Siddhartha by Herman Hesse

I’m not entirely sure how I feel about this book. It’s not a book that pulls the reader along, it’s a book that you read slowly and ponder on. It’s a book that kept my opinions changing throughout my reading of it. I’d think that it was beautiful and then I would think…”now why did he do that…” But to an extent, I think that this was Hesse’s point.

Siddhartha is the story of a man by the name of Siddhartha who sets out to find himself. He sets out to achieve enlightenment through the teachings of the Buddha. Upon meeting the Buddha, the enlightened one, he finds that his beliefs contradict the Buddha’s to an extent, so he takes his own path to enlightenment. This is where the book starts to frustrate me. The book, in my opinion becomes sort of fragmented here. He has many different experiences, which all contribute to his path to enlightenment, but some seem a little far fetched, or at least not explained enough.

For instance: He meets a young mistress by the name of Kamala who tells him that if he wants to “be with her” he has to have money and material possessions…so Siddhartha goes to work for a local rich man as a translator since he can read and write. Sure, he’s giving in to material possessions and such, but he still seems to maintain this certain air of happiness about him…a zen mentality. Then all of a sudden, he’s gambling away all of his money and he’s depressed and suicidal and it literally comes out of nowhere. I kept looking to see if there were pages stuck together that I missed.

There were a few little parts like this in the book that bugged me, where I thought that Hesse could’ve went into depth a little further, but over all, it was a beautiful book that focuses on the essence of self realization…the journey of discovering what life is about, what matters in life, and how everything fits together.

First read for the Classics Challenge. I’d say it’s off to a decent start.


12 Responses

  1. Hmmm, you’re making me rethink reading this one, although I’m pretty sure I have a ratty old copy around here, somewhere. So, I’ll probably end up reading it one day. I wonder if the sudden depression of that character was supposed to be symbolic of an awakening of some sort? As in, he was blind to what was being asked of him and when he awoke to the reality, it sent him on a downward spiral? It sounds like the kind of book that might be a little heavy on symbolism. But, I haven’t read it, so I don’t know.

  2. I think that it was definitely meant to be an awakening…sort of a falling away from Buddhist principles, getting caught up in earthly desires, but it was just so abrupt! And I just lost interest a few times. But still worth reading! It’s a very short read and there are some really beautiful passages…just didn’t hold my interest throughout.

  3. It sounds like such an interesting book and it’s a shame it didn’t fit together quite right. The cover art is stunning though (yes I judge books by their cover so there).

  4. I read this one a few years ago and I actually can’t remember it all that clearly, but I do remember that I felt ambiguous towards it. I wasn’t thrilled with it, but I was glad to have read it at the same time. And you are right, there are some beautiful passages.

  5. I read this one a few years ago, too, and I can honestly say I have barely any recollection of it, which I guess ties in with other people’s reactions to it so far. I remember having to force myself to finish it, as I wasn’t really drawn to any of the characters, and just feeling kind of “eh” at the end. If it had been a longer book, I probably wouldn’t have persevered. 🙂

  6. My first husband loved this book, but I’ve never read it. It seemed so ponderous, I’ve never gathered the nerve.

  7. Rhinoa, lol…I judge books by their cover too…very guilty of that one. It really was a good book though. Just a couple of places that didn’t totally work for me. Aside from that, it was beautifully written.

    Nymeth, That’s exactly the way I feel! Not thrilled with it, but it was good. And definitely some beautiful passages. I just got sort of bored with some of it. Feel horrible saying that. Oh well!

    Darla, Unfortunately, I feel the same..if it were longer, I probably wouldn’t have finished it either. But I saw it to the end since it was a short book. I think it had some moments that were quite nice, but some parts I struggled through.

    Bellezza, I don’t know if you’d like this one or not. You may…it’s very philosophical. Almost too much at times. It’s basically the story of a man wandering and having conversations with himself or with others trying to find meaning in life. Interesting and at times very meaningful, but sort of dull at times as well.

  8. Sounds like this one could have used a really good editor to help him iron out the rough passages. Glad you enjoyed it on some levels and that it wasn’t an entirely worthless read.

  9. Carl, That’s kind of how I felt too…I think though that it’s more that something was lost in the translation. I read a Dover Publications version, so maybe it was a poor translation…I don’t know. The original was in German. I certainly did get something out of it though and I would like to give something else of Hesse’s a try. There was an intro to Hesse in the book and he sounds like a fascinating guy who had a great writing career. I may give him another shot.

  10. Your response to me let me know exactly why my first husband liked it. In fact, I think he may have written it.

  11. hmm… sounds quite frustrating. its a pity, ’cause it sounds like it had the potential to be quite meaningful.

  12. Jean Pierre, I think it is quite a meaningful book..I certainly found some meaning in it and it’s quite the philosophical book…it just doesn’t really the capture the reader. There’s certainly a reason it’s considered a classic, it just didn’t work for me…but I guess they can’t all work for everyone.

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