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THE CRITICS

ON SIDDHARTHA

It is no surprise that Hesse undertook to write a novel about India. By the same token it would be naive to read the book as an embodiment or exegesis of Indian philosophy. Hesse found this book difficult to compose because he was engaged in coming to terms with India as he wrote. Demian was poured forth within the period of a few months in 1917; Siddhartha: An Indic Poem required almost four years of effort although it is shorter than Demian by one quarter.... It was not until 1922, after a complete revision of his views of India, that Hesse was finally able to finish the last third of his novel.... The highest lesson of the novel is a direct contradiction of Buddha's theory of the Eightfold Path, to which... Hesse objected in his diary of 1920; it is the whole meaning of the book that Siddhartha can attain Buddha's goal without following his path.... Just as Siddhartha learns of the totality and simultaneity of all being-man and nature alike-so too the development of the soul is expressed in geographical terms and, in turn, the landscape is reflected in the human face. The book achieves a unity of style, structure, and meaning that Hesse never again attained with such perfection after Siddhartha.... In Siddhartha he reached an extreme of symbolic lyricism; his next major work, The Steppenwolf, comes closer to realism in its characterization, dialogue, and plot than anything else Hesse has written.

Theodore Ziolkowski, The Novels of Hermann Hesse, 1965


A MINOR WRITER

Hesse is, by any severe artistic or intellectual standards, a minor writer, although not an uninteresting one if regarded with proper skepticism and a sufficient knowledge of his context. For all his high-mindedness and humaneness, his consciousness unwittingly reflects ideological positions that have had catastrophic consequences.... There is always a
kind of shrinkage in Hesse from the consequences of the doctrines he is experimenting with; they are blunted by crossing them with incompatible doctrines, or they are made ultimately inconsequential by being placed in a play of the imagination that is intransitive because it is hermetically sealed from the detested world outside. His effect is to sugar-coat the dynamite of the German irrational tradition, and there is plenty of evidence that when that tradition is turned into pablum, those who overindulge in it are likely to wake up with a cosmic stomach ache.

Jeffrey L. Sammons, "Hermann Hesse and the Over-Thirty Germanist" in Hesse:

A Collection of Critical Essays, 1973

ADVISORY BOARD

We wish to thank the following educators who helped us focus our Book Notes series to meet student needs and critiqued our manuscripts to provide quality materials.

Sandra Dunn, English Teacher Hempstead High School, Hempstead, New York

Lawrence J. Epstein, Associate Professor of English Suffolk County Community College, Selden, New York

Leonard Gardner, Lecturer, English Department State University of New York at Stony Brook

Beverly A. Haley, Member, Advisory Committee National Council of Teachers of English Student Guide Series Fort Morgan, Colorado

Elaine C. Johnson, English Teacher Tamalpais Union High School District Mill Valley, California

Marvin J. LaHood, Professor of English State University of New York College at Buffalo

Robert Lecker, Associate Professor of English McGill University, Montreal, Quebec, Canada

David E. Manly, Professor of Educational Studies State University of New York College at Geneseo

Bruce Miller, Associate Professor of Education State University of New York at Buffalo

Frank O'Hare, Professor of English and Director of Writing Ohio State University, Columbus, Ohio

Faith Z. Schullstrom, Member of Executive Committee National Council of Teachers of English Director of Curriculum and Instruction Guilderland Central School District, New York

Mattie C. Williams, Director, Bureau of Language Arts Chicago Public Schools, Chicago, Illinois

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