Hermann Hesse grew up in Calw, Wurttemberg, and Basel, Switzerland. His father was a missionary and publisher, and his maternal grandfather was a publisher in Calw. He attended a seminary briefly as a young man, and was an apprentice clockmaker and bookseller before devoting himself full time to his writing in 1903. Hesse served as a volunteer in the German foreign service in Switzerland during the First World War, but he reclaimed the Swiss citizenship of his childhood in 1923. He underwent psychoanalysis from 1916 to 1918 and that experience had a profound effect on his writing. Hesse moved to Montagnola, Switzerland (near Lugano) in 1919 and lived there until his death. The winner of the Nobel Prize in literature in 1946, Hesse was a leading voice of pacifism in the German-speaking world throughout his adult life, and his works were blacklisted in Germany under the Third Reich. In the years after his death in 1962, his works, many of which had not been translated into English before, became popular with the youth of the United States, who identified themes in his books which were relevant to many of the changes taking place in the U.S. during the late 1960s and 1970s.
"[Henry Miller] asked me if I'd ever read Hermann Hesse. I hadn't, but I'd heard about him. Henry told me to read 'Siddhartha'. He had found a translation of it in England, and sent it to me. I read it, and thought, well, this is pretty sugar-candied Buddhism. And I said, 'Oh, gosh, Henry, do I have to?' And he said, 'Yes, you have to.' And so I did it. The first year the novel sold 400 copies. The next year it was about 800. But within 10 years it was selling a quarter of a million a year."
"A product of the first postwar years, it gives a new and significant twist to the great question pervading all these works by Hesse--the question concerning the goal of the spirit....'Siddhartha' permits no prescriptions concerning what one is supposed to love in the world and what one is supposed to despise....In a time in which the representatives of the spirit so frequently enslaved themselves to rulers, he intrepidly maintained the free steadfastness of the spirit."
"The author's stringent, economical phrasing with its careful rhythms lends the book an air of studied antiquity, refreshing, yet, oddly, new."
"The clarity of this short tale allows one to look through to its profound depth."
"The cool and strangely simple story makes a beautiful little book, classic in proportion and style; it should be read slowly and with savor, preferably during the lonely hours of the night."
"This book has been a particularly great help to those who had attached themselves to the noisy world and leaders of yesterday, and who are sincerely trying to find their own individuality and peace."
From the Publisher
An allegorical novel by the celebrated German writer. Sidhartha, the hero, is a type of Buddhist Everyman, who passes through many temptations and trials on his way to purification. The different stages of his spiritual development are represented by the various roles he takes on: wanderer, courtier, merchant, and hermit. Originally published in Germany in 1923, "Sidhartha" has been a perennial bestseller since its American publication in 1951.
In the shade of the house, in the sunshine on the river bank by the boats, in the shade of the sallow wood and the fig tree, Siddhartha, the handsome Brahmin's son grew up with his friend Govinda.