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The Journey to the East ()

Nobel Prize Winners (1946)

If Herman Hesse had to hang his entire reputation on reeds as slender as this one, he'd be in big trouble.  But Siddartha is a fine novel and he wrote the only truly great novel about the game M'Laba Laba (Magister Ludi: The Glass Bead Game), so we'll cut him some slack.

This very brief novel consists of the report of a failed pilgrimage to the East by a group of men who belong to a mysterious League.  In the course of relating their misadventures, the narrator realizes that the pilgrimage was part of a much larger effort to collect all of human knowledge in one place, that his version of events differs from that of others, that many great thinkers have also participated in this effort and finally, when he despairs of their ever succeeding, that he is being tested and has failed the test.  But out of this despair he is able to grow in understanding.  As he is told:

    ...despair is the result of each earnest attempt to go through life with virtue, justice and
    understanding and to fulfil their requirements.  Children live on one side of despair, the awakened on
    the other side.

Having emerged on the other side of despair, he is accepted as a full League member.

The story is okay as far it goes; it just doesn't go very far.  All of these elements are completely derivative, all pilfered from Christianity then dressed up in mysticism.  And if you are going to propound this kind of faux Eastern philosophy bilge, there really ought to be some reason behind it.  At the point where you turn around and merely rip off the Bible, the reader is entitled to ask why the original does not suffice.


Grade: (C)


Book-related and General Links:
    -Hermann Hesse Homepage (get photo)
    -Nobel Site: Hermann Hesse
    -HERMANN HESSE (Nobel Internet Archive)
    -Buchhandlung Fuchs in Calw welcomes you  to Hermann Hesse!
    -Hermann Hesse (1877-1962) (bio, links, etc)
    -Hermann Hesse and Glass Bead Game Design
    -Hermann Hesse (1877-1962)(kijasto)
    -Empire of the Senses: Hesse, Hermann (1877-1962)
    -THE HOME PAGE OF THE CASTALIAN PROVINCE  (According to Hermann Hesse's great work The Glass Bead Game, on which he worked for twelve long years)
    -ESSAY: Huxley, Hesse and The Cybernetic Society   (Part 1 of 2) (Timothy Leary and Eric Gullichsen)
    -REVIEW: (D.J. Enright: Hesse vs. Hesse, NY Review of Books)
        The Novels of Hermann Hesse by Theodore Ziolkowski
        Narcissus and Goldmund by Hermann Hesse and translated by Ursule Molinaro
        Demian by Hermann Hesse, translated by Michael Roloff, and translated by Michael Lebeck
        The Journey to the East by Hermann Hesse and translated by Hilda Rosner
        Beneath the Wheel by Hermann Hesse and translated by Michael Roloff
    -REVIEW: (Margot Hentoff: Dr. Pop, NY Review of Books)
        The Pump House Gang by Tom Wolfe
        The Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test by Tom Wolfe
    -REVIEW: (Christopher Middleton: Neighing in the Wind, NY Review of Books)
        Hermann Hesse: Biography and Bibliography by Joseph Mileck
        Hermann Hesse: Pilgrim of Crisis, A Biography by Ralph Freedman
    -REVIEW: (Robert Craft: The Discreet Charm of the Bourgeoisie, NY Review of Books)
        Thomas Mann Symposium by Claude Hill, chairman
        Katia Mann: Unwritten Memoirs by Katia Mann
        The Hesse/Mann Letters: The Correspondence of Herman Hesse and Thomas Mann, 1910-1955
        Mythology and Humanism: The Correspondence of Thomas Mann and Karl Kerényi
        An Exceptional Friendship: The Correspondence of Thomas Mann and Erich Kahler
    -REVIEW:  (D.J. Enright: Germanics, NY Review of Books)
        Rosshalde by Hermann Hesse and translated by Ralph Manheim
        Children Are Civilians Too by Heinrich Böll and translated by Leila Vennewitz
        Bodies and Shadows by Peter Weiss
    -REVIEW:  #: Short Reviews, NY Review of Books)
        My Belief: Essays on Life and Art by Hermann Hesse and translated by Denver Lindley

    -REVIEW: of A Generation of Seekers: The Spiritual Journeys of the Baby Boom Generation by Wade Clark Roof (Benton Johnson, First Things)


I must disagree heartily with your trifling summary of The Journey to the East. I just finished reading it in one sitting for the first time (cover to cover) less than a half hour ago. Here are a few of my observations that I would hope most people can draw from this book in successively deeper gulps (and yes they are drawn form the original - The Bible.

A true leader is eternally a servant, not a self aggrandized manager.

Don't bury your talents (violin, choir master etc.) Develop them and share them with others.

Don't stray from basic principles (Four in this novel).

Don't forget the sacred promises that you have made to yourself and/or God.

Do not exalt yourself, but be willing to diminish yourself. Christ exhibits this attribute with the words "Thy will be done." Leo/Christ emerged from "the very back of the hall" (p. 98).

Principles of faith, patience, service, unity, loyalty, personal dreams, Home of Light, respect, humility, carrying other's burdens/luggage are all beautifully captured in this one-evening read. The Bible, agreeably, has much more to offer, but I have never finished it in one night either.

Is there a ring (or many rings) that you have lost in your lifetime that you are not even aware that you are missing (p. 100)? Think about it. Do fundamental principles in your life experience stand out? They should? I do not direct these questions to anyone in particular but to all who hope to grow from this book.

The "well-known human weakness" mentioned on p. 41 has astonishing implications if we think about it and recognize how well we can do without "indispensable" things.

The "law of service" alone speaks volumes in this book.

In fairness, your dismissal of this book reminds me of my own dismissal of The Alchemist - Paulo Cohelo. It just didn't impress me like I had hoped it would, but it is my youngest brothers all time favorite novel. No accounting for taste, I suppose, has important lessons. I'll have to see what your reaction to The Alchemist was after I Add this comment.

- Paul

- Aug-29-2003, 01:27