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Siddhartha Mass Market Paperback – December 1, 1981

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In the shade of a banyan tree, a grizzled ferryman sits listening to the river. Some say he's a sage. He was once a wandering shramana and, briefly, like thousands of others, he followed Gotama the Buddha, enraptured by his sermons. But this man, Siddhartha, was not a follower of any but his own soul. Born the son of a Brahmin, Siddhartha was blessed in appearance, intelligence, and charisma. In order to find meaning in life, he discarded his promising future for the life of a wandering ascetic. Still, true happiness evaded him. Then a life of pleasure and titillation merely eroded away his spiritual gains until he was just like all the other "child people," dragged around by his desires. Like Hermann Hesse's other creations of struggling young men, Siddhartha has a good dose of European angst and stubborn individualism. His final epiphany challenges both the Buddhist and the Hindu ideals of enlightenment. Neither a practitioner nor a devotee, neither meditating nor reciting, Siddhartha comes to blend in with the world, resonating with the rhythms of nature, bending the reader's ear down to hear answers from the river. In this translation Sherab Chodzin Kohn captures the slow, spare lyricism of Siddhartha's search, putting her version on par with Hilda Rosner's standard edition. --Brian Bruya --This text refers to the Paperback edition.

From Library Journal

Siddhartha's life takes him on a journey toward enlightenment. Afire with youthful idealism, the Brahmin joins a group of ascetics, fasting and living without possessions. Meeting Gotama the Buddha, he comes to feel this is not the right path, though he also declines joining the Buddha's followers. He reenters the world, hoping to learn of his own nature, but instead slips gradually into hedonism and materialism. Surfeited and disgusted, he flees from his possessions to become a ferryman's apprentice, learning what lessons he can from the river itself. Herman Hesse's 1922 Bildungsroman parallels the life of Buddha and seems to argue that lessons of this sort cannot be taught but come from one's own struggle to find truth. Noted actor Derek Jacobi interprets this material wonderfully, and the package, despite abridging a Nobel prize winner's prose, can be highly recommended.AJohn Hiett, Iowa City P.L.
Copyright 1998 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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Product Details

  • Mass Market Paperback: 160 pages
  • Publisher: Bantam (January 1, 1982)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0553208845
  • ISBN-13: 978-0553208849
  • Product Dimensions: 4.2 x 0.4 x 6.9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 2.1 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1,151 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,074 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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

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68 of 68 people found the following review helpful By Joseph H. Hartmann on September 5, 2006
Format: Hardcover
Beautifully translated, evoking the majesty in the simple story of a man in his lifelong journey towards the attainment of Enlightenment. Melodic in its tone but true to the original German Susan Bernofsky's translation has set a new standard among the various English translations currently available. As many times as I have read and enjoyed Siddhartha over the years (about 10 or so readings) never have I enjoyed a translation as much as Ms. Bernofsky's - a truly remarkable effort.
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173 of 184 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on August 8, 2000
Format: Mass Market Paperback
Set in India, Siddhartha is subtitled an "Indic Poetic Work" and clearly it does owe much to both Buddhism and Hinduism, however the philosophy embodied in Siddhartha is both unique and quite complex, despite the lyrically beautiful simplicity of the plot.
Siddhartha is one of the names of the historical Gautama and while the life of Hesse's character resembles that of his historical counterpart to some extent, Siddhartha is by no means a fictional life of Buddha and his teachings.
Siddhartha is divided into two parts of four and eight chapters, something some have interpreted as an illustration of Buddhism's Four Noble Truths and the Eightfold Path to Enlightenment.
Elements of Hinduism can also be found in Siddhartha. Some critics maintain that Hesse was influenced largely by the Bhagavad Gita when he wrote the book and that his protagonist was groping his way along a path outlined in that text. Certainly the central problems of Siddhartha and the Gita are similar: how can the protagonist attain a state of happiness and serenity by means of a long and arduous path?
Hesse's protagonist, however, seeks his own personal path to fulfillment, not someone else's. It is one of trial and error and he is only subconsciously aware of its nature. Although many see Siddhartha's quest as embodying the ideals of Buddhism, Siddhartha objects to the negative aspects of Gautama's teaching. He rejects Gautama's model for himself and he rejects Buddhism; Siddhartha insists upon the right to choose his own path to fulfillment.
The primary theme of Siddhartha is the individual's difficult and lonely search for self-fulfillment.
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167 of 178 people found the following review helpful By Donald Mitchell HALL OF FAMETOP 500 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on November 9, 2000
Format: Hardcover
Siddhartha is that most unusual of all stories -- one that follows a character throughout most of his life . . . and describes that life in terms of a spiritual journey. For those who are ready to think about what their spiritual journey can be, Siddhartha will be a revelation. For those who are not yet looking for "enlightenment," the book will seem pecular, odd, and out-of-joint. That's because Hesse was presenting a mystery story, also, for each reader to solve for herself or himself. The mystery is simply to unravel the meaning of life.
As the son of a Brahmin, Siddhartha would naturally have enjoyed access to all of the finest lessons and things of life. Knowing of his natural superiority in many ways, he becomes disenchanted with teachers and his companions. In a burst of independence, he insists on being allowed to leave home to become a wandering Shramana (or Samana, depending on which translation you read). After three years or so, he tires of this as well. Near the end of that part of his life, Siddharta meets Gotama, the Buddha, and admires him greatly. But Siddharta continues to feel that teachers cannot convey the wisdom of what they know. Words are too fragile a vessel for that purpose. He sees a beautiful courtesan and asks her to teach him about love. Thus, Siddhartha begins his third quest for meaning by embracing the ordinary life that most people experience. Eventually, disgusted by this (and he does behave disgustingly), he tires of life. Then, he suddenly reconnects with the Universe, and decides to become a ferryman and learn from the river. In this fourth stage of his life, he comes to develop the wisdom to match the knowledge that direct experiences of the "good" and the "sensual" life have provided to him.
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59 of 62 people found the following review helpful By Ben Gilworth on October 20, 2009
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
The layout and cover are beautifully done. Hesse's book is a masterpiece. The translation also has a kind of poetry that I suspect is close to the German, however there are a fair number grammatical errors or typos in this edition - it seems they used spell check so the typos aren't obvious, but I can't go more than a few paragraphs without having to read a sentence a few times to figure out which word was left out or spell-checked into the wrong word. 'Learned' becomes 'Leaned', 'that' becomes 'That', 'ice' becomes 'icy', 'breaths' becomes 'breathes', commas break sentences in ways that unintentionally change meaning, etc... These are just some examples from a few pages chosen at random. This problem is consistent throughout the book. There is even an instance where a question left by the translator, in German, is sitting IN THE TEXT in a sentence, which is just absurd.
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34 of 34 people found the following review helpful By PGB on August 30, 2006
Format: Hardcover
When I came upon a new translation of Siddhartha by the revered Susan Bernofsky, I was drawn to revisit this book from thirty years ago. Like many teens of the early seventies, I was affected deeply by Siddhartha. It offered me a way to find and embrace spirituality--spirituality that was more aligned with the Beatles, the anti-war movement, and my own peer culture than was my childhood Episcopalian upbringing. This new volume didn't disappoint. Bernofsky, whose translations I've long admired, pays careful attention to Hesse's musical prose and lyricism. The simple messages and Siddhartha's adventures were even more delightful that I remembered. This is a much more beautifully rendered version than the one I read in my youth. Bernofsky's mastery of German coupled with her understanding of and faithfulness to Hesse's pure and rather innocent lessons make this a refreshing read, like dipping one's feet into a cool brook on an August day. I'm glad I revisited this old friend. Siddhartha has stood the test of time. Bravo to Bernofsky, as well.
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