DemianDemian by Hemann Hesse

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

In a recent cleaning exercise, out of the recesses of old bookshelves, came out this beauty. It had been a while since I had taken up a paperback and my current read, “The Man Without Qualities” seemed to be going nowhere. Since this seemed like a book that I could be done with a a few days, I decided to make it an interim read. I had been meaning to read Hesse for a long time. My copy of Steppenwolf lies forgotten in some cupboard or the other back home.

Hermann Hesse is rightly considered one of the greatest writers of his time. “Demian” is considered one of those novels that struck a resonating note with the youth of the post Great War era. Hesse initially published it under a pseudonym and it was only later that it was understood that the work that so many youngsters identified with was by a man in his forties. Such empathy and connection with his audience is probably what makes Hesse’s work so engaging. In “Demian” he explores the world of the sub-conscious and the exploration of the supernatural powers in individuals.

The book revolves around Emil Sinclair (this was the pseudonym that Hesse used to publish the book initially), from the time he was a little boy, till he lay wounded as a soldier in the Great War. Sinclair goes through the pangs of growing up and finding out that the world consists of the light and the dark. He is rescued from boyhood difficulties by a new schoolmate, Max Demian, and looks up to this young man for inspiration and knowledge. After school their ways part and Sinclair finds out his own way in life which incidentally leads him back to Demian and his strange world.

Hermann Hesse has me interested. While the story of Demian was not too elaborate, it is the protagonist’s journey through the various stages of youth that clearly expresses the author’s genius. The way he is able to empathise with feelings of a boy so young, and moreover, able to express it in a way that the reader feels the sorrows and joys of growing up, is something that I found extremely captivating. I definitely intend to read more of him. A friend had recently recommended me “Siddhartha” and I might take it up sometime soon. Also, I am thinking of going back to paperback whenever I can!

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