4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Images and ideas
Hermann Hesse's "Narcissus and Goldmund" is, in Nietzschean terms, a study of the conflict between the Apollonian (form, order, restraint, the world of ideas) and the Dionysian (passion, frivolity, lust, the world of images), without favoring one or the other. In fact, it seems to suggest that the highest state of humanity is a result of the peaceful coexistence of ideas...
Published on April 2 2002 by A.J.
0 of 2 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Shallow and unrealistic.
I picked up this book because I had heard that the author was a Nobel Prize winner for literature. I find that extremely hard to believe. I like books that are thoughtful, sophisitcated, and realistic, with complex characters, and detailed description. This book had none of those qualities. The "two-dimensional" characters are unrealistic and predictable...
Published on July 10 1999
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Images and ideas,
Hermann Hesse's "Narcissus and Goldmund" is, in Nietzschean terms, a study of the conflict between the Apollonian (form, order, restraint, the world of ideas) and the Dionysian (passion, frivolity, lust, the world of images), without favoring one or the other. In fact, it seems to suggest that the highest state of humanity is a result of the peaceful coexistence of ideas and images.
The novel takes place in Germany, evidently some time in the late Middle Ages. Narcissus (the Apollonian) is a stoic young monk who teaches at a cloister called Mariabronn. One day a very handsome boy named Goldmund (the Dionysian) is dropped off at Mariabronn by his father to get a religious upbringing. Goldmund is artistic and takes his studies seriously enough, but he is obsessed with thoughts of his departed mother, an issue over which he and Narcissus become close friends. As he grows older, Goldmund realizes that he does not have much use for a monastic life, especially when he discovers the carnal pleasures of the opposite sex. With Narcissus's reluctant approval, he decides to run away from the cloister and blindly follow his passions.
Goldmund wanders around the countryside for many years as a vagrant. A regular Lothario, he survives by pleasuring the various women and girls he meets in every village and homestead. Although living this way makes him tough, even enough to kill a man when provoked, he retains his religious and artistic sensibilities and a certain compassion for the defenseless and the innocent. Impressed by a wooden madonna he sees in a church one day, he seeks out the sculptor who created it and requests to study under him. Goldmund eventually develops into a skillful artist himself, and, eventually returning to Mariabronn, he uses his skill to create wonderful wood carvings and statues for the cloister.
It would appear that Goldmund's life comes full circle by the end of the novel, but his years of wandering permanently alter the convictions he developed as a youth. He tells Narcissus that he can never take religious vows because, while he can accept poverty, he can't abide chastity or obedience. His belief that God has made the world "badly" stems from his experiences during the Black Plague that lays waste to the population: Stopping in a church once, he addresses God with a question that must have been on the minds of many people back then: "...Are you completely disgusted with your creation, do you want us all to perish?"
More lucid and coherent than Hesse's more popular opus "Steppenwolf," "Narcissus and Goldmund" is a great soul-searching type of novel, one that allows a reader, especially a young one, to confront questions about his or her own life. If we consider that Narcissus and Goldmund represent the two extremes of humanity -- Narcissus, the "perfect" Apollonian, and Goldmund, the "perfect" Dionysian (although admittedly there are even more extreme forms of passion than what Goldmund exhibits) -- we might be able to recognize that most of us fall somewhere in the middle; our satisfaction in life lies in finding out where in the middle we are most comfortable.
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The Beauty that Aches,
_Narcissus and Goldmund_ by Hermann Hesse is the story of two men: one an ascetic scholar, the other a passionate student of life. The book chronicles their fateful meeting, Goldmund's pursuit of truth and beauty, and a final reunion of the two friends late in life. It is quite simply the best book I've read thus far. In it, I find artfully and poignantly demonstrated the central conflict of my life, perhaps of all life: the struggle between the intellect and the emotions. The book is best read as a juxtaposition of both of these motivators in our lives. Narcissus represents pure intellect and reason, while Goldmund represents pure emotion and passion. Neither one could truly exist in the world, but Hesse creates them as archetypes of these two motivators in all humans. The struggles they encounter in understanding each other, and the struggles Goldmund encounters in making sense of the world, help us to better understand these two sides of our own character. The struggle teaches us of the beauty that aches, and friendship that knows no bounds. In this conflict one can ultimately find the beauty of truth, and the truth of beauty.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars hesse's most epic book,
Growing up on the edge of a forest in Siberia; suffering a religous crisis; running away to a faith healer; attempting suicide; getting expelled from school; visiting the East; undergoing analysis with Jung; being hospitalized in a sanatorium; acheiving sudden fame; winning the Nobel Prize; and, finally, living in seclusion in Switzerland for the remainder of his life. Hesse lived an epic life. And this is his most epic book. A common Hesse motif -- two lifelong friends meet, form a special bond, then go their seperate ways. Much happens. The Black Plague comes and goes. The two friends meet again. Both much older. They have a long conversation that will keep you enthralled. This is one of Hesse's specialities -- long, non colloquial conversations that go on for pages. If you appreciate this about Hesse, and especially if you have any interest in Jung or Jungian Psychology, you may want to check out, CG Jung and Hermann Hesse: A Record of Two Friendships, by Miguel Serrano, a Chilean writer who developed relationships with the two men in their old age.
5.0 out of 5 stars A Contrast in Characters,
Narcissus and Goldmund, by Hermann Hesse, is a contrast in the characters of a school boy, Goldmund, who abandons his scrict life to attempt to please himself, but winds up pleasing others; and Narcissus, the schoolmaster who believes that it was his fate to become a schoolteacher though truly he would be happier elsewhere.
As Goldmund 'hitch-hikes' through the middle ages, Narcissus stays where he is, routinely and repetitively teaching. Neither is truly happy. However, it seems that their characters require them to act as they do. This book is one that prompts you to ponder.
5.0 out of 5 stars rocking,
By A Customer
i love this book. hermann is the man for his time in place... i wont say hero cuz whats a hero....
5.0 out of 5 stars ATE IT UP LIKE CANDY,
Loved every minute reading this book. Makes me ache with joy. Happy with sadness. I am part Narcissus, part Goldmund - we all are. Loved their love for each other. HESSE is so wonderful. The complexity of life he describes - so real, so true.
5.0 out of 5 stars Amicus! Poignant and Brilliant,
This review is from: Narcissus and Goldmund (Paperback)
Hesse, the darling of the 60's is not quite so fashionable nowdays. More's the pity. N&G (also published under the title Death and the Lover) is his best work. His most engaging, lyrical and heartfelt novel.
I wonder if this qualifies as a 'historical novel'? Probably not, in the minds of most reviewers due to the fact that it's just too good!--I mean who mentions George Orwell's 1984 or Ayn Rand's Atlas Shrugged when they refer to 'science fiction'?
Still, Hesse takes you back through time with a vividness that---Oh, just read it! A masterpiece.
5.0 out of 5 stars a beautiful book,
this is one of the most beautiful books I have ever read. It makes me feel warm and fuzzy inside, and makes my eyes well up with tears. It conjures up all the mystery I experience in my life and spreads it out through the life of (mostly) Goldmund. Ineplainably beautiful. You really should read it.
5.0 out of 5 stars Makes the All Time Favorite List,
By A Customer
This book is easily the best of the several Hesse books I have read. It has all of the easy reading of Siddartha and Beneath the Wheel, and all of the depth of Magister Ludi and Steppenwolf. It is refreshingly modern. It has love, sex, religion, art, friendship, disease -- it is timeless. In my years of reading this is in my top 5 all time favorites. Do yourself a favor and read it.
5.0 out of 5 stars I envy all who havn't read it...,
I read this book a couple of years ago and, as most of Hesse's novels, it filled with joy and fascination. In most of Hesse(Demian, Siddhartha, Beneath the wheels) we travel with the characters in a life-journey that we can almost feel as our own. Each of Goldmund's step is a teaching, a coversation with Narcissus is a conflict full of a joyful anxiety, as we wish they would talk for ever. I strongly recommend this book... but my envy to all of you who havn't read this book is even stronger since nothing can compare to reading a Hesse novel for the first time... Enjoy!! Felipe Flórez Duncan
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Narcissus and Goldmund by Hermann Hesse (Paperback - Feb. 1 2003)
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