Monday, December 28, 2009


Siddhartha is the best known novel by Nobel Prize-winning author Hermann Hesse. It is a short book that follows the spiritual journey of the title character, who travels the Indian subcontinent during the time of Buddha in search of enlightenment.

Siddhartha is the son of Brahmin elder, who leaves his hometown to wander with the ascetic Samanas. While with the Samanas, he encounters the Buddha, who he believes to be truly wise and enlightened. That being said, Siddhartha doesn't feel the Buddha can teach him anything - he doesn't believe that any person can teach him - so he continues on his journey. The next stop is with the lovely courtesan Kamala who teaches him the pleasures of physical love, while he learns about money and gambling from the town's most successful merchant. Years of this life leave him feeling disgusted and nauseous, so he contemplates suicide by the river. He's saved by an old friend, and Siddhartha spends the final stage of his journey listening to and learning from the river, where he ultimately finds peace.

Perhaps I'm not a very spiritual person. Maybe I don't know enough about Buddhism and other Eastern religions. Whatever the reason, I didn't find Siddhartha to be a sympathetic or inspiring character. Rather, I saw a self-indulgent egoist who shirked his responsibilities in the name of finding enlightenment. I won't say it is a bad book, but it is one whose appeal is entirely lost on me.

Next up: The Prince of Tides by Pat Conroy, which Santa left in my stocking.


Carly Brantz said...

I love The Prince of Tides. A crazy story about a dark and complicated family.

Angie said...

@Carly - Lots of people have said good things, and 25 pages in I'm enjoying it as well!