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Book: Narcissus and Goldmund - A Novel by Hermann Hesse

Book Review: Narcissus and Goldmund - A Novel by Hermann Hesse

categories: Book, German Literature, Nobel Prize Winner, Hermann Hesse

Author: Hermann Hesse
Publisher: Picador
Brand: Picador USA

 Narcissus and Goldmund

Narcissus is a monk devoted to a life of prayer and scholarship. Goldmund enters his monastery as a youth, at the bidding of his father. He and Narcissus become firm friends, but as Goldmund matures he decides to leave the monastery and to embark on years of wandering from place to place, without a permanent roof, exploring to the full what life outside the monastery has to offer. He seduces many women and leads a libertine life until, one day, he comes across a beautifully carved wooden statue in a wayside chapel. He seeks out the sculptor and becomes his apprentice, eventually producing remarkable works of art himself, but the general tenor of his life does not alter. He is caught red-handed seducing a count's daughter and condemned to death. A monk visits him in his prison cell on the eve of his execution. It turns out to be Narcissus, whom he has not met in many years! The monk successfully pleads for Goldmund's life and they return together to the monastery, where Goldmund sculpts some fine adornments to the chapel and the refectory. He seems to have re-adjusted to the a more sober life, but after a few years he quits the monastery again, much to the chagrin of his friend Narcissus, and embarks on a fresh round of wanderings. Narcissus begins to have doubts about his own calling, thinking that his friend's dedication to the life of the senses and to art may be superior to a life of study and discipline. But he remains in the cloister, rising to the position of abbot. The story ends with Goldmund returning to the monastery, where he dies in Narcissus's arms. This novel is set in medieval Europe around the time of the Black Death, whose widespread effects are vividly evoked, as is medieval life in general. [by J. D. Mallinson]

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