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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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Top Customer Reviews
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. Both the means used by the hero in his quest and the nature of his fulfillment are of prime importance and reflect recurring themes that thread their way through all of Hesse's work.
Although Siddhartha listens with great respect to the words of Buddha and does not reject Buddhism as being right for others, he, himself, does not become Buddha's disciple, but decides to pursue his goal through his own effort, not by following a teacher. As in Demian, Nietzsche's influence is apparent; the reader is strongly reminded of Nietzsche's Zarathustra who exhorts his listeners not to follow him, but to excel themselves.
Siddhartha's sense of fulfillment is a mystical one and cannot be defined with precision. In this respect, it resembles the Nirvana of Buddhism. The most important aspect of Siddhartha's growing awareness, however, is an unselfish and undirected love.
The division of the world into the two opposing poles of masculine and feminine is another common theme in Hesse's writings. The Father World, or masculine, is dominated by the intellect, reason, spirit, stability and discipline; the Mother Word, or feminine, by emotion, love, fertility, birth, death, fluidity, nature and the senses.
While this symbolism is more pronounced in other works, such as Demian and The Glass Bead Game, it is also present and consistently developed in Siddhartha.
Siddhartha's position vis-a-vis the two worlds changes during the course of the novel. At times, he seems to embrace one world more than the other; at other times he unites the virtues of each.
Two symbolic elements thread their way through Siddhartha; that of the river and that of a smile. Suggestive of fluidity as well as the paradoxical union of permanence and flux, the river is an age-old symbol of eternity and spiritual communion.
A second important symbol in Siddhartha is that of the smile. The characters in the story who attain a final state of complete serenity are each characterized by a beautiful smile reflecting a peaceful and harmonious state of being.
Each of these symbols is associated with Siddhartha at key junctures in his quest.
Siddhartha is written in an extremely simple style, in keeping with the inherent simplicity of the plot, theme and general tone of the book. The syntax is uncomplicated and except for a few technical terms from Indian philosophy, the vocabulary is straightforward. Frequent use is made of leitmotifs, parallelism and repetition and, in the original German, the language is rhythmic and lyrical, reminiscent of a poetic religious text with a definite meditative quality.
Siddhartha is told by an omniscient third person narrator with frequent direct and indirect quotations of the words and thoughts of various characters, especially Siddhartha. The narrator, almost invariably, looks at things from Siddhartha's perspective, and even when other characters are discussed or quoted, it is always to shed light on Siddhartha, himself.
A mystical and lyrical book, Siddhartha is a beautiful story of a truly personal quest towards the self-fulfillment we all must strive to attain.
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.
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