Hesse grew up in Switzerland and Germany, cultivating his craft as a writer and spiritual seeker while working in antique book shops. He later traveled to South Asia, developing an interest in Buddhism and other eastern spiritual and literary traditions. In his lifetime, he was admired by Sigmund Freud, befriended Carl Jung, and helped Bertolt Brecht and Thomas Mann leave Germany to escape Nazi purges. Hesse was awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1946, and died in Switzerland in 1962 at the age of 85.

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