Translated by Alex Kurtagic
The following article appeared in the Chilean newspaper, El Mercurio, on 10 March 2002. Serrano had written about a similar topic some thirty years earlier in an article for La Prensa entitled, “La Transformación de Hermann Hesse” (“The Transformation of Hermann Hesse”), which was translated into English and published under the title “Hermann Hesse in America.”
I had the good fortune of being friends with the great German writer. Even after his death, and having left the diplomatic corps, I lived for ten years in the old Camuzzi house, in Montagnola, in Italian Switzerland. Hesse’s first house was in the neighboring mountain village, Lugano.
It is absolutely absurd to believe that Hermann Hesse “went out of fashion,” as if a writer for the youth of forty years ago. In reality, Hesse was brought artificially “into fashion” and was used precisely in order to disorientate the new generations of the fifties and sixties. I remember very well that Suhrkamp Verlag, Hermann Hesse’s German publisher, was under obligation to sell forty thousand copies of Hesse’ oeuvre every month and, to that end, resorted to all forms of publicity and pressurizing of the young generations of that time. It was thus that in the United States was transformed and falsified Hermann Hesse, making him appear a “hippie,” a proponent of drug abuse, et cetera.
One day Hermann Hesse’s sons sought me in Montagnola to ask me about the imminent cinematic adaptation of Steppenwolf. They wished to know my opinion on the matter. Accompanying Heiner Hesse was the film project’s producer and scriptwriter. I replied by telling them that I remembered very well a conversation with Ninon Ausländer, Hermann Hesse’s last wife, who revealed to me her husband’s position (which was also her’s) against any filming or televising of his work. Moreover, this was stipulated in Hermann Hesse’s will, with one consideration: he would only accept his sons’ adapting for the cinema one of his books if they were in a bad financial situation. I asked Hermann Hesse’s sons if this was the case. They replied that it was not, but that they accepted the filming in order to “help the world’s youth.” They bid farewell and left me with the manuscript of Steppenwolf film project. They charged me with giving them my opinion. I must mention that the script’s author was the same who directed James Joyce’s Ulysses, which was brought to the cinema.
I read the text and, with real surprise, I discovered the invention of long paragraphs that were never written by Hermann Hesse.
I telephoned Heiner Hesse and again we met with the scriptwriter in Montagnola. I made my opinion known to them. They accepted that the script was an elaboration, conscientiously done. Following that explanation there was nothing for me to do but return the script, stating that I was against the filming.
Steppenwolf was brought to the cinema without great success.