I've been reading ‘Autobiographical Writings’ by Hesse. In the section ‘Life story briefly told’, there’s the following quote:

At the age of more than seventy, just after two universities had singled me out for honorary degrees, I was brought to trial for the seduction by magic of a young girl.

What’s this in reference to? I can’t find any sources about Hesse being arrested.

The quote can also be found on pg 9 of this document.

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    If anyone is interested, in German it reads as "Im Alter von mehr als siebzig Jahren wurde ich, nachdem eben erst zwei Universitäten mich durch die Verleihung der Würde eines Ehrendoktors ausgezeichnet hatten, wegen Verführung eines jungen Mädchens durch Zauberei vor die Gerichte gebracht." from Kurzgefasster Lebenslauf (you can find a copy here). It's described as non-fiction on the English Wikipedia page for Hesse but clearly at least some of it is entirely fictional (as noted in the answers here). Feb 27 at 15:34

2 Answers 2


The reason behind this strange quote is given nicely in the Introduction to Autobiographical Writings. Hesse is writing a "fictional autobiography", extrapolating how his future life would be from the events of the present and his character. Theodore Ziolkowski, the writer of the Introduction explains:

while Hesse's novels emerge and are shaped from autobiographical reality, a reverse movement is simultaneously at play: for his autobiographical writings often tend to blend back into fiction... The most startling example of this playful bending of reality occurs at the end of "Life Story Briefly Told," where Hesse, after recapitulating the events of his life up to the time of writing (1925), speculates on its course in the future. It would be inevitable, he surmises, that a man of his noncomformist disposition should sooner or later come into conflict with the law. Late in his life, presumably, he would be arrested -- say, for the seduction of a young girl by means of magic.

So in real life Hesse was not, of course, ever arrested for "seduction by magic". It is just how he imagined how his life might end up 22 years in the future. As Ziolkowski notes:

Whether Hesse is writing "fiction" or "autobiography," he almost invariably ends up in what he has called the "timeless realm of the spirit," which is located just outside time and space


Hesse wrote "Kurzgefasster Lebenslauf" in 1925, well before he turned 70. That anecdote is part of a future he imagines for himself. A few pages before he presented the event in question, he says...

I shall give a brief account of how my life completes its curve.

In Kürze will ich erzählen, wie mein Leben vollends seinen Bogen beschreibt.

So it never actually happened! He just predicted that such a thing might occur, along with an obsession with Chinese witchcraft and a brief dalliance with opera-writing.

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