One of the great author’s defining works, and a crucial German publication in the immediate post-war period, this novel would also, in its revised final form from 1960, prove to be pretty much his last. It is a bildungsroman, the story of roughly fifteen years in the development of a boy, charting his induction into the ‘real’ world and striving towards adulthood. The story is told in the first person by Emil Sinclair, under whose name the book first appeared with Hesse’s authorship only established subsequently.
“… every person’s story is important, eternal, divine; and so every person, to the extent that he lives and fulfills nature’s will, is wondrous and deserving of full attention”
I first read this book about moral, social, religious and spiritual enlightenment in my impressionable youth long ago. Along with Hesse’s later masterwork Steppenwolf (1927) it has a travelled with me through several house moves over the decades, from Italy to Singapore and then from London to Reading and back again. The story of you Emil and the influence of Max Damien on his early life is dense and powerful.
“I realise today that nothing in the world is more distasteful to a man than to take the path that leads to himself.”
I’m not sure I even understand it all now, even in my late 40s, but return to it periodically in search of nourishment. I had hoped to writer a much loner and detailed review but I’m afraid ‘real’ life intruded, int he shape of family and work commitments, so apologies for the brevity of this post. All I can say is that it is a great book (even if not an especially long one) and you should read it with care and attention (and I say that as someone who does not have a particularly religious bone in his body – quite the opposite in fact). Instead, I urge you to look at both Karen and Caroline’s site for the fascinating collection of materials on one of the major figures of twentieth century fiction.