Such a strange journey, such an elusive destination This is equally horrible and mystical, and it is a somewhat difficult task to try and make sense of the ending I found myself drawn to Leo immediately, while H.H I could easily identify with This made it both confusing and slightly depressing It seems that life is much magical and mystical in youth, and while I am still very young myself, I find that any excitement towards spirituality I once had, has been slowly replaced over the years with a jaded cynicism At times I attribute this to growing up, and accepting only what is logical But often I have strange epiphanies that paint truth as paradoxical In these moments I think that not much can ever be truthfully revealed about the mysteries in life, although many people claim to have answers for these mysteries And maybe the most frightening thing I think of in these moments, is that we might be grasping eternally at straws Or looking for answers to questions that need none Maybe the world is dictated by cold logicMaybe it is governed by heartless chaos.Maybe ordo ab chao Maybe none of these things.I m in no position to say.Anyways I guess this isn t much of a review This book just happened to get me thinking I hope it does the same for you. When I first read The Journey to the East in my youth, I was not ready for it Having just reread it, I must confess that I am still not ready for it But I am, at least, a little closer to being ready Hopefully one day I will be ready and then I will read it and smile a wise smile of understanding I suspect there will also be peace and contentment in my smile and that I will know who I am and why I am here But for now, I can only appreciate the wisdom that I half understand.Perhaps you, dear reader, think I really do understand That is what I thought when I read it the first time, for I understood the words that were printed on the page But that is only further proof that I was not ready for it Now, with the knowledge that I am still not ready, I am closer than I was when I thought I understood I feel a kinship with H.H His weaknesses are my weaknesses His desires my desires especially his desire to record his journey And his despair is my despair Unlike Demian and Siddhartha, this is not a young person s book The Journey to the East is about the failure of H.H not only the failure he recognizes, but also the failure he does not recognize And it is the failure he does not recognize which is the serious one Rereading this book now, at the same age Hesse was when he published it, I must acknowledge my own desertion of the journey, my own forgetfulness and unfaithfulness to the league I even sold my violin figuratively speaking And now I long to return Perhaps my poetic creations, humble though they may be, will one day be real than I am Perhaps they already are, and when the last drop of that which is me flows into them, I will be able to lie down and sleep. Hermann Hesse S Novels Are Great, Mythic Structures Dealing With The Ultimate Questions Of Life Hesse S Work Is A Continuing Dialogue With Himself The Journey To The East Is The Story Of A Youthful Pilgrimage That Seemingly Failed As The Book Opens, The Narrator Is Engaged In Writing The Chronicle Of This Remembered Adventure The Central Experience Of His Youth As He Becomes Immersed In Retelling The Chronicle, The Writer Realizes That Only He Has Failed, That The Youthful Pilgrimage Continues In A Shining And Mysterious Way Hermann Hesse writes as though his words are god s perspective, but I don t believe in god And, for the most part, I think god is boring Unlike Siddhartha, a book which everybody loves because they think they will look dumb if they don t, Journey to the East is a book that doesn t claim to have all the answers I feel this quote from within its text describes it best The clearest relationships were distorted, the most obvious were forgotten, the trivial and unimportant pushed into the foreground It must be written again, right from the beginning The Journey to the East is eluded to many times within John Zelazny s first novel, The Sorrows of Young Mike In Zelazny s work, the main character is also often searching for the unknowable while on a trip that will eventually lead him to the Orient. This probably shouldn t have been my introduction to Hermann Hesse s work, but what can you do I saw the modest little volume at the library and thought Gee, I should probably read Steppenwolf or Demian first, but why not whet my appetite with this One book by the Nobel Prize winner should give me a taste of his genius, right Um, not quite It s an opaque, confounding book about a man named H.H I m assuming it s partly autobiographical who looks back on his time in a mysterious group called the League Their purpose was to journey to the East which I assume is both a geographical and a spiritual destination involving enlightenment.Here s a quote about the group s journeywe not only wandered through Space, but also through Time We moved towards the East, but we also travelled into the Middle ages and the Golden Age we roamed through Italy or Switzerland, but at times we also spent the night in the tenth century and dwelt with the patriarchs or the fairies.Um, okay, H.H If you say so.H.H also tells us that members of this League included real people Plato, Mozart, Paul Klee and fictional ones Don Quixote, Tristram Shandy, characters from Hesse s books Perhaps the book should have been called The Journey To Self Aggrandizement.Anyhow, for some reason the group splintered after a simple, humble servant named Leo abruptly disappeared Years later, H.H meets a person who instantly makes him recall the League, and eventually, after some weird sort of trial, he learns a valuable lesson Which presumably he s passing on to us in this book.I suppose if you re heavily into Eastern religion, this book will have meaning for you Two of my grandparents were Buddhists, and I find it a very soothing, non judgemental religion Parts of this book reminded me of what Salinger s Franny experienced as a pilgrim.Beyond that, I can t say But then again, I ve never travelled to the Middle Ages, so what do I know Nada, obviously. Poet of the Interior Journey There was a time in my 20 s when I was obsessed with Hermann Hesse I was a Hesse Obsessor After all, he was regarded highly enough as an author to win the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1946.Something now lures me back to the novels I read then, Siddhartha and Steppenwolf However, I thought I would try this one as a wedgie or stopgap between ambitious projects.In truth, this is a novella than a novel.Even burdened by a 30 page introduction by Dr Timothy Leary he coined the term Poet of the Interior Journey for Hesse , it s less than 110 pages long.So, is it any good Yes, well, it s OK.The Home of LightThere is a suggestion in the title of the novel that, in order to gain spiritual awareness, you must head towards the East.However, this is not a purely geographical concept For the West, it doesn t necessarily mean Asia It is a metaphorWe not only wandered through Space, but also through Time We moved towards the East, but we also travelled into the Middle Ages and the Golden Age The East is where the Sun rises The East is the Home of Light, the Home of Enlightenment Even simply, it is HomeThroughout the centuries it had been on the way, towards light and wonder, and each member, each group, indeed our whole host and its great pilgrimage, was only a wave in the eternal stream of human beings, of the eternal strivings of the human spirit towards the East, towards Home Wisdom and spirituality are not just found in the East, they are found at Home.Lost PilgrimsOne other thing is implied we can embark on our spiritual journey individually or we can travel as a collective.Whichever way we choose, each of us can stray and end up a lost pilgrim The collective pilgrimage of Hesse s characters appears to fail and they feel disillusioned, worthless and spiritlessThere was nothing else left for me to do but to satisfy my last desire to let myself fall from the edge of the world into the void to death For them, the confrontation with the void ushers in a suicidal impulse.The Inevitability of DespairAll along, there is but one enemy, Despair.The protagonist HH s ambition to write a book about his adventures is based on his desire to escape from DespairIt was the only means of saving me from nothingness, chaos and suicide Despair is not just the experience of Depression for an Individual It is not just something that the mentally imbalanced suffer from All of us have to confront Despair every step of our spiritual journey In Hesse s eyes, it s a necessary part of the journeyDespair is the result of each earnest attempt to go through life with virtue, justice and understanding and to fulfill their requirements Children live on one side of despair, the awakened on the other side The Freedom to be HappyAlong HH s path, he imagines the source of his temporal HappinessMy happiness arose from the freedom to experience everything imaginable simultaneously to exchange outward and inward easily, to move Time and Space about like scenes in a theatre Note the fluidity, not just of Space, but of Time, hence the earlier allusion to the Middle Ages and the Golden Age.You can see the appeal to Timothy Leary, who speculated inaccurately in my opinion that Hesse wrote the novella while on drugs.Home is Where the Soul IsOnce again, Hesse s spiritual journey transcends geographyOur goal was not only the East, or rather the East was not only a country and something geographical, but it was the home and youth of the soul, it was everywhere and nowhere, it was the union of all times The Journey to the East is not just a journey to Asia, but an Interior Journey, a Journey that begins and ends at Home and with the Self.This is where we will find true Happiness.The Disappearing SelfIn any spiritual journey, as with any other, we have to be cautious of spoilers.However, within the theistic framework of the novel, each individual member of the group must merge with the God figureHe must grow, I must disappear The enemy of Spirituality is the persistence of the Self or Selfishness.Ultimately, it seems that Hesse s message is that we must transcend the Self, embrace a Universal Love and become one with that Love, if you like, a God.We don t need to go elsewhere to achieve this.The best place to seek the Self and Universal Love is at Home, the Home of the Soul. Why is Hesse s concept of enlightenment indistinguishable from mental illness First, in The Glass Bead Game, we get the depiction of a secular saint , and the signs of his enlightenment are that he has stopped all his creative work, often sits lost in thought, making no sign he understands anyone speaking to him, and when he does respond, it is with a brief non sequitur He otherwise wanders the gardens day and night with a bland smile frozen to his face Perhaps it s only me who looks at those symptoms and sees not enlightenment, but full fledged dementia.In this work, we get a picture of a secret organization of enlightened individuals who seem to be a collection of homeless vagrants that wander the countryside obsessed with certain mythical objects, and convinced that an ancient, powerful conspiracy is running the world Once again, my brain keeps telling me that Hesse must be writing satire, since there is nothing that separates this vision of enlightenment from mental disorder.The secret organization itself is the most interesting part of the narrative It is a fantasy of magic, time travel, and Illuminist philosophy reminiscent of Italo Calvino s magical realism This odd vision of a world and time spanning sect of spiritual sorcerers was the most enjoyable and promising aspect of the book, so it was disappointing to me that it served only as a backdrop for a fairly bland story.The narrative is also full of allusions to various historical and literary figures, events, mythologies, and philosophies, but I didn t feel that Hesse did enough to connect them together into something meaningful As usual, his spiritual philosophy was only as powerful as its vagueness I did like the notion of a narrative which created allusive meaning like a metaphysical poem combining references with a central argument to create depth but Hesse failed to resolve it into anything so insightful.The weakest aspect of his presentation was the single voiced, confessional style something like a journal Our narrator is constantly referencing interesting things that happened to him, but we don t actually get to experience them or understand them Once again, vagueness is mistaken for profundity.I would have been interested in seeing of this journey, and the odd experiences that made it up, instead of them being merely name dropped I m not saying Hesse should have made everything clear or provided some grand meaning I think an in depth description of these fantastical events would have helped deepen his conceptual world, and provide for the reader symbolic examples to help lead us along.It s like those Lovecraft stories where the hero says the vision was too horrible to describe, its terror was beyond the meagre power of words to encapsulate it but then Lovecraft usually goes on to explain it, anyways or at least he has an exciting, fast paced story to make up for it No such luck in Hesse.Once again we have a central, masterful figure who knows all but reveals little the notion of the great teacher who has the greatest of reputations, despite the fact that we never see him do anything to deserve it Hesse helpfully tells us that people like him and feel comfortable around him, but I wish he had just made the reader feel that way about him instead of trying to convince us of the inner life of a flat character If you cannot believably write the Master, then do not make him a character As depicted, he could have easily been a charlatan as a guru.Once again, I am reminded why I do not find bland spiritual wonderment enticing the world is full of joy and wonder and mystery in infinite variations, so it always feels petty and false to me to try to encapsulate that in a vague symbolic experience, asking no questions and revealing nothing I find it enlightening to read an author with a hundred powerful and contradictory insights rather than a single, unified, featureless vision like this. How does one begin a review of Hermann Hesse s work My first experience of his books was with The Glass Bead Game , the content of which fascinated me at the time and I found it easy to read However, this book has really got me thinking and much as I like it, I wonder if the author is playing with the reader This is a spiritual journey of a German choirmaster called H.H could this be the author himself who unsuccessfully attempts to write about the great journey he made when he joined the League, a religious organization However, he s handicapped because of his former vow to the League to never disclose anything about it at all.After a year s probation he was asked what he hoped to gain from this journey towards the East into a legendary realm His heart s desire was to see the Princess Fatima No problem and so he officially became a member of the League and was given a ring confirming his loyalty.I found the plot to be somewhat convoluted as H.H sets off with a group heading towards the East There are many groups and some get lost, never to surface again There are incidents where those lost members have been trying to get back into the League but are unsuccessful They can all travel through time as well as space, backwards and forwards and encounter real and imaginary individuals on the way, such as Almansor and Parsifal, Witiko or Goldmund, Sancho Oanza, Don Quixote, Hoffman and the ferryman Vasudeva Nevertheless, the writing style and descriptions are excellent.The catalyst to me in the book appears to be Leo, the servant to the group and yet Leo knew all kinds of things that he perhaps knew than us, who were ostensibly his masters The group then falls into disarray when, upon arrival at the Morbio Inferiore Gorge on the Italian border, Leo disappears.Time relentlessly passes and H.H decides that he must write about his own particular journey but he s finding it and difficult to remember events In particular he wondered about Leo Through a friend he finds out, We already have a Leo Andreas Leo, 69a, Seilergraben The upshot is that this is the proper Leo but he apparently doesn t remember H.H who becomes so frustrated by this that he writes Leo a long letter The consequence of this is that he s taken to the League and finds out that Leo is in fact the president.This is also a book about lost opportunities as H.H soon finds and as for the denouement, well, that was rather unexpected. This is an anomaly in Hesse s oeuvre a personal piece in which he risks alienating his wider audience, and yet in another sense his most universal work It s true, I say this having had few successes in recommending it, yet so far no one I ve given it to has disliked it, even if it has left them frustrated or puzzled or underwhelmed The crux of it is, it s the story of a failure An inevitable failure, I would say, but as Hesse himself says early in the piece, the seemingly impossible must continually be attempted What, then, is the seemingly impossible attempt made here It s twofold the telling of an untellable story, the making of an impossible journey That the narrator fails in the telling should not surprise us he warns us of this inevitability from the story s start That he has failed in his journey though he himself, at first, is unaware of it is also unsurprising, given that the journey s goal is spiritual enlightenment, the absolute, a realm denied to humans except in glimpses.So I feel keenly the irony of my reviewing this book as I sit in this far from perfect setting and write this Like H.H., the narrator of The Journey, I am depressed, self pitying, unable to grasp with the greatest effort what once came so naturally, and sitting in the courtyard of a small town cafe while children scream, dogs bark and a table full of bovine suburban cum country folk unfurl punchline after punchline at the next table, laughing uproariously Like H.H., I am also without music, having left my i Pod at home through some oversight, and back home are three children not my own, two of whom, I ll wager, are screaming, shouting and brawling as I write this, unless the television is on, in which case they re silent but may well emerge irritable than before, positive ions and escapism being, like all drugs, imperfect balm, after all And then there s this book this brief book in which I ve sought my own balm for twenty years or , having read it five, maybe six times since I first found it in a secondhand store in Adelaide in my late teens The book It s personal Hesse had tried something like this before, with Steppenwolf, when he submitted to his publishers a collection of ultra personal poems which he intended to accompany the novel, but these were deemed too indulgent, too angry, too obscure for a wider readership, and were held back to be published separately in a limited edition So with The Journey, I guess Hesse put his foot down, determined to speak from his heart with as little translation as possible And the result, to the casual reader, can admittedly be baffling But even to the teenage me, it wasn t alienating Just read over the references that make no sense The important part the universal part is the story of faith gained, lost and gained again And the failure is just a part of the cycle The two characters H.H and Leo are mirror images, two parts of a whole, at least symbolically, and Leo s apparent desertion later revealed to be anything but is the point at which faith becomes despair H.H., despairing, self absorbed Leo, faithful, selfless H.H., author, mortal Leo, character, immortal Read this way, the ending is uplifting, not a fade to grey And the story is a dream picture of sleep and awakening.Ugh I m aware that as a review this makes about as much sense as The Journey makes as a novel Novel I don t even know if it is a novel Novella, maybe And a novella in which you won t find a three dimensional character or than one or two niceties of plot writer and ex journeyer attempts and fails to write the story of a failed journey, but in the process reveals the truth about that failure Like all of Hesse s stories, it s a story of self discovery Like Steppenwolf whose narrator, Harry Haller, is another H.H , it s also a fairly naked and often despairing self portrait Yet it takes us one step beyond that despair and self absorption takes us to the brink of its demise, once and for all, in Hesse s fiction And in showing an awakening from the inside out it achieves something difficult and valuable and profound And besides, it s beautiful Unique Magical All things my teenage self understood perfectly, even as he struggled with the rest of it If what you value in fiction and in Hesse is instinctive striving after enlightenment, it s for you That hallucination at the end of Siddhartha that s what I love in Hesse, and it s in its most potent form here A classic. I have enjoyed the novels I have read by Hesse, but this wasn t really one that resonated with me The narrator H.H joins a quasi religious organisation called The League which has ancient roots and members from reality and fiction Plato, Don Quixote, Mozart, Tristram Shandy, Baudelaire, Puss in Boots I kid you not There is a pilgrimage to the East, which falls apart when a servant called Leo seems to disappear Of Course, Leo is much than a servant as the rest of the novella reveals, with reflections on the master servant role After some years of despair and doubt about The League H.H finds his way back via Leo, of course and reaches a level of enlightenment and self awareness.For me, it s all a little self absorbed It isn t helped by Timothy Leary s rather lengthy and overblown introduction H.H is, for me, too one dimensional and taken up with concepts, inner journeys and completely unrelated to other members of the human race The philosophy of life, personally, is too unrelated to interpersonal relationships and too obsessed with the inner journey and self actualisation However having had to read about Servant Leadership management theories and having on a daily basis to manage a team of people, it was interesting to look at the character of Leo and his changing yet being the same role It s very brief and probably a good starting point for religious and philosophical arguments I enjoyed Steppenwolf much.