16 of 21 people found the following review helpful
This review is from: Narcissus and Goldmund (Paperback)
Set in medieval Germany, the book is about two men who both have a kind of greatness though in very different ways. The love between Narziss and Goldmund lasts from beginning to end of the book. This book will make you want to be a wandering vagabond. (Well, maybe not if you are a cautious type). I went wandering round the cliffs, bays and marshes where I live (Thanet) to taste freedom. I tried chatting up local peasant's daughters but that seemed somewhow wrong here in South East England. (I think you'd get chased off pretty fast). Narziss is totally square and Goldmund is totally, like, hip. Narziss dreams only of boys but Goldmund dreams of girls. (which also carries a different implication in modern times !) That seems to mean that Narziss is intellectual, where Goldmund is a man of the emotions. Its more complex than that, Narziss is a platonist, Goldmund is probably more of a pantheist or goddess worshipper.
Herman Hesse was read widely in the hippie era, due to a kind of a personal discovery, self fulfilment, anti establishment, anti bourgeois thing. I met a guy in a pub once who said that N and G was Hesse's best book. I now agree with him, because it's got more meat in it than "The Glass Bead Game". (Steppenwolf is right up there too of course).
Reading about Goldmund's wandering through the world has given me more of an attunement with the lives of the long term homeless people I see locally, the hobos and wanderers. My friend Martin completely romanticised being homeless, mainly becasue he loves cracking a can of beer with some dude on a park bench. This book is a bit rosy spectacled about being homeless too. It also made me think about art in a new, refreshed kind of way, pulling me away from abstract towards figurative stuff, finally it made me more interested in the middle ages and the lives and worldviews from then.
It's about experience, sin and soul and the way they write themselves on us, leaving us worn and closer to death. It's about spiritual archetypes (Hesse was into Jung) and the freedom of trekking. Reading it is like absorbing some kind of condensed essence of life - you'll be wiser. (Another essence like that is malt whisky, help me resist !)