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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 the Paperback edition.
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Top Customer Reviews
Hesse’s book follows a young man named Siddhartha on his journey to find the true meaning of life and peace. The young man leaves his family of Brahman priests believing that they have spiritually achieved all that they ever will, and embarks with his friend Govinda down the path of a contemplative and restrictive existence. The young man soon realizes that these religious men (Samanas) also are lacking, to Siddhartha, what the path to true enlightenment really is. He continues on his journey coming by entering the company of the real Buddha—Gatama, but soon comes into contradictions with the Buddha’s teaching of removing oneself from the world. This leaves the man frustrated and lost, and eschews him down another path that is quite opposite of the one he originally intended to take.
Siddhartha has now become rather restless with his pursuit of happiness, so he soon discards it for one of sexuality, greed and total reliance on the flesh. He falls in love with Kamala—a beautiful courtesan woman—and embraces the life of a merchant that furthers his greed and lustful desires. Siddhartha and Kamala conceive a son soon after their affair, but after a dream leaves Siddhartha puzzled, he becomes bored and sickened by his lust and greed, and decides to move on to find his enlightened path. With total despair encompassing his heart and soul, Siddhartha comes to a river where he soon hears a unique sound that will change his life forever. This sound signals the true beginning of his new and fulfilled life--the beginning of earthly suffering, human rejection and inner peace, and, finally, ultimate wisdom and enlightenment.
The book is a harrowing tale of man’s lust for greed, power, sex and material gain; however, its ultimate purpose is to show that often times what we are looking for is in the simplest places imaginable. Hesse’s work craftily explains (through Buddhist and Hindu philosophies) that life is an all-encompassing journey that will eventually show all mankind what it is looking for. We suffer and struggle mightily through banal everyday tasks, but perhaps this daily grind of being in a symbiotic relationship with other life is what inner peace really is.
To my great pleasure, Hermann Hesse delivers, and more. I was not fully captivated by the novel until the last four chapters (starting with "The River"). I love how Hesse chronicles the stages of life that Siddhartha undergoes and the purity that revolves around the spiritual individuals he encounters. And at times, I felt an embarrassing resemblance to Siddhartha's son.
This novel, at its barest minimum, leaves the reader pondering of what it means to live his/her own life. I look forward to rereading Siddhartha multiple times in different stages of my life.