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Siddhartha Hardcover – January 1, 2010
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Siddhartha is a novel by Hermann Hesse that deals with the spiritual journey of a boy known as Siddhartha from the Indian subcontinent during the time of the Buddha. The book, Hesse's ninth novel, was written in German, in a simple yet powerful and lyrical style. It was published in the U.S. in 1951 and became influential during the 1960s. Hesse dedicated Siddhartha to Ninon Hesse, his wife. The word Siddhartha is made up of two words in the Sanskrit language, siddha (achieved) + artha (meaning or wealth). The two words together mean "he who has found meaning (of existence)" or "he who has attained his goals".The Buddha's name, before his renunciation, was Prince Siddhartha Gautama. In this book, the Buddha is referred to as "Gotama". --Wikipedia
About the Author
Herman Hesse (1877-1962) was one of the great literary figures of the twentieth century.Born in Calw to a protestant family,he rebelled against the classical education that he received in Swabian monastery schools.Hesse began work as a locksmith and a bookseller,and later took to writing as a profession.Settled in Switzerland,he travelled extensively,including India.Politically,Hesse was opposed to German militarism,for which he was condemned by the Nazi government.In recognition of his contribution to literature,he was awarded the Nobel Prize in 1946.His other classic works include Der Steppenwolf and The Glass Bead Game.
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Object lesson: you get what you pay for -- I wish I'd gotten the (Buddha cover art) version, that appears to be same as paperback I've well read for decades: that superior version is also available as Kindle Edition, by Hermann Hesse (Author), Hilda Rosner (Translator). Next time I'll compare 'sample' with a known edition to avoid spending even very little money on something with damaged literary quality.
When it arrived, I nostalgically glanced through it, and immediately noticed a spelling error while browsing. I didn't pay it too much mind; these things can happen, especially in translated works. However, after my daughter finished reading it, she mentioned that there were several instances of poor grammar, repeated words (back-to-back), and misspellings riddled throughout. She said that she loved the book, but found the mistakes to be somewhat distracting, which is a shame, considering this book is a masterpiece.
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.
I DO, however, strongly recommend reading a decent version of the novel. One of Hesse's best (and I've read them all).