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Siddhartha Mass Market Paperback – December 1, 1981

4.4 out of 5 stars 1,353 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher

In the novel, Siddhartha, a young man, leaves his family for a contemplative life, then, restless, discards it for one of the flesh. He conceives a son, but bored and sickened by lust and greed, moves on again. Near despair, Siddhartha comes to a river where he hears a unique sound. This sound signals the true beginning of his life -- the beginning of suffering, rejection, peace, and, finally, wisdom.

About the Author

When this German novelist, poet, and essayist publicly denounced the savagery and hatred of World War I, he was considered a traitor. He moved to Switzerland where he eventually became a naturalized citizen. He warned of the advent of World War II, predicting that cultureless efficiency would destroy the modern world. His theme is the conflict between the elements of a person's dual nature and the problem of spiritual loneliness. His first novel, Peter Camenzind, was published in 1904. His masterpiece, Death and the Lover (1930), contrasts a scholarly abbot and his beloved pupil, who leaves the monastery for the adventurous world. Steppenwolf (1927), a European bestseller, was published when defeated Germany had begun to plan for another war. It is the story of Haller, who recognizes in himself the blend of the human and wolfish traits of the completely sterile scholarly project. Hesse won the Nobel Prize in 1946. During the 1960s Hesse became a favorite writer of the counter culture, especially in the United States, though his critical reputation has never equaled his popularity. Hermann Hesse died in 1962.

Hilda Rosner contributed to The Journey to the East from Picador.
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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: 8.8 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1,353 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,651 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

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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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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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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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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