I'll begin by saying that I haven't read any other of Hesse's books. After reading Narcissus and Goldmund, I can hardly wait. However, I find it hard to imagine how anything he has written could possibly surpass the singing, joyously spiritual prose that lies on every page of this effort. A book that positively resounds with the twin elements of ecstasy and grief, of life and death, of light and dark, it is the ultimate tribute to life and all its incredible avenues. Sprawling yet succinct, philosophical yet free spirited, it is, in two words, life affirming.
It is unusual for such a modestly sized book to tackle such large, important themes so effectively, and so excitingly. In Goldmund, we can all see ourselves, or can all see what we might be, if we had the gumption. He is one the best illustrated characters, best illustrated concepts, to ever grace our pages. His artistic and amorous wanderings are delightfully redolent of the very joy of being. A primitive, soulful vagabond, blessed with an artist's mind, and cursed with an artist's depression, he wheels through life, from woman to woman, from valley to valley, from light to dark. Narcissus, his mentor and the thinker, bookends the book in a pleasingly structural manner, his brooding intellectualism, and peaceful scholarly outlook providing the perfectly balanced contrast, to impetuous, free-spirited Goldmund.
A veritable mine of inspiration awaits the sensitive reader, in what is surely Hesse's crowning achievement. To read the poetic, fable-like prose is to gain insight like no other, to be inspired time and time again, to be uplifted and to be guided. It is a book to which doubtless you will return.