One of the major twentieth century writers and an important cultural and intellectual force, Hermann Hesse was awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1946 for his achievement as a novelist, particularly for his masterpiece, Das Glasperlenspiel: Versuch einer Lebensbeschreibung des Magister Ludi Josef Knecht samt Knechts hinterlassenen Schriften (1943; Magister Ludi, 1949; also The Glass Bead Game, 1969). Hesse stated, “All the prose works of fiction I have written are biographies of souls.” Siddhartha, his most widely read work of fiction, is a biography of the soul in the essential sense of the term. It evokes the magical realm of the spirit in exploring the protagonist’s quest for self-knowledge and the unity of being.
Hesse called Siddhartha “an Indic Poem.” Of all his fictional works, it is undoubtedly the one most impregnated with Indian religion and philosophy. Hesse himself unequivocally acknowledged his long-standing interest in India and his preoccupation with Hinduism, Buddhism, Vedanta, and Yoga. “More than half of my life,” he stated, “I tried to come to an understanding of the Indian view of Life.” India was his family’s spiritual homeland for two generations, and he himself undertook a voyage to India in 1911 “to go back into that source of life where everything had begun and which signified the Oneness of all phenomenon.” Siddhartha was an artistic expression of his understanding of the Indian view of...
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