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Narcissus and Goldmund by Hermann Hesse

Narcissus and Goldmund (1930)

by Hermann Hesse

Other authors: See the other authors section.

MembersReviewsPopularityAverage ratingMentions
5,102651,347 (4.08)58
  1. 20
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  2. 00
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» See also 58 mentions

English (50)  German (4)  French (3)  Dutch (3)  Italian (2)  Spanish (2)  Finnish (1)  All languages (65)
Showing 1-5 of 50 (next | show all)
Hesse seems to set out exploring the question of which life is superior: a quiet and safe one of study and the accumulation of knowledge, or the embracing of risk and adventure? Narziss and Goldmund are like Hesse split in half, each half exaggerated into a full person, or either half of a sympathizing reader: the reasoning self (Narziss), and the fun-loving emotional portion (Goldmund). I expected a more back-and-forth approach, but it's almost entirely Goldmund's story and it emerges that what Hesse is actually comparing is the intellectual world with the real one, where only the spiritual can bridge the divide. He allocates art to being stimulated by a fulsome indulgence in life experience rather than as an intellectual exercise, and into this I read Hesse's opinion on the genesis of his writing. I came away feeling unaffected by the critique of my approach to my own life; but that last bit about art intersecting with the spiritual, and what actually feeds it, is something to mull over. ( )
  Cecrow | Jan 2, 2019 |
Narcissus and Goldmund tells the story of two medieval men whose characters are diametrically opposite: Narcissus, an ascetic monk firm in his religious commitment, and Goldmund, a romantic youth hungry for knowledge and worldly experience. First published in 1930, the novel remains a moving and pointed exploration of the conflict between the life of the spirit and the life of the flesh. It is a theme that transcends all time.
  Cultural_Attache | Jul 20, 2018 |
Excerpts from my original GR review (Aug 2012):
- 1930 German novel-fable. Written three years after Steppenwolf. Set in an anonymous region of medieval Europe. The opposition of a Life of God v one of hedonism is the arching theme. The young Goldmund, enrolled in a monastery school, in part to atone for the wickedness of his gypsy mother, leaves his confines and his devout friend Narcissus to vent his artistic proclivities, discover himself. Wanders by foot, observing nature, using women to sate his lusts, finding transient work, and even stumbling upon The Plague.
- He lucks upon shelter, and an apprenticeship in drawing, at one stage, but the "timeless life of the traveler" beckons and he moves along. Ultimately, after further trials and narrowly dodging death, he is reunited years later at Mariabronn monastery with Narcissus. Their philosophical debates resume and Goldmund again is able to indulge his artistic talents.
- Hesse seems a natural weaver of stories. I sailed along for periods, but began to lose interest among the ramblings. Novel as a whole a bit longer winded than necessary, though consistent with the era. I'll try the author again. ( )
  ThoughtPolice | Jul 15, 2018 |
I'd read other Hesse, but never Narcissus and Goldmund. A friend's Facebook post made me want to tackle it and I'm glad I did because it's one of those books that makes you think deeply about life, and about how we choose to experience it. Narcissus, a young monk and teaching brother, befriends Goldmund, a young student. The two become inseparable to the point where sometimes people assume there's something not quite academic going on between them. And in fact, Narcissus admits that he is attracted to young men, but has never and will never act on it. He loves Goldmund for reasons other than the obvious physical attractions. They are compliments to each other; Narcissus is mind and Goldmund is body, and the two of them live their lives through those modes of experience. Narcissus stays in the abbey and eventually becomes the abbot. Goldmund runs off and becomes a wanderer, a seducer of women, and eventually even a murderer. In the end, Goldmund brings all of his experiences to bear in the service of art, and apprentices with a sculptor where he produces, over a period of years, a figure of St. John that is not only the finest figure his master has ever seen, but the image of Narcissus.

This isn't just a book about love, brotherhood and the ties of soul-mates, but an exploration of how necessary mind is to body, and body is to mind. Without mind, the body's experiences remain unrealized, and without the body there is no true experience of life.

I've seen comments about how women are essentially throw-aways in this book, and yes, that's true. But I can't rail against it because they are part of the body's experience, not real people. The only real people in the whole book are Narcissus and Goldmund. They are our universe as we make our way through the story. We experience others through Goldmund. We understand Goldmund through Narcissus. It's an incredibly rich book, and one which I suspect I will reread in the future.

Simon Vance, as narrator, does a terrific job, as always. If you have the chance to listen to any of his performances, jump at it. ( )
1 vote Tracy_Rowan | Jul 14, 2018 |
This book affected me deeply when I first read it in high school. In some ways it's more dualistic than some of his other work, but it's still a brilliant novel on human nature and experience. ( )
  andrlik | Apr 24, 2018 |
Showing 1-5 of 50 (next | show all)
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» Add other authors (27 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Hesse, Hermannprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Baseggio, CristinaTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Dunlop, GeoffreyTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Fleckhaus, WillyCover designersecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Hawinkels, PéTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Kaila, KaiTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Molinaro, UrsulaTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Pocar, ErvinoContributorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Ros, MartinAfterwordsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Sodums, DzintarsTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Vennewitz, LeilaTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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Isolated here in the North, planted long ago by a Roman pilgrim, a chestnut grew, strong and solitary, by the colonnade of rounded double arches at the entrance to the cloister of Mariabronn: a noble, vigorous tree, the sweep of its foliage drooping tenderly, facing the winds in bold and quiet assurance; so tardy in spring that when all glowed green around it and event the cloister nut trees wore their russet, it awaited the shortest nights to thrust forth, through little tufts of leaves, the dim exotic rays of its blossom, and in October, after wine and harvests had long been gathered, let drop the prickly fruits from its yellowing crown; fruits which did not ripen every year, for which the cloister schoolboys fought one another, and which Gregory, the Italian sub-prior, burned amid the logs of his fireplace.
Outside the entrance of the Mariabronn cloister, whose rounded arch rested on slim double columns, a chestnut tree stood close to the road. [Molinaro translation]
... thoughts of Goldmund whilst with the wood sculptor, Master Nicholas ... 'Narziss had been his friend: yet strangely it had beeen this learned Narziss who had shown him his inaptitude for learning and had conjured up a beloved mother-image in his mind. So that, instead of learning, virtue and monasticism, the stongest primal urge in his nature, had mastered him - lechery and carnal love, the longing to depend on none, and to wander. Then came Master Nicholas' sorrowful Virgin, to reveal to him an artist in himself, with a new way of life, and fetters again. How were things with him now? Where would life carry him in the end? Whence came these obstacles in his mind?'
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Alcuni sanno fin da subito a che vita sono destinati e quale attitudine si rivelerà tanto spiccata da plasmare il futuro. Altri, invece, sentono di possedere una caratteristica singolare che, tuttavia, non sono ancora capaci di esprimere e dovranno viaggiare a lungo prima di arrivare a destinazione. "Narciso e Boccadoro" è il racconto degli uni e degli altri, e dell'apprendistato alla vita di due amici, l'erudito Narciso e l'inquieto Boccadoro, dai caratteri opposti e complementari.
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0553275860, Mass Market Paperback)

Hesse's novel of two medieval men, one quietly  content with his religion and monastic life, the  other in fervent search of more worldly salvation.  This conflict between flesh and spirit, between  emotional and contemplative man, was a life study for  Hesse. It is a theme that transcends all time.  The Hesse Phenomenon "has turned into a vogue,  the vogue into a torrent. . .He has appealed both  to. . . an underground and to an establishment. .  .and to the disenchanted young sharing his contempt  for our industrial  civilization."--The New York Times Book Review

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:06:57 -0400)

(see all 4 descriptions)

First published in 1930, Narcissus and Goldmund is the story of two diametrically opposite men: one, an ascetic monk firm in his religious commitment, and the other, a romantic youth hungry for worldly experience. Hesse was a great writer in precisely the modern sense: complex, subtle, allusive: alive to the importance of play. Narcissus and Goldmund is his very best. What makes this short book so limitlessly vast is the body-and-soul-shaking debate that runs through it, which it has the honesty and courage not to resolve: between the flesh and spirit, art and scientific or religious speculation, action and contemplation.… (more)

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