I read this book on a twenty four hour train journey surrounded by the bourgeois. It was a terrifying experience. The book didn’t change my life and was not meant to, but it gave me hope and hope is always a good thing.
The influence of Indian spirituality on this book is apparent, but Hesse chooses to dissect it using the prism of Western pessimism. He talks about the multiplicity of the self and the infinite potential associated with it, how we often choose to attach fanciful restrictions to the limitless and that every man can have his place among the Immortals. The influence of unfulfilled desires in the making of the personality and its inherent disorders and the possibility of conquering those to mould a ‘new’ self are also prominent themes which again run parallel to the Indian concept of rebirth.
The book has layers far too many. Each time I indulge in a flight of introspection, much like Harry Haller, or so I would or wouldn’t like to believe, I stumble upon a different and equally vague interpretation of the book.
This book is great literature. It is magnificently vague and by turns sincerely hopeless and insincerely hopeful but eventually redeems itself by offering hope for the hopeless.