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  • Writer's pictureTerence Im

Book Recommendation: Siddartha by Herman Hesse

If you decide to read Siddartha by Herman Hesse, precious jewels of insight may be discovered in your journey through this novel. Likewise, terrible pessimism and confusion about the world may result from reading this book for you will see the world through the protagonist's eyes (though the book is told in third person,) and it is through this narrative lens that you will share in Siddartha's gloomy perceptions of the world, his triumphs and defeats and humanity's sorrows as seen through his eyes. This is the power of Herman Hesse's writing for he is able to pull in his readers and spellbind them into feeling the emotions of his characters as if he were causing his readers to become them.

Siddartha by Herman Hesse is a novel of soul searching and the yearning of a man who seeks to discover the truth of reality, or perhaps a better way of putting it is, he wishes to achieve enlightenment and thus liberate himself from the illusions of the mind.

It should be noted that Siddartha, the protagonist, is not the same Siddartha Gautama which the world knows as the Buddha. He is similar however to the historical Buddha. Siddartha is born into the Brahmin caste, the elite caste in the Nepalese kingdom known as Kapilavastu. Although he is brought up in luxury and social admiration, he feels sorrow and disillusionment with everyone around him. He is tired of the religious rituals practiced by his peers and family for he finds that these habitual practices are a waste of time and causes one to become distracted from spiritual truth.

Thus, Siddartha decides to leave behind his comfortable life so as to embark on a journey of self-awakening. Accompanying him is his close friend Govinda who admires Siddartha and wishes to follow him wherever he goes. The two undergo a difficult journey, a journey which will surprise the reader with its surprises and spontaneous, mystical experiences. The journey will ultimately prove to be a difficult one for the reader for it will illustrate all of life's beauties and suffering with such deep and honest reflection that either self-understanding or terrible sorrow will be experienced by the reader after the end of the book.

Tread lightly should you wish to read this novel. If you yearn to read the work of a writer who is willing to explore a myriad of philosophical and spiritual questions with profound curiosity, then you might very well find Herman Hesse to be one of the most incredible authors you will come across. But beware. This is a novel which tests people's relationship with life, their loved ones and the nature of the universe itself. The reason I recommend this book is because in the end, I believe that any journey towards self-understanding taken seriously cannot be pursued without enduring trials and tribulations that test the inner depths of one's heart.

Copyright © 2022 by Terence Im (born Tae Joon Kim)

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