Siddhartha is a novel about finding oneself. It tells the story of a young man in Nepal living at the same time as Gotama (also spelt Gautama and known as the Enlightened One, Buddha). This young man, named Siddhartha, leaves home to embark on a journey of self-discovery with his companion Govinda, the two young men are well versed in religious philosophy and scripture but seek to attain further spiritual enlightenment. Despite diverging upon witnessing Gotama speak, the two men cross paths throughout the course of the novel and these points become discussions on the virtues of the two paths they have taken through life. By the end of the novel Siddhartha, and possible Hesse himself, has come to the conclusion that one cannot attain knowledge or enlightenment through learning from others, but one must experience life as well and it is a combination of the two that achieves enlightenment.
For me this novel was very interesting; its a quick read and even in translation is very lyrical in its style. The novel is very easy to follow and the themes are prevalent over any form of action. One of my favourite quotes is; “Writing is good, thinking is better. Cleverness is good, patience is better”, outlining the idea that a formal education is not as important as life experience. Hesse has essentially outlined his philosophy in a beautiful novel; the novel’s lyricism flows in the same manner as the river that plays such a big part in Siddhartha’s spiritual enlightenment. I found it particularly poignant as it deals with being unsure about where one is supposed to be in life, a feeling I have at the moment myself. I came away from the novel with the idea that there is not one true path to happiness and only by trying various paths can one find happiness.