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Narcissus and Goldmund: A Novel Paperback – February 1, 2003


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Product Details

  • Paperback: 315 pages
  • Publisher: Picador; Reprint edition (February 1, 2003)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0312421672
  • ISBN-13: 978-0312421670
  • Product Dimensions: 0.8 x 5.4 x 8.4 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 10.4 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (130 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #65,804 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

Review

“A poetic novel unique in its fascination.” —Thomas Mann

“Hesse was a great writer in precisely the modern sense: complex, subtle, allusive; alive to the importance of play, to the desperate yet frolicsome game of writing....Narcissus and Goldmund is his very best....What makes this short book so limitlessly vast is the body-and-soul-shaking debate that runs through it, which it has the honesty and courage not to resolve: between the flesh and spirit, art and scientific or religious speculation, action and contemplation, between the wayfaring and the sedentary in us.” —The New York Times Book Review

“One of the most profound and magical novels published in our age.” —Kirkus Reviews

Language Notes

Text: English (translation)
Original Language: German

More About the Author

Hermann Hesse (1877-1962) was born in Germany and later became a citizen of Switzerland. As a Western man profoundly affected by the mysticism of Eastern thought, he wrote many novels, stories, and essays that bear a vital spiritual force that has captured the imagination and loyalty of many generations of readers. In 1946, he won the Nobel Prize for Literature for The Glass Bead Game.

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Customer Reviews

Undoubtedly, one of the best books by Herman Hesse.
Paul Brealey
I first read this book in High School and over the next 20 years have re-read it many times.
Mark in Maquoketa
Neither Narcissus nor Goldmund ended up truly happy, I believe.
David H

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

64 of 65 people found the following review helpful By D. C. Cannon on September 4, 2002
Format: Mass Market Paperback
Like most people, I read Hesse's better known novels like Damien and Steppenwolf first. I found a copy of this at a used book store, bought it, and let it sit on the bookself for a while before actually reading it. Was I surprised - this is one of Hesse's greatest novels.
Hesse takes two young men - one devoted to the hermetic religious life and another more into the decadent artistic life - and follows them through adulthood. There are some amazing scenes here - scenes of great artistic creation, a journey through a plague ravaged world, the reunion of the two friends - that rank among the best things Hesse ever wrote.
True the characters are more "types" than real three dimensional characters. It is obvious that Hesse wants to examine the spiritual/cerebral approach to existence versus the more artistic/physical approach to life, and to find them both wanting. This is less a slice of life novel than a modern parable. Taken on those terms, this novel is Hesse at the height of his powers and deserves to be better known and read than it currently is.
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47 of 47 people found the following review helpful By Mark in Maquoketa on November 1, 2004
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Having read all of Hesse works, I find them all fascinating and profound, but none more so than Narcissus and Goldmund. This masterpiece explores the balance between living for yourself and living for others. These two characters and how they relate and understand the other is just beyond words. I first read this book in High School and over the next 20 years have re-read it many times. It never grows old as it invokes our innermost desires and failures. Do miss out on this great read.
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39 of 39 people found the following review helpful By "philstud" on January 30, 2002
Format: Mass Market Paperback
_Narcissus and Goldmund_ by Hermann Hesse is the story of two men: one an ascetic scholar, the other a passionate student of life. The book chronicles their fateful meeting, Goldmund's pursuit of truth and beauty, and a final reunion of the two friends late in life. It is quite simply the best book I've read thus far. In it, I find artfully and poignantly demonstrated the central conflict of my life, perhaps of all life: the struggle between the intellect and the emotions. The book is best read as a juxtaposition of both of these motivators in our lives. Narcissus represents pure intellect and reason, while Goldmund represents pure emotion and passion. Neither one could truly exist in the world, but Hesse creates them as archetypes of these two motivators in all humans. The struggles they encounter in understanding each other, and the struggles Goldmund encounters in making sense of the world, help us to better understand these two sides of our own character. The struggle teaches us of the beauty that aches, and friendship that knows no bounds. In this conflict one can ultimately find the beauty of truth, and the truth of beauty.
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63 of 68 people found the following review helpful By David H on May 1, 2000
Format: Mass Market Paperback
I first read Narcissus and Goldmund when I was about 20. The conflicts between mind/heart, reason/passion, intellect/emotion were the fulcrum around which my personal voyage of self-discovery turned - at that age.
Now, at 42, I have reread this book. I never appreciated the first time 'round that Hess was describing a completed life. I was too fixated on Goldmund's emancipation through travel. But in the end, after his return to the cloister to create true art, Goldmund hit the road again. He tried in vain to recapture youth only to be spurned by Agnes, the woman he considered to be the most beautiful - and the most like himself. This was a classic description of what we now call the "mid-life crisis".
Neither Narcissus nor Goldmund ended up truly happy, I believe. But that is not the point at all. There was a mutual recognition of the richness in their separate lives. And there was a love and a respect for those differences.
As we all grow up it is these deeper lessons that Hess seeks to impart to us. I'm glad I picked up this excellent book once again and am not surprised to see other reviewers who have done the same with similar results.
A book for living dangerously, and fully.
DH
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23 of 23 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on November 16, 2003
Format: Mass Market Paperback
I was first introduced to Hermann Hesse through "Demian" which I enjoyed immensely - I felt as though he understood the mind of the artist. Then one day, I recalled a friend mentioning "Narcissus and Goldmund" in the past - not knowing what it was about, I bought it. Call it impulse or instinct - regardless of how I came across this novel...it made a tremendous impact on my life...how I perceived myself as well as those around me. It made me question what my artistic and physical approach to life was.
That was five years ago and to this day, there hasn't been a book that's touched me as deeply nor have I experienced an epiphany as huge as the one I was struck with when I finished the book. The theme that comes across all of Hesse's novels is the road to self-discovery and frankly, having read other popular books by Hesse, none seem to match the profoundness of "Narcissus and Goldmund" or as eloquently written. This book epitomizes the struggle between the mind and the heart. Hesse forces the reader to come to terms with this inevitable conflict and realize that neither is above the other. Actually, both need each other to survive. I will admit that Narcissus and Goldmund are presented as two types of characters - literally. BUT the dimensionality that comes to define the two types as two individuals, are their journeys which, leads to their eventual reunion. It's what wasn't said between Narcissus and Goldmund that allows the reader to analyze and interpret accordingly.
Some reviewers have stated that they found this book disappointing because Hesse didn't delve further in defining the essence of life or that it's didactically written.
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