When I returned from Vietnam I spent many hours sitting alone at night trying to put my thoughts on paper. Surprisingly, for an ex-literature major, I spent very little time reading. In fact, it was nearly a year later that I began to read again, and that was because I went back to college to get my teaching credentials after working as a caseworker for six months.
I really didn’t need any more literature credits but decided to take a class in “modern” European literature. It was here I first discovered Herman Hesse through his classic Steppenwolf. Needless to say, it had an immediate impact on me because it conveyed the sense of alienation I felt after Vietnam.
It was several years later that I finally had the time to read any of Hesse’s other writings. Upon hearing that Siddhartha was his most famous book, I naturally decided to read it.
I didn’t quite know what to make of the novel, though initially impressed by it, impressed enough to keep the book around to re-read, at least. It might well have been the first time I was exposed to Eastern religions, certainly long before I read Forester’s Passage to India.
Perhaps I’m drawn to re-read the book because of my growing interest and knowledge of Buddhism, and in particular my recent reading of The Dhammapada.
Some 30 years later, I’m just now getting around to re-reading it. I still have a few other “favorites” that I’m going to try to re-read in the near future so that I can clear more shelf space. In addition, of course, I also have some novels I bought in college that I haven’t read yet and want to read before I get rid of them, too.
Man cannot live by poetry alone.