Shinn's Reviews > Siddhartha

Siddhartha by Hermann Hesse
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May 25, 11

bookshelves: translation, spiritual, historical, 2011, europe
Read in March, 2011 — I own a copy

This was a difficult read for me because the protagonist, Siddhartha is an extremely unlikable character. In his youth, he is supercilious; in his middle age he is weak and in his old age he is obtuse. I understand that it was Hesse's intention to show his as human and fallible but it is frustrating and tiresome to see him fail over and over in his quest.

Siddhartha receives a burst of inspiration after meeting the Buddha and makes grandiose plans towards enlightenment and all of it basically goes flying out the window when he meets a beautiful woman five seconds later. He believes himself above all the people he considers childish and animalistic, even when he becomes one of them. When he finally realises this, he goes off and has another epiphany but wait, this time it's his son come to shatter any hope for inner peace. And when he finally does find contentment, it falls magically into his lap in a few minutes pow-wow with the wise old ferryman Vasudeva. Yes, all his years of suffering and screwing up brought him to this point but his redemption is ultimately unbelievable. It doesn't help matters that in the end he goes back to his holier-than-thou preachings with his friend Govinda as the usual hapless victim.

On the positive side, the philosophy does make you think - the absence of time, the necessity of learning from one's mistakes and the dual nature of everything. However, these are established spiritual principles and stand out despite Herman Hesse's characters, not because of them. I admire Hesse's quest to make Indian transcendental philosophy more accessible, but this book was not the best way to do it.
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