Have you ever had one of those days that just seemed to be genuinely longer than other days, but in all reality remained in the 18-22 average waking hours that you usually experience? And in this day you encounter a plethora of emotions and events that really made you consider your position in life? Well that is what Siddhartha is like.
Siddhartha is considered Hermann Hesse’s greatest, most famous novel, and for good reason. First published in the United States in 1951, it became an extremely popular and influential work of literature and art during the 1960s. With themes such as self-realization, freedom, spiritual enlightenment and finding ones way in life, readers will likely be intrigued by the insights that are shown in this small novel.
Being just over 150-pages, this story takes you through the turbulent life of a young man named Siddhartha as he tries to find meaning and truth in life outside of the structures of teachings given to the people by religious leaders. The story is set in ancient India during the time Guatama Buddha was traversing the land to spread his teachings, and eventually Siddhartha and Guatama’s paths cross, for better or for worse.
Through the novel we see how conflicted Siddhartha is about his spirituality and he tries to fix this through knowledge, but as his story continues he realizes that it is not knowledge that gives you enlightenment. It is wisdom, and wisdom cannot be learned by a master, a teacher or in a book or classroom. That is something you can only obtain through experience, and if anyone has some interesting experiences in his life, Siddhartha is ranked among them.
While reading this book you will likely be intrigued by some of the ideologies presented, even if you are not new to them. Hesse does a fantastic job of sliding important ideologies into an entertaining story. Not only is it entertaining, but it is precise. Hesse sticks to the point and quickly delivers the important events to his reader without having a static, flat character.
Some authors will write books two or three times the size of Siddhartha, but with only half the amount of memorable events in them that Hesse’s novel contains. You will feel like you just got back from a long journey after you finish this book. A journey that progressed quickly over a lifetime and left you with a nice reminder that you are alive and need to see the bigger picture, how everything is, in the end, one in the same.
For any person who loves literature, philosophy or is looking for inspiration, they should consider this an essential piece of reading, I highly recommend it. Even if you only leave this book with a fraction of the beautiful motifs presented, you have walked away as a beneficiary of Hesse’s fantastic work.
I will end with a quote that stuck out to me in particular:
“At times he heard within him a soft, gentle voice, which reminded him quietly, complained quietly, so that he could hardly hear it. Then he suddenly saw clearly that he was leading a strange life, that he was doing many things that were only a game, that he was quite cheerful and sometimes experienced pleasure, but that real life was flowing past him and did not touch him . . . His real self wandered elsewhere, far away, wandered on and on invisibly and had nothing to do with his life. He was sometimes afraid of these thoughts and wished that he could also share their childish daily affairs with intensity, truly to take part in them, to enjoy and live their lives instead of only being there as an onlooker.” –Siddhartha, page 71, Bantam Books Edition.