Siddartha by Herman Hesse is a utterly beautiful creation. I can't better the good things that have been written about it so I won't try. This translation is, however, a poor one. It feels like a year 1 undergraduate project. Very unusually there are 5 translators mentioned at the start of the book. I'm guessing each took every 5th sentence. Here's an example from page 2:
"To reach this place, the self, myself, the Atman, there was another way, which was worthwhile looking for?
It doesn't make sense with a question mark. It's not the only bit of poor translation and I've only reached page 6, sadly. There are better translations out there which preserve the beauty and rigour of the original writing.
I bought the book because I am a big fan of the Yes album Close to the Edge. I didn't actually think it would be for me, because I have a tendency to write things off as wishy washy or silly when people think too much to the point where they can no longer relate to everyday things in a normal manner anymore. Knowing this was to be very philosophical and somehow relating to buddhism (I'm an atheist), I didn't think it would resonate with me and didn't expect much.
So, I was a little sceptical going into it, but found it to be a refreshing read. The ideas that Hesse brings up often seem abstract and perhaps even a little silly when seen from the "outside" (even after reading). But while your mind is on the story, these difficult concepts actually make sense. And the reader is never bombared with philosophical ideas either. Rather, the book opens up gradually, as does Siddarhas understanding - even if there are a few epiphanies throughout. As a reader, there were a couple of times when I felt a slight wow of revelation when I understood something that the book was trying to tell me. In a way, that's similar to what the character in the book goes through, As Siddartha achieved some profound understanding, so did I - even if it was on a much more trivial scale. I think that's the greatest achievement of this book and a credit to Hesse's writing - its ability to make its reader share Siddarthas spiritual journey.
I know some people have been profoundly moved by this book, and I imagine Yes' vocalist Jon Anderson may have been one of many. I have to say I remain a sceptic and as the book fades in my mind, I don't think it changed my general outlook on things, but I still found it enjoyable to read and cleverly written. I can definitely see why it's regarded as a classic.
Short, simple story with a deep message. What I liked about 'Siddhartha' was it was an easy read but forced me think. Though late in the day, I am glad I discovered this book. Would definitely recommend this as I explore other works by Hermann Hesse. Suggestions are welcome.