Review: Narcissus and Goldmund by Hermann Hesse

I was initially drawn to this book because of the many classical complexes/situations which were promised; however, I found the plot ultimately lacking and, though my interest was piqued at various points throughout the book (more so at the beginning and end, however) it was difficult to empathize with or relate to the main character, Goldmund. His life-journey seemed relatively pointless and superficial, though it was meant to be the foundation for Goldmund’s later revelation and artistic awakening. I was bored by the monotonous affairs and was much more interested by Goldmund’s interactions with other male characters and, eerily, with his reaction to/fondness for the dead – but perhaps this is the point. I was particularly moved by some of the tender moments between Narcissus and Goldmund at the end of the novel, though the last page and final words left me greatly disappointed and confused about what the true purpose of the story would be. I was admittedly and, I think, understandably disturbed by Goldmund’s obsessive compulsion for his mother, which (without giving too much away) then left me feeling bothered by the way Hesse chose to end the novel; I believe I would have been much more satisfied – and much more appreciative of the story and its characters, had Hesse chosen to end the novel focusing on Narcissus and Goldmund. All-in-all, it was an interesting but unsatisfying read. I’m glad to have read it, and I’m still a fan of Hesse’s poetic style and daring themes. Demian, however, is a better example of what I expect from Hesse, though I’m eager to read Siddhartha, for which Hesse is most famous.

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