Thursday, January 07, 2010

Siddhartha Siddhartha by Hermann Hesse

My rating: 4 of 5 stars
I just re-read this slim yet insightful story after 20 years and it was even better than I remember, so I've added a star to my former rating of it. Siddhartha is Hesse's homage to ancient Eastern philosophical tomes he became enamoured with. It's the story of an Indian cat, Siddhartha, who lives a parallel life to the Buddha, their paths only crossing once, and them disagreeing on that occasion. Our Siddhartha goes on a very different journey towards the same enlightenment as Siddhārtha Gautama the Buddha. His individualistic anti-religious spiritual quest is also placed against that of Govinda, his childhood friend and sporadic life-long companion who becomes one of the earliest of the Buddha's followers. Siddhartha goes from rich kid to disobedient son to fundamentalist monk to wealthy, drunken, hedonist to poor ferryman to spurned father (with the child he has to the world's finest concubine) to finally, after his final breakdown by the laughing river, he becomes whole once more and prepared for whatever the river has in store for him, much to the elderly Govinda's admiration. It puts it all in perspective.

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