Hermann Hesse, I must surely have mentioned or suggestively failed to mention at some point before, is among my favourite hippie novelists. The statement is also misleading, for I encountered Hesse during his first period of international posthumous fame, when he was first being unforgotten; and he was heavily “sold” to me by a good, young, arguably German (less arguably American), friend from Mainz. My literary tastes of half-a-century ago are not reliable indicators of my preferences now, but they aren’t necessarily opposed to my current judgements. I have picked up Hesse, including Narziss und Goldmund (which gives an unreliable depiction of the Middle Ages, and the monastic life), and found him still entertaining, and many of his attitudes to life still attractive.

I call him a hippie novelist even though the world he was born into (in 1877) was not ready for his kind. But in a way more telling, he was not a hater. For instance, he did various bold and brave things, to subvert the Nazis (from 1933), and assist the Jews. (His third marriage was his most eloquent essay against anti-Semitism).

He detested them all (the Nazis, not his wives), and yet was criticized for never having made a formal condemnation of the Hitler regime. One thinks of popes who courted unpopularity with the unthreatened progressive types, from the same cause: unwillingness to arrange the martyrdoms of others.

Hesse detested Nazis from his first sight of them, and before that, in the heritage of Prussia; and he wasn’t afraid of their habit of persecuting people like him (beyond occasional exhibits of tact that could be read as fear). He made enough statements that implied that his detestation was profound. But he was not a political showman, like Thomas Mann, or Bertolt Brecht, both of whom he helped to escape from Germany.

Like recurring figures in his (hippie) novels, his inclination was just to do what seemed right, if necessary under difficult circumstances; and then, different things under different circumstances. If someone had ever asked him to sign on to the principles of Antifa (unknown through the fascist generation), he would have detested them, too.

For he detested the ideological sort of haters.

My point here is that detestation is not the same as “hate,” or hatred, and therefore cannot constitute a “hate crime,” whatever the political busybodies decide that is. In fact, it is more compatible with love; and the number of things a man hates (I will be a man, in this instance) that he also loves (Germans will be our token objects) may be quite formidable. Indeed, I hate everything I love, so far as I can enumerate; at least, every nationality and culture, and most of the individuals I have come to know.

All great novelists are in some sense “hippie novelists.” In future, I fear, all will be charged with hate crimes. In the spirit of Hesse, let us read and praise as many as we can.