Siddhartha (novel) & Herman Hesse

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Re: Siddhartha (novel) & Herman Hesse

Postby Ben » Sat Feb 18, 2012 2:55 am

Sanghamitta wrote:At least one person I know will disagree... but I think it probably contains a very accurate pen portrait of what the Buddha was actually about, stripped of subsequent deification and hyperbole.


PeterB wrote:When they [poets/Hermann Hesse] make a highly misleading pen portrait of the Buddha ?
"One cannot step twice into the same river, nor can one grasp any mortal substance in a stable condition, but it scatters and again gathers; it forms and dissolves, and approaches and departs."

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Re: Siddhartha (novel) & Herman Hesse

Postby Alobha » Sat Feb 18, 2012 12:46 pm

Buckwheat wrote:There are levels of dhamma - the formal teachings of the Buddha, which are not at all part of Herman Hesse's novel - and the real heart of the wisdom-compassion, which Hesse does a fine job in bringing to life IMO.


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Re: Siddhartha (novel) & Herman Hesse

Postby Sanghamitta » Sat Feb 18, 2012 3:44 pm

Ben wrote:
Sanghamitta wrote:At least one person I know will disagree... but I think it probably contains a very accurate pen portrait of what the Buddha was actually about, stripped of subsequent deification and hyperbole.


PeterB wrote:When they [poets/Hermann Hesse] make a highly misleading pen portrait of the Buddha ?

Precisely Ben.... :lol:
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Re: Siddhartha (novel) & Herman Hesse

Postby Buckwheat » Sun Feb 19, 2012 3:59 pm

In my opinion, Hesse's mistake was to expect pop culture to use their intellect to differentiate between inspired fiction and the story that inspired the fiction. It seems he made several decisions based on delineating that difference such as putting the main character in a different religious tradition, a different caste, meet the Buddha and reject his teaching, and shuffle/alter the plot points that were inspired by the Buddha. To write that off as Hesse's ignorance ignores his literary point to differentiate between historic facts and religious inspiration. I can't lame Hesse for the ignorance of pop culture and the local bookstore owner. Plus the bookstore's job is to sell books. Buddhism and Hinduism are usually placed in a section with other books that the same target audience will purchase. Is that so wrong?
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Re: Siddhartha (novel) & Herman Hesse

Postby Kim OHara » Sun Feb 19, 2012 10:20 pm

Buckwheat wrote:In my opinion, Hesse's mistake was to expect pop culture to use their intellect to differentiate between inspired fiction and the story that inspired the fiction. It seems he made several decisions based on delineating that difference such as putting the main character in a different religious tradition, a different caste, meet the Buddha and reject his teaching, and shuffle/alter the plot points that were inspired by the Buddha. To write that off as Hesse's ignorance ignores his literary point to differentiate between historic facts and religious inspiration. I can't lame Hesse for the ignorance of pop culture and the local bookstore owner. Plus the bookstore's job is to sell books. Buddhism and Hinduism are usually placed in a section with other books that the same target audience will purchase. Is that so wrong?

Hi, Buckwheat,
You write as if Hess was writing for a modern American readership. He wasn't - not by a long way.
Try putting all that kind of analysis into the context of the Germany of 1922, where the writer and his audience were still traumatised by WW 1, and the USA of 1951 (when it was first published there) when the hippie movement was just flickering into life.
We read any book in the context of our own experience, and those contexts can be so different that we might as well be reading different books.

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Re: Siddhartha (novel) & Herman Hesse

Postby mikenz66 » Sun Feb 19, 2012 11:07 pm

Hi Kim,

Perhaps the use of the word "pop culture" was unfortunate, but I think the observation that Hess made it clear that he wasn't speaking specifically about the Buddha is an interesting one.

Besides, many of what we now call "New Age" ideas have been floating around since the 19th century and would have been well known in the literary and artistic community of the 1920s.

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Re: Siddhartha (novel) & Herman Hesse

Postby Kim OHara » Mon Feb 20, 2012 4:46 am

mikenz66 wrote:Hi Kim,
... I think the observation that Hess made it clear that he wasn't speaking specifically about the Buddha is an interesting one.

That's a good point, Mike, and I'm sorry I didn't acknowledge it, Buckwheat. I guess I failed to acknowledge it because it is *far* from new to me (I read the book and understood that aspect some decades ago) but it was worth pointing out here because others clearly haven't.
mikenz66 wrote:Besides, many of what we now call "New Age" ideas have been floating around since the 19th century and would have been well known in the literary and artistic community of the 1920s.

Yes, but the way in which such ideas were understood by their adherents and the wider society were quite different from the way in which they are understood now. Our societies are far more pluralistic and far more knowledgeable about other societies and religions than Hesse's original readers, or even his first American readers in the early 1950s.The difference shows up even more in another of Hesse's books, Journey to the East, and I guess I would say one of the main differences is that 'the East' was not fully *real* to Hesse in the way it is real to us, so it is more seductive but more dreamlike.

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Re: Siddhartha (novel) & Herman Hesse

Postby Buckwheat » Mon Feb 20, 2012 7:22 am

Kim,
That is an interesting point: not only is it a different book for me than it was for Hesse and his immediate audience, I find myself having a difficult time even imagining the book from the perspective of that radical moment in history. That will require some research and reflection.

Thanks,
Scott
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Re: Siddhartha (novel) & Herman Hesse

Postby Kim OHara » Mon Feb 20, 2012 8:21 am

Buckwheat wrote:Kim,
That is an interesting point: not only is it a different book for me than it was for Hesse and his immediate audience, I find myself having a difficult time even imagining the book from the perspective of that radical moment in history. That will require some research and reflection.

Thanks,
Scott

Yes, it can be hard. One way is to imagine your grandparents or great-grandparents reading the book soon after it came out. Would they have? Would they have understood it?
Another way is immersion in the period, and it happens that I can suggest a fun way of doing that for a couple of hours: two good recent movies are set partly in Paris of the 1920s - Woody Allen's Midnight in Paris and Martin Scorsese's Hugo. Hugo is notionally a kid's film but it is actually better (IMO) than the other one.
Have fun.
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