How's my Luck now?

Reflections, views and descriptions during my stay at IIM Lucknow from July 2004 to March 2006

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Location: India

Wednesday, May 18, 2005

'Narcissus and Goldmund'

This is the second Hermann Hesse novel (translated by Ursule Molinaro, Bantam Books, 1971) I read a few days back. First published in 1930, it is regarded by some as Hesse's best novel.

The novel is the story of two men with diametrically opposite natures - Narcissus, the monk and the thinker, who is made for a life in a cloister; and Goldmund, the artist and the dreamer, who, after spending a few years studying in the cloister, escapes to a worldly life full of pleasures as well as hardships. Despite being so unlike each other, they become great friends, each loving his complement in the other. After Narcissus awakens young Goldmund to the fact that a monk's life is not for him, and after Goldmund painfully realizes it, he escapes from the cloister. Almost two-thirds of the book is then about Goldmund's adventures and experiences. Living a wandering life, he alternately indulges in pleasures and endures hardships, including passing through a huge epidemic of plague in Europe. Finally, Narcissus finds him after more than a decade under unusual circumstances, and Goldmund returns to the cloister as an artist, a wood carver - a skill that he learnt while on his wanderings. After constructing one great woodwork for the cloister, he once again leaves, and comes back shattered and ill. The last few pages when Narcissus and Goldmund talk in the latter's last days are very well-written.

The theme of the novel is the different paths by which one can realize oneself, depending on one's basic nature and abilities. Narcissus, who knows only the way of thinking and philosophizing, is made to realize, after seeing Goldmund's life, that dedicating one's life to the fulfilment of one's sensory urges can also lead one to self-realization, provided a person puts all accumulated experience to constructive use. It is a very sensitively written and thought-provoking book.

3 Comments:

Blogger Darth Midnightmare said...

Yes. Different ways. But the sadness of today stems from the restrictions placed on this very philosophy. You have to follow a path. A path dictated to us by all and sundry....all blind men walking a road that leads them nowhere, but the strayer....the person who would want something else, the man who desires to open his eyes, has no right to seek out his true calling.....sad but true....

11:24 PM  
Blogger ASHOK VAISHNAV said...

Very true.
Looked at slightly differently, all those who ,either choose or are compelled to, follow the oft-trodden path may be successful, in its ordinarily minimum sense. But those who CHOOSE to chart their own untrodden paths and succed, with any number of attempts, become LEGENDARILY succesful. One needs knowledge,vision and guts to do that.

8:26 PM  
Blogger Vikas said...

what's important?
being smart
imp
knowing u r smart
equally imp
pushing to show u r
depends...

12:15 PM  

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