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Fiction > Hermann Hesse's Peter Camenzind

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message 1: by Brittany (new)

Brittany (bmholman) | 107 comments I'm done! Anyone else?
I ended up getting the book for free, woo hoo!! Because Borders had this policy that if your book isn't delivered on time (7 days) it's free, and my book was delivered in 9 days. Great policy if you ask me!


message 2: by MMG (new)

MMG | 106 comments I just finished. Don't think I liked it...but maybe after I have time to mull over it I'll change my mind. I sort of read it almost all in one sitting.


message 3: by Brittany (last edited Jan 30, 2009 10:28PM) (new)

Brittany (bmholman) | 107 comments So I'm gonna go ahead and start the disscussion on this book. Also I think we should put up ideas for the next book.

I gave this book 3 stars.

I only gave this book three stars because I'm not sure how I feel about the protagonist, Peter Camenzind. Sometimes I liked him and sometimes I didn't. What I didn't like was Camenzind's air of superiority that I read in his tone of writing (Hesse wrote the book from Camenzind's point of view in the first person). Camenzind often came off that unless you appreciated or understood nature like he did/does then you didn't deserve to live amongst that nature. While I'm sure everyone appreciates nature, not everyone gets to experience the kind of nature that surrounded him like where he grew up. Isn't it to each his/her own? Then there was the pity party that we all were invited to in the majority of the beginning of the book. He pitied himself for being a hermit and his losses in life (friends, family, and love). I couldn't feel bad for him. We all suffer bad luck in life. Then there was his social awkwardness that made me feel uncomfortable. Maybe that was Hesse's idea for his character, but I wish Hesse had pointed it out more, as in I would have liked Camenzind to realize this in himself, and I never found that he did. I cringed when he tried to convey his love to those girls (climbing a mountain to get flowers off a cliff edge for Rosi, and taking Elizabeth out on the lake to profess his undying love, then having to turn back in a huff when she said she was in love with someone else before he even got a chance to tell her he loved her). The part I disliked the most was when he kind of moved in on a family and adopted his carpenter friend's invalid brother-in-law. He kind of invited himself to be close to the family and experience their private troubles. I found it really inappropriate. And I can fully understand why the carpenter stopped visiting Camenzind and stopped being his friend.

Now, these are the things I liked about Camenzind: he is a very kind person and tried his hardest to love all mankind. I was partly touched when Peter ran all the way back to the house because he felt bad for leaving Boppi alone, however I also cringed because I didn't think it was his place to be that concerned for a man he didn't even know. I liked reading about his travels around Germany, Italy, Spain, etc. and admired how he traveled pretty much alone and went off the beaten path of the large cities, but instead found joy in the small hidden villages. Despite all of Camenzind's awkwardness, I found him very human, which made this book pleasant to read.

Overall I thought the writing was very poetic and quite beautiful at times, when I didn't feel like I was being talked down to. I think Hesse did a great job in describing Camenzind and his passions. However my mind did wander when Camenzind/Hesse would go off in various descriptions of things. I preferred reading the narrative and actions of Camenzind instead of his never-ending thoughts.

Here are some quotes I liked:
(Pg 79)"The strong sweet god of wine became my faithful friend, as he remains even today. Who is as mighty as he? Who as beautiful, as fantastic , lighthearted, melancholy? He is hero and magician, tempter and brother of Eros. He can do the impossibl; heimbues impovershid hearts with poetry. He transforms me, a peasant and a recluse, into a king, poet, and a sage. He fills the emptied vessels of life with new destinies and drives the stranded back into the swift currents of action." And relly it goes on for another four paragraphs. I just like this ode to alcohol. I feel like wine does all these things, and its just so poetic. Even this quote that ends his discription of his best friend: (pg 81)"A dozen times I was overcome by such ghastly misery and self disgust that I resolved to stop drinking altogether. Yet then I would go out and drink again and again."

(pg 92)"The unlimited spaciousness of the horizon affected me deeply. Once again, as in childhood, I beheld the soft blue of immeasurable distances beckoning to me like an open gate. And the feeling swept over me that I was not born for a normal life at home among my people or in cities and houses, but my fate was to wander through foreign regions and make odysseys on the sea." Boy do I feel like this. Except the part about not living in cities and houses, 'cause I want those.

(pg 100)"I began to understand that suffering and disappointments and melancholy are there not to vex us or cheapen us or deprive us of our dignity but to mature and transfigure us." ...good.


As for books to read next I'd like to maybe lighten our reading and read some good chick-lit. How about:
-Trading Up, Candace Bushnell
-To Have and to Hold, Gane Green
-In Her Shoes, Jennifer Wheiner
-Something Borrowed, Emily Giffith
-Size 12 Is Not Fat, Meg Cabbot
Or anyother ones. What do you think?


message 4: by MMG (new)

MMG | 106 comments Wow, I don't know if I have that much to say about it.

I believe I also gave the book 3 stars (4 for good writing, 2 for story, so an average of 3)

The thing that irritated me most about the book was that he finds himself deeply in love with those three women at various times in his life but he hardly knows them! Rosi definitely he never even talks to her, but I think he acknowledges that himself that it was just an intense crush and not real love, and I suppose Erminia or whatever her name was, he kind of knew her but obviously not well enough to know she was already inlove with another man and then Elizabeth he just falls in love with her while shes looking at a picture, they have only a couple conversations before he falls for her and then he doesnt see her again until the day he finds out she is engaged. And yet through the rest of the book he is sure that if he had not waited so long she would have been his wife. And I'm thinking, no.

And I have to disagree with you Brit, I think Camenzind DOES realize he's socially awkward well maybe he doesnt realize he's awkward but he knows he doesnt fit in with people, but hes so cocky that he basically thinks its because theyre all more shallow then him. And when he resolves to love all mankind its like him saying, I'm better than all of you but because I want to be a good person I'm going to forgive all YOUR faults and love you anyways.

And about the carpenter, of course he's pissed off! the miserable cripple stole his friend, I'd be pissed off too!

And what the hell was up with that animal conversation????? was that really in the book??

I gotta say, I didnt like Boppi at all, I had absolutely no sympathy for him...I dont know why, but I felt nothing for him. I really liked Richard though and I was sad when he died, not for Camenzind's sake, but for his own sake. Richard reminds me a bit of Mr. Bingley (because I just finished Pride and Prejudice) and Camenzind is like Mr Darcy (at the beginning of the book before he gets better). Richard's so friendly and vibrant, I think I would have enjoyed the book more if he had been in it for the entirety of Camenzind's story.

I too, liked the travel parts, it made me want to backpack around Europe again and spend more time in Italy.

This was Hesse's first novel...I think he definitely improved with time.


message 5: by Brittany (new)

Brittany (bmholman) | 107 comments Yeah, I guess I didn't make that clear; he knows he doesn't fit in with the rest of the world, but he's cocky about it. I'm pretty sure I was clear on how I think he's cocky and thinks hes better than everyone else. I just think he's too cocky to think HE'S the one that's socially awkward.


message 6: by Elaine (new)

Elaine (laineyb) | 58 comments Sorry, I've one more chapter to go which I'll finish tonight & then get a review on here. I was way too engrossed in the other book I was reading & this one didn't really keep my attention...hmmmm!


message 7: by Alison (new)

Alison | 103 comments Mod
Ok so I finally finished the book yesterday finally. I was sorta busy prepping for this super intense technical job which I think I totally screwed up the minute I got there... I addressed the guy by his first name "Hi Harold!" yeah that's me soooooo unprofessional. Anyways so I absolutely loved the first chapter. It was so beautifully descriptive with the start of interesting characters. Had the book been about the mountain life in the Alps staying with the tone of the first chapter, I think I would've loved the book. Instead I grew to hate it slowly but surely.

I absolutely hated Peter. He was so annoying and neurotic. I'm so with Mara about the whole being in love with the women he knows nothing about. What was up with Rosi, going thru all that struggle to get her the flowers only to leave no note, no evidence that they're for her, etc. And he says he's satisfied because it's beautiful and poetic. DUMB DUMB DUMB! You risked your life for those fucking flowers for what??? for some ill-conceived notion of romance. Romance like that makes me want to upchuck.

All throughout the book he proves to be a really un-fun drunk who gets mad over stupid things like "OMG he guessed I'm a poet. I'm so angry!" or "Oh, I don't know Neitzche. I'm so angry!" or "Oh, I ate all the ham people are looking at me. I'm so angry!" He's touchy, untrusting, easily angered, and just plain annoying. I agree with Brit that he gives this air of I'm so much better than you are, but I think it was something of a shield to protect him from the fact that he is different from the city folk.

I hated him so much that by the time I actually began reading about his do-gooding, there was no way for me to like him. Even all his activities with Boppi I was thinking, hmmm just looking for a way to relieve his guilt. He wasn't even sad when his supposed best friend dies. And like Brit was talking about the awkwardness of taking care of Boppi a person not related to him in the least. I totally agree but think it's way more than awkward. I'm sorry but the way I see it, if it were my brother and here was this "friend" pointing out that he could do a much better job taking care of him... I'd be fucking pissed. Sure we can try to say that he's trying to do what's best for Boppi, but in the back of my mind, I'd be saying "Who the fuck are you?"

I'm torn between one and two stars. I really did love the first chapter and thought it was going to be a great read, but then all downhill from there. Definitely read Demian or Siddhartha... sooooo much better.

Oh yeah, is it just me, or do we read quite a few books with some homo-eroticism in it? Peter and Richard??? Totally ass grinding one another. Peter even comes off like a total woman (sorry for the sexism) talking about being "touchy if he kept me waiting"

Couple of short quotes to add:

"He seized my hand and rubbed his nose affectionately against mine in Eskimo fashion, until I freed myself from him with an angry laugh."
Now answer me this, first of all when you picture this scene are these two lovers? And secondly, is he laughing like an evil villain in a comedy... you know mu-ah ha ha!

"Oh, love isn't there to make us happy. I believe it exists to show us how much we can endure."
I just found this quote sad and true.


message 8: by Brittany (new)

Brittany (bmholman) | 107 comments I totally agree with how the carpenter should be pissed that this random friend came in and took over taking care of Boppi, I guess I wasn't harsh enough in my review.
And yeah, totally thought Richard and Peter were gay. You could make a theory that because Peter was sexually frustraded with not getting any from Richard that's why Peter tried so hard with the girls to an embarrassing degree. Something like, he worked out his frustrations of his love for a man, that he tried too hard to prove that he loved these women.


message 9: by Elaine (new)

Elaine (laineyb) | 58 comments Yeah...so this book was definitely my least favourite of what we've read so far. Clearly, with it taking so long for me to actually read the thing! Have to say I totally agree with the first chapter being amazing & I really did enjoy it a lot but then he moved to the city thinking he was the man & that's when I started to lose interest. The writing in the first chapter was just beautiful & if it had continued in that vein then I probably would have been tempted to move to Austria after this!

I kind of wanted more background to how he was at school when he still lived in the village. How he related to the other children etc. But then if it's supposed to be written as a memoir from Peter Camenzind himself then it's not going to be possible as who ever remembers their childhood, enough to write about it in detail.

Richard was a very interesting character. & the circle of friends that he introduced to Peter was clearly very different from what he was used to. When he found it difficult to relate to them & basically wasn't interested in anyone else other than Richard, he clearly was in denial of the extent of his feelings for Richard. Either that or the private school upbringing he entered into is very similar to that in the UK...there's a lot of very close male relationships which form out of that... Also I was just thinking the whole way through that section, well if you don't like these people then you don't have to go to these things...no-one's forcing you!

His infatuations with the certain women in his life were strange as well. I didn't have the same reactions as you all tho! I thought what he did for Rosi was rather nice & I could see why he wouldn't have wanted her to know it was him - I kinda understand that. But Elizabeth & Erminia were 2 very different situations. He should have been older & readier to take those risks, before he did with Elizabeth. & I found it strange that he was so convinced, even later in the book, that he would have had a great relationship with either of them, especially Elizabeth, who when he first noticed her really pissed him off as she was so grumpy! & as Mara pointed out, he had only known both of them 2 minutes! Mental!

The whole part with the carpenters family was nice until, as discussed, he decided to muscle in on their crippled relation after his revelation. That was just a weird situation & yes the animal conversation....totally wtf! I thought Boppi's notion that Peter's mother died too early was interesting as well, which I suppose is why I'm more curious to know what his relationship with his peers at school, back in Nimikon, was like. I think it's hilarious that you don't like Boppi, Mara, cos for me I didn't even feel that I knew him at all to decide whether I could like him or not!!

So yeah I really liked the style of writing, in particular the first chapter & the second half of the last, when he moved back home. I also liked the way he described the death of both his mother & the little girl. I didn't really like Peter himself, because he seemed to want all the beauty of friendships with others, until he met that woman in Italy, but without actually putting in any of the hardwork or sacrifices that it takes to have a really meaningful friendship with someone. I thought that was just selfish. & I also want to know what happened in Paris, that kinda bugged me that he said "Oh, all this stuff happened! But I'm not going to write about it." I was left thinking well clearly it's had some kind of impact on you as a person, so it's actually important to the story & I would like to know.

Anyway, I think that's about all from me...no real meaningful quotations just pieces of writing that I found beautiful -
P47 "and many other wines & I began a long acquaintance and have become the best of friends since." (Incidentally one of my 2nd yr elective students managed to use the word acquaintance in her writing the other day, it brought a smile to my face to imagine a 13yr old talking about their acquaintances!)
P46 "Then we sat opposite each other, blowing smoke into each other's faces & slowly gulping down the first litre of wine." - I would love to have that kind of relationship with my father...
P6 "& the enjoyment of one's own superiority added a delicate philistine piquancy to the joke" Amazing writing...



message 10: by MMG (new)

MMG | 106 comments I just wanted to comment on the Peter/Richard thing. I too got gay vibes from them but I think it could easily be put to cultural differences. I don't like to jumble all of Europe into one stereotype but Im going to anyways because you have to admit that European men (in my personal experiences Switzerland, Italy, Portugal, Norway and Latvia) are a lot more touchy-feely than the average American male. And I could see, especially with Elaine's comment on the private school upbringing, how if you're in a culture that doesnt immediately perceive that kind of behavior as homosexual, straight men would have no qualms about showing tenderness and devotion to eachother.

But I totally agree with Ali, Peter is such a GIRL! And Britt does have a point about working out his frustrations by convincing himself he was madly in love with these women he barely knew. the only characters he's ever actually in a relationship with are men.


message 11: by Alison (new)

Alison | 103 comments Mod
Let me just say something about this whole European males vs. American Males. I get the whole cultural difference thing, but really is there any culture that considers guys giving each other affectionate Eskimo kisses as not gay.


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