Hermann Hesse

THE LAUREATE: I will fill this in later, because writing these stupid things between books takes more time than it’s worth. Wikipedia Nobel website

WHAT DO YOU KNOW ABOUT HIM?: Well, like everyone enrolled in a public high school in America, I read Siddhartha in 10th grade and like most people enrolled in a public high school in America, that was my first introduction to Buddhism. I’ve picked up a few of his other books since, but I haven’t opened any of them before yesterday.

WHAT ARE YOU READING?: Narcissus and Goldmund, mostly because I also have it in German and I think it would be good reading practice once I actually learn the language.

REVIEW: Meh. Narcissus and Goldmund is a bit too far on the blatant allegory side for me. Broadly speaking, it’s Hesse trying to come to terms with his value to society as an artist. Less broadly, it is the story of Goldmund, who forms a friendship with Narcissus (hence the title), then abandons him and travels the world, womanizing and wandering. This is another book that deals with freedom in the purest sense- freedom from obligations etc. and how that is not necessarily good for us in the extremes. But stylistically, I wasn’t a fan (blah blah translation theory blah). There were plenty of motivically repeated words and phrases, or at least words and phrases that wanted to be motifs. The only problem is that they weren’t tied together like a proper allegorical novel. Plus, the main character couldn’t keep his motivations straight. They changed practically chapter by chapter.

DO YOU RECOMMEND IT?: Not really. I guess if you’re doing a class on Hesse or something, yeah, please read it. I would stick to Siddhartha for any other reason to want to read Hesse.

WHAT’S NEXT: Luigi Pirandello


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