- 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: 3.2 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
- Average Customer Review: 1,971 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #4,032 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Siddhartha: A Novel Mass Market Paperback – December 1, 1981
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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.
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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.
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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.
I won't elaborate any further on the book, I would hate to subtract any of your enjoyment out of reading it yourself, and if you haven't, I urge you to. One important thing to consider before reading it however, (it is a fairly short read - roughly 80 pages) is the translation. The original was written in German, so the translation of the book can make or break it. Some translations are really poor, while others capture the essence of the novel beautifully and gracefully, like a net catches a butterfly before releasing it into the wind. Below is a extract of the book, spanning all (or at least most) of the English translations available to you, to help you choose the right version for you. I've ordered them in order of best to worst, though you might have a different opinion to me.
SIDDHARTHA ENGLISH TRANSLATION COMPARISON:
Dover Thrift, introduction, translation and glossary of Indian terms by Stanley Appelbaum (1998)
Instructed by the samana elder, Siddhartha practiced denial of self; he practiced concentration in accordance with new samana rules. A heron flew over the bamboo forest - and Siddhartha absorbed the heron into his soul; he flew over forest and mountain, he was the heron, he ate fish, he hungered with a heron's hunger, he spoke with a heron's croaking, he died a heron's death. A dead jackal lay on the sandy riverbank, and Siddhartha's soul slipped into the carcass; he was a dead jackal, he lay on the sand, he swelled up, stank, rotted, was torn apart by hyenas, was skinned by vultures, became a skeleton, turned to dust, blew away into the fields. And Siddhartha's soul returned; it had died, it had rotted, it had fallen into dust, it had tasted the dismal intoxication of the cycle of existences; filled with fresh thirst, like a hunter it was awaiting the gap through which it might escape the cycle, where causation would come to an end, where sorrowless eternity began. He mortified his senses, he mortified his power to remember, he stole out of his ego and into a thousand unfamiliar forms of creation; he was an animal, he was a carcass, he was stone, he was wood, he was water, and each time, upon awakening, he found himself again; the sun or the moon was shining; he was himself once again, he was moving through the cycle; he felt thirst, overcame his thirst, felt fresh thirst.
Modern Library, a translation by Susan Bernofsky, foreword by Tom Robbins, translator's preface (2006)
Instructed by the eldest of the Samanas, Siddhartha practiced the eradication of ego, practiced samadhi according to new Samana rules. A heron flew over the bamboo forest--and Siddhartha received the heron into his soul, flew over forests and mountains, was heron, ate fish, felt the pangs of heron hunger, spoke in heron squawks, died heron death. A dead jackal lay on the sandy bank, and Siddhartha's soul slipped into the corpse, was dead jackal, lay on the beach, grew bloated, stank, decayed, was torn apart by hyenas and flayed by vultures, became a skeleton, became dust, blew into the fields. And Siddhartha's soul returned, it had died, had decayed, become dust, it had tasted the bleak euphoria of the cyclical journey, and then, freshly thirsty, it waited crouching like a hunter for the gap in the cycle where escape was possible, where the end of causality began, an eternity free of sorrow. He killed off his senses, he killed off his memory, he slipped from his Self to enter a thousand new shapes, was animal, was cadaver, was stone, was wood, was water, and each time he awakened he found himself once more, the sun would be shining, or else the moon, and he was once more a Self oscillating in the cycle, he felt thirst, overcame the thirst, felt new thirst.
Shambhala Classics, a translation by Sherab Chödzin Kohn, introduction by Paul W. Morris, translator's preface (1998).
Taught by the eldest shramana, Siddhartha practiced self-abnegation, practiced meditative absorption according to the new instructions of the shramanas. A heron flew over the bamboo grove, and Siddhartha became one with the heron in his mind, flew over forest and mountain, became a heron, ate fish, hungered with a heron's hunger, spoke a heron's croaking languages, died a heron's death. There was a dead jackal lying on the sandy bank, and Siddhartha's mind slipped into the carcass, became a dead jackal, lay on the shore, swelled up, stank, rotted, was torn to pieces by hyenas, flayed by vultures, became a skeleton, became dust, blew about in the fields. And Siddhartha's mind returned, dead, rotten, reduced to dust, having tasted the dark drunkenness of the cycle of existence. With a new craving it lay in wait like a hunter for the gap where that cycle could be escaped, where the end of causation could begin, eternity without suffering. He slipped out of his ego into a thousand alien forms, became a beast, carrion, became stone, wood, water--yet each time when he awoke he found himself there again. By sunshine or by moonlight, he was once again ego, was pressed back into the cycle, felt craving, overcame the craving, felt craving anew.
Bantam Books, a translation by Hilda Rosner (1951). This translation is also available in a number of different editions from other publishers.
Instructed by the eldest of the Samanas, Siddhartha practiced self-denial and meditation according to the Samana rules. A heron flew over the bamboo wood and Siddhartha took the heron into his soul, flew over forest and mountains, became a heron, ate fishes, suffered heron hunger, used heron language, died a heron's death. A dead jackal lay on the sandy shore and Siddhartha's soul slipped into its corpse; he became a dead jackal, lay on the shore, swelled, stank, decayed, was dismembered by hyenas, was picked at by vultures, became a skeleton, became dust, mingled with the atmosphere. And Siddhartha's soul returned, died, decayed, turned into dust, experienced the troubled course of the life cycle. He waited with new thirst like a hunter at a chasm where the life cycle ends, where there is an end to causes, where painless eternity begins. He killed his senses, he killed his memory, he slipped out of his Self in a thousand different forms. He was animal, carcass, stone, wood, water, and each time he reawakened. The sun or moon shone, he was again Self, swung into the life cycle, felt thirst, conquered thirst, felt new thirst.
Penguin, a translation by Joachim Neugroschel, introduction by Ralph Freedman, translator's note (2002).
Taught by the eldest of the samanas, Siddhartha practiced unselfing, practiced meditation, according to the samana rules. A heron flew over the bamboo forest--and Siddhartha took the heron into his soul, flew over forests and mountains, was a heron, ate fish, hungered heron hunger, spoke heron croaking, died heron death. A dead jackal lay on the sandy bank, and Siddhartha's soul slipped into the cadaver, was a dead jackal, lay on the shore, swelled, stank, rotted, was shredded by hyenas, was skinned by vultures, became a skeleton, became dust, wafted into the fields. And Siddhartha's soul returned, was dead, was rotted, was dispersed, had tasted the dismal drunkenness of the cycle of life, waited in new thirst like a hunter, waited for the gap through which he could escape the cycle, where the end of causes came, where painless eternity began. He killed his senses, he killed his memory, he slipped from his ego into a thousand different formations. He was animal, was carcass, was rock, was wood, was water, and he always found himself again upon awakening. Sun was shining or moon, he was self again, swinging in the cycle, felt thirst, overcame thirst, felt new thirst.
Barnes & Noble Classics, a translation by Rika Lesser, introduction and notes by Robert A.F. Thurman (2007)
Instructed by the eldest of the shramanas, Siddhartha practiced moving away from the self, practiced meditation, following new rules, the shramanas' rules. A heron flew over the bamboo forest--and Siddhartha took the heron into his soul, flew over the forest and the mountains, was the heron, gobbled fish, hungered as a heron hungers, spoke heron croak, died the death of a heron. A dead jackal lay on the sandy shore, and Siddhartha's soul slid inside its corpse, became the dead jackal, lay on the strand, swelled up, stank, putrefied, was dismembered by the hyenas, skinned by vultures, became bones, dust, blew in open country. And Siddhartha's soul died, decayed, turned to dust, tasted the muddy rush of the cycle, waiting in new thirst like a hunter for the gap where the cycle would be escaped, where the end of causes, where eternity free of suffering would begin. He mortified his senses, he slew his memory, he slid out of his I into a thousand alien shapes, became beast, carrion, stone, wood, water, and found himself every time awakening again, in the light of the sun or the moon, again he was I, whirling around in the round, he felt thirst, conquered thirst, felt thirst anew.
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.