Singapore Dream and Other Adventures: Travel Writings from an Asian Journey

Hermann Hesse, trans. from the German by Sherab Chodzin Kohn. Shambhala, $16.95 ISBN 978-1-6118-0589-5
In 1911, German novelist Hesse, his famous works Steppenwolf and Siddhartha still before him, undertook a three-month-long journey to Singapore, as recounted in the luminous journal entries and poems collected here and translated into English for the first time. In evocative prose, Hesse describes the stillness of a “hot dark-blue night” aboard ship in the Suez Canal, the only sound “the soft rolling of a railroad train from Cairo that appeared atop the long, desolate bank”; the “thick, horrid smell of coconut oil” that permeates Malaysian villages; and the spell cast on him and other travelers by the “tangled, green eternity” of an Indonesian jungle. Elsewhere, Hesse marvels at how well the “pleasantly weathered” buildings in Malaysia match their environment, predicting they will outlast the “guilt-laden existence” of newer European-built dwellings. A favorite Hesse theme, the conflict between the spiritual and the physical, is explored in the collection’s only fiction selection, “Robert Aghion,” set in India (which Hesse planned to but didn’t manage to visit), about a young missionary’s crisis of faith. The emerging beauty of Hesse’s later work shines in these writings, though they will appeal mostly to the author’s established fans. (July)
Reviewed on: 05/14/2018
Release date: 06/26/2018
Genre: Nonfiction
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