This is the story of a spiritual journey of a man living in India and Nepal at the time of the Buddha. It is absolutely not my thing at all, but when it came up as a book group choice I was pleased because I have been curious about it. It was written in 1922 but it could have been written two hundred years ago, or last week, it is a timeless story.
Our protagonist, Siddhartha goes on a journey of self-discovery. He leaves behind his home and possessions and goes off to seek enlightenment. He gets distracted along the way and has lots of sex and accrues lots of wealth, then he remembers what he was supposed to be doing, leaves all that behind and goes to live in a shack for a while. There are several Siddharthas. The young naïve one, the rich one living a luxurious lifestyle, the humble ferryman, the father, the enlightened one. I like this observation, we all go through stages in our lives, and gain knowledge and wisdom about who we are as we go.
Siddhartha and his mate Govinda seem to work so hard to achieve this enlightenment, yet the ferryman who Siddhartha lives with for a while seems to be just the type of person who just seems to have life figured out without really trying. There are always people like that in life.
As a story it is far from genius, there are more than a few unlikely coincidences. But this is more of a vehicle for Hesse’s philosophy. Something about everything being everything and time being just a concept, or something. Like I said, not my thing.