Exploring T.S. Eliot

T.S. Eliot and Hermann Hesse

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Schon ist halb Europa, schon ist zumindest der halbe Osten Europas auf dem Wege zum Chaos, fährt betrunken in heiligem Wahn am Abgrund entlang und singt dazu, singt betrunken und hymnisch wie Dmitri Karamasoff sang. Über diese Lieder lacht der Bürger beleidigt, der Heilige und Seher hört sie mit Tränen.
Hermann Hesse, "The Brothers Karamasov or The Downfall of Europe."
Quoted by T.S. Eliot in one of his notes to The Waste Land.
[Translation below]




Presented on this page are notes I've collected concerning the relationship between T.S. Eliot and Hermann Hesse. Read the entire page. Notes are made on a book by book basis and notes from one book can elaborate on notes from other books.

Synopsis of findings

As can be seen from these notes there was not much interaction between the two poets and writers. Eliot read Hesse's Blick ins Chaos in German and admired it enough to give it a citation in his own The Waste Land. He was involved in getting it translated into English and republished, the Dostoyevsky essays in The Dial and "On Recent German Poetry" ("Gespräch über die Neutöner") in the first issue of his own magazine, The Criterion.

The English translation of the essays in Blick ins Chaos (or some of them) can be found online with some notes as part of a small website, Exploring Online Books. The URL is http://world.std.com/~raparker/exploring/books/hesse_glimpse.html

Notes from books

The following three books had a small amount of information on T.S. Eliot and Hermann Hesse. After seeing that there was very little interaction between the two men no further research was done.

Note that Eliot's letters of 1922 and 1960 have conflicting information of whether Eliot introduced Sydney Schiff to Blick ins Chaos or the other way around. Because the letter of 1922 isn't as likely to contain misrembered facts and because it would have been easier for Eliot to get a copy of Blick ins Chaos in German when he was in Lausanne, Switzerland in December 1921 it is likely that the letter written in 1922 contains the real facts.

Hermann Hesse: Pilgrim of Crisis, a Biography

Paraphrases from Hermann Hesse: Pilgrim of Crisis, a Biography:

Freedman, Ralph
Hermann Hesse: Pilgrim of Crisis, a Biography
Pantheon Books, NY
Copyright 1978 Ralph Freedman
First edition
ISBN 0-394-4181-2
All notes come from page 239

Hermann Hesse

The following is a verbatem paragraph from the book Hermann Hesse:

In this period falls the separate publication of Blick in Chaos (Glimpse into Chaos, 1920), containing the two major Dostoyevsky essays. Hesse saw in Dostoyevsky and his characters (and in Nietzsche) an intuitive anticipation of the descent into anarchy and an ensuing new morality, prefiguring the fate of Western Europe. Blick in Chaos was instrumental in extending Hesse's fame beyond the German-speaking world. It was translated into English and reprinted, in whole or in part, in several journals. Among those impressed was T.S. Eliot, who visited Hesse and enlisted him as collaborator on his new periodical Criterion. As it turned out, only one article by Hesse appeared, entitled "New German Poetry." Mr. Eliot upon being asked about his meeting with Hesse and why there had been no further contributions, replied in a letter of September 16, 1960:
My attention was first drawn to Hermann Hesse by my friend Sydney Schiff, who was also known as a novelist under the name Stephen Hudson [translator of Blick in Chaos]. He gave me Blick in Chaos to read and I was very much impressed by it. A little later--I think in 1921 or 22--I was staying for a short time in Lugano and took an opportunity of going up to visit Hermann Hesse in his mountain retreat. We had, as I remember, a very interesting conversation. He must have done most of the talking himself as my ability to understand German when spoken exceeds my ability to speak it. ... I do not know why there was only one contribution by him, or whether I solicted further work, for I do remember that I was much impressed by the man and would I suppose, have been very glad to have further contributions from him.*

Citation (for book)
Field, George Wallis
Hermann Hesse
Twayne Publishers
A division of G.K. Hall & Co., Boston
ISBN 0-8057-2424-9
pp. 73-4, 178
Citation (*for Eliot quote)
Given on page 178 of the work cited above.
Field, George Wallis. "Hermann Hesse as Critic of English and American Literature." Monatshefte, LIII (1961), pp. 147-58, note 7

The Letters of T.S. Eliot (Vol. I)

A list of places where Hermann Hesse is mentioned in Eliot's letters. The letters from July to August contain information about Eliot's attempts to publish "On Recent German Poetry" ("Gespräch über die Neutöner") from A Glimpse of Chaos in the first issue of Eliot's magazine The Criterion. The essay did appear in the first issue (which was dated October 1922.) This was the same issue that contained the first publication of Eliot's The Waste Land.

Eliot, T.S. and others
The Letters of T.S. Eliot, Volume I
Valerie Eliot ed.
Harcourt Brace & Company, New York, 1988
ISBN 0-15-150885-2 The various page numbers are noted above.

The Hesse quote that Eliot used

Eliot's note to line 366 ("What is that sound high in the air") was:

Cf. Hermann Hesse, Blick ins Chaos:
Schon ist halb Europa, schon ist zumindest der halbe Osten Europas auf dem Wege zum Chaos, fährt betrunken im heiligem Wahn am Abgrund entlang und singt dazu, singt betrunken und hymnisch wie Dmitri Karamasoff sang. Ueber diese Lieder lacht der Bürger beleidigt, der Heilige und Seher hört sie mit Tränen.

Below is more context. The quote Eliot used comes from the last two paragraphs of Hesse's The Brothers Karamasov essay. They are included below in English translation and in the original German.

"The Brothers Karamasov or The Downfall of Europe"

The last two paragraphs of Hermann Hesse's essay "The Brothers Karamasov or The Downfall of Europe" that was republished in A Glimpse into Chaos. This is the Stephen Hudson (Sydney Schiff) translation that appeared in The Dial magazine of June 1922 (this version condenses Hesse's last two paragraphs into one.)

There is an online edition of Hudson's translation of this Hesse essay.

I said Dostoevsky is not a poet, or he is only a poet in a secondary sense. I called him a prophet. It is difficult to say exactly what a prophet means. It seems to me something like this. A prophet is a sick man, like Dostoevsky, who was an epileptic. A prophet is the sort of sick man who has lost the sound sense of taking care of himself, the sense which is the saving of the efficient citizen. It would not do if there were many such, for the world would go to pieces. This sort of sick man, be he called Dostoevsky or Karamazov, has that strange, occult, godlike faculty, the possibility of which the Asiatic venerates in every maniac. He is a seer and an oracle. A people, a period, a country, a continent has fashioned out of its corpus an organ, a sensory instrument of infinite sensitiveness, a very rare and delicate organ. Other men, thanks to their happiness and health, can never be troubled with this endowment. This sensory instrument, this mantological faculty is not crudely comprehensible like some sort of telepathy or magic, although the gift can also show itself even in such confusing forms. Rather is it that the sick man of this sort interprets the movements of his own soul in terms of the universal and of mankind. Every man has visions, every man has fantasies, every man has dreams. And every vision every dream, every idea and thought of a man, on the road from the unconscious to the conscious, can have a thousand different meanings, of which every one can be right. But the appearances and visions of the seer and the prophet are not his own. The nightmare of visions which oppresses him does not warn him of a personal illness, of a personal death, but of the illness, the death of that corpus whose sensory organ he is, This corpus can be a family, a clan, a people, or it can be all mankind. In the soul of Dostoevsky a certain sickness and sensitiveness to suffering in the bosom of mankind which is otherwise called hysteria, found at once its means of expression and its barometer. Mankind is now on the point of realizing this. Already half Europe, at all events half Eastern Europe, is on the road to Chaos. In a state of drunken illusion she is reeling into the abyss and, as she reels, she sings a drunken hymn such as Dmitri Karamazov sang. The insulted citizen laughs that song to scorn, the saint and seer hear it with tears.

Hesse, Hermann
"The Brothers Karamasov or The Downfall of Europe"
translated by Stephen Hudson (a pseudonym of Sydney Schiff)
The Dial magazine
New York, volume 72.6 (June 1922)
pp. 607-18

"Die Brüder Karamasow oder Der Untergang Europas"

The original German of the last two paragraphs of Hermann Hesse's "Die Brüder Karamasow oder Der Untergang Europas" essay that was republished in Blick in Chaos:

Ich sagte, Dostojewski sei eigentlich kein Dichter, oder dieses sei er nur nebenher. Ich nannte ihn einen Propheten. Schwer zu sagen, was das eigentlich bedeute: ein Prophet! Mir scheint, etwa dies; Ein Prophet ist ein Kranker, so wie ja auch Dostojewski wirklich Hysteriker, beinahe Epileptiker war. Ein Prophet ist ein solcher Kranker, dem der gesunde, gute, wohltätige Sinn für die Selbsterhaltung, der Inbegriff aller bürgerlichen Tugenden, vorlorengegangen ist. Es darf nicht viele solche geben, die Welt ginge in Stücke. Ein Kranker dieser Art, er heiße nun Dostojewski oder Karamasow, hat jene fremde, geheime, kranke, göttlich Fähigkeit, deren Möglichkeit der Asiate in jedem Wahnsinnigen verehrt. Er ist Mantiker, er ist ein Wissender. Das heißt, in ihm hat ein Volk, hat ein Zeitalter, hat ein Land oder Weltteil sich ein Organ ausgebildet, ein Fühlhorn, ein seltenes, ungemein zartes, ungemein edles, ungemein leidensfähiges Organ, das andre nicht haben, das bei allen andern, zu ihrem Heil und Glück, verkümmert blieb. Dies Fühlhorn, dies mantische Tastsinn, ist nicht grob zu verstehen als eine Art blöder Telepathie und Zauberstück, obwohl die Gabe sich sehr wohl auch in solchen verblüffenden Formen Äußern kann. Eher ist so, daß der «Kranke» dieser Art die Bewegungen seiner eigenen Seele umdeutet ins Allgemeine und Menschheitliche. Jeder Mensch hat Visionen, jeder Mensch hat Phantasie, jeder Mensch hat Träume. Und jede Vision, jeder Traum, jeder Einfall und Gedanke eines Menschen kann, auf dem Weg vom Unbewußten zum Bewußtwerden, tausend verschiedene Deutungen erfahren, deren jede richtig sein kann. Der Seher und Prophet nun deutet seine Gesichte nicht persönlich, der Alb, der ihn drückt, mahnt ihn nicht an persönliche Krankheit, an persönlichen Tod, sondern an den des Ganzen, als dessen Organ, als dessen Fühlhorn er lebt. Das kann eine Familie, eine Partei, ein Volk, es kann auch die ganze Menschheit sein.

In der Seele Dostojewskis hat das, was wir sonst Hysterie nennen, hat eine gewisse Krankheit und Leidensfähigkeit der Menschheit als Organ, als Weiser und Barometer gedient. Sie ist im Begriffe, dies zu merken. Schon ist halb Europa, schon ist zumindest der halbe Osten Europas auf dem Wege zum Chaos, fährt betrunken in heiligem Wahn am Abgrund entlang und singt dazu, singt betrunken und hymnisch wie Dmitri Karamasow sang. Über diese Lieder lacht der Bürger beleidigt, der Heilige und Seher hört sie mit Tränen.

Hesse, Hermann
Eine Literaturgeschichte in Rezensionen und Aufsätzen
Suhrkamp, Frankfurt am Main. 1975
(Suhrkamp Taschenbuch 252)
pp. 335-37

Additional resources

Please send suggestions for additional material to Rickard Parker so they can be included here.


Currently none (other than those cited above.)


Currently none.


A list of the URLs linked to from this page and additional pages of interest. Webpages are named with normal type, websites in bold type.

HHP (Hesse Home Page)
A bilingual website that examines Hesse's works.
Exploring The Waste Land
Annotated edition of Eliot's poem.
Exploring T.S. Eliot
The homepage of the website containing this webpage.
T.S. Eliot and Hermann Hesse
This webpage.
Hermann Hesse
A short biography.
A Glimpse into Chaos
Online English translations of Hesse's essays. Annotations appear in the webpage preface.
"The Brothers Karamasov or The Downfall of Europe"
Online English translation of Hesse's essay. Annotations appear in the webpage preface.


Variant names and spellings

Note: The title of the book by Hesse, Blick ins Chaos and the names of the essays within it have been translated differently by different people. This webpage may use more than one of possibilities as it quotes different authors. Additionally, the Russian names Dostoyevsky and Karamasov may be spelled differently (e.g., Dostoyevsky, Dostoyevsky, Dostojewski, Karamasov, Karamasoff.) In the epigraph to this page Karamasoff is used as that is how Eliot spelled the name in his note to The Waste Land. Elsewhere in this page the name is spelled with its now conventional spelling, Karamasov. German spelling may vary also and may appear strange to some readers. The spellings are as found in other texts.

Blick ins Chaos variants:

Listed here are some of the translations used for Blick ins Chaos and the essays within it. Also shown are the German titles without any accents. Part of the reason for these lists is to allow many search terms to find this page.


Editing done for this webpage is indicated by square brackets. There are other occurances of square brackets by authors quoted but editing done for this page uses CSS markup to set a background color. An example is: [...]

Some longer quotes span more than one page in the cited work. There are comments in the HTML markup that indicate where the page breaks occur. Thus those who use only part of a quote that appears here can get the correct page number if they wish by viewing the source for the webpage.

Exploring T.S. Eliot
File URL: http://world.std.com/~raparker/exploring/tseliot/people/hesse.html
File date: Wednesday, December 10, 2002
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