Schmacko's Reviews > Demian

Demian by Hermann Hesse
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Apr 30, 12

Read in April, 2012

Demian is the book that made Hermann Hess famous written in the late 1910s. I didn’t flip over it. There is a severe shortage of character and plot, and way too may pages are devoted to long-winded dissertation about religious and psychological discovery.

Emil Sinclair is a young German boy who has always tried to obey his parents and live in their circle of “light.” In this life, he always knew there was another side. What he comes to realize through this novel – and through his friendship with a Max Demian – is that by ignoring or denying our darker sides, we all are ignoring half of ourselves. Demian throws in Freudian and Jungian psychology, ESP, new age belief, and a nascent interest in mythology.

I’ll tell you, when Hess tells a story – like how a schoolboy catches Sinclair in a lie and then blackmails him, for example – I really liked it. The pages and pages of religious and psychological searching got old for me. The “why” of their supposed ESP got old, too. I did like Sinclair’s somewhat sexual longing for Demian, but I don’t think this is completely developed – because this is an early 20th century novel, the mere mention was scandalous, but I would’ve liked more. I also appreciate that Sinclair kept searching for answers – it’s just that huge sections of his quest contain detailed descriptions of things like a creepy-ish guy who had both of them lie on their stomachs and stare at a candle, stuff like that…

This book has profoundly affected many people. And maybe the fact that it encouraged soul searching should be lauded. I myself learned a lot about different religions and philosophies in high school and then in college, thanks to excellent teachers and a medically insane stepmother. Maybe I didn’t have the guilty single track of people who love Demian; my dad immediately turned away from Catholicism, and we went from a family who went every Sunday to a family whose crazy stepmom taught us about Buddhism and druidism. Maybe that was my benefit that makes Demian seem like a repressed and long, slow novel of mostly old ideas.
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Comments (showing 1-3 of 3) (3 new)

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message 1: by Judy (new)

Judy I read Demian when I was about 20. My memory of reading it glows with the wonder I felt. But that was a soul searching time for me when I was rejecting and rebelling against my upbringing, religious and otherwise. Perhaps early adulthood is the best time to read Hesse.


Schmacko You know, and since I left home at fifteen and was in foster care with an understanding couple, I also didn't have to worry much about individuating from my parents. My dad once said that when I was 21, I'd realize how he was right about a lot of stuff. When I was 21, I reminded him of this - we were never close - and I said he was still wrong. :-) Poor man was a lousy parent; I think I knew that at ten.


message 3: by Judy (new)

Judy Well, I am happy for you that you had good foster parents. My parents were good ones, just too controlling, so when I left for college I finally got to find out for myself who I was. They were right about a lot of stuff but some things one has to learn by experience. Hesse kind of led me to Buddhism which suited me much better than Christianity as it was taught to me.


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