Germany in the first half of 1919. Disgruntled soldiers trudge home from a war they cannot believe they have lost. The Kaiser is in exile. The reigning noble houses have vanished, swept into history by the so-called November Revolution. Coups d’etat are in open preparation. Violence is everywhere. In this volatile climate, Hermann Hesse’s ‘Demian’ found enthusiastic readers.
I wanted only to live the life that was struggling by itself to come out of me. Why was that so very hard? These fervent words are prepended as a motto to Hermann Hesse’s coming-of-age novel, Demian, which was first published in 1919. More a cry than a question, it must have established for Hesse the central issue of the story. In fact, it wasn’t hard, at all.