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The Journey to the East Paperback – February 1, 2003

4.1 out of 5 stars 71 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Review

"A great writer . . . complex, subtle, allusive."  —New York Times Book Review
--This text refers to an alternate Paperback edition.

Language Notes

Text: English (translation)
Original Language: German
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 128 pages
  • Publisher: Picador; Reprint edition (February 1, 2003)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0312421680
  • ISBN-13: 978-0312421687
  • Product Dimensions: 5.5 x 0.4 x 8.3 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 3.2 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (71 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #40,383 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

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback
In many ways, this book serves as a humble yet profound companion to Siddhartha and the Glass Bead Game (whose dedication reads: "To the Journeyers to the East"). It is another of Hermann Hesse's beautiful tales of searching. The story is that of HH, a member of an apparently long-dissolved League, a League of travelers who traversed space and time to absorb the wisdom, culture, and secrets of the ages to find peace and unity. As HH tries to recount this story, he reaches a great obstacle: the unexplained disappearance of League servant. He cannot go on. The rest of the book shows how HH deals with this encumbrance, only to find out that the truth he has been searching for is simpler than he though, and it is right in front of him.
What insight Hesse had, to be able to see that endless searching can blind us to what we already know, to be able to express the often-neglected value of humility and faithful servitude. Hesse's feel for communal and individual values shines forth in this brilliantly simple story, all of 117 pages.
And so I invite you to read this short tale in the hope that you, too, will find what you are looking for.
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Format: Paperback
This allegorical book is made up of equal parts poetry and prose. On the surface it tells a simple tale of a man who starts on a journey with like minded souls in search of a mystical woman named Fatima. Part way through the journey he loses faith in his fellow travelers and their cause. The rest of the book is about the protagonist's attempt to write about his experience, and to discover the true nature of the league in which he had lost faith.
Almost from the beginning the reader is forced to conclude that neither the league itself, nor the attempt to write about it, can be taken literally. Clearly Hesse wants the league of travelers to the east to be seen in a symbolic light. But what is it meant to represent? Given that this is the author of Siddhartha, one might suppose that the league represents a group of individuals in search of eastern mysticism. Yet the book says little or nothing about Buddhism, Hinduism or Islam. The league could also be taken as an allegory for the community of artists, and though there are numerous references in the book to support this point of view, it seems too shallow an interpretation to explain the entire text. For instance, there are clear and repeated references to religion, usually in a Christian context. These references belie a simple interpretation of the book as being about the life of an artist.
The book also spends considerable time wrestling with the idea of whether or not it is appropriate to attempt to use a novel as means of exorcising one's personal demons, or whether such an undertaking is fundamentally selfish.
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Format: Paperback
This is a fantastic book, probably the most "mystical" of Hesse's works. Although I enjoyed it immensely, it is thick with references to Hesse's other works, and I can't recommend it as an introduction to his writing. If you've read a lot of Hesse, it may only serve to re-affirm themes from his other books. I however found it rewarding to read as a synthesis of his ideas to that point-- it is more than just a rehashing of old material.
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Format: Paperback
I have always suspected that this penultimate novel of Hesse's plays upon the myth of the Most Honorable Order of the Rosy Cross in certain German intellectual circles. Even today you can get an arguement, either way, about the existance of the Rosicrucians and Christian Rosencreutz. This is fitting, since even the protagonist (H.H.) is left wondering if the League that sent him forth on his quest really ever existed or if he hallucinated it all.

At the begining H.H. has no doubt what-so-ever in the existance or purpose of the ancient League. He sets forth on the journey to the East with his brother members in pursuit of the Tao, Kundalini, and the other Eastern mysteries. In short, they are seeking union with the divine. Even when some member drops out during the quest and "takes the railroad back" to the mundane world, they simply bid him farewell and continue on, unshaken in their own faith. They travel on through time, myth, poetry, and magic towards their goal.

It is at the gorge of Morbio Inferiore that everthing unravels. It is here that the loyal servant Leo suddenly departs and the expedition falls apart in squabbling over trifles. Morbio Inferiore is the dark night of the soul. It is also the historical cataclysm of WW1. You see, before the Great War Germans could still believe in magic, Mozart, and Goethe, after the war all magic and innocence were dead. All that remained was cynicism, machines, and monsters.

H.H. is suddenly left alone wondering if the League ever really existed or if it was a dream. He searches and searches for the lost servant Leo- only to be surprised at what he eventually finds....

Ultimately we end up at the realization that despair serves a purpose in our own journey through life. For if we are still capable of despair then we must still, deep down, still believe in innocence, virtue, and justice. You cannot deeply mourn what never existed- somewhere, sometime!
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