Short Reviews

My Belief: Essays on Life and Art

by Hermann Hesse, translated by Denver Lindley
Farrar, Straus & Giroux, 393 pp., $8.95

Three Faces of Marxism: The Political Concepts of Soviet Ideology, Maoism, and Humanist Marxism

by Wolfgang Leonhard, translated by Ewald Oser
Holt, Rinehart & Winston, 500 pp., $15.00

The Invisible China: The Overseas Chinese and the Politics of Southeast Asia

by Garth Alexander
Macmillan, 264 pp., $7.95

Xingu: The Indians, Their Myths

by Orlando Villas Boas and Claudio Villas Boas, edited by Kenneth S. Brecher, translated by Susana Hertelendy Rudge
Farrar, Straus & Giroux, 270 pp., $12.95

Hermann Hesse, who lamented the decline of the West and celebrated the journey to the East, whose double-souled heroes are both continually suffering and affirming life, whose novels personify the drama of dualism, the projection of “the ideal into reality,” was himself enthralled by two opposing cultural tendencies, the transcendental longings of German Romanticism, in the literary period between 1750 and 1850, and the chaos and plight of the modern world. In these collected essays on life and art, extending from 1904 to 1961, all of Hesse’s abundant meditative energy, his proliferation of poles and counterpoles and syntheses, his masterly studies of Dostoevsky and Jean Paul and Hölderlin, his frank and penetrating discussion of moral and political and cultural issues, show him struggling to overcome the dichotomies of past and present, science and poetry, and espousing the belief “that there are not various peoples and minds but only One Humanity, only One Spirit.”

At times both the predicament and the resolve are stated quite baldly: “The way leads from innocence into guilt, out of guilt into despair, out of despair either to failure or to deliverance: that is, not back again behind morality and culture into a child’s paradise but over and beyond these into the ability to live by the strength of one’s faith.” But more representative of Hesse’s style are those qualities of modesty, delicacy, and tact, the aura of what he calls “magical thinking,” which illuminate even the most casual excursion and disarm us by the earnestness and purity of his voice.

Within rather strict self-imposed limits, the author has accomplished very much. This is a book about political concepts: it is mainly concerned neither with broad theoretical issues nor with the detailed historiography of communist organizations. Leonhard gives us a concise factual account of the political theory of Marxism from the days of the founding fathers up to the present. Based on original sources, his book analyzes the principal changes in Marxist political ideas, first into Leninism, later into Stalinist doctrine, and finally into the present three-way split between Soviet Marxism-Leninism, Maoism, and the humanist Marxism that has flourished intermittently and been repeatedly suppressed in Eastern Europe.

Leonhard’s division of Marxism into four major periods and his careful survey of its factional varieties is most useful in a field in which many Westerners tend to get hopelessly confused. The picture is complex indeed: the political concepts of Marxism have changed beyond recognition since Marx’s death. As Marxism became entwined in the different national revolutionary experiences, it produced widely divergent and often irreconcilable solutions to the central issues of revolutionary politics: the preconditions, timing, and leadership of the revolution, the forms of struggle, the role of the Party, the prospects for war and peace. Even more disparate are the various blueprints for the future classless society. Above all, nobody agrees on how long-lasting, dictatorial, and proletarian the dictatorship of the proletariat will be. Although the treatment of Chinese communism is adequate, there is unfortunately no reference to…

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