Cornerofmadness's Reviews > Demian: Die Geschichte von Emil Sinclairs Jugend

Demian by Hermann Hesse
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Oct 19, 10

Read in October, 2010

** spoiler alert ** This was the last novel for my vampire class though I did fail to see the connection. Cultural reference here, this was written in the nineteen teens (and into English in the 20’s) during a time of turmoil in Hesse’s Germany. This won a nobel prize and was said to have struck a chord with the men of that time. I was honestly underwhelmed but I’m reading it nearly 100 years after it was written (wow, that’s stunning). It’s not nearly as shocking now.

Sinclair is a young man of modest means, growing up like many children of the day, religious in other words. He is conned by the school bully into stealing apples and is so overwhelmed by guilt over this act, and so fearful of being turned in by the bully that his life becomes hellish. The bully gets on him at school and at home he’s distancing from his parents. When the bully wants to meet Sinclair’s sister, he actually contemplates suicide and then a new kid, slightly older, shows up, Demian. He takes care of the bully and from this moment on his life and Sinclair’s keep intersecting.

In confirmation classes, Demian brings up the idea that gives Cain and Abel’s story a new spin. Sinclair begins to doubt some of his religious upbringing. As he ages and goes to college, he has spells of drinking and partying, then losing himself in the beauty of an unattainable woman and finally finding a mentor in the form of a young organist and his rather pagan ways (even though he had wanted to be a priest,the organist that is). All through this Demian is either there expanding Sinclair’s consciousness or there in a dream state which is where we see him as Sinclair goes after the woman and the organist.

Finally, Demian and Sinclair move things to a different level and Sinclair meets Demian’s mother, Eva. I think this is where the vampire thing comes in. Eva is all about the mark on the forehead (harking back to the mark of Cain) and about visions (Eva and Demian strike me more as ‘demons’ than vampires really) and as Sinclair had reached this new level of consciousness war breaks out and the novel ends. There is also strong threads of latent homosexuality between Sinclair and well every man he meets in this (though he does want both his Beatrice and Eva for that matter). I can’t say I liked this but I’m not much on mainstream fiction and that certainly colored my perception of this. You probably can’t say a Nobel prize winner is a bad book. It just wasn’t for me but again I grew up in the 70’s and 80’s, the world had already gone thru the spiritual awakening in the 60’s, so some of Sinclair’s spiritual awakening is rather ho-hum so what for me and it wouldn’t have been the case when this was first pubished.
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Rhonda Richoux That was a very fair assessment of the book from your perspective. I agree that the worth of some books to you personally has much to do with the era into which you were born; hence I am enamored of Jack Kerouac where others hate his writing and see him only as a pathetic drunk. Demian spoke to my generation who came of age during the social upheaval if the sixties and early seventies. We were desperately trying to learn how to define ourselves apart from our families and previously learned dogmas. One thing is true: it is, indeed, difficult to travel the road that leads to oneself, but it's so worth it.


Cornerofmadness yes I was only a kid in that time period. But I've never liked Hesse, not when I had to read him in high school and nearly 30 years later I feel the same.

Though I can't argue your final assessment about the road to self


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