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Hermann Hesse


A Night in the Life of Jimmy Reardon


Prince Siddhartha Gotama

Rio's Attic: Celebrating the Life and Times of a Dearly Missed River Phoenix
American EnglishEn Français


by Hermann Hesse.
First published in 1922.

ISBN 1-56731-007-9 (Hardback, 122 Pages)

Hermann Hesse was born in 1877 in Germany. He became a Swiss citizen in 1921 and worked there as a professional writer until his death in 1962. Hesse won the Nobel Prize in 1946.

Inspired by the author's high regard for Indian philosophy, Siddhartha took nearly three years to write and has since become the author's most famous piece of work. This short novel documents the life of Prince Siddhartha Gotama.

The word Siddhartha has two meanings - "he who is on the right road" and "he who has achieved his goal". Unable to find inner peace, Siddhartha leaves his father and the predetermined career path that is expected of him to search for his own salvation.

Although short, this novel documents Siddhartha's life-long search for enlightenment that will calm his restless soul.

Siddhartha realizes that teachers give out only second-hand knowledge. Even the sacred writings do not satisfy him because they do not show him the way, the way to discover the ultimate answer to the enigma of humanity's role on Earth. He finds that the search for self-knowledge is in fact, a path that must be traveled by one's self.

Happily he looked into the flowing river. Never had a river attracted him as much as this one. Never had he found the voice and appearance of the flowing water so beautiful. It seemed to him as if the river had something special to tell him, something which he did not know, something which still awaited him.

How he loved this river, how it enchanted him, how grateful he was to it! In his heart he heard the newly awakened voice speak, and it said to him: "Love this river, stay by it, learn from it." Yes, he wanted to learn from it, he wanted to listen to it. It seemed to him that whoever understood this river and its secrets, would understand much more, many secrets, all secrets.

To achieve full enlightenment, Siddhartha gives up all his possessions. He decides that if he can let the Self die, then something deeper than the Self will surface - the state of Being. This book, and Siddhartha's philosophy of course proved very popular with young members of the American hippie movement in the late 1960's. In one such commune in Oregon where they had been reading the book aloud together in group sessions, two soon-to-be parents would read of the effects that the River of Life was having upon Siddhartha and all that this river was teaching him. They would choose to name their firstborn after this influence.

River himself would turn to the book just as his parents had nearly twenty years earlier. Between takes, on the set of A Night in the Life of Jimmy Reardon, he not only read the book but read it upside-down - just to see if it could be done.

ISBN 0-8112-0292-5 (Hardback, 122 Pages)

ISBN 0-330-23481-1 (Paperback, 119 Pages)

As the day began, Siddhartha asked his host, the ferryman, to take him across the river. The ferryman took him across on his bamboo raft. The broad sheet of water glimmered pink in the light of the morning.

"It is a beautiful river," he said to his companion.

"Yes", said the ferryman, "it is a very beautiful river. I love it above everything. I have often listened to it, gazed at it, and I have always learned something from it. One can learn much from a river."

"Thank you, good man," said Siddhartha, as he landed on the other side. "I am afraid I have no gift to give you, nor any payment. I am homeless, a Brahman's son and a Samana."

"I could see that," said the ferryman, "and I did not expect any payment or gift from you. You will give it to me some other time."

"Do you think so?" asked Siddhartha merrily.

"Certainly. I have learned that from the river too; everything comes back. You, too, Samana, will come back. Now farewell, may your friendship be my payment!"

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