Author: Hermann Hesse Series: Standalone Genre: Classic Fiction Release Date: 1922 Book Length: 152 pages Publisher: New Directions Publishing Review: 5/5
Herman Hesse’s classic novel has delighted, inspired, and influenced generations of readers, writers, and thinkers. In this story of a wealthy Indian Brahmin who casts off a life of privilege to seek spiritual fulfillment. Hesse synthesizes disparate philosophies–Eastern religions, Jungian archetypes, Western individualism–into a unique vision of life as expressed through one man’s search for meaning.
Trying to find meaning in life is hard, especially when you don’t know how or with what to fill the void you feel you lack. This is the case for Siddhartha who is discontent with his life. As the son of a Brahmin (priest), Siddhartha has spent his whole life following the religious teachings of his father and elders. Despite this, he still feels empty of inner peace, and is skeptical that he will ever find it learning without first-hand experience; so he chooses to live as a Samana who practice self-deprivation, thus stripping himself of all possessions and sensual experiences.
Soon, Siddhartha becomes discontent with his life as a Samana, so he takes on the life of an average man—including money, possessions, and a lover. Siddhartha experiences these pleasures for a while, but before long feels this lifestyle is too superficial—he will never be able to reach true enlightenment if he continues along this path. It is only when he stops seeking that he finds that one needs both suffering and blissfulness to live a truly fulfilling life; only when he experiences pain and suffering could he appreciate pleasures, and only when he indulges in pleasures could he comprehend that it’s not the be-all and end-all to a life of satisfaction. Siddhartha had to experience life—both good and bad aspects— in order to find peace.
What makes this book so good is that it is so relatable. It’s easy to put yourself in Siddhartha’s shoes as you try to make sense of your personal struggles through his teachings. This wasn’t just a book to me, it was an entire experience. You definitely don’t have to be religious or spiritual anything to appreciate it; I think it’s a must read for anyone interested in philosophy, classics, cognitive understanding, or just a plain good story and I am really happy that I read it.