Kirkus Star


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Though he was an honored contemporary of Thomas Mann and was awarded the Nobel Prize, the reputation of Hermann Hesse on these shores has only recently flowered. No doubt the mystic strain in such tales of youthful awakening as Demian and Steppenwolf strike sympathetic chords in the psychedelic generation of today. But Hesse's art has a deeper, more lasting, significance. Alone among modern writers. Hesse creates poetic landscapes in which human concerns and vivid characters are extraordinarily evoked, as can be seen in his striking medieval parable, Narcissus and Goldmund, one of the most profound and magical novels published in our age. There is an odd glow about this book, a pictorial elegance that somehow suggests the films of Ingmar Bergman, and, more important, a strange, rather subversive, blend of Freudian psychology with religious myth or dogma. The narrative, as with all of Hesse's works, presents two young men who are more or less reverse images of each other: the ascetic Brother Narcissus, and his student. Goldmund, who leaves the Mariabronn Cloister at his teacher's bidding to seek his salvation as artist and womanizer and to recover a ""lost childhood."" Goldmund's search for the redeeming mother figure and his adventures in the imperfect outside world are juxtaposed against the cold saintly perfection of Narcissus, flesh against spirit, the concrete versus the abstract. It is an indication of Hesse's genius that so stilted an allegorical framework is transformed into a tapestry at once rich, subtle, complex, robust, and truly moving. A triumph.

Pub Date: May 15th, 1968
Publisher: Farrar, Straus & Giroux