There are some books that I sort of feel have a best-before date, in reference to the age of the reader. E.g., The Catcher in the Rye. Most of the books I put in this mental category I have, in fact, not actually read: Brave New World, Catch 22. This could be a totally wrong impression, based only on the fact that a lot of kids do read them in high school, but regardless. This is the mental state in which I entered my read of Siddhartha.
So I freely admit I’m going into it a bit prejudiced. And I didn’t pick it up last week in a great frame of mind, either. But I didn’t find quite what I expected.
The philosophical content was less objectionable than anticipated, though I do still think it might appeal more to younger people. And it’s not completely sensical outside of Buddhism, of course.
But it was the writing that really didn’t do it for me. Now, first of all, I read this in translation. I almost never do this; I don’t think I’ve read anything in translation from German since high school. I wasn’t super motivated here though. Anyway, I think I read the translation most people read, by Hilda Rosner. And I don’t know if it was her or Hermann Hesse, but the only word I can think to describe the prose was: lifeless. Not a single sentence gave me that aesthetic-pleasure smile I look for. I can’t place what it was exactly, and it may have been partly or largely my frame of mind. But I read this in several sessions and the writing never clicked for me.*
Does this count as a Bildungsroman? I think it should; I don’t think there’s a very good reason to class “spiritual journey” separately; Siddhartha is looking for a philosophy of life. So can someone please explain to me why I say I don’t like these and keep reading them—and not really liking them?
*And, in one place, I’m almost completely sure that it said “credible” where it should have said “credulous.”