Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Short Review: Siddhartha by Herman Hesse

(Ed. Note: Two down, three to go! Huzzah!)

Confession time: I've been "reading" this book for the past twelve months--and by "reading," I mean it was in the pile of books by my bed that I kept meaning to get around to. I finally finished it last week in a blaze of glory, due in part to the fact that it ties in (almost) perfectly with the Great American Novel I'm currently writing.

Siddhartha was written in 1926 by Herman Hesse, a German writer. It's the story of a young man who leaves his father's house and his father's caste (this is set in India, by the way) to begin a spiritual journey and "find" himself. You can see why this would be appealing. (Less appealing (for me) was the very episodic nature of the book--this is one of my biggest pet peeves, which is why I hated The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn.)

I agreed with many of the points Hesse made about personal transformation, including the idea that one person cannot confer enlightenment upon another. Probably my favorite chapter was the one in which Siddhartha becomes enmeshed in the "worldly" pleasures of lust, money, and gambling, because it is the chapter that best serves to make the metaphor of Siddhartha seem human and imperfect.

I would recommend this book, but with some reservations, and I think there may be other books that communicate the same ideas in an easier form to swallow. (I don't have a list of books as yet, but I will try to develop one over the next 60-70 years.) Here's the googlebooks link if you're interested.

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