I re-read Siddhartha after more than 15 years. While High School Me appreciated it to some extent, I think I got much more out of it as an adult. By now, I've had the chance to make some life choices the way Siddhartha did, and I've been able to see some of their results. During high school, I was still at the stage he was right before he joined the aesthetics. Now, I'm probably somewhere closer to his time as a wealthy merchant. I really enjoyed watching Siddhartha's choices, understanding his arrogance, and being at some points just a little closer than him to knowing what makes life worth living.
I pulled this off my shelf somewhat randomly, knowing I had a couple long plane trips coming up and looking for something smallish to carry around with me. How different travel can be when your head is still floating around Siddhartha's world! I think I smiled like a fool at everyone I saw.
Hesse's writing here is quiet and gorgeous. He's not following any of the rules we know about how to write engaging fiction. It begins with a montage of Siddhartha's happy childhood, being loved by everyone--not exactly the action hook we expect these days. And it proceeds in a soft, explanatory voice, interrupting a narrative that spans years with a few specific anecdotes here and there. When we think back on our own lives, doesn't it replay in much the same way?
By the end, I found myself reading more closely, wanting to really understand what Siddhartha is saying and doing, even as he was explaining the inherent shortcomings of communicating and teaching. You have to discover it for yourself through your own experience, not seek it from others. Not even from Siddhartha himself.
Read my reviews on