Narziss and Goldmund

Herman Hesse

Peter Owen Ltd.: 1959

“We two, my friend, are sun and moon; sea and land. Our destiny is not to become one. It is to behold each other for what we are, each perceiving and honouring it in its opposite; each finding his fulfillment and completion.”

Narziss: pg. 43/44

Herman Hesse is an author who resides in the upper echelon along with Miller, Plato, Wilde, Shelley, and Ferguson. A German native, he began his writing career by selling books and published poetry at the age of twenty-one. Hesse is the author of better-known novels Steppenwolf, and Siddhartha.

Although his novels can be quite dense and overtly philosophical at times, Hesse has a lyrical quality to his writing that allows his complex sentence structure and occasionally unwieldy ideas to wind themselves around a tongue and mind with grace. He consistently proves, throughout all his novels, that with patience comes reward and despite the difficult nature of his work at first glance, once enraptured he can hold the readers attention for hours, days, even weeks.

In Narziss and Goldmund, Hesse unwinds the life on a young man with an unsettled and wry nature. From his youth in a monks ministry, through his education, and during his time as a vagabond traveler, Hesse follows the life of this character through the major historical moments of the time; letting the setting impact his character as much as the character impacts Hesse’s choice of context.

The story is truly more about the relationship between a mentor and a pupil than it is about anything else, but Hesse allows the reader to discover that at their own pace, without forcing understanding or recognition. The discovery, through education and then rebellion, of Goldmund is as much of a discovery by the reader as it is by the character.

Evolutions in understanding, in critical thought, and in spiritual, emotional, and physical need prove the humanness of this character and support the internal philosophical struggle between basic right and wrong.

The story takes place in many spaces, but in Goldmund’s mind, it is always in his place of education. There is always his mentor, Narziss present in a room, there to comfort and guide him. As any true educator would.

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