Short Stories, Irish literature, Classics, Modern Fiction and Contemporary Literary Fiction, The Japanese Novel and post Colonial Asian Fiction are some of my Literary Interests





Monday, November 3, 2014

Siddhartha by Herman Hesse (1922)




The schedule and guidelines for participation are on the event webpage.  Just reading the  posts of all the other participants is tremendously informative. 

I am very happy to be once again participating in German Literature Month, hosted by Caroline of Beauty is a Sleeping Cat and Lizzy of Lizzy's Literary Life.   Events like this are one of the great things about being part of the international book blog community.  I know there is a lot of work that goes into a month long event and I offer my thanks to Lizzy and Caroline.

I'm pretty sure Herman Hesse was the first author
 from Germany I ever read, besides Grimm's Fairy Tales, way back in the long ago.  Steppenwolf was the first novel by Hesse I read, Siddhartha" was the second.  I went on to read a few more novels by Hesse.  


Siddhartha was a near holy text in the so called "counter cultural years" of the 1960s.  Rereading it now is a very different experience.  Siddhartha was a book for youngish intellectuals seeking "eastern wisdom", things not taught in American and European academies.  There were many guru like figure at the time, people were searching for a truth beyond materialism, outside of mainstream thought.   People looked to the "mysteries of the east" for overarching philosophies.  Now I see this as epitomizing Orientalism.  I do not like guru figures and I distrust grand philosophical structures, other than for their artistic value.  

Works like Shiddhartha, not meaning to at all, helped open the path in Germany for a philosophical creed allegedly based in part on "Ancient occult wisdom" as explicated to the believing masses by a guru, one designed to solve all problems.   

The plot seems a bit clichéd  now.  Some of the philosophical reflections are interesting. Once I thought this was a great book, full of wisdom.   In part I still felt that. I acknowledge I cannot really separate my reading of the book now from my memories of reading it long ago.  I think about the lost reading life companions with whom I first shared this book.  I am glad I reread it.  Next I will read Hesse's Gertrude, a translated for the first time in 2013 novel.


Mel u




8 comments:

Saacha Dorji said...

This is one of my favorite books. Thanks for sharing.

Lizzy Siddal said...

Did you know that Siddhartha has been turned into an Italian musical? I had the interesting experience of seeing it at the Edinburgh Fringe this year. It was very colourful to say the least - but I found it a impossible to swallow, when Siddhartha, in his search for a meaningful non-materialistic life, left not one, but two pregnant women behind. Not the wisdom I'm seeking, I'm afraid.

Marina Sofia said...

Strange how books which once meant so much to me then lose some of their appeal or their shine upon a second or third reading...

mel u said...

Marina Sofia - you are very right. Thanks very much for your comment

mel u said...

Lizzy Siddal - no I did not know that, long ago I saw a movie based on it. I see things in Hesse I missed long ago. Thanks for your hard work on German Lit. Month

mel u said...

Saacha Dorji. Thanks for sharing your thoughts with us

Caroline said...

I wanted to re-read this as well but now I'm not sure I'm courageous enough. I'm afraid it won't be as great as I remember it to be.

mel u said...

Caroline. Reading it will partially give you a gauge of how your perceptions have changed.