SIDDHARTHA BY HERMANN HESSE (BOOK REVIEW) + HUTOVO BLATO (TRAVEL POST)

In this post, I'll share another visit to Hutovo Blato and a book review for Siddhartha by Herman Hesse. So, we'll have two posts in one: a travelogue and a book review. A year cannot go by without a visit to Hutovo Blato. I actually visited it last Summer too, but I didn't blog about it (perhaps because I was so focused on book reviews). However, this spot was actually featured in one of my blog reviews. Bonus points to anyone who might have noticed it, even if I didn't blog about the place itself. Hopefully, I shall correct that some time in the future. Hutovo Blato is a truly gorgeous place and I love sharing more about it.

What about my book review? Well, let's start with that. Published in 1922 under the original title Siddhartha: Eine Indische Dichtung, this novel focuses on the spiritual journey and the search for self awareness of its fictional protagonist

“Have you also learned that secret from the river; that there is no such thing as time?" That the river is everywhere at the same time, at the source and at the mouth, at the waterfall, at the ferry, at the current, in the ocean and in the mountains, everywhere and that the present only exists for it, not the shadow of the past nor the shadow of the future.”  Hermann Hesse, Siddhartha


Siddhartha is a novel by German author Herman Hesse, originally published as a short novel in 1922. By the time Hesse died in 1962, he wasn't widely read, despite the fact that he was a recipient of the Nobel Prize for Literature. In USA, Siddhartha was published (and translated to English) in 1951.

It was in the sixties that this short novel became influential, probably due to the hippie movement and its focus on Eastern teachings and religions.

 If you know me, you know that I love to reread stuff. I actually listened to an audio-version of this book (in Italian) twice, and I plan to reread this novel again in the future. 

“My real self wanders elsewhere, far away, wanders on and on invisibly and has nothing to do with my life.”

Nowadays, Siddhartha is a well-known novel for sure, a book both critically acclaimed and popular, but not without a reason, I would hasten to add. You know sometimes hyped works are really worth the hype. Fortunately for me as a reader, this novel met my expectations and I wasn’t left disappointed in any way. 

“Within you, there is a stillness and a sanctuary to which you can retreat at anytime and be yourself.”

Besides giving me plenty of food for the thought, I can honestly say that Siddhartha touched me on an emotional level as well. Somehow the story of Siddhartha was very extremely easy to relate to. This novel is available online for free on a number of sites and public libraries, including Project Gutenberg. Below is are links to the book and individual chapters ( for those interested in reading it for free). 



What is the first thing that comes to your mind when you think of Siddhartha by Herman Hesse? Curiously enough what comes to my mind is a scene from one Italian film L’ultimo Bacio in which Francesca (who is basically a teenager if I remember well) gives this book as a present to a man (Carlo was it?) she has fallen in love (and spent the night) with, a man who will leave her only a few moments later (and Carlo won’t even bother to take the book with him). For some reason I found that scene quite touching, the image of that young pain quite vivid, with the shock of that first heartbreak and treason clearly written on her face.  

Despite the fact that I had obviously heard about this novel before, I will perhaps forever connect it with this film and this scene in which the book (or was it the wrap paper the book was in?) flies from the top of the car onto the street because this guy is such a rush to get away from poor Francesca and to get to his future wife. Anyway, this novel is filled with similar pain as there are an awful lot of painful goodbyes. There so much abandonment going on. Friends, children, lovers, parents, they all abandoning one another for one reason or other. I find it very interesting, especially when the reason for abandonment was the quest to find the meaning of life. Must we abandon those we love to find the meaning of love? Or are maybe some of the characters (whom I won’t name at this point) running away from life because they are afraid of it not because they want to find meaning in it?



SIDDHARTHA, A NOVEL BY HERMAN HESSE 4.8/5


This novel is written very simply, but it conveys profound messages and concepts. Perhaps the simplicity of its writing is what makes it such a popular reading among the youngsters? Or is it because the protagonist seems to be rebellious? Still, I would say that this book has a lot (perhaps even more) to offer to a mature reader. I’m certainly not a teenager anymore and I found it very much to my liking. 

“Dreams and restless thoughts came flowing to him from the river, from the twinkling stars at night, from the sun's melting rays. Dreams and a restlessness of the soul came to him.”


Siddhartha is the protagonist of this novel. The novel's very opening paragraphs describe Siddhartha as a delight to everyone. He's loved by everyone, but especially so his parents and friend Govinda.

THE SON OF THE BRAHMAN

In the shade of the house, in the sunshine of the riverbank near the boats, in the shade of the Sal-wood forest, in the shade of the fig tree is where Siddhartha grew up, the handsome son of the Brahman, the young falcon, together with his friend Govinda, son of a Brahman. The sun tanned his light shoulders by the banks of the river when bathing, performing the sacred ablutions, the sacred offerings. In the mango grove, shade poured into his black eyes, when playing as a boy, when his mother sang, when the sacred offerings were made, when his father, the scholar, taught him, when the wise men talked. For a long time, Siddhartha had been partaking in the discussions of the wise men, practising debate with Govinda, practising with Govinda the art of reflection, the service of meditation. He already knew how to speak the Om silently, the word of words, to speak it silently into himself while inhaling, to speak it silently out of himself while exhaling, with all the concentration of his soul, the forehead surrounded by the glow of the clear-thinking spirit. He already knew to feel Atman in the depths of his being, indestructible, one with the universe.

Joy leapt in his father’s heart for his son who was quick to learn, thirsty for knowledge; he saw him growing up to become great wise man and priest, a prince among the Brahmans.

Bliss leapt in his mother’s breast when she saw him, when she saw him walking, when she saw him sit down and get up, Siddhartha, strong, handsome, he who was walking on slender legs, greeting her with perfect respect.

Love touched the hearts of the Brahmans’ young daughters when Siddhartha walked through the lanes of the town with the luminous forehead, with the eye of a king, with his slim hips.


The book also introduces us to an important character, Siddhartha's friend Govinda. 


But more than all the others he was loved by Govinda, his friend, the son of a Brahman. He loved Siddhartha’s eye and sweet voice, he loved his walk and the perfect decency of his movements, he loved everything Siddhartha did and said and what he loved most was his spirit, his transcendent, fiery thoughts, his ardent will, his high calling. Govinda knew: he would not become a common Brahman, not a lazy official in charge of offerings; not a greedy merchant with magic spells; not a vain, vacuous speaker; not a mean, deceitful priest; and also not a decent, stupid sheep in the herd of the many. No, and he, Govinda, as well did not want to become one of those, not one of those tens of thousands of Brahmans. He wanted to follow Siddhartha, the beloved, the splendid. And in days to come, when Siddhartha would become a god, when he would join the glorious, then Govinda wanted to follow him as his friend, his companion, his servant, his spear-carrier, his shadow.

Siddhartha was thus loved by everyone. He was a source of joy for everybody, he was a delight for them all.





 Siddhartha is loved by everyone, but he isn't content! He starts asking questions and is very keen on finding the answers for himself. 

But he, Siddhartha, was not a source of joy for himself, he found no delight in himself. Walking the rosy paths of the fig tree garden, sitting in the bluish shade of the grove of contemplation, washing his limbs daily in the bath of repentance, sacrificing in the dim shade of the mango forest, his gestures of perfect decency, everyone’s love and joy, he still lacked all joy in his heart. Dreams and restless thoughts came into his mind, flowing from the water of the river, sparkling from the stars of the night, melting from the beams of the sun, dreams came to him and a restlessness of the soul, fuming from the sacrifices, breathing forth from the verses of the Rig-Veda, being infused into him, drop by drop, from the teachings of the old Brahmans.

Reading these lines, one is almost under the impression that one is reading a fairy tale, a myth or an ancient text connected with either Hinduism or Buddhism. However, that is not the case. This novel is a work of fiction. Its principal character is a contemporary of Buddha and the novel takes place in India and Nepal. Moreover, its protagonist is in search for spiritual enlighten. However, the protagonist should not be confused with Buddha. Before achieving enlightenment, Buddha's name was Siddhartha but in this novel, Buddha is referred to as Gautama and the name Siddhartha is only used to refer to the book's protagonist, an entirely fictional character. 

How mature is this work? Does this novel explain Buddhism? I don’t think it does in full, but then again I don’t see why it should. If someone expects that, they might be disappointed. This is a work of fiction, and as profound it might be, its aim is not to explain complex religious or spiritual concepts. 

Explaining a complex religious teaching, now would be a bit too much to expect of a novel, wouldn’t it? Perhaps we can say that this novel was important when it came to introducing and popularizing spiritual concepts from Buddhism to Western world, but it is first and foremost a novel, not a study of a religion. Hesse is amazing when it comes to conveying philosophical and theological concepts to literary forms, though. I could sense both references to Bhagavat Gita (the sacred text of Hinduism, a part of Hindu epic Mahabharata) and Buddha's noble truths. 

The ablutions were good, but they were water, they did not wash off the sin, they did not heal the spirit’s thirst, they did not relieve the fear in his heart. The sacrifices and the invocation of the gods were excellent—but was that all? Did the sacrifices give a happy fortune? And what about the gods? Was it really Prajapati who had created the world? Was it not the Atman, He, the only one, the singular one? Were the gods not creations, created like me and you, subject to time, mortal? Was it therefore good, was it right, was it meaningful and the highest occupation to make offerings to the gods? For whom else were offerings to be made, who else was to be worshipped but Him, the only one, the Atman? And where was Atman to be found, where did He reside, where did his eternal heart beat, where else but in one’s own self, in its innermost part, in its indestructible part, which everyone had in himself? But where, where was this self, this innermost part, this ultimate part? It was not flesh and bone, it was neither thought nor consciousness, thus the wisest ones taught. So, where, where was it? To reach this place, the self, myself, the Atman, there was another way, which was worthwhile looking for? Alas, and nobody showed this way, nobody knew it, not the father, and not the teachers and wise men, not the holy sacrificial songs! They knew everything, the Brahmans and their holy books, they knew everything, they had taken care of everything and of more than everything, the creation of the world, the origin of speech, of food, of inhaling, of exhaling, the arrangement of the senses, the acts of the gods, they knew infinitely much—but was it valuable to know all of this, not knowing that one and only thing, the most important thing, the solely important thing? *

*all quotations from Project Gutenberg site

I remember how amazed I was by Narcissus and Goldmund, when I had first read it. What fascinated me most about that novel was the complex way it spoke of religion. On one hand, I could sense irony when religion was discussed but at the same time there was also respect and understanding of theological concepts. 

The same could be said of Siddhartha. Both novels tell a story of a young man who abandons his religious upbringing/education in favour of a sensual lifestyle that could be considered sinful, just one happens to a former monk and the other a son of a Brahmin. Perhaps both novel aren’t exactly a critique of religion and society (as some might see it), but more a critique of a superficial way of understanding spirituality and of danger of losing our individual self by following society's rules. 

Can spirituality exist outside of religion? I think Herman suggests that it can, that an individual can find the meaning of life in ways that aren’t necessarily traditional. The more I think of Narcissus and Goldmund, the more I realize how that novel is extremely similar to Siddhartha.


I really enjoyed my  pancakes at restaurant in Hutovo Blato.

This is a novel that isn't afraid to ask questions. It's first chapter is filled with them. As the protagonist starts to ask questions, he also shows his rather impressive education. It's clear that the protagonist of this novel is well versed in theology and philosophy. The author of this novel, Herman Hesse, obviously had an excellent understanding of these topics as well.

Surely, many verses of the holy books, particularly in the Upanishades of Samaveda, spoke of this innermost and ultimate thing, wonderful verses. “Your soul is the whole world”, was written there, and it was written that man in his sleep, in his deep sleep, would meet with his innermost part and would reside in the Atman. Marvellous wisdom was in these verses, all knowledge of the wisest ones had been collected here in magic words, pure as honey collected by bees. No, not to be looked down upon was the tremendous amount of enlightenment which lay here collected and preserved by innumerable generations of wise Brahmans.—But where were the Brahmans, where the priests, where the wise men or penitents, who had succeeded in not just knowing this deepest of all knowledge but also to live it? Where was the knowledgeable one who wove his spell to bring his familiarity with the Atman out of the sleep into the state of being awake, into the life, into every step of the way, into word and deed? Siddhartha knew many venerable Brahmans, chiefly his father, the pure one, the scholar, the most venerable one. His father was to be admired, quiet and noble were his manners, pure his life, wise his words, delicate and noble thoughts lived behind its brow —but even he, who knew so much, did he live in blissfulness, did he have peace, was he not also just a searching man, a thirsty man? Did he not, again and again, have to drink from holy sources, as a thirsty man, from the offerings, from the books, from the disputes of the Brahmans? Why did he, the irreproachable one, have to wash off sins every day, strive for a cleansing every day, over and over every day? Was not Atman in him, did not the pristine source spring from his heart? It had to be found, the pristine source in one’s own self, it had to be possessed! Everything else was searching, was a detour, was getting lost.

Thus were Siddhartha’s thoughts, this was his thirst, this was his suffering.

Often he spoke to himself from a Chandogya-Upanishad the words: “Truly, the name of the Brahman is satyam—verily, he who knows such a thing, will enter the heavenly world every day.” Often, it seemed near, the heavenly world, but never he had reached it completely, never he had quenched the ultimate thirst. And among all the wise and wisest men, he knew and whose instructions he had received, among all of them there was no one, who had reached it completely, the heavenly world, who had quenched it completely, the eternal thirst.



Our protagonist, tortured by questions, decides to seek answers and invites his friend Govinda.  This novel tells the story of Siddhartha, a beautiful and beloved young son of Brahmin, who discontent with his life, decides to leave his father and family behind and pursue a life of a mystic. Siddhartha is profoundly unhappy, despite being loved and respected by many, despite being a diligent student, a person that everyone, even masters and religious figures (Brahmans) admire. 

“Govinda,” Siddhartha spoke to his friend, “Govinda, my dear, come with me under the Banyan tree, let’s practise meditation.”

They went to the Banyan tree, they sat down, Siddhartha right here, Govinda twenty paces away. While putting himself down, ready to speak the Om, Siddhartha repeated murmuring the verse:

Om is the bow, the arrow is soul, The Brahman is the arrow’s target, That one should incessantly hit.

After the usual time of the exercise in meditation had passed, Govinda rose. The evening had come, it was time to perform the evening’s ablution. He called Siddhartha’s name. Siddhartha did not answer. Siddhartha sat there lost in thought, his eyes were rigidly focused towards a very distant target, the tip of his tongue was protruding a little between the teeth, he seemed not to breathe. Thus sat he, wrapped up in contemplation, thinking Om, his soul sent after the Brahman as an arrow.

Once, Samanas had travelled through Siddhartha’s town, ascetics on a pilgrimage, three skinny, withered men, neither old nor young, with dusty and bloody shoulders, almost naked, scorched by the sun, surrounded by loneliness, strangers and enemies to the world, strangers and lank jackals in the realm of humans. Behind them blew a hot scent of quiet passion, of destructive service, of merciless self-denial.

In the evening, after the hour of contemplation, Siddhartha spoke to Govinda: “Early tomorrow morning, my friend, Siddhartha will go to the Samanas. He will become a Samana.”

Govinda turned pale, when he heard these words and read the decision in the motionless face of his friend, unstoppable like the arrow shot from the bow. Soon and with the first glance, Govinda realized: Now it is beginning, now Siddhartha is taking his own way, now his fate is beginning to sprout, and with his, my own. And he turned pale like a dry banana-skin.

“O Siddhartha,” he exclaimed, “will your father permit you to do that?”

Siddhartha looked over as if he was just waking up. Arrow-fast he read in Govinda’s soul, read the fear, read the submission.

“O Govinda,” he spoke quietly, “let’s not waste words. Tomorrow, at daybreak I will begin the life of the Samanas. Speak no more of it.”


His life story resembles but not reflects the story of Buddha, because Siddhartha is no Buddha.  Siddhartha, the protagonist of this novel will encounter Buddha (who is in this novel referred to as Gautama) and talk with him, but Siddhartha will decide to follow his own path. 


Why did Hesse decide to use the Buddha’s Indian name (the one Buddha had before finding enlightening) for his protagonist? Was it also his way of commenting of Buddha’s path? Does this Siddhartha of the novel symbolize Buddha prior to taking the road to nirvana?



Siddhartha learned a lot when he was with the Samanas, many ways leading away from the self he learned to go. He went the way of self-denial by means of pain, through voluntarily suffering and overcoming pain, hunger, thirst, tiredness. He went the way of self-denial by means of meditation, through imagining the mind to be void of all conceptions. These and other ways he learned to go, a thousand times he left his self, for hours and days he remained in the non-self. But though the ways led away from the self, their end nevertheless always led back to the self. Though Siddhartha fled from the self a thousand times, stayed in nothingness, stayed in the animal, in the stone, the return was inevitable, inescapable was the hour, when he found himself back in the sunshine or in the moonlight, in the shade or in the rain, and was once again his self and Siddhartha, and again felt the agony of the cycle which had been forced upon him.

By his side lived Govinda, his shadow, walked the same paths, undertook the same efforts. They rarely spoke to one another, than the service and the exercises required. Occasionally the two of them went through the villages, to beg for food for themselves and their teachers.

“How do you think, Govinda,” Siddhartha spoke one day while begging this way, “how do you think did we progress? Did we reach any goals?”

Govinda answered: “We have learned, and we’ll continue learning. You’ll be a great Samana, Siddhartha. Quickly, you’ve learned every exercise, often the old Samanas have admired you. One day, you’ll be a holy man, oh Siddhartha.”

Quoth Siddhartha: “I can’t help but feel that it is not like this, my friend. What I’ve learned, being among the Samanas, up to this day, this, oh Govinda, I could have learned more quickly and by simpler means. In every tavern of that part of a town where the whorehouses are, my friend, among carters and gamblers I could have learned it.”

Quoth Govinda: “Siddhartha is putting me on. How could you have learned meditation, holding your breath, insensitivity against hunger and pain there among these wretched people?”

And Siddhartha said quietly, as if he was talking to himself: “What is meditation? What is leaving one’s body? What is fasting? What is holding one’s breath? It is fleeing from the self, it is a short escape of the agony of being a self, it is a short numbing of the senses against the pain and the pointlessness of life. The same escape, the same short numbing is what the driver of an ox-cart finds in the inn, drinking a few bowls of rice-wine or fermented coconut-milk. Then he won’t feel his self any more, then he won’t feel the pains of life any more, then he finds a short numbing of the senses. When he falls asleep over his bowl of rice-wine, he’ll find the same what Siddhartha and Govinda find when they escape their bodies through long exercises, staying in the non-self. This is how it is, oh Govinda.”

Quoth Govinda: “You say so, oh friend, and yet you know that Siddhartha is no driver of an ox-cart and a Samana is no drunkard. It’s true that a drinker numbs his senses, it’s true that he briefly escapes and rests, but he’ll return from the delusion, finds everything to be unchanged, has not become wiser, has gathered no enlightenment,—has not risen several steps.”

And Siddhartha spoke with a smile: “I do not know, I’ve never been a drunkard. But that I, Siddhartha, find only a short numbing of the senses in my exercises and meditations and that I am just as far removed from wisdom, from salvation, as a child in the mother’s womb, this I know, oh Govinda, this I know.”



The legend of Buddha spreads and Govinda wants to know this man. Just as Govinda embraces the teaching of Samanas, now he wants to embrace the teaching of Buddha. However, Siddhartha's heart is never at peace it seems. 

“Oh Siddhartha,” Govinda spoke one day to his friend. “Today, I was in the village, and a Brahman invited me into his house, and in his house, there was the son of a Brahman from Magadha, who has seen the Buddha with his own eyes and has heard him teach. Verily, this made my chest ache when I breathed, and thought to myself: If only I would too, if only we both would too, Siddhartha and me, live to see the hour when we will hear the teachings from the mouth of this perfected man! Speak, friend, wouldn’t we want to go there too and listen to the teachings from the Buddha’s mouth?”

Quoth Siddhartha: “Always, oh Govinda, I had thought, Govinda would stay with the Samanas, always I had believed his goal was to live to be sixty and seventy years of age and to keep on practising those feats and exercises, which are becoming a Samana. But behold, I had not known Govinda well enough, I knew little of his heart. So now you, my faithful friend, want to take a new path and go there, where the Buddha spreads his teachings.”

Quoth Govinda: “You’re mocking me. Mock me if you like, Siddhartha! But have you not also developed a desire, an eagerness, to hear these teachings? And have you not at one time said to me, you would not walk the path of the Samanas for much longer?”

At this, Siddhartha laughed in his very own manner, in which his voice assumed a touch of sadness and a touch of mockery, and said: “Well, Govinda, you’ve spoken well, you’ve remembered correctly. If you only remembered the other thing as well, you’ve heard from me, which is that I have grown distrustful and tired against teachings and learning, and that my faith in words, which are brought to us by teachers, is small. But let’s do it, my dear, I am willing to listen to these teachings—though in my heart I believe that we’ve already tasted the best fruit of these teachings.”





Why did Siddhartha decide not to follow Buddha despite his obvious respect and admiration for him? Was it because he wasn't ready for it? Was it because Siddhartha was aware that he probably wouldn't be able to accept Buddha as a teacher? Was it because Siddhartha was too proud or because he became jaded by studying different teachings? 

They both followed the Buddha until they reached the town and then returned in silence, for they themselves intended to abstain from on this day. They saw Gotama returning—what he ate could not even have satisfied a bird’s appetite, and they saw him retiring into the shade of the mango-trees.

But in the evening, when the heat cooled down and everyone in the camp started to bustle about and gathered around, they heard the Buddha teaching. They heard his voice, and it was also perfected, was of perfect calmness, was full of peace. Gotama taught the teachings of suffering, of the origin of suffering, of the way to relieve suffering. Calmly and clearly his quiet speech flowed on. Suffering was life, full of suffering was the world, but salvation from suffering had been found: salvation was obtained by him who would walk the path of the Buddha. With a soft, yet firm voice the exalted one spoke, taught the four main doctrines, taught the eightfold path, patiently he went the usual path of the teachings, of the examples, of the repetitions, brightly and quietly his voice hovered over the listeners, like a light, like a starry sky.

When the Buddha—night had already fallen—ended his speech, many a pilgrim stepped forward and asked to be accepted into the community, sought refuge in the teachings. And Gotama accepted them by speaking: “You have heard the teachings well, it has come to you well. Thus join us and walk in holiness, to put an end to all suffering.”

Behold, then Govinda, the shy one, also stepped forward and spoke: “I also take my refuge in the exalted one and his teachings,” and he asked to be accepted into the community of his disciples and was accepted.

Right afterwards, when the Buddha had retired for the night, Govinda turned to Siddhartha and spoke eagerly: “Siddhartha, it is not my place to scold you. We have both heard the exalted one, we have both perceived the teachings. Govinda has heard the teachings, he has taken refuge in it. But you, my honoured friend, don’t you also want to walk the path of salvation? Would you want to hesitate, do you want to wait any longer?”


 Why doesn't Siddhartha join Buddha if he perceives him as the ultimate truth? I might just as well ask- Why did the protagonist of Narcissus and Goldmund decide to leave the monastery despite being obviously gifted theologically?

 Interestingly, both novels also feature a story of intense friendship between two men, friendship that seems to overcome time and separation. These stories of friendship humanize the headstrong protagonists of these two novels. Siddhartha’s friend Govinda leaves Brahmins and then later on also Samanas (ascetics) when Siddhartha does, following Siddhartha wherever he goes. Nevertheless, when the two of them met Buddha, his friend Govinda remains by Buddha’s side. 

Siddhartha awakened as if he had been asleep, when he heard Govinda’s words. For a long time, he looked into Govinda’s face. Then he spoke quietly, in a voice without mockery: “Govinda, my friend, now you have taken this step, now you have chosen this path. Always, oh Govinda, you’ve been my friend, you’ve always walked one step behind me. Often I have thought: Won’t Govinda for once also take a step by himself, without me, out of his own soul? Behold, now you’ve turned into a man and are choosing your path for yourself. I wish that you would go it up to its end, oh my friend, that you shall find salvation!”

Govinda, not completely understanding it yet, repeated his question in an impatient tone: “Speak up, I beg you, my dear! Tell me, since it could not be any other way, that you also, my learned friend, will take your refuge with the exalted Buddha!”

Siddhartha placed his hand on Govinda’s shoulder: “You failed to hear my good wish for you, oh Govinda. I’m repeating it: I wish that you would go this path up to its end, that you shall find salvation!”


Why didn’t Siddhartha do the same? Siddhartha had learned everything that the Brahmin and Samanas had to teach him, or so he claimed so it makes sense why he didn't stay with them. However, Siddhartha admits that Buddha’s teaching is the most perfect one, yet he leaves Buddha in search of his own path.

Is it a strictly spiritual path that he is searching? Not exactly. It's a path that will result in leading at least seemingly an ordinary life. What is the meaning of this? I think that what stroke me the most about the conversation between Buddha and our protagonist is Buddha’s warning ( I don’t want to say what kind of warning it is to avoid spoilers, but I thought that was an interesting moment). 

When Siddhartha says he won’t accept any doctrine, perhaps what he means to say is that he intends find his own answers and then what follows is pretty much the plot of the novel, so I won’t get into that. 

Reading this review, you might think that I have already given away the plot, but no. I have really just stretched the surface, discussing only the first chapters of the novel. I don't want to give away too much, but I will say that to me Siddhartha seems to be intellectual. It is perhaps exactly that intellectualism, that desire to know and explain everything that holds him back in experiencing not only profound spiritual experiences but also ordinary relationships.

But Siddhartha walked through the grove, lost in thought.

Then he happened to meet Gotama, the exalted one, and when he greeted him with respect and the Buddha’s glance was so full of kindness and calm, the young man summoned his courage and asked the venerable one for the permission to talk to him. Silently the exalted one nodded his approval.

Quoth Siddhartha: “Yesterday, oh exalted one, I had been privileged to hear your wondrous teachings. Together with my friend, I had come from afar, to hear your teachings. And now my friend is going to stay with your people, he has taken his refuge with you. But I will again start on my pilgrimage.”

“As you please,” the venerable one spoke politely.

“Too bold is my speech,” Siddhartha continued, “but I do not want to leave the exalted one without having honestly told him my thoughts. Does it please the venerable one to listen to me for one moment longer?”

Silently, the Buddha nodded his approval.

Quoth Siddhartha: “One thing, oh most venerable one, I have admired in your teachings most of all. Everything in your teachings is perfectly clear, is proven; you are presenting the world as a perfect chain, a chain which is never and nowhere broken, an eternal chain the links of which are causes and effects. Never before, this has been seen so clearly; never before, this has been presented so irrefutably; truly, the heart of every Brahman has to beat stronger with love, once he has seen the world through your teachings perfectly connected, without gaps, clear as a crystal, not depending on chance, not depending on gods. Whether it may be good or bad, whether living according to it would be suffering or joy, I do not wish to discuss, possibly this is not essential—but the uniformity of the world, that everything which happens is connected, that the great and the small things are all encompassed by the same forces of time, by the same law of causes, of coming into being and of dying, this is what shines brightly out of your exalted teachings, oh perfected one. But according to your very own teachings, this unity and necessary sequence of all things is nevertheless broken in one place, through a small gap, this world of unity is invaded by something alien, something new, something which had not been there before, and which cannot be demonstrated and cannot be proven: these are your teachings of overcoming the world, of salvation. But with this small gap, with this small breach, the entire eternal and uniform law of the world is breaking apart again and becomes void. Please forgive me for expressing this objection.”



 Perhaps Siddhartha, at that point he meets Buddha, is ironically, so skilled in detachment and self-control that he doesn’t know how to give himself, how to really open up to another human being and hence he cannot accept Buddha as a teacher. He cannot open up to the man he admires above all others. Naturally, this is only one of possible interpretations. I could probably go about this topic forever, but I have to put a limit somewhere (on how long a review can be). So, I'll try to wrap things up. 


“I wish that you, oh exalted one, would not be angry with me,” said the young man. “I have not spoken to you like this to argue with you, to argue about words. You are truly right, there is little to opinions. But let me say this one more thing: I have not doubted in you for a single moment. I have not doubted for a single moment that you are Buddha, that you have reached the goal, the highest goal towards which so many thousands of Brahmans and sons of Brahmans are on their way. You have found salvation from death. It has come to you in the course of your own search, on your own path, through thoughts, through meditation, through realizations, through enlightenment. It has not come to you by means of teachings! And—thus is my thought, oh exalted one,—nobody will obtain salvation by means of teachings! You will not be able to convey and say to anybody, oh venerable one, in words and through teachings what has happened to you in the hour of enlightenment! The teachings of the enlightened Buddha contain much, it teaches many to live righteously, to avoid evil. But there is one thing which these so clear, these so venerable teachings do not contain: they do not contain the mystery of what the exalted one has experienced for himself, he alone among hundreds of thousands. This is what I have thought and realized, when I have heard the teachings. This is why I am continuing my travels—not to seek other, better teachings, for I know there are none, but to depart from all teachings and all teachers and to reach my goal by myself or to die. But often, I’ll think of this day, oh exalted one, and of this hour, when my eyes beheld a holy man.”



If I were to try to find faults with Hesse's novel, I could say that the protagonist seems terribly selfish. I know he is discontent with life, but is that the reason to abandon everyone who loves him. It seems that Siddhartha cares only about himself. I do love him for being him honestly, but Siddhartha's detachment with everyone makes him seem very distant and even cold. On the other hand, can Siddhartha be any different, can he act differently? Is there another way? 


“Far is such a thought from my mind,” exclaimed Siddhartha. “I wish that they shall all stay with the teachings, that they shall reach their goal! It is not my place to judge another person’s life. Only for myself, for myself alone, I must decide, I must chose, I must refuse. Salvation from the self is what we Samanas search for, oh exalted one. If I merely were one of your disciples, oh venerable one, I’d fear that it might happen to me that only seemingly, only deceptively my self would be calm and be redeemed, but that in truth it would live on and grow, for then I had replaced my self with the teachings, my duty to follow you, my love for you, and the community of the monks!”

If Siddhartha were to remain by his father's side when he found no meaning in that kind of life, wouldn't that be hypocrisy, taking the easy way and giving up? Similarly, when romantic love doesn't offer him fulfilment, is Siddhartha really wrong to leave and search for his happiness elsewhere? If Siddhartha followed Buddha when he had no sincere desire to do so, wouldn't that been hypocrisy as well? 

I saw a man, Siddhartha thought, a single man, before whom I would have to lower my glance. I do not want to lower my glance before any other, not before any other. No teachings will entice me any more, since this man’s teachings have not enticed me.

Those are all complex questions. This novel doesn't offer clear answers. It hints on spiritual and religious concepts,  meanings and truths. It hints that one must follow its own path, abandon the social conventions in favour of individual questioning. Isn't that something every mature individual should do? To question one's life? 


Who was Herman Hesse, this man who makes me ask so many questions? Having read only a few of his novels, I can't possibly answer that but for a long time I was (for some reason) convinced that he must have been a philosopher as well as a writer. Turns out that he wasn’t exactly a philosopher, although his grandfather seems to have been a philosopher of some esteem, so perhaps that is why Hesse comes off (at least in his writing) so fluent in philosophical subjects. One of the reasons why I found writing this review a bit challenging is because philosophy is not my strongest point but I did feel that this novel was a philosophical one.  I liked this novel immensely, possibly because it is such an ambition work. It deals with subjects that are anything but easy to explain. 


This book might have risen to fame because of the hippie movements and all that, but it is a very complex piece of writing. It is neither a novel about Buddhism, (it doesn’t really properly examine this religion and its teachings) nor does it shows ‘the way to nirvana and enlightenment'. 

It does talk about spirituality, though. Siddhartha is, like Narcissus and Goldmund, a novel about the search for meaning of life.  A novel about friendship, about love and about spiritually. Siddhartha devotes his whole life to studying and learning to think, only to discover that knowledge isn’t hidden solely in words and philosophy. What does Siddhartha really achieve at the end? Be what it may, we as readers are certainly there with him every step of the way. Hesse writes simply but powerfully. His words get to our heart and his protagonist under our skin. Siddhartha is a touching and beautifully written novel. I’m so happy I've had the chance to read it and I'll probably reread it a number of times.


Now, that the book review is over, let's do the travel part of this post!







MY PREVIOUS  (YEARLY) VISITS TO WETLAND NATURE PARK HUTOVO BLATO


https://modaodaradosti.blogspot.com/2021/06/visit-hutovo-blato-wetland-nature-park.html- this was A SUMMER VISIT TO NATURE PARK HUTOVO BLATO . There you can find tips on what to do in this nature park as well as some nice photography. Bellow are links to more visits:


MORE OLDER VISITS AND  LINKS BELLOW: 
here and here (Winter 2017) 
here  and here (Autumn 2017)
here (Summer 2016)
 here (Spring 2015)
 here  and here (Summer 2015)
 here (Summer 2013) and here (Winter 2013)
here (photographs taken during Summer 2012 but published during Winter 2013)

IF YOU WANT TO KNOW MORE ABOUT NATURE PARKS IN THE AREA, DON'T FORGET TO VISIT MY POST ABOUT PROTECTED AREAS IN BOSNIA AND HERZEGOVINA! 




 WHAT TO SEE AND DO AT NATURE PARK HUTOVO BLATO?


TOP SEVEN THINGS TO DO IN HUTOVO BLATO:

1. TRY OUT THE NEW ADVENTURE PARK TRACK AND ROCK CLIMBING
 On this particular visit to Hutovo blato we noticed something new. There's an adventure track and a rock climbing polygon. It seems to be only for kids, though! There was nobody doing it that we could see, so maybe one needs to book in advance or something. Maybe next time we shall ask around. 

2. GO FOR A BOAT RIDE AND ENJOY MAGNIFICENT VIEWS (BRING YOUR CAM!)
I went for a boat ride twice and it was such a great experience, I might do it again.  It's all about that interaction with the environment. If you like boats, its definitely something you should try. For more information about boat rides, feel free to visit my old posts. Basically, the typical boat rides aren't expensive because the cost can be split between passengers on board. Once you get to this park, you just go and ask around, there should be some boats available for a drive around. You can also pay for a private ride, but that would be a more pricey option. 

3. VISIT A SECRET BRIDGE THAT IS EVEN OLDER THAN THE FAMOUS OLD BRIDGE
Right next to the sign announcing entrance to the park, you can see a very old bridge. In fact, I took photos of it many times. If you don't know it is there and if you don't look carefully, you can easily miss it. For some reason, nobody really pays attention to this historical bridge.  This bridge is even older than the more famous and more 'touristy' old bridge in Mostar. Don't miss this spot!

4. DINE OR STOP FOR COFFEE AT THE RESTAURANT MOTEL PARK
There is a nice restaurant/motel in the park that I can recommend.  We always stop there either for a cup of coffee or a meal. You can also stay there. Maybe I'll try that some day too.

5. GO HIKING OR CYCLING Besides taking a boat ride, hiking and cycling are also a great ways to explore this nature park. Exercise is good for our health

6. DISCOVER THE AMAZING NATURAL BEAUTY AND WILDLIFE- BIRD-WATCHING IN PARTICULAR IS A MUST HERE!
  The wild life you can spot is an additional bonus. If you're into bird-watching, this is a place for you!We always end up seeing so many birds. There are literally everywhere, you cannot miss them.

7. TAKE A SOUVENIR WITH YOU!
You can find a shop or two at the premises, so why not take a souvenir with you?
*photographs from my previous visit, the link is available above.


As always, thank you for reading and visiting. Have a lovely day!

Comments

  1. Thank you for sharing your visit to Hutovo Blato, Ivana!
    Your coat is a stunner!
    I read Siddharta when I was about 16 and I'm not sure I really got it. Perhaps it's time for a re-read! xxx

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hutovo Blato is a gorgeous place.
      Thank you.
      It's not an easy book to understand!

      Delete
  2. What a nice shots and also thanks for your sharing

    ReplyDelete
  3. Es un genial libro. Gracias por la reseña. Estas muy linda.

    ReplyDelete
  4. Yes, i read it long time ago.
    The Photos are wonderful. I love the last one, it is my favorite.

    ReplyDelete
  5. You look great. Thank you for this photo report.
    Have a nice day :)

    ReplyDelete
  6. Such a classic author. You did give us so much to savor in your book review. Oh, Such a lovely coat for winter and you look like spring! Thanks so much. I have wanted to know more about this author. I will take note!

    ReplyDelete
  7. Love your thought provoking reviews! You certainly gave us much to think on about nature and religion. Such a great travel post, as well. And I love the winter and warm photoshoot, too.Thanks again for being here. Thank you for your comments too. All the best to your creativity!

    ReplyDelete

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All your comments mean a lot to me, even the criticism. Naravno da mi puno znači što ste uzeli vrijeme da nešto napišete, pa makar to bila i kritika. Per me le vostre parole sono sempre preziose anche quando si tratta di critiche.

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