Born in Calw, Württemberg, to a pious and missionary family that moved for six years to
Basel before returning to Calw, Hesse experienced a troubled early life and could not
settle to regular employment. He profited from his employment at a bookseller, however,
by studying German and Greek literature, publishing his first poem, Madonna, in 1896.
His early work met with little success but on moving again to Basel, he was able to
benefit from intellectual acquaintances whilst remaining solitary and withdrawn but
his dedication to poetry and writing led to recognition in the early 20th century.
He married in 1904 and continued writing to acclaim but the marriage suffered from
After volunteering for army duties in 1914, he became disillusioned and was demobilized
in 1916 after which he turned to psychoanalysis although continuing his considerable
With the failure of his marriage he moved to Lugano where painting was added to his
artistic accomplishments. He acquired Swiss citizenship in 1923 and remarried. He
continued to write and, after publication of Das Glasperlenspiel (The Glass Bead Game)
was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for Literature in 1946.
He subsequently turned to shorter works and died in Italy in 1962.