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Siddhartha
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Stand-Alone Novels > July 2018—SIDDHARTHA by Hermann Hesse

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message 1: by Lavan, moderator (last edited Sep 08, 2018 06:25AM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

Lavan Zerach | 498 comments Mod
The winner for our July novel is Siddhartha by Hermann Hesse!

Siddhartha by Hermann Hesse

To all who voted—thank you!
To everyone—I hope you'll participate and read this selection for our monthly book club.
For those who do—share your thoughts as you read, please!

Spoilers are allowed; add a considerate warning if your comment includes any so members have the option to skip.

I will begin reading this July 1st. I look forward to following this discussion!


message 2: by Andrew, moderator (new) - rated it 4 stars

Andrew (andyhuey) | 314 comments Mod
Interesting. Not something I would have picked up on my own, but it looks like something I might enjoy. It's old enough that it's in the public domain and available via Project Gutenberg (https://www.gutenberg.org/ebooks/2500), so that's good.

There are multiple Kindle versions available, at multiple price points, from different translators, and I'm wondering if any of them is any better than any other. Amazon is bad at telling you which reviews go with which versions. Maybe I'll start with the free Gutenberg version and a sample of one or two Kindle versions, and see if any of them is better than the others.


message 3: by Parker (new)

Parker | 56 comments Loretta wrote: "I've read this, several times, so I won't be re-reading but will join in the discussions."

So have I - twice! Once in English, once in German (it was required reading for an "Introduction to German Culture" class I took in college (which turned out to be much more than an "Introduction"!)


message 4: by Lavan, moderator (last edited Sep 14, 2018 07:47AM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

Lavan Zerach | 498 comments Mod
This will be a reread for me, a welcome one. My copy is 156 pages. It is the Rika Lesser translation.
I read Hesse's Steppenwolf March 16-22 of this year and gave it four stars.

Andrew, please let us know what you discover in regard to translations. That would be helpful for other members.

I'm glad you'll be participating in this discussion, Loretta, and I hope you will also, Parker!

To everyone—feel free to begin reading it early, if you'd like, and start the discussion at your leisure.

Some info on this novel and author:
Hermann Hesse was born July 2, 1877 in Calw in Württemberg, German Empire.
He later became a Swiss citizen in 1923.
In 1946, he received the Nobel Prize in Literature.
He died August 9, 1962 in Montagnola, Switzerland at 85 years old.
Siddhartha in Sanskrit means "he who has found meaning (of existence)" or "he who has attained his goals."
It was first published in 1922. It was later published in the US in 1951.
genre: spiritual
involves: self-discovery
GoodReads rating: 4.0—71% gave it 4 or 5 stars


message 5: by Parker (new)

Parker | 56 comments The English translation I have is very good, although there are always certain words that can't be translated exactly. A good dictionary is a must too. (There are always going to be words that you don't know.)
I've also read Dumas, Cervantes, and Marques in the original languages too (taking Latin was one of the smartest things I ever did - it helps so much!)


Cindy  | 35 comments I agree it is not a book that I would have picked up on my own. I might have a lot of questions but I really want to try it. Study guides don't seem to help.


message 7: by Andrew, moderator (new) - rated it 4 stars

Andrew (andyhuey) | 314 comments Mod
I bought the "Modern Library Classics" version of this book today, for the Kindle, for $3. (https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B00...) It's translated by Susan Bernofsky, with an introduction by Tom Robbins. I read all the introductory stuff today, including a biographical note on Hesse, the intro by Robbins, and a translator's preface by Bernofsky. All of that stuff was well-written, and did a good job of putting the book into context for a modern reader.

I'd looked at the free Project Gutenberg translation last week, but it didn't seem like it was a very good translation. (It's probably technically accurate, but seemed kind of awkward.) The Bernofsky translation seems to be well-regarded, from what I can tell, and for only $3, if I don't like it, I can abandon it and try another one.


message 8: by Lavan, moderator (new) - rated it 5 stars

Lavan Zerach | 498 comments Mod
Andrew wrote: "I bought the "Modern Library Classics" version of this book today, for the Kindle, for $3. (https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B00...) It's translated by Susan Bernofsky, with an introduction by..."

Thank you kindly for sharing this information, Andrew! I'm sure it will help those who aren't sure which translation to choose, and given its affordable price tag it's even more appealing.


message 9: by Andrew, moderator (new) - rated it 4 stars

Andrew (andyhuey) | 314 comments Mod
I finished reading Siddhartha today. My Goodreads review is here. I didn't intend to finish it before July 1, but it was a really quick read.

There's a somewhat useful reader's guide for this book on the Penguin site here. (Note that it contains some spoilers, so you might not want to read it before reading the book.)

I went back and compared a few passages from the Bernofsky translation that I read to the Project Gutenberg translation, and I'm glad I got the Bernofsky version. I'm not sure how it compares to other popular translations, but it's definitely a lot more readable than the Gutenberg version.


message 10: by Lavan, moderator (new) - rated it 5 stars

Lavan Zerach | 498 comments Mod
Andrew wrote: "I finished reading Siddhartha today. My Goodreads review is here. I didn't intend to finish it before July 1, but it was a really quick read.

There's a somewhat useful reader's guide for this book..."


Thank you for sharing your review of Siddhartha, Andrew, and as Loretta mentioned—your quotations!

I had considered a double feature for July, for our monthly book club, because this novel is short, but as we're beginning our first book series I decided not to. I'd rather ease into our group reading two books per month, to encourage members rather than inadvertently making them feel pressured.

The information you've provided in regard to translations and Penguin's reader's guide is greatly appreciated!


Tasha This book is something I would never pick up either but I've definitely heard of it. I am going to give it a try and see what I think. I agree that this list is going to stretch me at times but I like that it opens things up more for me.


message 12: by Lavan, moderator (last edited Jul 02, 2018 02:01PM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

Lavan Zerach | 498 comments Mod
Tasha wrote: "This book is something I would never pick up either but I've definitely heard of it. I am going to give it a try and see what I think. I agree that this list is going to stretch me at times but I l..."

Wonderful!
As most have mentioned, as well as yourself, The Great American Read list encourages us to read novels that we might not have chosen otherwise. This is the reason that I decided when creating the group to use a random number generator when setting up the polls. I equate it to music—how will you know if you like it unless you listen to songs of that genre? There are numerous literary genres and subgenres to explore.

I look forward to your thoughts, Tasha!


Tasha Lavan, I like the idea of the random generator...makes for great surprises!

I picked this up from the library yesterday and have to admit debating about whether I really wanted to borrow it, lol. I'll let oyu know what I think once I've read it. Probably a little later this month.


message 14: by Lavan, moderator (last edited Jul 06, 2018 08:26AM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

Lavan Zerach | 498 comments Mod
That it is, Loretta, and I hope for the same!

Tasha—I can understand how this type of book might seem intimidating, but that's when a group like this is helpful. Reading along with others, sharing thoughts with each other, and giving encouragement are all welcome motivators!

I'm on page 63, at 40%. I'll be starting Part II: Kamala, tomorrow. As this is a reread, I'm not finding the Hindu and Buddhist terminology as difficult as the first time I read it (years ago), because I was unfamiliar. My copy is from the Barnes & Noble Classics series (the Rika Lesser translation) and it includes a convenient Notes section which I recommend for those that would like to better understand the theological references.
Andrew, does your copy, the Modern Library Classics translated by Susan Bernofsky, include notes for readers as well?

While I find the conversations between the characters a bit odd, either due to cultural differences and/or because it was published 96 years ago, I think this book is fascinating!


message 15: by Andrew, moderator (new) - rated it 4 stars

Andrew (andyhuey) | 314 comments Mod
Lavan wrote: "Andrew, does your copy, the Modern Library Classics translated by Susan Bernofsky, include notes for readers as well?"

Not exactly. It had a useful glossary in the back though.


Cindy  | 35 comments I started Part II: Kamala. I find it interesting, but a bit odd. I feel like I am missing something. Will keep reading and see if I can figure it out. Is Kamala a symbol for something?


message 17: by Lavan, moderator (last edited Jul 06, 2018 10:42AM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

Lavan Zerach | 498 comments Mod
Cindy wrote: "I started Part II: Kamala. I find it interesting, but a bit odd. I feel like I am missing something. Will keep reading and see if I can figure it out. Is Kamala a symbol for something?"

Apologies for the late reply. I always try to respond within 24 hours, but I spent the entire day with family yesterday (I'm on vacation this week).

I haven't begun reading Part II: Kamala yet, but I plan to today. Perhaps someone who has recently finished or is currently reading the part that you are on can jump in and answer your question before I can get back to you.

I'm pleased that you're reading this list book with us, Cindy!


message 18: by Lavan, moderator (last edited Jul 06, 2018 03:34PM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

Lavan Zerach | 498 comments Mod
Cindy wrote: "I started Part II: Kamala. I find it interesting, but a bit odd. I feel like I am missing something. Will keep reading and see if I can figure it out. Is Kamala a symbol for something?"

There is a Note in my edition that explains Kamala:

(view spoiler)

I hope you find this helpful, Cindy!


Cindy  | 35 comments Advice taken, I kept reading and finally finished it this afternoon. I thought the ending was very confusing. I felt like this from the start, I missed the point. Maybe because I am not familiar with the Hindu philosophy.


Tasha I'm wondering if I will have the same response, Cindy. I'll probably be able to start next week.


message 21: by Lavan, moderator (last edited Jul 08, 2018 07:22AM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

Lavan Zerach | 498 comments Mod
Cindy wrote: "Advice taken, I kept reading and finally finished it this afternoon. I thought the ending was very confusing. I felt like this from the start, I missed the point. Maybe because I am not familiar wi..."

I'm glad you finished this list book, Cindy!
I remember thinking much the same the first time I read this novel, for the same reason. It's easier for me to understand the theological text rereading it now.


message 22: by Lavan, moderator (last edited Jul 10, 2018 08:53AM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

Lavan Zerach | 498 comments Mod
I'm on page 100, at 64%. I found the beginning of Part II highly amusing. It illustrates how utterly human Siddhartha is. Although he's clearly an "old soul," he's still as vulnerable to temptation as anyone else. This makes him relatable, to me. Still, he's an exceptional man who's grasped what some people never do in their entire lives—that there is deeper meaning to life, that society's definition of what a person's life should be—what is considered "normal" is not necessarily fulfilling nor does it necessarily nurture a person's growth in the way that matters most—inwards. I admire those that take paths such as this, those that seek a higher understanding, who ask the most difficult questions about the world we live in and our role in it and strive for tangible answers. To set aside material possessions—to deny oneself of the comforts of modern living all for the purpose of attaining knowledge, seems to me a tremendously difficult quest.
Have you ever stopped and wondered what the true meaning of life is and how you fit into that picture? Have you ever wished you could pause your life, put your responsibilities on hold for even a short while, so you could figure it out? I know I have.

This book resonates with me.


Bethany | 123 comments I'm not typically a person to pick up a "philosophical" book. One thing I think this book does well is to mirror the ideas of Buddhism. The novel seems to move in cycles. Siddartha mentions multiple times how he is "reborn" or must cast away his old life in order to learn something new, each rebirth bringing him closer to Nirvana or Enlightenment. This story compresses the journey each soul must take by showing the cycle taking place in one man. Each life gains him wisdom which he must learn to achieve Nirvana.
That was a fun literary technique.


Jerome (tnjed01) | 4 comments I have just started this as a re-read, having first read the book in my early 20s. One thing I notice now is his technique of repeating predicates with similar meanings for emphasis, that provides an almost meditative quality.


Tasha I started the other day but still early in, Part 1 Among the Samanas. I skipped the intro but think I might go back and skim through it before I move on.


message 26: by Lavan, moderator (last edited Jul 10, 2018 10:53AM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

Lavan Zerach | 498 comments Mod
Bethany(view spoiler)

Yes Jerome, the moment I read your comment I knew exactly what you meant. Thank you for articulating that perfectly!

I'm curious as to what you'll think of this list book, Tasha!


message 27: by Cindy (last edited Jul 10, 2018 11:19AM) (new) - rated it 2 stars

Cindy  | 35 comments After finishing Siddhartha I did start thinking about this sometimes crazy world and how I make sense of it, how I fit in the big picture. Wouldn't that be nice to go somewhere quiet and peaceful and do nothing but think about these questions. Too many responsibilities! I still have not come up with the answers to my questions.


Tasha It's surprisingly more interesting than I thought it would be. I can't say I'm loving it but I'm not disliking it. lol! I finished Part 1 today.


message 29: by Lavan, moderator (last edited Jul 11, 2018 08:11PM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

Lavan Zerach | 498 comments Mod
That it would, Cindy!
I thought it illuminating that Siddhartha showed how a person can have the same question as someone else but their answer can be different, and still correct—for them, and that the paths they take to reach that answer are wholly different.
To me, it's a good reminder to be open-minded about those around us, because everyone's life is a personal journey. We all have much to learn and should understand that others are doing so in the way that they need to and are ready for; everyone grows in their own way, at their own pace.

Happy to hear that, Tasha!


Tasha I am in total agreement with your comment, Lavan. We are all here on our own personal journey and it's so wonderful to be reminded about that. :)

I didn't get a chance yet to start Book 2 but I should be able to get to it tomorrow.


Tasha I've just started Part 2: Kamala and I LOVE his awakening. His joy in experiencing the 'visible'. I could quote the whole first paragraph but it's too much to do but it's really beautiful. I love that he is finding so much to enjoy and experience in the world he is living in and not seeking to find the answers 'beyond'.

"It was beautiful and delightful to go through the world like this, so childlike, so awake, so open to what was near, so without distrust."

I find this new experience of his so freeing and peaceful! Full of joy. :)


message 32: by Lavan, moderator (last edited Jul 13, 2018 10:40AM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

Lavan Zerach | 498 comments Mod
That we are, Tasha!

I liked that part too. I tend to add excerpts in my GoodReads reviews. That was the first of four that I took note of while reading—quotations. Some passages were quite moving!

I finished this group selection last night and rated it five stars. I will definitely reread Siddhartha in the future (a third time) and I've queued Hesse's Narcissus and Goldmund to read in January 2019. When I rate an author's book with five stars I like to read another of their works within six month's time.


Tasha I like that plan! I will check out your qoutes link once I'm finished. I have one chapter left so should finish shortly.


message 34: by Tasha (last edited Jul 13, 2018 07:56AM) (new) - rated it 4 stars

Tasha I finished this morning and actually truly enjoyed it. I say that bc I really wasn't sure I would like this and it definitely felt like a stretch from my usual genres. I really enjoyed his journey through the different phases in his life and I really loved how it all came together for him in the end and how he attempted to pass on the 'wisdom' of his journey. 4 stars for now but I may change up to 5 if the book still resonates with me in a few days.

I really enjoyed the writing. I know it's a translation so I'm wondering how the book would feel in it's original language.

I honestly would never have even considered this book had it not been for this group and the GAR. Happy I stumbled upon it and you. ;)

Here is my short and sweet review:
https://www.goodreads.com/review/show...


message 35: by Lavan, moderator (last edited Jul 15, 2018 11:59AM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

Lavan Zerach | 498 comments Mod
I'm thrilled to hear that Tasha, and I'm pleased that you've read a list book of a genre that you don't usually read!
If memory serves, I rated Siddhartha 4 stars the first time I read it. It could be because I've reread it during a different phase of my life this time or that I now have a deeper understanding of the story and how it relates to me (or a combination of the two), but I felt that it deserved my 5 stars.
You're very sweet. I'm happy you've "stumbled" upon our group too, and thank you kindly for sharing your review!

I'm glad to hear that, Loretta!


Jerome (tnjed01) | 4 comments Tasha wrote: "I really enjoyed the writing. I know it's a translation so I'm wondering how the book would feel in it's original language."

I'm reading this in the original language from a 1983 pressing of his collected works published by Suhrkamp. He is my favorite German author, because everything he wrote, he wrote so directly and descriptively. As I mentioned in an earlier comment his style of repeating predicates helped deepen my knowledge of the language, kind of like coming across new words or expressions in a thesaurus. But more importantly is his ability to describe clearly, both of the inner and outer worlds. All of his writing came from this spiritual source. One of my favorites was Klein und Wagner, a short story that appears in my collection in the same book with Siddhartha, but that I never found translated. I just found that there is (an apparently anonymous) translation that was published in 2017.

I appreciated his first meeting of Kamala, for example, and describing her lips as the color of a freshly cracked fig, as something both exotic and apt.

Since I am rereading, I am also looking at the Project Gutenberg translation, which I find to be very literal in a good way, as they both have the direct quality, which makes it a relatively easy book to translate.


Tasha Jerome, I enjoyed reading your comments about the translation. thanks!

Lavan, I will definitely reread this one day and see if my rating changes too although I did consider giving it 5 starts this time around but I stuck with the 4. I really only need a little push to bump it up so I think another read might do it. :)

Loretta, I'm hoping this happens more from this list!


Tasha By the way, I read this edition. It was such a nice book, the cover was beautiful and the actual book was wonderful to hold. I think you all know what I mean. :)

Siddhartha by Hermann Hesse


message 39: by Lavan, moderator (last edited Sep 14, 2018 07:49AM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

Lavan Zerach | 498 comments Mod
Jerome—I thoroughly enjoyed your comment. Thank you for sharing such wonderful insight!
I think it's fantastic that you and Parker are reading this/have read this in German. I'm envious that your experience is of its original language.

The overview of Klein and Wagner is gripping!

It's great that you plan to reread this list book in the future, Tasha! Your opinion of it may improve, as mine did.


Jerome (tnjed01) | 4 comments Thanks for the kind words. I did not even know the autobiographical elements cited in the Goodreads overview when I read this decades ago. It's a great book, but even more meaningful with that background. I have an idea why it may not have had a wide readership in English, with its shock opening and its shocking ending.


message 41: by Lavan, moderator (last edited Jul 16, 2018 05:15PM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

Lavan Zerach | 498 comments Mod
Jerome wrote: "Thanks for the kind words. I did not even know the autobiographical elements cited in the Goodreads overview when I read this decades ago. It's a great book, but even more meaningful with that back..."

My pleasure, Jerome!
I'm in agreement with you. When a novel is semi-autobiographical it does add something more for readers to appreciate. Hesse's Steppenwolf is partially autobiographical as well.
As you've rated Siddhartha and Steppenwolf 5 stars, do you have a favorite of the two?


Jerome (tnjed01) | 4 comments I read both of them 35 years ago. Siddhartha had more of an impact for me. I was also reading Small Is Beautiful: Economics as if People Mattered by Ernst F. Schumacher and Autobiography: The Story of My Experiments with Truth by Mahatma Ghandi for an interdisciplinary college course at the time. It was also more of a spiritually searching book as compared to a book of alienation, at least in my memory.


message 43: by Lavan, moderator (new) - rated it 5 stars

Lavan Zerach | 498 comments Mod
After reading the overviews for the books you've mentioned (they sound thought-provoking, by the way), I'm reminded that I haven't been reading nonfiction as of late. That's something I want to remedy. I think I'll make a New Year resolution for 2019, to include more nonfiction in my goal for the year. I have quite a few on my to-read shelf that I've been wanting to read.


Bridget | 187 comments Mod
Tasha wrote: "By the way, I read this edition. It was such a nice book, the cover was beautiful and the actual book was wonderful to hold. I think you all know what I mean. :)

Siddhartha by Hermann Hesse"


Hi, I just finished this edition and I really enjoyed it. I didn't try to analyze it too much, but there were some thoughts and observations about finding truth that I really enjoyed. I know I will read it again someday and I'm glad I have this book on my shelf. Can you believe this was first on our list a little over two years ago?


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