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Authors: Hermann Hesse

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BOOK: Klingsor's Last Summer
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The figure of Wagner vanished far in the distance. He was not Wagner, no longer; there was no Wagner. All that had been illusion. Let Wagner die now! He, Klein, would live.

Water flowed into his mouth and he drank. From all sides, through all his senses, water flowed in; everything dissolved in it. He was being drawn, breathed in. Beside him, pressed against him, as close together as the drops of water, floated other people; Teresina floated, the old comedian floated, his wife, his father, his mother and sister, and thousands, thousands, thousands of others, and pictures and buildings as well, Titian's Venus and Strasbourg cathedral, everything floated, pressed close together, in a tremendous stream, driven by necessity, faster and faster, rushing madly—and this tremendous, gigantic, raging stream of forms was racing toward another stream just as vast, racing just as fast, a stream of faces, legs, bellies, animals, flowers, thoughts, murders, suicides, written books, wept tears, dense, dense, full, full, children's eyes and black curls and fishheads, a woman with a long rigid knife in her bloody belly, a young man resembling himself, face full of holy passion, that was himself at the age of twenty, that vanished Klein of the past. How good that this insight too was coming to him now: that there was no time! The only thing that stood between old age and youth, between Babylon and Berlin, between good and evil, giving and taking, the only thing that filled the world with differences, opinions, suffering, conflict, war, was the human mind, the young, tempestuous, and cruel human mind in the stage of rash youth, still far from knowledge, still far from God. That mind invented contradictions, invented names; it called some things beautiful, some ugly, some good, some bad. One part of life was called love, another murder. How young, foolish, comical this mind was. One of its inventions was time. A subtle invention, a refined instrument for torturing the self even more keenly and making the world multiplex and difficult. For then man was separated from all he craved only by time, by time alone, this crazy invention! It was one of the props, one of the crutches that you had to let go, that one above all, if you wanted to be free.

The universal stream of forms flowed on, the forms inhaled by God and the other, the contrary forms that he breathed out. Klein saw those who opposed the current, who reared up in fearful convulsions and created horrible tortures for themselves: heroes, criminals, madmen, thinkers, lovers, religious. He saw others like himself being carried along swiftly and easily, in the deep voluptuousness of yielding, of consent. Blessed like himself. Out of the song of the blessed and out of the endless cries of torment from the unblessed there rose over both universal streams a transparent sphere or dome of sound, a cathedral of music. In its midst sat God, a bright star, invisible from sheer brightness, the quintessence of light, with the music of the universal choirs roaring around in eternal surges.

Heroes and thinkers emerged from the universal stream, prophets. “Behold, this is God the Lord and his way leads to peace,” one of them cried, and many followed him. Another proclaimed that God's path led to struggle and war. One called him light, one night, one father, one mother. One praised him as tranquillity, one as movement, as fire, as coal, as judge, as comforter, as creator, as destroyer, as forgiver, as avenger. God himself did not call himself anything. He wanted to be called, wanted to be loved, wanted to be praised, cursed, hated, worshipped, for the music of the universal choirs was his temple and was his life—but he did not care what names were used to hail him, whether he was loved or hated, whether men sought rest and sleep or dance and furor in him. Everyone could seek. Everyone could find.

Now Klein heard his own voice. He was singing. With a new, mighty, high, reverberating voice he sang loudly, loudly and resoundingly sang God's praise. He sang as he floated along in the rushing stream in the midst of the millions of creatures. He had become a prophet and proclaimer. Loudly, his song resounded; the vault of music rose high; radiantly, God sat within it. The streams roared tremendously along.

Klingsor's Last Summer


spent the last summer of his life, at the age of forty-two, in those southerly regions in the vicinity of Pampambio, Kareno, and Laguno which he had loved in earlier years and often visited. There his last paintings were done, those free paraphrases on the forms of the world of phenomena, those strange, glowing, and yet dreamily tranquil pictures with their twisted trees and plantlike houses which connoisseurs prefer to the works of his “classical” period. At the time his palette had been reduced to a few, extremely vivid colors: cadmium yellow and red, Veronese green, emerald, cobalt, cobalt-violet, French vermilion, and crimson lake.

In late fall the news of Klingsor's death shocked his friends. Many of his letters had contained forebodings or death wishes. This may have nourished the rumor that he had taken his own life. Other rumors, such as always gather around a controversial name, have as little substance as that one. Many asserted that Klingsor had been mentally ill during his last months, and a somewhat myopic art critic attempted to explain the startling and ecstatic quality of his last paintings on the grounds of this alleged madness! That is all nonsense. There is somewhat more foundation to the story—which has been embroidered with a wealth of anecdotes—of Klingsor's heavy drinking. He certainly had this tendency, and no one spoke of it more frankly than Klingsor himself. At certain times in his life, and therefore during his last months also, it was more than a case of frequent drinking bouts. He would also deliberately drown his pain and his sometimes almost unbearable melancholy in wine. Li Po, that author of the profoundest drinking songs, was his favorite, and in his cups he often called himself Li Po and one of his friends Tu Fu.

His works live. And among the small circle of his intimates the legend of his life and of that last summer lives on no less forcefully.


of swift-moving life had begun. The hot days, long as they were, flared up and away like burning streamers. The brief sultry moonlit nights were followed by brief sultry rainy nights. Swift as dreams crowded with images, the glittering weeks moved feverishly on.

Just back home after a night walk, Klingsor stood on the narrow stone balcony of his studio. Below him, dizzyingly precipitate, the old terrace gardens dropped away, a densely shadowed tangle of treetops, palms, cedars, chestnuts, judas trees, red beech, and eucalyptus, intertwined with climbing plants, lianas, wisterias. Above the blackness of the trees the large glossy leaves of the summer magnolias gleamed pallidly, the huge snow-white blossoms half-shut among them, large as human heads, pale as moon and ivory. From the massed leafage, penetrating and rousing, a tartly sweet smell of lemons drifted toward him. From some indefinite distance languorous music winged its way to him, perhaps a guitar, perhaps a piano; there was no saying. A peacock suddenly cried from a yard, twice, three times, piercing the sylvan night with the short, angry, wooden tone of its tormented voice, as if the pain of the whole animal world were sounding shrilly, coarsely from the depths. Starlight flowed through the wooded valley. High and deserted, a white chapel, enchanted and old, peered out of the endless forest. In the distance lake, mountains, and sky flowed together.

Klingsor stood on the balcony, coatless, his bare forearms leaning on the iron railing, and with a touch of sullenness, his eyes hot, read the script of the stars against the pale sky and the gentle lucency on the black, lumpy cloud masses of the trees. The peacock reminded him. Yes, it was night again, late, and he ought to go to sleep now, absolutely and at all costs. Perhaps, if he could really sleep for several nights in succession, sleep soundly for six or eight hours, he would be able to recover, his eyes would be obedient and patient again, his heart calmer and his temples without pain. But then this summer would be over, this crazy, flickering summer dream, and along with it a thousand undrunk glasses would be spilled, a thousand unseen loving looks shattered, a thousand irrecoverable pictures extinguished unseen!

He laid his forehead and his aching eyes against the cool iron railing. That refreshed him for a moment. In a year perhaps, or sooner, these eyes would be blind and the fires in his heart extinct. No, no human being could endure his flaming life for long. Not even he could, not even Klingsor, who had ten lives. Nobody could go on for a long time having all his candles burning day and night, all his volcanoes flaming. Nobody could be ablaze day and night, working feverishly for many hours every day, spending many hours every night in feverish thoughts, forever enjoying, forever creating, forever with all his senses and nerves wide awake and alert, like a palace behind whose every window music rings out day after day, while night after night a thousand candles twinkle. It would come to an end. A great deal of strength had already been squandered, much eyesight consumed, much life bled away.

Suddenly he laughed and stretched. He remembered that he had often before felt like this, often before thought these thoughts, had these fears. In all the good, fruitful, and ardent periods of his life, even in his youth, he had lived like this, had burned his candle at both ends, with a half jubilant, half mournful feeling of wild extravagance, of burning himself up, with a desperate greed to empty the cup to the dregs, and with a deep, hidden dread of the end. Often before he had lived like this, often drained the cup, often burned with high, darting flames. Sometimes these spells had ended gently, in something like a deep, unconscious hibernation. Sometimes the letdown had been terrible, senseless devastation, intolerable pain, doctors, sad renunciations, victory of weakness. And, granted, each time the end of such a period of intensity had been progressively worse, blacker, more shattering. However, he had always survived these lows and after weeks or months, after agony or stupefaction, the resurrection had come, new fire, new eruption of the underground volcanoes, new and more passionate works, new, glittering frenzy. That was how it had been, and the times of torment and subsidence, the agonizing intervals, had been forgotten and had vanished. It was good that way. This time, too, it would go as it had often gone.

Smiling, he thought of Gina, whom he had seen this evening, around whom his thoughts had revolved affectionately all the long walk home through the night. How beautiful this girl was, and how warm in her still inexperienced and timorous ardor. Playfully and tenderly he murmured under his breath, as if he were again whispering into her ear: “Gina! Gina! Cara Gina! Carina Gina! Bella Gina!”

He stepped back into the room and turned the light on again. From a small, haphazard heap of books he took a volume of poems. A poem had come to his mind, a fragment of a poem which seemed to him inexpressibly lovely. He searched for a long time before he found it:

Do not leave me to my sorrow now,

Beloved, do not leave me to the night.

Oh, you who are my match, who are my candle,

You who are my sun, who are my light.

With deep enjoyment he sipped the dark wine of these words. How lovely, how tender and magical it was: Oh, you who are my candle. And: You who are my sun.

Smiling, he paced back and forth in front of the tall windows, reciting the verses, calling them out to the distant Gina: “Oh, you who are my light!” His voice darkened with tenderness.

Then he opened the portfolio he had carried with him all evening after his long day of work. He opened the sketchbook, looked at the last pages, the ones he had done yesterday and today. There was the cone-shaped mountain with the deep shadows of cliffs; he had rendered it so it looked very like a crazy masked face. The mountain seemed to be screaming, splitting open from pain. There was the small stone fountain, a semicircle on the mountain slope, the masonry arch filled with black shadows, a flowering pomegranate tree blazing above it. It was all there for him alone to read, a cipher for himself, hasty, greedy notation of the instant, swiftly snatched recollection of every moment in which nature and his heart sounded newly and loudly in concord. And now came the larger colored sketches, white sheets with luminous areas of watercolor: the red villa in the woods, with a fiery glow like a ruby on green velvet, and the iron bridge at Castiglia, red against the blue-green mountain, the violet dam beside it and the pink road. Further: the chimney of the brickworks, red rocket against light, cool tree-green, blue signpost, brilliant violet sky with the thick cloud like rolled steel. This sheet was good; it could stay. Things had gone less well with the wagon road to the stable; the reddish brown against the steely sky was right, it spoke and sounded, but the picture was only half finished. The sun had shone on the paper and made his eyes ache maddeningly. For a long while afterwards he had bathed his face in a brook. Well, the brown-red against the malignant metallic blue was there; that was good, was not the smallest nuance, not the slightest vibration wrong or off. Without Indian red he couldn't have brought that off. There, in this field, lay the secrets. The forms of nature, their top and bottom, their thick and thin, could be shifted around; you could discard all the commonplace means for imitating nature. You could falsify colors too, of course; you could intensify, lower, translate them in a hundred different ways. But if you wanted to use color to create a fictional nature, what mattered was that the few colors stood exactly, with the utmost exactitude, in the same relationships, in the same tensions to one another as they did in nature. Here you remained dependent, here you remained a naturalist, even though you took orange instead of gray and carmine instead of black.

So then, another day had been squandered and the yield was meager. The study of the factory chimney and the jotting in red and blue and perhaps the sketch of the fountain. If it were a cloudy day tomorrow he would go to Carabbina; there was that portico where the women came to do their laundry. Perhaps it would rain again tomorrow; then he would stay home and begin working on the picture of the brook in oils. And now to bed. It was past one o'clock again.

BOOK: Klingsor's Last Summer
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