Info - Presentation "HSR"

Dawn, destiny, death of a city - The Hesse~Schmoegner~Rohrmann tale

Bernd ROHRMANN (Roman Research Road)

= The issue =

In 2001, I decided to enrich my environmental and sociological lectures, seminars and discourses with a presentation of "The City", a tale originally created by Hermann Hesse and Walter Schmoegner in Germany. To do this wasn't easy, and thus it became a major endeavour. In the following, pertinent information is provided.

= Hesse's story =


Hermann Hesse (1877-1962) was an author of novels and poems and occasionally a painter,  who was born in Germany and later lived in Switzerland. Some of his books, e.g., Siddhartha (1922), Steppenwolf (1927), Narcissus and Goldmund (1930) made him famous all over the world. In 1946 he received the Nobel prize for literature.  See hh-p for a few photos.

In 1910, Hesse wrote the astounding novel "Die Stadt" {The City}. In this story he describes how a little town is created in nowhereland, becomes an immense city and flourishes over centuries, yet in the long run declines because of both natural and societal disasters, and finally dies. In essence, this tale is a parable. See hh-t for an excerpt.

"Die Stadt" {The City} was never published on its own, it was part of some Hesse anthologies.

= Schmoegner's edition =

Walter Schmoegner (born 1943) is an eminent Austrian artist who creates paintings, drawings, objects and architectural works. He is also well-known for illustrated children books (especially the "Drachenbuch"). See ws-p for a few photos.

In 1977, the year of Hesse's hundredth birthday, the publisher Insel asked Schmoegner to craft a special edition of a Hesse book. He created a new version of "Die Stadt" {The City}, hand-written by him and enriched with dozens of outstanding paintings. This was published by Insel as a pocket book. See ws-t for an excerpt.

Furthermore, 100 luxury editions, hand-signed by the author, were issued. Both editions are not in print anymore.

= My versions for presentations =


When I decided to present the Hesse-Schmoegner tale in my Environmental Psychology lectures {Umweltpsychologie} and social-science risk research seminars in Melbourne/Australia, Fribourg/Switzerland, Mannheim/Germany, Innsbruck/ Austria and BuenosAires/Argentina, I had to work out a presentation mode. I chose overhead projection of a series of documents in A4 format, showing texts or images or both.

For the German version I scanned the whole book, 32 double pages, and integrated them into a text-plus-pictures document.

Creating the English version was much more demanding. At first I had to find a proper english edition. I used a translation of Hesse's book published in America. Then I made scans of Schmoegner's paintings. After changing the layout of the text, I finally created a set of 40 viewgraphs (using digital pictures and a special font) which cover the full Hesse-Schmoegner story. The font approximates the hand-written style of Schmoegner. See br-t for an excerpt.

In 2008 I searched and found one of Schmoegner's original hand-signed editions, which contains much better prints of the paintings than the Insel booklet. I procured it, and then all pages were carefully scanned. Using these digital pictures, I created new versions of the whole book, a German and an English one. They were presented in my final lectures in Australia, Argentina and Germany, using overhead projection or document visualizers.

= about the Hesse~Schmoegner tale =


Furthermore, since 2009 I ruminated whether the Hesse-Schmoegner book could be filmed. I discussed this with Franz Winzentsen, a film artist, and we designed the shape and style. Walter Schmoegner kindly agreed to my idea. The film maker Sabine Hoepfner then produced an English and a German one, incorporating recitals of Hesse's full text. I had recorded the English text in a sound studio, the German text was spoken by Winzentsen. See fm-p for photos. The length of both films is 20 minutes. See hsr-f for an extract of the English version. 

= Presentation of the Hesse~Schmoegner~Rohrmann work =

In two special colloquia, one at Hamburg University (Nov 2010) and one in Melbourne (Feb 2011), the films were first time shown.

The participants, various experts and students, were then encouraged to debate whether Hesse's parable "Die Stadt" {The City}, written about 100 years ago, is still valuable to those interested in social and ecological processes, and if so, which presentation mode - text, pictures, film - would be the best way to convey his insights.

The discussion indicated that this depends on the target groups, which differ in age, in scientific and cultural knowledge, in reading attitudes, in curiosity, in accepting complexity, and certainly in their tolerance for something 'out of the ordinary' ... The illustrations by Schmoegner clearly enhanced the reach of the parable. The film was seen as the most intense and most motivating work, because it contains inspiring images, shows a voyage through environments, and Hesse's tale is fully included as spoken words.

= Contact address =

Professor Bernd ROHRMANN
Venture:  Roman Research Road   Address:  94 Fenwick St, Victoria 3054, AUSTRALIA
E-Mail  mail {at}       WebSite


13-05-11   BR