Friday, June 6, 2014

Book Review - Demian by Hermann Hesse

Reading Hermann Hesse is like climbing the mountain to seek a holy man for wisdom and guidance. His words are filled with the knowledge that in order to awaken to one's self, one must open their eyes to the world and see what is before them. This was the case with Emil Sinclair, the narrator of the novel Demian, as he shrugged off what was expected of him to face what he could truly become, thanks mostly to his friend and guide of sorts, Max Demian. Demian lives beyond the rules set for the rest of the world, because quite simply, he is both of this world and of another that carries a different yet still important set of rules. It is through Demian that Sinclair learns how to become himself, whomever and whatever that may be. The words give rise to the soul finally waking up and moving forward that only few could ever understand and comprehend and yet Sinclair dives into it with at first trepidation then finally acceptance and indulgence. The end leaves us wondering if in fact the gods do have a sense of humour; at least, that was how I walked away from this book.

The first time I read Hesse was years ago when I read Steppenwolf. To be quite honest, it both terrified and fascinated me, so much so that I did not read Hesse for many years until I located this book in a used bookstore and decided to return to this mystic and his words that rang like a deep bell within me. When I told my friends that I was reading Demian, I had many of them inform me of their overall love of Hesse's work and I had to agree.

Demian, while slender, is not for those who want a light read. As much as I sound like a book snob (and at times, I am!), Demian is for those who question and wonder about not only of the world but of themselves as well. Demian, along with Hesse's other works, could be construed as philosophy and I am sure there are many out there who would both agree and disagree. The whole concept of the Mark of Cain was enough for me. 

To end this review of sorts, I would like to quote a particular paragraph that caused me to stop and read again. It had hit me just that hard:

So that's what I looked like inside! I who was going about contemtpuous of the world! I who was proud in spirit and shared Demian's thoughts! That's what I looked like, a piece of excrement, a filthy swine, drunk and filthy, loathsome and callow, a vile beast brought low by hideous appetites. That's what I looked like, I, who came out of such pure gardens where everything was cleanliness, radiance, and tenderness, I, who had loved the music of Bach and beautiful poetry. With nausea and outrage I could still hear my life, drunk and unruly, sputtering out of me in idiotic laughter, in jerks and fits. There I was. 

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