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Gertrude (Twentieth Century Classics) [Paperback]

Hermann Hesse , H. Rosner
4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3 customer reviews)

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Product details

  • Paperback: 160 pages
  • Publisher: Penguin Books Ltd; New edition edition (28 Jun 1990)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0140180508
  • ISBN-13: 978-0140180503
  • Product Dimensions: 19.2 x 12.4 x 1.2 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 2,505,256 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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4.0 out of 5 stars
4.0 out of 5 stars
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars safe read 7 Aug 2001
By A Customer
Format:Paperback
Gertrud is one of Hesse's minor works. It doesn't have the depth of Das Glasperlenspiel or the intricacy of the Steppenwolf. Although Gertrud is not in the same league with these absolute classics it is still basic good Hesse. Hesse is always a true versifier and doesn't fail with his exploration to human mind, be it in this book from a narrower view. The story evolves around a composer who goes through certain changes in his life e.g. with love. Hesse again uses comparison between two different friends who represent different worlds as he does in, for example, Siddhartha or Das Glasperlenspiel. The music theme may be interesting for a musical person.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Excellent, yet flawed 12 Jun 2009
Format:Paperback
Gertrude has attracted quite a bit of criticism, due to it's not being up to he same standard as Hesse's later writings. But I think to look at it that way is to miss the point entirely: yes, the book is flawed compared to the author's main corpus, yet it is still vastly better than most contemporary literatire which is published today. One can see glimpses of certain themes in this work which were to become central in Hesse's great works.

There's a certain irony in the author's relationship to the book: throughout, the protagonist -who is a composer- remarks how the pieces he composed in his narration do not reflect him in his current lonely state; Hesse, much like his storyteller, also distanced himself from this early work.

This is a young work and should be treated as such. Interestingly, one can also view the story in Gertrude as Hesse being prophetic of his own reaction to it in later life.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars 11 Sep 2014
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
Excellent
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Amazon.com: 4.5 out of 5 stars  24 reviews
15 of 15 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars "A Thought-Provoking Tale of Music, Love, and Egotism" 27 May 2001
By "stradgirl" - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
Although hardly as recognized as the NARZISS AND GOLDMUND or the Novel prize winner THE GLASS BEAD GAME, GERTRUDE is one of Hermann Hesse's most beautifully written works that deserves distinction in its own right. The novel seems a rather short read at first glance, but its fast-moving nine chapters are much denser than its small volume. To fit this novel into one category would be difficult: it is a tragedy of two lovers and two friends; it is a tale of unrequited love; it is a reminiscence of a man who has matured from an indeterminate youth into adulthood; it is a testimony of the destructivity of egotism of man. This is a story of every significant aspect of a human being, that witnesses life's joys and sorrows in the most unfeigned, scrupulous way.
In a retrospective manner, the story unfolds chronologically by the main character, Kuhn. The story starts as Kuhn recollects the adolescence and early adulthood of his life in a calm, bleak tone. Kuhn is a shy, remarkably observant youth, whose life has been "tuned to one-key note and directed solely to one star": music. Despite his passion, however, his future as a musician is only in vain.
While Kuhn fritters away in depression and self-disillusionment, one day, a life-changing accident happens: one that changes the scale of life on which he lives, and it grants him the concentration and productive insight to express himself through writing his own music. It is a contradictory and rather ironic event, for it deprives him the joy of youth and yet this loss of youthful happiness becomes a path that leads him to become a productive artist. Life's sorrows and anguish transform into his main source of inspiration. One of the songs composed during that period leads him to the encounter with Muoth, the opera singer with an impetuous personality. Their relationship continually grows and deteriorates, as the story becomes increasingly complex with new characters introduced in almost every chapter.
The philosophical depth and insight into life and human nature are the trademarks of Hesse, and they do not fail to form the centrepiece of this novel either. The story is really an emotional analysis of the impact of Muoth's impulsive and agonized personality on people around him, how Muoth's egotism and ill-guided passion affect them, eventually resulting in shattering their lives. A remark casually made by Kuhn's father strikingly coincides with Muoth's character: "Youth ends when egotism does; maturity begins when one lives for others. Young people have many pleasures and many sorrows, because they only have themselves to think of, so every wish and every notion assumes importance; every pleasure is tasted to the full, but also every sorrow, and many who find that their wishes cannot be fulfilled, immediately put an end to their lives."
While the flowery prose often runs over several lines in one sentence, the sensitive writing of Hesse affords to remain clear and elegant. Kuhn's describing the impact of music on himself is one such example: "Oh, music! A melody occurs to you; you sing it silently, inwardly only; you steep your being in it; it takes possession of all your strength and emotions, and during the time it lives in you, it effaces all that is fortuitous, evil, coarse and sad in you; it brings the world into harmony with you, it makes burdens light and gives wings to the benumbed!...For each pleasing harmony of clearly combined notes...charms and delights the spirit, and the feeling in intensified with each additional note; it can at times fill the heart with joy and make it tremble with bliss as no other sensual pleasure can do."
Besides the admirably detailed descriptions of the characters and striking accounts of emotions, Hesse often exploits similes and metaphors to make the story even more vivid and beautiful; especially when talking about the relationship between Kuhn and Gertrude. As Gertrude comes up to Kuhn "as lightly as a bird and as naturally as a friend", Kuhn is drawn to Gertrude "as an early morning wanderer surrenders himself to the blue sky and the bright dew on the meadows", while the realization of his love for her is described as "the radiance and peace emerged through the raging storm of sound, revealing the light from behind the heavy clouds."
Going through a series of fateful changes in his relationships with Muoth, Gertrude, his parents, and many other characters around himself, Kuhn experiences the joy and pain of life. Kuhn learns to plunge into "the swift creative current" in which he emerges to "the free heights of feeling, where pain and bliss are no longer separate from each other."
Although the rather abrupt ending gives a feeling of insufficient resolution, the novel keeps its magnetic power to the end, leaving the reader questioning the very meaning of love and life itself. GERTRUDE, with its depth of insight and its beauty of the language, is a truly remarkable piece of literature to be enjoyed by many.
Whew, that was long... CONCLUSION: Put on some Schumann and kick back on the couch with this book..it'll take your night away!
7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Poignant 3 Nov 2002
By A Customer - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
After reading, "Demian," "Narcissus and Goldmund", "Siddharta," and "Beneath The Wheel," it was a pleasant surprise to read something "light" from Hermann Hesse. Don't get me wrong. Even with the simple plot and autobigraphical narration of Kuhn, Hesse's philosophies pervade, especially on love, wisdom and growing old.
"Gertrude" is a story about desires. Kuhn's desires to have his leg back, to live without loneliness, even a desire to change fate itself. All of these desires become centered in Gertrude Imothor whom he befriends and falls in love with as Kuhn was slowly rising in prominence as a composer. While Kuhn works on his opera, his friends, Muoth and Gertrude, fall in love. Finding about the affair, Kuhn becomes devastated but was soon distracted by a telegram sent about his ailing father. His father's death brings Kuhn back to the advice that he gave him the past summer. With renewed vigor, he accepts his fate and even composes a prelude for Muoth and Gertrude's wedding. Kuhn's opera becomes a success while Muoth and Gertrude's marriage crumbles. Gertrude, Muoth and Kuhn's desires interweave and create the tragic results to which all of them learn from.
In the end, Kuhn learns from his experiences and even comes to accept his fate, as he relates in this passage:
"Fate was not kind, life was capricious and terrible, and there was no good or reason with nature. But there is good and reason in us, in human beings, with whom fortune plays, and we can be stronger than nature and fate, if only for a few hours. And we can draw close to one another in times of need, understand and love one another and live to comfort each other."
9 of 11 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Elegant and Beautiful 16 Sep 2000
By A Customer - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
This elegant and beautiful story is one of Hermann Hesse's very early novellas and is told in a simple, first-person narrator style.
It is the story of a man possessed by two passions: music and love. In the uncomplicated and lovely language that marks all of his works, Hesse describes with wonderful accuracy the heights and depths of romantic love and the bonds of true friendship. He falls a little short, in this book, at giving us a truly emotional look at the protagonist's passion for his music. It is in this area that the character of Kuhn, as well as that of Muoth, rings just a little false.
The pivotal character of Gertrude is beautifully drawn, but she is introduced far too late in the story for the reader to develop any sort of emotional bond with either her or her dilemma, a mistake Hesse did not repeat in his later works.
Readers who are familiar with the works of Hesse will recognize the early development of his themes of isolation and uniqueness in Gertrude in the character of Kuhn.
Like all of Hesse's works, this book is understated and restrained, yet full of emotion. The prose often feels as though there are undercurrents just about to break through the surface. Hesse, though, writes with his usual restraint and, although the book is one of obsession and tragedy, the author completely resists the temptation to let the story desolve into melodrama.
Gertrude is not Hesse's very best work, but it is certainly a lovely one and one that anyone interested in Hermann Hesse cannot afford to miss.
8 of 10 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars This is a great book 5 April 2000
By T. Lansing - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
Gertrude is Hermann Hesse at his most accessible, most believable and most human. It is a simple but moving story for those who have experienced unrequitted love. It also touches the right buttons for those who are forever in search of happiness and who have never been able to find inner calm. Hesse's episodes with suicidal thought (a regular and autobiographical feature of his earlier works) and search for life's meaning are themes which he often searched out in his novels. This piece from 1910 is still has aged well, remains relevent and is very approachable 90 years later.
5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A beautiful story of an unrequited love. 28 Aug 1998
By A Customer - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
I have been wanting to read a work of Hesse's for a while, yet never found ample time until my summer vacation. It was my aunt who suggested that I read Gertrude and I, for once, am glad to have taken her advice. The book is narrated by a composer, Kuhn, and tells of his love for Gertrude, his friendship with the tempermental opera singer Muoth, and his passion for music. It is an excellent book that reads the way life does. I think the moral would be that one must, in life, take the good with the bad. I especially enjoyed this book because I could dentify with Kuhn's passion for music.
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