📖 Narcissus and Goldmund

“One knew nothing. One lived and walked about on the earth or rode through the forests, and so many things looked at one with such challenge and promise, rousing such longing: an evening star, a bluebell, a lake green with reeds, the eye of a human being or of a cow, and at times it seemed as if the very next moment something never seen but long yearned for must happen, as if a veil must drop from everything. But then it passed, and nothing happened, and the riddle was not solved, nor was the secret spell lifted, and finally one became old and looked as shrewd as Father Anselm or as wise as Abbot Daniel, and perhaps one still knew nothing, would still be waiting and listening.”

Hermann Hesse
Narcissus and Goldmund


I love the writing and for the first few chapters, I was absorbed. There was a sense of not wanting to move forward, because the story may move such that I don’t get to enjoy the writing anymore. This not wanting to let it go, is a form of relishing.

Then, I went to other books, and came back again. Into the book I went; suddenly the story sped up and I was caught up in Goldmund’s travels, and Hesse manages to use this young man as a foil, teasing out the deeper questions of life, and yet, there is never an answer. Because life carries on, and meaning may or may not arrive.

It is clear that Hesse has insight into the human condition, and the way he described the natural world, it conveys a zest for life, an understanding of the importance of the simpler things in life. I read and re-read the first paragraph of the book. Goldmund is such a character – an aimless wayfarer – and Narcissus is so intellectual, perhaps overly so, but I love them both, and their differences perhaps reflect the different extremes one may struggle with, within oneself.

I am reading this in my 40s. I wonder if I would have loved this book as much if I had read it as a younger human. Would I have tasted the same sense of wisdom?

Highly recommended.