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on 14 March 2007
This little book totally captivated my attention, my imagination and my emotion. I found the book worked for me on two distinctly different levels...

Firstly, it is one of the best allegories of leadership that I have ever read. The intrepid group undertaking the Journey to the East (a spiritual rather than geographic destination) are having a ball until one day they notice that one of their servants in missing. The realisation dawns on them that they all in various ways depend on this servant, Leo. He models lightness of spirit, he offers a listening ear and words of wisdom, and in his luggage he seems to carry all the important things required for the journey. Without him the journey becomes impossible - Leo was a true leader - not in name but in character.

Secondly, it is a book about loss: losing faith, losing youth and losing innocence. But unlike many books Hesse doesn't end there. He hints at what lies beyond... there are rays of hope for every reader who, like the writer, has faced the despair of age and asked, "Are my the best moments now behind me?" Hesse seems to be suggesting that whilst the answer may well be yes, that doesn't mean there's nothing to look forward to.
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on 15 July 2001
Hermanne Hesse's reputation flowered amongst the sixties 'love affair' with all things Zen and Eastern, but in recent years his Buddhist allegories of self discovery have passed people by. 'Stepponwolf' was to most people a rock band from Canada who were on the 'Easy Rider' soundtrack. But Hesse's fiction is getting re printed more frequently now and 'Journey to the East' is what 'Apocalypse' was for D H Lawrence, a kind of philosophical touch stone to his fiction and a must read for any fans. Following a group of characters through time,myth and the very nature of self, Hesse blends the experiences he had with people like Paul Klee, into a sprawling tale of awakening and re-discovery of the nature of being. The East like a giant philosophical focul point draws all Western strands of narrative toward it, the stories middle beginning and end are not exactly clear cut, but what is clear is Hesse's determined stride to re awaken something he thought the world had lost after the two world wars. This book floats on the river of re-prints like a lotus flower, bobbing back onto book shelves like a hopeful ray of light.
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on 2 December 2010
The story of the Jesuits' mission to China was long the thing of Jesuit historians, with the result that it was portrayed in heroic terms, with a few dedicated men facing the hopeless odds of a vast territory, an impenetrable language, and an unpredictable administration. Brockey's book, which is also the latest and most up-to-date history on the subject, aims to debunk that. Covering the Jesuit mission from its start in 1579 to the moment at which Christianity was at last banned by the Chinese emperor in 1724, Journey to the East indeed provides a comprehensive overview based on a wealth of mostly European, but also some Chinese, archive material. It is easy and absorbing to read. Obfuscation, comedy, and the mishaps of cultural misunderstand featuring prominently - the greatest being the Chinese Rites affair, in which the Pope through sheer obstinacy, and rival religious orders through jealousy of the Jesuits, managed to get Christianity proscribed in China. The book, finally, is divided into two halves: one narrative, chronological section and a thematic section on conversion strategies.

Brockey's desire to explain goes perhaps too far in seeking to downplay the risks and obstacles overcome by the first Jesuits, and how gifted they were. Not only did Ricci and his first followers learn Mandarin Chinese in a few years, but they wrote books in it and were able to hold scientific and philosophical discussions with high Mandarins: these had to be exceptional men. Brockey might thus have differentiated more between the mission's first and later phases. The Jesuits' conversion strategy may also have changed over time, first targeting the Mandarin elite and indeed the imperial court, and later aiming for mass conversions; the author downplays that change. Finally, the first section is the more interesting, and perhaps more space could have been dedicated to it relatively. Nevertheless, these are minor quibbles, and Journey to the East is well worth reading.
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on 17 November 2010
Not sure how it happened, but I read this book at just the right time - I was, as many readers of Hesse probably are, on my own journey to the east at the time! His books were easy to pick up in India as they are/were favourites on the backpackers trail and crop up in the book exchanges and second hand shops you find on the way.

This book made more of an impression on me even than the more celebrated Siddhartha and Glass Bead Game - the work is a kind of parable that follows a spiritual group journeying through Europe in search of who knows what.....they seem to wonder through different eras of history and reality and fantasy are interwoven - the spiritual message within the story comes through strongly and it was this that really got under my skin when I read it - inspiring me towards a more meditative and spiritual life.

Sadly for an english speaker, the translation is a little dry (as so many translations are) but don't be put off - once you get used to the writing style, the story is compelling and the book really captures your imagination. My copy had an introduction by Timothy Leary which I am sure has attracted a lot of people who would not otherwise read the book. It's total garbage, but if it gets people reading the Hesse books then fine :)

A short book but a real gem - hope you get as much from it as I did.
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on 22 January 2008
Amazing - one of the best ever read - I'm portuguese and I studied 12 years with Jesuits. Brockey reading open me eyes to an entire new world.
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on 4 May 2009
This short story of Hesse's has a magical quality; it tends to project the reader temporarily into a radically different mode of thought, and is quite beautifully written. It is also noticeably ambivalent towards many of the aspirations of the modern world, and in this sense is a welcome relief from much contemporary fiction. The one thing to note for this edition is that it is listed on Amazon as 'hardcover' when the best that can really be said of it is that it is a stiffer paperback.
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on 4 June 2012
This book has been my personal bible for many years. The importance of 'not selling your violin' will always be with me.
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on 8 December 2015
A nice short read but really does take some comprehension. Not something to read whilst your distracted, but if you fully engage with this book you will really see the benefit, another master piece by Hesse.
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on 12 August 2011
I've read most of Hesse's works, both fiction and non-fiction, and this is probably one of my least favourites. Yet it is still an enjoyable and stimulating read - like all Hesse's books the language verges on the poetic, and is very thought-provoking. In some ways it reminds me of Steppenwolf. I have gone back to read "Journey to the East" a number of times, and as I change so do my insights into the book.
I don't regard it as one of his best, but it remains an enjoyable, and beautifully-written, book.
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on 17 August 2013
This is not a book for the faint hearted I first read it in the seventies when It was cool to read Herman Hess and I read many other books by this author. The story deals with the journey and is a allegory, it is a story witin a story and needs to be read at least twice.
The problem with Hess is his storys can bore you for fifty pages then suddenly like the lights being switched on you get it.
Like I said not for the faint hearted but like me if you want to revisit the sixties or seventies and one of the most read books of the time by those who dropped out try it, this is a small book that takes a long time to read.
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