Demian [NOOK Book]


A brilliant journey of the psyche written by one of Germany’s most influential writers and thinkers, Herman Hesse

First published in 1919 under the pseudonyn Emil Sinclair, Demian follows the life of a troubled German youth as he navigates the duality of a world filled with illusions and spiritual truth. When Sinclair first meets childhood classmate Max Demian, his eyes are opened to the contradictions of his existing Christian knowledge. As Sinclair continues to question his ...

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A brilliant journey of the psyche written by one of Germany’s most influential writers and thinkers, Herman Hesse

First published in 1919 under the pseudonyn Emil Sinclair, Demian follows the life of a troubled German youth as he navigates the duality of a world filled with illusions and spiritual truth. When Sinclair first meets childhood classmate Max Demian, his eyes are opened to the contradictions of his existing Christian knowledge. As Sinclair continues to question his worldview, the two friends are separated and reunited throughout their lives, with each encounter being a vantage for Sinclair to reconcile a world at discord. He ascends on his path to freedom and a realization of self as the friendship evolves in surprising and explosive ways.

Demian is a classic coming-of-age story that continues to inspire generations of readers in its exploration of good and evil, morality, and self-discovery.

One of the great writers of the 20th century tells the dramatic story of a young man's awakening to selfhood.

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Editorial Reviews

Saturday Review
An Existentialist intensity and a depth of understanding rare in contemporary fiction.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781466835535
  • Publisher: Holt, Henry & Company, Inc.
  • Publication date: 1/22/2013
  • Sold by: Macmillan
  • Format: eBook
  • Pages: 143
  • Sales rank: 1,205,886
  • File size: 253 KB

Meet the Author

Hermann Hesse was born in Germany in 1877 and later became a citizen of Switzerland. As a Western man profoundly affected by the mysticism of Eastern thought, he wrote novels, stories, and essays bearing a vital spiritual force that has captured the imagination and loyalty of many generations of readers. His works include Steppenwolf, Narcissus and Goldmund, and The Glass Bead Game. He was awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1946. Hermann Hesse died in 1962.

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Read an Excerpt

I cannot tell my story without reaching a long way back. If it were possible I would reach back farther still-into the very first years of my childhood, and beyond them into distant ancestral past.Novelists when they write novels tend to take an almost godlike attitude toward their subject, pretending to a total comprehension of the story, a man's life, which they can therefore recount as GodHimself might, nothing standing between them and the naked truth, the entire story meaningful in every detail. I am as little able to do this as the novelist is, even though my story is more important to me than any novelist's is to biro for this is my story; it is the story of a man, not of an invented, or possible, or idealized, or otherwise absent figure, but of a unique being of flesh and blood. Yet, what a real living human being is made of seems to be less understood today than at any time before, and men—each one of whom represents a unique and valuable experiment on the part of nature—are therefore shot wholesale nowadays. If ire were not something more than unique human beings, if each one of us could really be done away with once and for all by a single bullet, storytelling would lose all purpose. But every man is more than just himself he also represents the unique, the very special and always significant and remarkable point at which the world's phenomena intersect, only once in this way and never again. That is why every man's story is important, eternal, sacred; that is why every man, as long as he lives and fulfills the will of nature, is wondrous, and worthy of every consideration. In each individual the spirit has become flesh, in each man the creation suffers, withineach one a redeemer is nailed to the cross.

Few people nowadays know what man is. Many sense this ignorance and die the more easily because of it, the same way that I will die more easily once I have completed this story.

I do not consider myself less ignorant than most people. I have been and still am a seeker, but I have ceased to question stars and books; I have begun to listen to the teachings my blood whispers to me. My story is not a pleasant one; it is neither sweet nor harmonious, as invented stories are; it has the taste of nonsense and chaos, of madness and dreams—like the lives of all men who stop deceiving themselves.

Each man's life represents a road toward himself, an attempt at such a road, the intimation of a path. No man has ever been entirely and completely himself. Yet each one strives to become that-one in an awkward, the other in a more intelligent way, each as best he can. Each man carries the vestiges of his birth—the slime and eggshells of his primeval past—with him to the end of his days. Some never become human, remaining frog, lizard, ant. Some are human above the waist, fish below. Each represents a gamble on the part of nature in creation of the human. We all share the same origin, our mothers; all of us come in at the same door. But each of us—experiments of the depths—strives toward his own destiny. We can understand one another; but each of us is able to interpret himself to himself alone.

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Reading Group Guide

Plot Summary
In the great tradition of the German Bildungsroman, Hermann Hesse's dramatic, existential story of Emil Sinclair's awakening to selfhood follows the protagonist-narrator from age ten through his university years, chronicling his development from childhood to maturity, from innocence to experience, from dependence to independence, from traditional middle-class comforts to an awareness of self and the infinite potential of the individual soul. Among his mentors is Max Demian--whom Sinclair first meets when he is ten--a young man who has the longest and most profound impact on Sinclair's life. Older than Sinclair, self-assured and possessed of knowledge and a personal magnetism beyond his years, Demian guides his younger friend toward a recognition of the constraints of convention and unquestioned tradition and opens his eyes to the power of the individual to shape his own life. Their relationship, which is interrupted over the years, culminates in Sinclair's acceptance as a university student into the inner circle of intellectuals and artists presided over by Demian and his sublimely attractive mother, Frau Eva. "Her gaze was fulfillment, her greeting a homecoming," Sinclair says of this remarkable woman.

Writing in the existential tradition of Nietzsche and Dostoevsky and drawing on the teachings of Carl Jung, and upon his own experiences as a child and adolescent, Hesse presents a compelling portrait of an individual who finds within himself the means to resolve anxiety and inner conflicts and to perceive in the turmoil of his world the promise of a new, enlightened order. Hesse's classic novel has transfixed generations of readers with its dynamicvision of individual and social transformation.

Discussion Topics
1. For the epigraph to his novel, Hesse quoted his protagonist: "I wanted only to try to live in accord with the promptings which came from my true self. Why was that so very difficult?" What promptings come from Sinclair's "true self"? Why is it "so very difficult" for him to live in accord with those promptings?

2. What characterizes the two realms that Sinclair identifies at the novel's beginning--the realm of light and the forbidden realm? How do the two realms interact throughout the novel, in terms of Sinclair's experience of them and in terms of what we learn about them? How does Sinclair's relationship to each change?

3. What is Max Demian's relationship with each of the two realms? In what ways does he embody elements of both?

4. Sinclair insists that "my interest centers on the steps that I took to reach myself." What are those "steps"? What specific incidents and stages mark Sinclair's movement from innocent childhood to self-aware adulthood?

5. What is the importance of the biblical story of Cain and the mark of Cain? How would you describe the repeatedly cited "sign" that is so important to Demian and his mother? What endows Sinclair with that sign?

6. What function do Sinclair's dreams serve? How does each relate to the stage of personal development during which it occurs?

7. What is "the dream of the lost paradise" to which Sinclair refers in Chapter 3 ("Among Thieves")? Why does he call it "the worst and most ruthless of dreams"?

8. What are the most important lessons that Sinclair learns from Demian? How do they affect his character and his life? Are all of the lessons learned beneficial? How relevant are they to living in today's world?

9. What is Pistorius's role in Sinclair's progress? What are the similarities and differences between his influence on Sinclair and Demian's influence? Why does Pistorius's influence come to an end while Demian's continues?

10. What is the importance of Sinclair's three paintings of the heraldic bird, "Beatrice," and Frau Eva? What purposes and consequences are associated with each? What is the significance of the fact that they seem to contain opposites (male and female, for example)?

11. What are the implications of Pistorius's statement to Sinclair that "You aren't allowed to be afraid of anything, you can't consider prohibited anything that the soul desires"? How does this reinforce advice received from Demian? Is such a guide for individual behavior workable in everyday life?

12. After his break with Pistorius, Sinclair experiences the "sharp realization" that "each man has his 'function' but none which he can choose himself, define, or perform as he pleases. . . . Each man had only one genuine vocation--to find the way to himself. . . . His task was to discover his own destiny . . . and live it out wholly and resolutely within himself." To what extent is the novel a dramatization of this realization?

13. What are the rewards and costs of discovering one's "own destiny" and living that destiny?

14. What is Frau Eva's role in the novel? Why do Sinclair and we meet her only near the end of the novel, even though she is mentioned much earlier? How would you explain Sinclair's attraction to her?

15.The novel ends with Sinclair looking into "the dark mirror" and beholding his image as "completely resembling" Demian--"my brother, my master." Does this indicate Sinclair's success in achieving a realization of his own self or his ultimate submersion in a more powerful personality?

Written by Hal Hager, Hal Hager & Associates, Somerville, NJ.

About the Author
"Hesse is not a traditional teller of tales but a novelist of ideas and a moralist of a high order... . The autobiographical undercurrent gives Demian an Existentialist intensity and a depth of understanding that are rare in contemporary fiction."
--Saturday Review
Hermann Hesse was born in 1877 in Calw, on the edge of the Black Forest. In 1919 he moved to Switzerland, where he lived until his death in 1962. He is the author of many highly successful novels, including Siddhartha, Steppenwolf, Narcissus and Goldmund, Journey to the East, and Magister Ludi, for which he won the Nobel Prize in 1946.
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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 4.5
( 52 )
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See All Sort by: Showing 1 – 20 of 52 Customer Reviews
  • Posted February 8, 2009

    more from this reviewer

    Hermann Hesse is without a doubt one of the most intriguing writers I have ever read.

    Hermann Hesse is without a doubt one of the most intriguing writers I have ever read.<BR/><BR/>This story considers the evolving, somewhat troubled psyche of a German youth, Sinclair, as he matures during the decade prior to WWI.<BR/><BR/>As a prepubescent boy, Sinclair recognizes the realm of good and light, symbolized by his God fearing parents and innocent younger sisters, as separate from the realm of evil and dark, symbolized by Franz Kromer, an older, opportunist who extorts Sinclair into fibbing and petty thievery. Another older boy, Demian, rescues Sinclair from Kromer's clutches, and then sows a new perception of the light and dark realms with an inverted interpretation of the parable of Cain and Abel. Demian perceives the mark on Cain's forehead not as a curse, but as a badge of courage, character and power.<BR/><BR/>Tainted by his experience with Kromer, Sinclair cannot entirely reject Demian's heroic characterization of Cain, and Demian nurtures this upset of clarity, muddling Sinclair's once clear distinction between the realms of good and evil. Demian then plants the alternative perception that the individual must delve into the self to discover his peculiar fate and destiny, a unique purpose apart from the mundane consensus, the mores of the hoard. Hesse then projects Sinclair's turmoil into a characterization of, or perhaps a reflection of, the mass psyche of prewar Europe.<BR/><BR/>I first read "Demian" forty two years ago, during my high scgool years. At the time I was struggling with my sexuality and was attracted to the homosexual undertones between Demian and Sinclair.<BR/><BR/>For some reason I saved "Demian," I forgot, long ago, why I saved "Demian," why I did not shuck it off along with my other old skins. Now that I am an outed homosexual, I believe that Sinclair, the main character, is not entering the normal world on any level. In fact he is leaving it. The first time he meets Demian, both know there is something different about him. As their friendship/relationship grows, it become smore and more clear that they should not be part of the normal world, where people to choose to be part of a group, to share a religion, to accept the truth as it is told to them. Demian shows sinclair a new world, where people of a higher intelligence, and by that I am referring to more than simply an academic intelligence, will find each other.¿

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted June 9, 2005

    Literature that reveals our inner self

    Demian enables the reader to see inside of himself. If you read only one book this year, please, let it be this masterpiece by Hesse. It will penetrate in ways that will astound you. For anyone who has felt the lonliness of being this is a must read.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted September 5, 2012


    Transcending the learned religion of childhood, Hermann Hesse captures the angst of a young man examining his faith. At times, I felt as if I was reading my own biography.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted April 25, 2007

    Demian, interesting.

    Demian, its very thoughtful. Uou start out reading it thinking, ohh god, this whole book will be continuously repeating itself, that it will teach you absolutely nothing. However, I had to read a book for my english review, and I am only a junior in high school, but I enjoyed this piece very much. I am planning on reading this again in a few years, when I am a bit more mature. I found this book a bit hard to keep up with, but, thoughtful. It makes you think.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted February 27, 2005


    I am 14 years old and I read Demian for the first time in 5th grade. Since then it has been my favorite book. It teaches you about being yourself and finding your inner self. It is beautifully written and is a great read.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted June 9, 2004

    The Mark of Cain Shines Bright.

    This book came to me at a time when I really needed it. It features a young boy named Emil Sinclair who is drowning in life. His encounters with Max Demian are touching and beautiful, and the ideas that are brought about are heartwarming. This book is a perfect blend of the light and dark sides of life, something thats very rare in literature. The principles and moral of this story are something that everyone should strive for, but few achieve. This book did not let me down, where other books of its genre, Catcher in the Rye comes to mind, did. The ending is something out of a dream, yet so simple and practical. I recomend this book to anyone and everyone, it really is a timless adventure. Love it or hate it, Herman Hesse paints a vivid picture of the definition of a 'self', and it is magnificient.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 15, 2004

    The Best Novel from the Best Novelist of the 20th Century

    Demain is probably the best novel i have ever read. Herman Hesse is someone Art Bell should interview, if only Hesse were still alive. Read all his novels. They will change your life for the better.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted December 8, 2003


    Truly a great book. Hesse really nails teenage anghst. I particularly enjoyed the book because i really connected with the main character. This book really makes you think.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 17, 2003

    Changed my life

    This great book and Hesse's Siddhartha were part of a great process ( along with the Beatles, science fiction and other influences) that helped lead me to trying meditation and studying Buddhism and other enlightening teachings that have helped make my life so much more fufilling. I read it as a teenager and it really stirred up my life and raised many questions that I felt a burning need to answer. Nam Myoho Renge Kyo.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted July 18, 2002


    This is such an amazing book. When I picked it up I had never heard of it before, but Hermann Hesse is one of my favorite authors. I am so glad that I bought it because it really amazed me. All of the things about the conscious, unconscious, and dreams really amazed me. I actually cried at the end because it was so awesome when Max gave Emil a..... well if you have read this you know what I am talking about, it is so beautiful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted June 26, 2002

    A good read...

    I really loved the book.... until I reached the end, which I found extremely disappointing from Hesse. Overall sensational and I would recommend reading, thought provoking ideas on fate, religion, and right of passage. Don¿t count on the end of the novel to properly tie things together and give you closure, I wished I had stopped a chapter earlier and could tell you this was one of my favorite novels.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted February 20, 2002

    For the soul-searcher

    'Demian' is not a page-turner; its purpose is not to entertain you. If this book is to be truly appreciated, readers must take the time to consider how another human being's thoughts apply to his own. Emil Sinclair's personal experience is his alone, and yet is connected to the process of awakening that each human must endure in order to become himself; that is, to break free of the self that is composed of society's influences. I chose three stars for my ranking of this book because I both adored and despised it as I stumbled through the words and tried to build an understanding based on the ideas Hesse presented. I recommend this book only to the serious soul-searcher, for most others, including myself, will never discover its true depth.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 3, 2002

    an amazing read

    i found that through every stage of this novel, i could relate it somehow to my own life. the self discovery as well as the philosophy is very thought provoking and enjoyable. a great blend of ideas and plot which in the end forms a book of true quality.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted November 14, 2001

    beautiful ****1/2

    I loved this novel! It is written so beautifully. The tone Hesse took and the mood he created was exceptional! It;s one of the most moving books ever. The mood is a combination between majestic, enchanted, and grim. A very big contrast, and that was used for a reason. Hesse was trying to get across the difference of experiences in our lives. He is also trying to say that all good things come to an end. Just when things are starting to get wonderful for Sinclair, the main charector, a big problem occurs. The ending is just amazing. Incredily moving! This is a thought-provoking novel. It is not very long, but it took me a long time to read because I had to stop and think so much. Reading one chapter is like reading an entire novel! Email me to talk about this book, or any other.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted May 7, 2001

    You have to buy this book!

    This has to be one of the best and most intriguing novels i have ever read. I highly recomend that you read this novel. but don't take my word for it. 'Hesse's novels from demian on represent the search for timeless values' Theodore Ziolkowski, in his The Novels of Hermann Hesse(copyright 1965 by Princeton University Press; Princeton Paperback 1967; reprinted by permission of Princeton University Press), Princeton University Press), Princeton University Press, 1965. 'Hesse is an origonal inventor of unique fictional divices,' Ralph Freedman, 'Hermann Hesse,' in Contemporary Literature, Vol. 10, No. 3, 1969 (copyright 1969 by the Regents of the University of Wisconsin) 'Of Hesse's permanent place in twentieth-century literature there can be little doubt. ... All his major works of fiction from Demian to Das Glasperlen will remain literary landmarks.' George Wallis Field, in his Hermann Hesse, Twayne, 1970. I have already read the book but i am buying just so i can read it whenever i want. This book has so many ideas about fate and god that had never even entered into my mind. They might not be right but they are diffinatly interesting. BUY THIS BOOK!

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  • Anonymous

    Posted April 15, 2001

    read this at UCDAvis for the first time years ago in a Hesse class. I was a Econ. major. Hesse was way more fun. One of the very best novels ever written. Along with Steppenwolf, this is a book one enjoys over and over again.

    I think i would have to say that if you're creative, when reading this book, all your ideas, your feelings of wanting to paint, write, explore a small town, design a house, build a Cobra kit car, etc., they all become augmented when reading Demian. An author, or friend, who inspires one in this way is one you must read, and if you've a friend like that, you're very very lucky.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted April 9, 2001

    head-scratcher, not much else

    Demian is a wild and wooly psychological epic, and I am not sure what it is trying to say. In reading it, the experience I had was aesthetically profound, I must give it that. However, art can be constructed, while still retaining its status as art, in a form that negatively impacts the emotions of the reader. This book does just that, but in my opinion, not in any constructive way. We can be horrified, and sometimes should be, but we should gain something from the experience. I won't go through the plot points, except to say that Emil Sinclair is a very disturbed youth. The ways in which he finds meaning in his life are fantastic, eerie, and borderline sadistic. At the end of the book, my conscience was so troubled by this story that I could find solace in one thought only: 'Thank God this is a fantasy.' Were the events in Sinclair's life plausible, I would be irreparably changed for the worse by the horror of this masterfully crafted, repulsive piece of art.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 29, 2001

    Great Book

    At first I had to read this book for English Class and i thought it was going to be really boring. I was wrong. It ended up being one of the best books I've ever read! It deals with views on life and Religion. However, I would only recommend this book for advanced readers :-)

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  • Anonymous

    Posted May 5, 2001

    You don't have to agree with Hesse to be intrigued by him.

    This book is one of the most well written books I have ever read. It has some very intelligent and original thoughts. It¿s not a matter of agreeing with Hesse¿s thoughts, but considering them. The book is about Emil Sinclair who looks for his own path and struggles greatly along the way. His path is different from others of the world for a very specific reason, but if I tell you that I might ruin the book. In his search he looks for his own god. He firmly believes in fate. This book has some very different ideas about fate and god, which are conveyed through Sinclair¿s life. I do not agree with most of these thoughts particularly, but the originality and the strong way in which they are conveyed is what makes this book so great.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted September 19, 2000

    About Demian

    This novel emphasizes on the nature of lonely men. It's a great one for those who feel alone in this world.

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