Saturday, November 11, 2017

“Demian,” by Hermann Hesse

FM's ratings:

  1. Premise 5
  2. Prose 7
  3. Plot 5
  4. Characters 7
  5. Overall 6

Comments (optional - but try to keep it under 3000 words!)

This is a twist, though not a very novel one, on the "coming-of-age" type of story that seemed to be popular years ago. The "premise" - if you can really call it that - is essentially the main character's struggle with growing up. Yawn. The success of such a story must depend on how unique the approach is and how compelling the prose is. The approach here seems to be the importance of a certain individual - in this case, Demian - to the protagonist's search for meaning. The deeper we get into the story, the more metaphysical and even metaphorical the special individual and his influence become. But one gradually gets the feeling that the author is rather disingenuously using the story to influence the reader's beliefs; in this case, to encourage us to accept the tenets of the author's supernatural beliefs. One of Hesse's more important novels is "Siddhartha," his re-telling of the story of Buddha. Personally, I find these ideas interesting and even meaningful to a degree. And if the prose of this book had been up to the task - rather than tedious; sometimes grindingly so - I might personally have been more impressed with the effort. Even F. Scott Fitzgerald's "coming-of-age" work, "This Side of Paradise," tedious as it is, was more engaging in its prose than this. Stories of this nature may find a more accepting audience among those who are going through their own teen- or early-adult-self-searching struggles. But those of us who have moved on and would just as soon not relive it yet again, or who have worked for many years with people of that age and watched the "drama" unfold ad nauseum, must, perhaps, be so jaded by it as to want nothing to do with such navel-gazing ever again!