You Are What You Read

Reviews of books as I read them. This is basically a (web)log of books I've read.

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Location: Lawrenceville, Georgia, United States

I am a DBA/database analyst by day, full time father on evenings and weekends.

Wednesday, September 03, 2008


Hermann Hesse's Siddhartha is a philosophical novel based on ancient Indian philosophy. Siddhartha is a young seeker of wisdom and understanding who leaves his home and his father to be an ascetic. He searches for truth with his friend Govinda. Together they life a poor life of fasting and meditation. When they meet the holy man Gautama, Siddhartha decides that he has nothing to learn from teachers, and leaves to live a different life.

He crosses a river with the help of a ferryman and starts a new life as a merchant. He finds joy in success and riches, and the love of a woman. Eventually he decides to give up his success and start all over again. He reaches the river and ends up staying with the ferryman, who helps him learn wisdom from the river. His friend Govinda shows up for a brief reunion. Siddhartha learns he has a son, but the son becomes rebellious and runs away. The ferryman convinces him to let the son go. Soon, Siddhartha discovers true wisdom in the river, and Govinda returns and sees understanding in Siddhartha's face.

I found the story to be an enlightening narrative of a search for truth. Siddhartha searches through asceticism, immersion in material matters, and communion with nature. He decides he has learned all he can from teachers and must conduct his own search. He goes from one extreme to the other, trying to experience different facets of life. From the river he learns the essential unity of the universe, and that time is an illusion hiding the truth that life exists in all states at once.

There was little suspense or mystery in the story aside from Siddhartha's mission for enlightenment. Other than Siddhartha, the characters are all elements of his education, only developed so far as to help him learn about life. As such, it is weakened as a narrative. Yet is still excels as a story of enlightenment. B


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