Sunday, December 13, 2015

Siddhartha by Hermann Hesse

Of the 11 works I have read thus far for the Back to the Classics Challenge 2015 hosted at the block Books and Chocolate, this has got to be my least favorite. This was for the Classic in Translation category.

I am not a fan of allegory and Siddhartha reminded me of books like The Alchemist or Jonathon Livingston Seagull; books I fail to appreciate. I was thinking at first it is a book I should have perhaps read when I was younger, like On the Road, but I am not sure if I would have really liked this any better at 25 than at 50.

This is the story of Siddhartha, who tries on a variety of lifestyles (Brahmanism, Asceticism, Buddhism, Capitalism, Hedonism, etc.), takes each mode of living and experiencing the world to their limits and then ultimately rejects them to follow his own path. My take away from this slim book was that there is no substitute for actually living something; listening to a lecture on a concept on or being preached a hypothesis is not enough for one to internalize the idea. Ironically, I think that this might be why this book doesn’t work for me; I think I would need to experience the concepts it propounds first before I can say “aha, I get it”.

The edition I read of Siddhartha is well under 200 pages, but took me forever to read in English. I also have the German original which I am still plodding my way through now. The sentence structure is fairly simple (it reads a bit like scripture), but a lot of the vocabulary is well beyond my personal lexicon. I am still interested in reading more from Hesse, however, before I give up on him. I do want to try The Glass Bead Game and I have a copy of Narcissus and Goldmund someplace.

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