'One of his masterpieces ...without doubt a great novel' Guardian One of Hermann Hesse's greatest novels, Narcissus and Goldmund is an extraordinary recreation of the Middle Ages, contrasting the careers of two friends, one of whom shuns life in a monastery and goes on the road, tangled in the extremes of life in a world dominated by sin, plague and war, the other staying in the monastery and struggling, with equal difficulty, to lead a life of spiritual denial. An superb feat of imagination, Narcissus and Goldmund can ...
'One of his masterpieces ...without doubt a great novel' Guardian One of Hermann Hesse's greatest novels, Narcissus and Goldmund is an extraordinary recreation of the Middle Ages, contrasting the careers of two friends, one of whom shuns life in a monastery and goes on the road, tangled in the extremes of life in a world dominated by sin, plague and war, the other staying in the monastery and struggling, with equal difficulty, to lead a life of spiritual denial. An superb feat of imagination, Narcissus and Goldmund can only be compared to such films set in medieval Europe as Bergman's The Seventh Seal and Tarkovsky's Andrei Rublev. It is a gripping, profound reading experience - as startling, in its different way, as Hesse's Siddhartha and Steppenwolf.
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Narcissus and Goldmund are two men who represent two perspectives of life: the intellectual and the physical. Both characters are set in a medieval monastery, and both conceive of the spiritual; but even the spiritual is largely intellectual for Narcissus, and physical for Goldmund. The two ? Narcissus the young teacher, and Goldmund the exceptional student ? are friends, though they have contradictions. Narcissus, by mental discipline, chooses the ascetic lifestyle of the monastery. Goldmund, upon reaching the age of consent, chooses to leave on a sensual journey to find where his divine vision of his deceased mother leads him.
The story is interesting for Hesse?s study of those ideals to which men devote themselves ? religion, beauty, art. But I am as dissatisfied with the character of Goldmund as much as he is dissatisfied with everything else. To read of a character?s angst for three hundred pages is far too long; far too indulgent of the author. If the character has matured, if he is a convert, he is that kind of convert who speaks so highly and so much of the former decadent life that the reader questions if there has been any change.
Aug 19, 2008
Duality and Energy
Narcissus and Goldmund is a prime example of why Hesse won the Nobel Prize. Like several of his other works, (Siddhartha, Steppenwolf, Demian, Magister Ludi), the story telling is compelling enough, and this work, like the others, will transport the the reader through an energetic journey of duality and consciousness. Reading Hesse, in particular this novel, is like delving deeply into your own psychology and coming out the other end with a spiritual or at least psychological awakening about self, as well as, an ever increasing appreciation for humanity. Must READ for all who consider themsleves "thinkers," or "dreamers," or "doers," or "humanist".
Apr 18, 2008
We've all faced and/or witnessed the human struggle between good and evil, right and wrong, and righteousness versus iniquity. Narcissus and Goldmund are the epitome of such characteristics. What's most fascinating is the realization that they are essentially two sides of the same man. Wanting to live a morally sound life and finding oneself drawn to the fulfillment of fleshly desire is an enigma that we must all face. No other story captures the innocence of youth, the freedom of exploring oneself from the inside out and the realization that a life lived pure, is not necessarily superior or exceptional when compare to a life lived fully and freely.
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