I was first introduced to Hermann Hesse through "Demian" which I enjoyed immensely - I felt as though he understood the mind of the artist. Then one day, I recalled a friend mentioning "Narcissus and Goldmund" in the past - not knowing what it was about, I bought it. Call it impulse or instinct - regardless of how I came across this novel...it made a tremendous impact on my life...how I perceived myself as well as those around me. It made me question what my artistic and physical approach to life was.
That was five years ago and to this day, there hasn't been a book that's touched me as deeply nor have I experienced an epiphany as huge as the one I was struck with when I finished the book. The theme that comes across all of Hesse's novels is the road to self-discovery and frankly, having read other popular books by Hesse, none seem to match the profoundness of "Narcissus and Goldmund" or as eloquently written. This book epitomizes the struggle between the mind and the heart. Hesse forces the reader to come to terms with this inevitable conflict and realize that neither is above the other. Actually, both need each other to survive. I will admit that Narcissus and Goldmund are presented as two types of characters - literally. BUT the dimensionality that comes to define the two types as two individuals, are their journeys which, leads to their eventual reunion. It's what wasn't said between Narcissus and Goldmund that allows the reader to analyze and interpret accordingly.
Some reviewers have stated that they found this book disappointing because Hesse didn't delve further in defining the essence of life or that it's didactically written. I strongly disagree with both notions - with this novel Hesse points out the subtleties we often miss and poignantly defines how our creative passion needs to be feed...how the love we develop for those we come across in our lives needs to be nurtured...as well as the necessity to be loved by another human being...but more importantly, the certitude in ourselves - to feed the very passion that drives us and ultimately defines us. In this novel, he punctuates things that most are aware of but don't fully recognize. And as simple as it sounds, I truly believe that that, is the philosophy he is trying to convey - nothing less, nothing more. He executes this theory throughout the book with a delicately intricate voice, but one with a deafening roar that will linger in your mind.
As much as I loved "Demian", I think "Narcissus and Goldmund" surpasses "Demian" mainly because it has the ability to relate to almost every individual, instead of the exclusiveness or isolation that can arise through one's road to self-discovery. This novel manages to juxtapose the intellectual thinker with the instinctual spirit in the simplest manner while evoking myriad thoughts, forcing you to question and engage yourself to your present surroundings.