Wednesday, 7 September 2016

We Love Wednesdays - Siddhartha by Hermann Hesse

The theme for this month's We Love Wednesdays is the books that changed our lives. This week, Matt explains his love for the Hermann Hesse classic Siddhartha.

I gave away my copy of Siddhartha as soon as I'd finished it. I was sat in the Caffe Nero in my old branch in Basingstoke when I put the book down, sat in a profound silence, before getting up and walking to the till, handing the book to the girl at the counter who I had only known a short while, and told her how fantastic it was, before leaving.
We've been together for a few years now, and I often think of that moment of connection that this book forged between us and how wonderfully life changing it was, how our first love may have kindled from that moment. I think of the many others I've told to read it over the years. My best friends, who all responded in kind, enraptured by the wisdom within this slim volume's pages My customers, who have often returned and told me how moved they were by the spiritual journey. Most recently, I gifted a copy to a staff member who was leaving for a journey of their own, as a memorial of her time with the company and as a guide to assist with the stress of living in the fast-paced modern world.  
At this juncture, I'll state that I am in no way spiritual or Buddhist, nor praise anything that isn't created by Nick Cave. This book, however, is so beautiful in its prose, so moving in its story, I felt deeply affected by it in a way I never have by a book before. Not to say I've found my spiritual side or converted to Buddhism, but the teachings in this tale are enough to change your perspective on the whole world.

Siddhartha is the simple tale of a Brahmin's son, seeking his calling in life, through trial and error, to discover his purpose. He drifts on a river of lust, love, material desire and despair, through positives and existential lows, to enlightenment and nirvana. His journey is beautifully told by Hesse in a simple poetry, that sings from the page in a manner that is enthralling and mystical. Every word is meticulously placed and belies the depths of this novel.

“Wisdom cannot be imparted. Wisdom that a wise man attempts to impart always sounds like foolishness to someone else ... Knowledge can be communicated, but not wisdom. One can find it, live it, do wonders through it, but one cannot communicate and teach it.”

For me, Siddhartha as a book represents hope and love. The journey Siddhartha finds himself on is fraught with struggles that test his will and nearly defeat him. He contemplates death by a surging river, but hope and love drive him to continue on the path to enlightenment. We all face difficulties in our lives and this tale could do wonders for someone sat by the banks of their own metaphorical rivers. The wisdom found in this book has helped me through the depths of depression, loss and grief, and ultimately brought me love, friendship and strength.

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

Matt Smith, Chief Editor and Book Shop Manager Camberley

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