Mr Hesse (or rather, H Hesse) was a unique writer in many ways. I think he took writing to the very depths of the art it is, and thereby managed to produce books which are as good as they are because they are the portraits of what the innermost reaches of his soul believed.
I have read a few of his works, starting with ‘Siddharta’ and ‘Steppenwolf’ but also including ‘The Journey to the East’. Of these I prefer ‘Siddhartha’ best and ‘The Journey to the East’ comes second. And yet, I have been always unable to finish that book in one go — it has some sort of a block midway through when the characters go mad (metaphorically rather than actually mad) and my concentration on that book lapses and I go on to something else. I think it has happened thrice when I’ve tried to read the book, and I cannot explain it very well. But I think this effect is a good show of how much soul and depth can be found in H Hesse’s works.
And this soul is also present in ‘Siddhartha’. The book was introduced to me as the one with the answers to all the questions there are, and I doubted it very much then. After reading it, I wouldn’t be so sure. I think I might have read it a good five-six times by now, and there is something new in there that waits to be found every time I read it again. It might even be that I enjoy the same passages and thoughts but the way I react to them has changed. The thoughts I get have slightly changed. And the way I understand our Siddhartha’s actions has changed.
Of the characters present, I am amused by Govinda and Vasudeva — and I definitely do not mean that in a bad way. No, I am rather amused by the child-likeness of Govinda while I am impressed by the thoroughness of his search for answers. And I think that the thought of a friendship as deep as between Siddhartha and Govinda talks to me on a level entirely its own. And of Vasudeva, he is a saint, what more can be said… I have often thought how it would feel to be a ferryman while reading his passages, and I do not doubt that in another life it would have been a very good fate. Assuming I had had the skill to appreciate it…
‘Siddhartha’ truly is a book for which I have only praise. Unfortunately I have not tried to read it in German (for it is not as if I read German…) so I have only experienced it in Estonian. For some reason, the style that Hesse employs here does not seem one that can well be brought into line with the English syntax although I have only seen one translation thus far (and that I skimmed briefly and did not read). So, it could be that the language has played some part but maybe not. Hopefully not, and an English read (that I will get around to someday) will be just as good and thought-inspiring.
To finish, I would hope that more people go to take a look at ‘Siddhartha’ for H Hesse did not set his words into line in such a beautiful poetic way for no little reason. He wanted to touch the reader’s soul, and he certainly touched mine. I am sure that if you let him, he’ll do the same to yours.