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4.6 out of 5 stars
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on April 28, 2015
I probably didn't get everything the book covered, but it is a nice and classic book that I enjoyed reading. The book discusses spirituality in contrast with society's general path and how a man is torn between good and evil. Some passages were quite poignant, it felt a bit too symbolic for me at moments, but I can respect Mr Hesses approach.
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on July 14, 2004
This story considers the evolving, somewhat troubled psyche of a German youth, Sinclair, as he matures during the decade prior to WWI. The analysis of Sinclair's turmoil purportedly reflects the European or German moral malaise at the time.
As a prepubescent boy, Sinclair recognizes the realm of good and light, symbolized by his God fearing parents and innocent younger sisters, as separate from the realm of evil and dark, symbolized by Franz Kromer, an older, opportunist who extorts Sinclair into fibbing and petty thievery. Another older boy, Demian, rescues Sinclair from Kromer's clutches, and then sows a new perception of the light and dark realms with an inverted interpretation of the parable of Cain and Abel. Demian perceives the mark on Cain's forehead not as a curse, but as a badge of courage, character and power.
Tainted by his experience with Kromer, Sinclair cannot entirely reject Demian's heroic characterization of Cain, and Demian nurtures this upset of clarity, muddling Sinclair's once clear distinction between the realms of good and evil. Demian then plants the alternative perception that the individual must delve into the self to discover his peculiar fate and destiny, a unique purpose apart from the mundane consensus, the mores of the hoard. Hesse then projects Sinclair's turmoil into a characterization of, or perhaps a reflection of, the mass psyche of prewar Europe.
I first read "Demian" forty years ago, shortly after years of total immersion in university studies. Then younger and perhaps arrogant with intelligence, I felt armed and charged for the uncertain challenges ahead.
For some reason I saved "Demian," packed it away along with my complete set of Ayn Rand's novels, trig tables and "100 Master Games of Modern Chess." "Demian" moved with me around the States, to Asia, and then to Latin America, getting old, wrinkled and as shelf-worn as I. Whenever I packed or unpacked my stuff "Demian" was there, although Ayn Rand and my trig tables had wandered away.
I forgot, long ago, why I saved "Demian," why I did not shuck it off along with my other old skins. I remember only that I intended to read it again. Now older and perhaps humbled by ignorance, I finally did, but I didn't discover precisely why I kept "Demian." The half-dozen marginal marks I made forty years ago do not score insightful premonitions of my life as I remember it. Still, I cannot argue with Hesse's pretended muddle of good and evil, or with the notion of Cain in light rather than dark. Looking back, whatever I saw in "Demian" forty years ago is not too far from how it played out.
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on November 29, 2003
Not what I was expecting at all. Demian was my first and only (so far) introduction to Hesse. It's a great outpouring of ideas and existentialism, but I have to admit at times it was a bit too dry for my taste. I guess I was expecting more of a story. If I'd been prepared for what is mostly a loose framework for a philosophy, I could have surrendered myself to it more readily.
Overall, I'm still mulling over everything I read in it, and I think I will be for a long long time. I give it 4 stars instead of five because it comes across as a novel but reads like an essay. As an essay on the human condition I'd give it a 5.
Regardless, you need to read this if you've ever wondered about your place in the universe, whether good and evil really exist, and why you feel a little different from those around you.
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on July 12, 2003
Okay, I really hate it when people say that this book or that book changed their lives. In my case it's true.
The book follows the spiritual growing pains of one Emile Sinclair from his school days into adulthood. The title of the book refers to his associations, at various times in his early life, with another boy named Max Demian. Max Demian, although he only appears in a relatively few pages of this book, becomes the driving force behind Emile Sinclair's emotional and spritual awakening. Emile is lost. He comes from a very starched middle class family where everything is proper and nothing is out of place. Inside, though, he feels as though he doesn't belong (much like Harry Haller in Hesse's Steppenwolf). He feels a much darker side to himself and thinks that makes him evil and a sinner. Demian, through a series of encounters over a period of years, plants in his mind the notion that we are all made up of good and evil tendencies and that a "true" god would accept all of this. In fact, there is a god who itself is made up of equal parts dark and light; that god's name is Abraxas. This realization is a watershed for Emile who, though he continues to struggle, search, and follow others for years afterward, eventually comes into his own as a person.
Which of us hasn't been Emile Sinclair at one or another point in his life?
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on October 30, 2003
"Demian" is the first book I read by Hermann Hesse, and it got me hooked on his novels. This book is fascinating, so much so that it's difficult to describe. It's both a coming-of-age story (although I hate that term)and also a surreal and erotic delve into the subconscious. The themes of spirituality, sexuality, suffering and redemption are all weaved together in this novel, as they are in the other equally fascinating novels by Hesse I've read. I'd also highly recommend "Steppenwolf" and "Siddhartha".
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on February 17, 2004
The novel, Demian, which is one of the Nobel Prize winners for Literature, is a fascinating, mind-capturing book of art. A typical person with no thought about life will not be able to comprehend this novel, except for the surface story of the main character. As much as it is hard to understand, it is nearly impossible to describe its deeper meaning and message behind it. The whole story inside seems like the meaning itself, which is translated into an example that can still only be vaguely understandable. Nevertheless, the novel is a must-read and a recommendable, five star book.
The reader will be introduced to a plain, elementary school student called Emil Sinclair and follow him in his life until his death. It is set in the mid 19th century until the WWI. During his childhood years, he meets a mystical friend Max Demian, who wakes Sinclair up from his dark world and helps him to a new one. Afterwards, he struggles to find a kind of enlightenment, something that will escalate him to a higher level of understanding. At the very end, he is able to find peace and comfort and the answer to his questions and confusion.
Although, the summary was too simple, it is best to know by reading it. The novel shows all the peoples¡¯ mental adventure during life, such as love and hate, problems with social relationship as well as maintenance of individuality, and fears, confusions, and desires. With all of these going on, the reader¡¯s thoughts can be jumbled up but interesting incidents keep the readers from losing interest. The more you keep on reading, the more you become to think the way Sinclair does, and start to accept Demian in you mind. However, some of the religious questions in this novel might mislead the readers¡¯ thoughts about it, especially the Christians, if it is understood directly, from the surface.
This novel should be read below the surface, and not be taken literally.
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on April 19, 2007
I can't talk about the existential or philosophical meaning of the book which makes this review pretty much worthless because that is pretty much all Demian is.

It's beginning seems normal enough: the young protagonist is growing up in a strict Christian family before the WWI but he soon meets a strange boy by the name of Demian who begins to change his view of the world. However the plot soon goes off the wall in symbolism, higher thinking and all that stuff that the average reader will not enjoy. For those of you interested in the meaning of life and stuff like that this book is definitely for you. For me and the average reader though Demian is a tough pill to swallow.

There were still some upsides to the novel though. Hesse's prose is poetic and that's the main reason I kept reading the novel. Also some of the stuff hit home with me, especially since I'm a teenager growing up and in search of my own 'selfhood'.

But most of it sadly flew right over my head. It's quite humbling to see all of these people review this book with such depth and interest while I sit around scratching my head. Maybe when I've matured a bit more I'll tackle this book again but for now Demian remains a mysterious and confusing book to me.
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on February 7, 2004
This novel leads the reader through many of the youthful
experiences that seemed so large and overwhelming because
we were young and naive. The longings, the desires, the confusion,
the fears, the awakenings, the awkwardness of trying to fit in yet
not loose our individuality. I wish I could have been able to go speak
directly with Hermann Hesse, to ask him for more details about the
things he was trying to teach us through this beautiful work. Anyone
who is intimately familiar with the realities of Germany before and
after the First World War will understand why Hesse was speaking to
all the veterans of that horrible and senseless waste that manifested
itself and ultimately led to the Second World War. This book leads
you through the common journey of youthful awakening and it is upon
the last page that he finally delivers.
PREMATURELY! You will spoil the whole story.
Herman Hesse is indeed a nightingale singing a bitter sweet
song of wise admonition. A short book, a major message.
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on December 28, 2002
Demian is the story of Emil Sinclair's spiritual journey. In the beginning, Emil describes the world of his childhood. This world is split into two realms, the luminescent world of his parents, and his place in the family. Beyond this world, outside of it is the other world. This world is marked by adventure, and darkness, intrigue, and strangeness of all kind. Young Emil has such a strong sense of the other world and is attracted to it. He assumes this attraction to be the sign of his own impurity.
Later, he lies about stealing fruit to be liked among some school friends. Upon being called out for the lie, he is forced to face his own guilt, and despairs that he has forever lost the innocence that made him the good son of the Sinclair's.
Around this time, Emil meets Max Demian (who will be his spiritual daemon, or guide). Demian, even though a young man himself shows the calm and awareness of a Buddha and the zest of Nietzsche's Overman. Upon their first meeting, Emil is strangely attracted to Demian, though he doesn't understand Demian's unconventional interpretations of their friends, and his penetrating and insightful interpretations of scripture - for which Emil is not quite ready.
Through various detours, tests, and conversations, Emil and Demian grow closer, as thinkers of the world... their most unconventional shared thought being the absolute necessity of both the dark and light side of existence; and the priority that any individual has to be true to himself, and to trust the voice within.
Demian is a depiction of a beautiful soul, but a human to be sure. This is neither Jesus, nor Buddha, but one of us when we see things clearly, and live in the moment.
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on October 19, 2003
The title of my review is correct, I cant even explain. Not only how good this book was, but how deep it was. This book is definately one that made me think A LOT. Most people just pass it off as some story of frustrated adolescence, that is wrong. If you want that go read Catcher In The Rye, or A Seperate Peace. But this is way more than just that, this is more of mentality and human nature, it is about what drives people to do what they do and how people search and chase pipe dreams and about things that our feeble minds can not even wrap around. If you think you are smart( and I know you do if you are reading this review), you really need to know that you are stupid and every smart person you know is stupid. If you read this book you will realize what I mean, every person will make something different of this book, but in truth this book is a great work of imagination and symbolism.
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