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Siddhartha
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59 of 61 people found the following review helpful
on October 20, 2009
Format: PaperbackVerified 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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28 of 30 people found the following review helpful
on October 25, 1997
Format: Audio Cassette
I read this book when I was 19. I am now 51. Having just discovered Amazon Books, I was "surfing" and searching out titles that came to memory. I also read the lyrical version in German in those now distant days, and spent much time looking for "Suleika", or "Zuleika". It brought me great peace of mind at that time, as I had to interrupt my college days in order to enter the Army and go to Vietnam. The book reads like the flowing river, and is in some ways an eternal story of search for meaning in life and realization. Like Sidhartha our search for meaning often ends at the beginning. Ultimately, we return to the basic and simple truths that were there when we were born. Growing up is a kind of struggle. Sidhartha is a story of idealism and virtue that survives ignorance, futility and evil. If in the end, we retain that idealism, our lives can be heroic and our conscience pure. Sometimes, I remember and recall the words: "From Sidhartha to Sidhartha is my coming and my going." It is a book of haunting beauty and depth of meaning. W. H. L./Bellevue
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
on June 17, 2004
Format: Mass Market Paperback
This book is a brilliant work, teeming with symbolism within characters, plot, and various events that take place during the lifelong spiritual journey of Siddhartha, a Brahman's son. One may say this self-disovery search would categorize this novel in the coming of age genre. Yet it goes beyond that. We see a young boy, though wise beyond his years at a tender age, transform into an ageing man who has been through every phase and stage of life. He's grown and developed. We come to understand how various events play out in his life, molding him and shaping him into the person he becomes.
Though this book is a mere 160 pages, it is no easy read. You need to decipher it by each threading sentence to understand the semi-complex symbolism - and it doesn't always jump right out at you, either. And if you're looking for a book with realistic characters who think the thoughts and feel the emotions of average people, look elsewhere. Often times, this is what I prefer in my reads, but this was a nice change from my usual teen fluff of high school angst and turmoil. I'd recommend it for ages 13 and older.
I used this book to parallel with my history lesson. Siddhartha's journey of self-discovery is said to be based on the life of Buddha, who set out to search for enlightenment. He wished to come to understand the causes of human suffering and he achieved his goal. It appears Siddhartha came to see the main cause of misery in human beings just like Buddha - that one thing happens to be desire. The stages and phases of Siddhartha's life lead him from a beggar to one who lives the overprivileged life, filled with material riches and wealths. During this period, Siddhartha gets high off the adrenaline rush of gambling, gambling, gambling...and winning over and over again - it isn't for money's sake. Siddhartha comes to realize the riches and wealth the world has to offer make him unhappy. In fact, it appears he, in all honestly, was happier as a beggar.
Siddhartha is one-dimensional and barely seems human. As I said before, he does not feel an average person's emotions. This is proven by how easily he leaves his father and his first-born sun, not shedding a single tear. However, Siddhartha does indeed show extreme perseverance and determination. Overall, Hesse uses him, along with other characters, to convey his symbolism. He succeeds. That, perhaps, is why SIDDHARTHA has been enjoyed for generations and will continue to be a favorite, the type of novel that can be read during any time and any phase of life.
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19 of 24 people found the following review helpful
on August 12, 2005
Format: Mass Market Paperback
This book follows a spiritual journey of the lead character through four stages of life: a Brahmin's son, an aesthetic in the woods, a merchant/gambler, and finally a wise ferryman. In the end, the wisdom reached by the titular character is a hybrid of Buddhist and Hindu teachings.

I absolutely loved this book in college and have been drawn back to read it several times since. My recent mature reading was the least satisfying. The end particularly troubled me. The complete selfishness of this supposed wise man truly renders him a stunted hero.

I noticed several morally problematic scenes that are not well answered in the novel. For example, the Ferryman tells Siddhartha that his 12 year old son can fend for himself in the forest and world. Even in the world Hesse has constructed here, Siddhartha's actions are nothing short of criminal negligence. When you step back and look at the entire book, you realize the immense selfishness of Siddhartha in relation to his friend Govinda, his parents, his mistress, his fellow merchants, and even his son.

Siddhartha makes no real sacrifice in his quest for wisdom. He chooses his path and runs roughshod over the lives of those around him. When his son unexpectedly appears, the Ferryman tells him to let his son go (which he does) because his son will not be happy raised by two old men by the river. Never for a moment does Siddhartha consider giving up his Ferryman existence and moving back into the town to raise his son. He doesn't even really care about his son FOR his son. He spends most of the time worrying about his own bruised heart caused by the son's rejection of his "love."

When I was young, I completely identified with the lead character on his spiritual quest. You pursue your goals with determination and ignore the consequences. Now I see how empty a life Siddhartha created for himself. Who would find a life without friends and family rewarding? Not many.
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19 of 24 people found the following review helpful
Format: Mass Market Paperback
This is a beautiful novel. The story of a spiritual quest in which the young privileged hero goes out to the world , and tries to meet and know every different kind of experience. He goes through different stages of life , including one in which he tastes the sensual pleasures of life to the full. He meets old age, sickness and death. He comes to a kind of humble understanding of the nature of life and his spiritual quest is one in which he comes to a kind of peace.

The story is told with simplicity and skill, and it flows wonderfully.

My own problem with the book is that the wretch ' concentred all in self' . There is no deeper understanding of how the ordinary connections of family and community , and the giving to them provide life with meaning and dimension beyond the self. There is too no feeling that one can by one's own effort add to the goodness of the world, make a change for the better however small.

This is not to deny the truth of Siddartha's quest or understanding, but only to indicate that it is one road and not the only road or in my opinion the ideal road the person can take in this life.
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5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
Format: Mass Market PaperbackVerified Purchase
There exists a space in which we find ourselves in deep contemplation over life and our destiny. It is at those moments when a book like Siddhartha can be meaningful without being invasive. The journey of a Brahmin's son and his childhood friend asks more questions than it answers.

What is the meaning to our existence and how do we find true joy? Siddhartha is outwardly content, yet in his heart there is no joy. This is not a matter of simply struggling over a current confusion, this is an internal struggle which seeks to destroy his very being, eating at his very life energy, consuming his waking hours. He is a seeker, insatiable, desiring his own sense of Nirvana.

At first he seeks to become a Samana and deny himself all worldly possessions and pleasures. "Siddhartha had one single goal-to become empty, to become empty of thirst, desire, dreams, pleasure and sorrow-to let the Self die."

After living a life in which he denies himself all pleasure, he longs for a life filled with pleasure and is satiated to the point of feeling sickened by lust and greed. Finally he finds his way to a river. The most beautiful section of this book is when Siddhartha listens to what the river is telling him.

"Have you learned from that secret from the river, that there is no such thing as time?"

"Yes...That the river is everywhere at the same time, at the source and at the mouth, at the waterfall, at the ferry, at the current, in the ocean and in the mountains, everywhere, and that the present only exists for it, not the shadow of the past, nor the shadow of the future."

Siddhartha almost gives his life to the water in his despair. However, the river becomes a source of inner reflection for him when he realizes his awakening is his path to wisdom. Even as I finished the story I wondered if Siddhartha had found the inner peace, or if he had just made a pact with his soul not to contemplate the mystery of the universe any further.

Even in the most difficult situations when God feels far away, He might just be letting us awaken to our own inner world. Waiting, loving us, waiting. Perhaps waiting for us to make the right decisions in life, to find our destiny. To find Him.

If you enjoy Siddhartha, you will love Of Marriageable Age by Sharon Maas. She mentions this book in her novel.

~The Rebecca Review
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
on November 27, 2009
Format: PaperbackVerified Purchase
This book is cheap, and after reading it I noticed why, there are quite a number of spelling errors. It doesn't really detract from the quality of the story, but it is a bit annoying. I guess beggars can't be choosers.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
on October 28, 1999
Format: Mass Market Paperback
Hesse's greatest work truly is a modern classic. One can get lost in all the spiritualism and also flounder in the philosophicalness of this work. It is a must read for anyone.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on February 14, 2013
Format: Kindle EditionVerified Purchase
This book was required for school and in all actuality once you dive in, you'll want to continue until you finish.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
Format: Paperback
Back in the early `70's, I'd listen to a wonderful series of tales on the radio, put out by ZBS media, in Fort Edward, NY. At least two were "classics": The Fourth Tower of Inverness and Moon over Morocco. And sure enough, as both luck and Amazon will have it, they are available today. They feature an intrepid traveler, Jack Flanders, who, in one of the series, spoke of the spiritual energy of the West going to the East... "like an enormous box-car"... and it was moving of its own accord. The early `70's... and I guess, even today, it is reasonable to conclude that there is not much spiritual energy about in the West... and who knows... it just might be somewhere else. Though I was not particularly seeking enlightenment, nor was I a hippie, in 1971, I took what was dubbed the "hippie route to the East," that went overland through Turkey, Iran, Afghanistan, Pakistan, into India. My personal objective was "the wonder that was India," not to mention, attempting to address my abysmal lack of knowledge of the world at large. I was even enthralled with Afghanistan on the way, and will always regret not having taken that 12-hour rickety school bus to the Buddhist statues at Bamiyan. Even if I had been in an altered state of consciousness somewhere - please note the conditional tense - I can't recall seeing a boxcar pass me by, but I do recall a few folks along the way who felt that "Siddhartha" was their new Bible.

And so a couple years thereafter, I read it... and had the sensation that it had the substance of cotton candy, with, you know, man, "the wholeness of the universe," how everything is connected in improbable ways. So, some four decades later, decided to give it a re-read. And sure enough, once again, things ARE linked in improbable ways. My edition is published by "New Directions" publishing (which also still exists!) and which was founded by James Laughlin in 1936. He was the scion of a steel dynasty that owned and operated steel mills in Pittsburgh (and elsewhere), one of which was nestled along the Monongahela River, just off the Parkway East that I frequently drove, before it became an Interstate. This edition has a few flagrant spelling errors, and I have been guilty of a few of those too, though with "spell-check," the "flagrant" adjective is less appropriate nowadays.

Hermann Hesse's novel is the account of a youth, Siddhartha, who was also seeking answers to the meaning of life. Of course, he was already in India, and never considered that the answer might be in the West. With his father's reluctant permission, this Brahmin left home, with his faithful friend, Govina. They joined a passing troop of monks, who lived a basic hand-to-mouth existence, and are referred to as the "lean jackals in the world of men," the "Samanas." They stay with them for three years. Then they run into a spiritual guru by the name of "Gotama" who has the strong attributes of the "spiritual game of follow the leader." Govina and Siddhartha split. Govina is happy to be a follower; Siddhartha claims that everyone must find their own way in life, you know, man, you have to seek your own destiny.

I saw the inverse parallels between Thomas Merton and Hermann Hesse. Merton was also interested in the spiritual energy of the east... he had led a "full and worldly life" until the age of 26, and then entered a Trappist Monastery. Siddhartha, on the other hand, was first a monk, and then did the "full and worldly life" bit, with his own personal "guru" being a famous and beautiful courtesan, Kamala. Hum! An education in that proverbial "comfortable classroom." She introduces him to a local business, Kamaswami, and within a bit, Siddhartha is wealthy, fine clothes, retinue of servants, etc. He finally tires of his new life, and just before he chucks it all to find solace with the ferryman, and the "eternal" river that speaks, he impregnates Kamala on the last try (Ugh!), and, sure enough his son will do to him what he did to his father... that neat, "full circle."

The book is replete with some "New Age" Pablum, and the following are a couple samples:

"There shone in his face the serenity of knowledge, of one who is no longer confronted with conflict of desires, who has found salvation, who is in harmony with the stream of events, with the stream of life, full of sympathy and compassion, surrendering himself to the stream, belonging to the unity of all things."

"There are stones that feel like oil or soap, that look like leaves or sand, and each one is different and worships Om in its own way; each one is Brahman. At the same time it is very much stone, oily or soapy, and that is just what pleases me and seems wonderful and worthy of worship."

Those dastardly - truly - "political events" have long since shut down the "Hippie Route," to the East. In the unlikely event that I should seek ... well... let's just leave it at that... I can always drive, in air-conditioned comfort, the one hour up Interstate 25 to Santa Fe.... As for Hesse's novel, on the re-read, 3-stars.
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