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Siddhartha Paperback – September 18, 2015
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The cool and strangely simple story makes a beautiful little book, classic in proportion and style; it should be read slowly and with savor, preferably during the lonely hours of the night. (The Nation )
One could even hope that Hesse’s readers are hungrily imbibing Siddhartha, and that they will be so wisely foolish as to live by it. (Chicago Tribune )
Hermann Hesse is the greatest writer of the century. (San Francisco Chronicle )
In Siddhartha the setting is Indian and we encounter the Buddha, but the author’s ethos is still closer to Goethe. (Washington Post Book World ) --Amazon.com
About the Author
Hermann Hesse (1877-1962) was a German-Swiss poet, novelist, and painter. In 1946, he received the Nobel Prize in Literature. His best-known works include Steppenwolf, Siddhartha, and Magister Ludi.
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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.
‘Siddhartha’ is a deeply eastern philosophical story written by a westerner with a keen perception, and almost uncanny awareness, of not only eastern thinking, but depth of life itself. Sometimes the insights he has really impress me. He is aware of abstract concepts of life that few people in our modern world ever talk about.
‘Siddhartha’ is a remarkably insightful book by a remarkably insightful writer. The lessons about life that this book has to offer are deep – lessons one would be very lucky to hear from some aged and helpful older person, good enough to share with us.
The man is a guru.
The tragedy of the story, I believe, centers around Govinda, around that character’s separation from Siddhartha. Whether the separation from him is actually necessary for the two of them to advance on their roads through life is, I think, a subject for interesting debate. But Hesse shows that they separate, and indeed that it is necessary for the blossoming of their characters.
One can’t help but feel sorry for Govinda.
And I noticed something in this book worth remarking. While Hesse is brilliant philosophically, he does not bleed the emotional parts of the story to their maximum effect. That is, he never gets the reader to ‘feel’ the story on an emotional level. (He never made me cry). But, I must say that this also makes us feel the story’s emotion even better. Sometimes by not emphasizing the emotional tones, the reader is made to feel them – underlying as they are – even stronger.
Overall, this is a philosophy book almost unparalleled as such in the novel world. It shows us the journey of life, with masterful language that is very reader-friendly, cover to cover. It has the potential to be, in fact, life changing. And it stands with the classics, tall and deep. It stands like the Sequoia trees: tall for all to see, living on and on – timeless.
And one last point worth remarking. The book’s main point is something profound, and that I agree with. Happiness can not be pointed out precisely to one by anyone else. ‘Each entered the forest adventurous at a point that he himself had chosen, where it was darkest, and there was no way or path.’
F I R E C A T H A T
May 18, 2011
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.