I read the English version (translated by Gunther Olesch, Anke Dreher, Amy Coulter, Stefan Langer and Semyon Chaichenets) of Hesse’s Siddhartha in the form of an e-book released by Project Gutenberg. The translators have done a good job and the e-book is quite short – a great feature as reading an e-book on a computer screen is harder on the eye than reading one made of paper.
Hesse’s novel is set in ancient South Asia. The protagonist of the book is not the Buddha (Siddhartha Gautama) but another person by the name Siddhartha. (The Buddha also makes an appearance in the book and he is known as Gotama or Sakyamuni or Buddha, the exalted one.) It is all about the spiritual journey of Siddhartha and his trusted friend Govinda as they go in search of the Truth. Siddhartha’s long spiritual journey in search of enlightenment takes unexpected twists and turns and at one point, he feels that he is no closer to the Truth than what he was in the beginning. His friend Govinda’s spiritual journey takes some different twists and turns but both of them have only one ultimate goal – to attain the perfected state by realising the Truth within.
Hesse has deep knowledge of Oriental spiritualism and of Buddhist philosophy. His characters, including the beautiful courtesan Kamala, the rich merchant Kamaswami and the boatman Vasudeva seem to be ordinary people but they have some special qualities. The Nobel Prize winning author has been influenced by Eastern philosophy and it is shows in his work. The perfected character of Buddha is mentioned throughout the novel and the chapter in which Siddhartha meets Gotama and discusses the finer aspects of spirituality with him will remain etched in one’s mind forever.
This novel is a must-read for anyone who is intrigued by Oriental spirituality. Those who would like to search for the Truth within themselves would enjoy reading this book. You can download the German e-book from this link and the English translation from this one. Differently abled persons can listen to the audio recording of the English translation on this link.