Knulp

Author: Hermann Hesse
Published: 1915
Website: Amazon Page

In one of Herman Hesse’s earliest works, three brief stories, each seemingly cut short before anything happens, combine to describe the life of Knulp: a wanderer who spends his life winding his way through various cities, towns, and meadows. Each of the three tales is a snapshot of Knulp’s life: the first portrays Knulp as a young wanderer, the second contains a friend’s memories of Knulp’s wandering ways, and the third story describes the ‘decline’ of Knulp. I vaguely remember reading Hesse’s Siddhartha in high school and thinking that it was a pretty good novel, but Knulp was outstanding. Hesse, or more accurately, the translator, does more than just describe Knulp’s travels. Hesse focuses on the way Knulp interacts with the stationary people he encounters on his transitory travels. Knulp speaks melodically and philosophically, but he is also an improvisational poet, and his whimsical poems act as impromptu chapter break within each story. As his backstory is revealed in the final story, Knulp becomes a character with whom everyone can connect. And this translation (linked to in the header) allowed both the lack of plot, dialogue, and the (originally German) poems to be Knulp’s whimsical strengths.

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