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37 of 39 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Fantastic
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...
Published on 3 Jun. 2007 by L. Pumfrey

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2.0 out of 5 stars One of my favourite writers but this one didn't work for me
If you don't know Hesse's work, please look at the last two paragraphs of this review. His writing is unusual and, regardless of whether you agree with my view of this particular book, it is worth knowing what to expect.

You could call me a fan of Hesse. I read The Prodigy, Journey to the East and Siddhartha as a young adult and put them high up my list of...
Published 2 months ago by hfffoman


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37 of 39 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Fantastic, 3 Jun. 2007
This review is from: Narcissus and Goldmund (Peter Owen Modern Classics) (Paperback)
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.
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32 of 34 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars wonderful, 1 July 2003
By A Customer
This tale is essentially a diagnosis of human existence and the way individuals respond to it. Without death, says Hesse, life is either an impossibility or an absurdity. It is death that gives value to life and life that gives value to death and the shortness and brevity of life gives it both its absurd insignificance and its amazing importance. The genius of Hesse lies in his ability to capture both the horror and the beauty of life within the same novel: to conjure with the lyricism of a magician the hope out of hopelessness, the joy out of despair and the will to live out of the seeming absurdity of beings born to die and return to dust. Life is indeed meaningless but it is this very meaninglessness that gives life a meaning, as being aware of the finite and absurd nature of life we are, instead of being constrained by a pre-ordained “meaning”, forced to find value in our lives. Life is a series of (seeming) contrasts: sadness to happiness, life to death (the absence of life), masculine to feminine…etc, etc. This is the conception of existence that Narziss attempts to shun by withdrawing into the realm of the mind and Goldmund the world of non-rationalised passion. Both are attempts to escape the essential reality of existence. In this sense Narziss lives like an ascetic – fasting and learning to overcome and negate his sensual nature – and Goldmund the hedonist – sleeping with gipies, wandering roads and plagued towns – and allowing himself to be governed by his senses, seeking no overreaching logic for sheer, unmitigated pleasure and pain. The emotional (our feminine quality) and the intellect (our masculine quality) are the two driving forces behind all that we do, and unlike Narziss and Goldmund, who attempt to adhere to one of the two extremes, Hesse seems to think it is better for us to find a balance between the two: which, in my opinion, is shown by both characters failing in their respective attempts to take mastery over life. It is a complex novel, which would require more thought than I have had time to put into it to fully understand what is being said. Where the novel fails is from a literary (as opposed to philosophical) angle. The prose is flowery – albeit way below the poetic genius of Steppenwolf – but, as there are no descriptions of character or scene, it is impossible to read it as anything but a novel of types and ideas. This is understandable and insightful. It is understandable because Hermann Hesse was not Stephen King: this book is not intended to entertain but to encourage self-reflection, to get people to examine the way they are living, not to give them a few hours cheap entertainment. It is insightful because the book works on an intellectual rather than an emotional level, it appeals to the Narziss in us rather than the Goldmund.
Another amazing work of art, which I have come to expect of Hesse.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The journey of the soul, 11 Nov. 2011
This review is from: Narcissus and Goldmund (Peter Owen Modern Classics) (Paperback)
Taking the reader back to medieval Germany, Hesse's beautiful picaresque story renders the suffering and search for meaning of Goldmund, a young man who's aesthtical and wordly sensiblities prompted him to leave his education at Catholic monastery school under the influence of his devoted and wise teacher, Narcissus. Goldmund's wayward journey leads him to a series of extreme pleasures (mostly sexual) and unforgettable pains (hunger, guilt and plague). Once he comes across a carved wooden statue which spiritually alluded him to his long deceased mother, Goldmund discovers the wonders of creating and the power of art...

Hesse's contemplative prose flows assuredly with a glowing aptitude to conjure complicated feelings and images without betraying the fluidity of the storytelling. More than just another fine bildungsroman, "Narcissus and Goldmund" leaves us knowing the world and accepting its ceaseless vicissitude as it is and our place within it. For those of you who got hooked on the works of Schopenhauer, Nietzsche, Jung and wished to extend to a more creative literature, I recommend picking up this book for it's intensely emotional impact. As for the cinephiles I would compare the book to Bergman's THE SEVENTH SEAL and Tarkovsky's ANDERI RUBLEV, both of which share many similarities with this particular novel by Hesse. Read, feel, think and enjoy.
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2.0 out of 5 stars One of my favourite writers but this one didn't work for me, 16 Mar. 2015
By 
hfffoman (Kent) - See all my reviews
(TOP 500 REVIEWER)   
This review is from: Narcissus and Goldmund (Peter Owen Modern Classics) (Paperback)
If you don't know Hesse's work, please look at the last two paragraphs of this review. His writing is unusual and, regardless of whether you agree with my view of this particular book, it is worth knowing what to expect.

You could call me a fan of Hesse. I read The Prodigy, Journey to the East and Siddhartha as a young adult and put them high up my list of favourite books. I recently read his fairy tales and found them delightful. But I didn't enjoy Narcissus and Goldmund. I am delighted that other reviewers enjoyed this book as much as I enjoyed other books by Hesse, and I won't say their glowing reviews are mistaken - but, although Narcissus and Goldmund is clever and well written, I found its message uninspiring and tediously laboured. I only finished it out of sense of loyalty.

Hesse's early novel, The Prodigy, is grounded in reality. The later Journey to the East and Siddhartha are elevated right out of reality into allegory and spirituality. It felt to me that Narcissus and Goldmund sits uncomfortably in between. It describes many events with realistic detail but it also makes enormous assumptions that are obviously not intended to be remotely realistic. I have no problem with that in principle but the mix of realism and unrealism didn't work for me and I think that is why I found it impossible to empathise with Goldmund as I had, for example, with Siddhartha and the eponymous Prodigy.

For those who don't know Hesse, please be aware that the book contains many sections devoid of dialogue or narrative events. It often feels like a summary or essay and even the narrative sections are more reflective than vivid, as though Hesse found them an interruption before returning to the real business of describing states of mind. He deals largely with spiritual themes, particularly the search for meaning in life, rejection of conventional material life and, in this novel, the fragility of life.

If you are interested in Hesse you may like The Razor's Edge by Somerset Maugham, which approaches similar themes in a modern setting and a more prosaic style.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Perfect, 10 May 2012
By 
K. Derra "KaliSaysWhat" (London) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Narcissus and Goldmund (Peter Owen Modern Classics) (Paperback)
Personally i loved this book, i found it quite cathartic!

An easy read yet quite intense at parts; gripping. I found the ending bitter-sweet yet wholesome...which is why this is one of my favourites. I found that the aim was not to impress or wow the reader with absurdities as many current books intent to, in my opinion. It was rather a growing process for both the reader and the characters.

If you feel like going on an adventure that will leave you wanting more then this may just be the book for you!
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5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars unexpected joy, 13 Mar. 2008
By 
J. Kennedy (hove) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Narcissus and Goldmund (Peter Owen Modern Classics) (Paperback)
As with the other comment on this book, this is also the first Hesse i've read, but surely not the last. Really impressed, if i had read a page at random in Whsmith's i think might have put it back down, as a times it reads like a fairytale and you do need to suspend everything you know about the modern age to fully get into the spirit of the book,

but then when you do that, you find a resonance in everything that happens to our trusted wayfarer, Goldmund, and you start to scratch beneath the surface of Hesse's story, and its sentiment keeps unfolding before you on the page. Then you're at the end, and you need to go back and check for what you missed.

And Graham Coxon's introduction is really sweet as well.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A truly great novel, 2 Jan. 2015
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This review is from: Narcissus and Goldmund (Peter Owen Modern Classics) (Paperback)
This novel must be one of best ever written. Essentially, it is about a wanderer who is compelled to express the artistic beauty within him, despite the often ugliness of the world he ranges through. Hess's relating of the tale is magnificent - brilliantly paced, wonderfully described. This book puts many of our literary award-winners of today to shame.
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4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The greatest love story ever told, 30 May 2011
By 
S. D. Nunn (UK) - See all my reviews
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I'm afraid I tend to grimace at the thought of rating great works of literature. It's fine and dandy to mark popular culture from 1 to 5 ... but frankly that doesn't work so well with masterpieces. So here my 5 stars are for the 1932 English translation by Dunlop. Certainly there are more recent translations - one from the late 1960s and the highly respected 1994 version by Vennewitz - but for me this, the first English language rendering of Hesse's extraordinary novel, remains the most satisfying; the one that most accurately reflects the spirit of the text.

The story takes the idea of the fragmented self - as in Plato - and runs logically through a narrative account of the search for completeness, framed within the medieval realm of theistic scholacism and baudy earth-bound existence. But what is often overlooked in this work is Hesse's treatise on beauty. This is a central theme yet it seems to be all too readily subsumed. But it is Hesse's idea of beauty that functions as reconciliation - as a possible route to completeness. At its core there's an initially Kantian thread running through the work, but Hesse radically overhauls the rather obvious problems of Kantian Idealism, as though seeking a further moment, a moment beyond judgment that is essentially humanist. Thus the judgment of beauty does not end in the demand for consensus, but in the acceptance and reconciliation of difference. And this acceptance reaches its climax in Narziss and Goldmund's final encounter ... often interpreted as an expression of human failure (as evidence of human incompleteness). Actually I think the opposite occurs and this is why Narziss and Goldmund remains one of the great, if not the greatest novel about the nature of love.

Little wonder that Hesse was such a major influence upon what I suppose may as well be summarised as the great thinkers of the twentieth century.
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4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Totally superb, 30 April 2008
By 
Sean Kearon (UK) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Narcissus and Goldmund (Peter Owen Modern Classics) (Paperback)
Although I have to confess that Hesse is my favourite author, this is my absolute favourite book ever. Hesse is an absolute master writer and his tales can often live in your head for a long while after you close the covers; while they are open, each line captures you. This book is, in my opinion, one of his very best and a brilliant view into aspects of the pale psyche too.

In all, most highly recommended!
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4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Intelligent masterpiece, 26 Nov. 2010
By 
Mr. R. N. Lock "Ricky Lock" (Bexley, Kent) - See all my reviews
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This book is an intelligent and insightful masterpiece. The story is about two medieval men, one quiet and content with his religion and monastic life, the other in search of more expansion and worldly salvation. It is a book about the human psyche, through dark and light - written with a prose to die for. Hesse is a master at describing our inner worlds and this comes together brilliantly in this wonderful book.
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Narcissus and Goldmund (Peter Owen Modern Classics)
Narcissus and Goldmund (Peter Owen Modern Classics) by Hermann Hesse (Paperback - 6 July 2006)
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