© Fred Stein, 1961, Portrait of Hermann Hesse

100 years ago, in 1913, Hesse’s book Aus Indien : Aufzeichnungen von einer indischen Reise was first published by Fischer.

Above photo is one of my favourite portraits of Hermann Hesse. The photographer Fred Stein lived, worked, and shared the intimacy of those who were, and remain the greatest intellectuals, thinkers, artists, poets, musicians and writers of the 20th century. They were also represented moral consciousness, demonstrating their refusal of a world where dark clouds of intolerance and fascism were forming over Europe. More of his pictures here.


Swiss German novelist and poet Hermann Hesse lived through two World Wars in which he tried to voice his concerns. Denied in the First World War to go into combat due to an eye disorder and other health problems, he was given the responsibility to guard war prisoners.

While under military service, Hesse wrote an essay entitled O Freunde, nicht diese Töne (O Friends, Not These Tones) which appeared in the Neue Zürcher Zeitung in 1914. In it he petitioned the Germans to beware of zealous nationalism. This essay caused an immense backlash towards Hesse from many political and intellectual groups. Weary of German nationalism, Hesse gave up his Geman citizenship in 1923 to become a Swiss citizen instead.

Later in the 1930’s during the upbuild to the second World War, Hesse helped fellow writers Bertolt Brecht and Thomas Mann go into exile. Hesse remained safe in Montagnola, Switzerland where he had been living since 1919. The Nazis however, banned his work. (+)


       © Martin Hesse, ca. 1960, Hermann Hesse at his writing desk, Montagnola

Above picture shows Hermann Hesse in his home in Montagnola. It was photographed by his third son Martin. Martin Hesse's mother was Maria “Mia” Bernoulli, Hermann Hesse’s first wife. She was a freelance photographer - the first woman, incidentally, to have done so in Switzerland - with her own studio in the old quarter of Basel, where Hermann Hesse first met her.

Shortly before they marry in 1904, Hesse writes to a friend about Mia, saying that she is a woman “at least equal to me in terms of education, experience of life, and intelligence, older than me, and in every respect a self-reliant, hard-working person.”

Mia, who was always an introspective woman, increasingly withdraws into herself while, at the same time, her husband is seeking to flee bourgeois existence through travelling and writing. It is impossible for outsiders to judge what came first: Hermann’s tendency to take flight or Mia’s depressions. (…) By 1918 a resolve was maturing in Hesse to bring about a physical separation, which coincided with a drastic deterioration in Mia’s health and her admission to a psychiatric clinic. Even during this time, Hesse retains a basically respectful attitude and continues to regard Mia as a strong personality. (+, +)

His second marriage to singer Ruth Wenger, whom he married in 1924, quickly dissolved in divorce. It was in his third marriage to Ninon Ausländer, an art historian of Jewish descent, that Hesse finally found the love and stability he so desired. (+)

» more photos of famous people «

#1: Fred Stein / Archive Photos / Getty Images

Hannah Arendt, a German American political theorist, was arrested by the Gestapo for her work with the German Zionist Organization. She escaped to Geneva and then to Paris.

#2: O.S. Goff / Hulton Archive / Getty Images

Sitting Bull: Hunkpapa Lakota Sioux tribal chief Sitting Bull fled for asylum in Canada after a U.S.-led raid on the Indian camp on the Little Big Horn River in 1876.

These photographs are part of the collection 5 Famous Asylum Seekers.

» find more photos of famous people here «