• Hesse’s determination to distance himself from the world can be partly explained by his family background. He was born in 1877 in the Black Forest town of Calw into a Pietist family. A dissident current within Lutheranism, Pietists believed a righteous life must be lived independently of the world, including the established churches. A similar impulse of withdrawal shaped Hesse’s life and work. Suffering repeated episodes of acute depression, recurrently suicidal, scornful of world opinion and at the same time intensely protective of his reputation, Hesse struggled to renew a Pietistic life of the spirit at a time when the faith that had sustained his family was no longer viable. Diagnosed in his early years as being mentally ill, he entered a psychiatric institution for a time and struggled throughout his life to achieve some kind of inner equilibrium.

I checked Oxford thesaurus dictionary for writers to choose the best fit for translating the passage into another language. Still I have my doubts. I can possibly choose “undergo” or “experience.”. Then I would have to say the faith that was there in Hesse’s family was no longer viable. On the other hand I can choose “comfort” or “cheer up” , then I would have to say that the faith that had made their family happy and comfort was no longer viable. I am not also sure what word best fit a substitution for “viable” . I can possibly say “impractical “ but if I want to translate and explain further the gist of that, then I think I need your help paraphrase the last part of passage please, since I do not know what a native speaker think when he or she reads this passage.

1 Answer 1


I can't say that I like this clause. Its meaning is not clear and may not exist. Its denotative meaning seems to be

when the faith that had comforted his family was no longer sufficient for him.

That is, "sustain" is being used in a figurative sense to mean "provide emotional and spiritual support."

The word "viable" seems very vague in this context. I have no idea what it means to assert that a faith is or is not viable. It sounds like academic drivel. People believe very weird things about crystals, pyramids, auras, and paranormal events. The only sense that seems to fit the context is that Hesse, for some reason not stated, either could not believe in or could no longer find comfort in Pietism. Given the murky meaning of how exactly a faith loses viability (if such a thing is even possible), I think that the best that can be done is to indicate that that particular faith no longer worked for Hesse personally.

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