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Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780060931919
Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers
Publication date: 09/08/2009
Series: Perennial Classics
Pages: 176
Sales rank: 38,741
Product dimensions: 5.31(w) x 8.00(h) x 0.40(d)
Lexile: 1010L (what's this?)

About the Author

Hermann Hesse was born in 1877. His books include Siddhartha, Steppenwolf, Narcissus and Goldmund, and Magister Ludi. He died in 1962.

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.

Table of Contents


2. CAIN,

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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Demian 4.3 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 61 reviews.
carlosmock More than 1 year ago
Hermann Hesse is without a doubt one of the most intriguing writers I have ever read.

This story considers the evolving, somewhat troubled psyche of a German youth, Sinclair, as he matures during the decade prior to WWI.

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.

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.

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.

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.¿
Guest More than 1 year ago
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.
soylentgreen23 on LibraryThing 7 months ago
What should have taken me only hours to read ended up taking me nearly three days; Demian can be an exhausting read, especially if you're not used to heavy philosophical diatribes passed-off as dialogue. I'm sure that Demian is a lot better than I've suggested here, but it depends on the person reading, and I really struggled. It isn't the first Hesse novel I've read, but I'm frankly put off now, and it'll take a lot to get me back in. I'll stick with what I can more readily understand.
Elbereth82 on LibraryThing 8 months ago
a favourite and classic book!
poetontheone on LibraryThing 8 months ago
An enlightening examination of duality and individual transformation that everyone should read. Those who do not wholly identify with Sinclair will still be absorbed by the great story and beautiful language. Those who do identify with Sinclair however, will be amazed that someone was able to articulate in writing this scarce man whose path is rarely comprehended. None better than Hesse to do it, surely. An amazing novel by an amazing novelist. One of my favorites.
autumnc on LibraryThing 8 months ago
My younger sister bought this book for me, informing me that it was pivotal to her own life story, that she reads it twice a year. So honestly my reading is very much entrenched in understanding her psyche, and with what relevance comes this novel?I have a reverence for Hesse, I find his existential "crises" to be refreshing, and Siddhartha is a story that I enjoy and often suggest to others. Demian, however, is quite entrenched in religious imagery and I wonder if many who read it understand that this is Christian imagery.For instance, the band around the arm of Demian, friend of Emil Sinclair, to symbolize the death of his "father"- is this the Father ie God/Jesus? This again played out in the changing relationship between Sinclair and his own father, and that he feels he cannot "return to his father's house." Intriguing.The inner struggle that Sinclair finds himself in is also incredibly overcome by his connection to his "inner self," rather than to others- a great difference between the enlightenment of those religious greats that Hesse later reflected upon, such as Siddhartha, who found enlightenment through love and compassion to others, a more complete connection to the divinity in humanity and the connection of all people.Is this the great change that Hesse is pointing to through Demian and Sinclair? That of a truer humanity rather than of "forced gaiety"?"Most people love to lose themselves. He had loved and had found himself."
TakeItOrLeaveIt on LibraryThing 8 months ago
a darker yet more approachable child shouting out to the education system, being too smart for his own good, growing up, and dying. hesse at his in-between.
llasram on LibraryThing 8 months ago
Long my favorite novel. I'm just a sucker for an existentialist Bildungsroman.
gbill on LibraryThing 8 months ago
Hesse is a great writer and thinker; I have always liked his work but I think he misses the mark a bit with Demian. What I liked:- The expression of the importance and difficulty of the path to discovering oneself ("if Nature has made you a bat you shouldn't try to be an ostrich.")- As in some of his other books, Hesse's ability to capture the angst of growing up- Demian's inverted view of the story of Cain and Abel as well as his critical commentary about the story of Christ's death and religion in general- The book is conciseWhat I didn't like:- The story itself is weak; after a couple of very interesting initial chapters it devolves into philosophy- The characters and their actions are often unrealistic (characters feeling their way to find others, or feeling it when another is thinking of them); the book seems overly influenced by Hesse's study of Jung.- Symbolism seems a bit forced; the painting, Eva/Eve, Demian/Daemon, etcFavorite quotes: "Many people experience the dying and rebirth - which is our fate - only this once during their entire life. Their childhood becomes hollow and gradually collapses, everything they love abandons them and they suddenly feel surrounded by the loneliness and mortal cold of the universe. Very many are caught forever in this impasse, and for the rest of their lives cling painfullly to an irrevocable past, the dream of the lost paradise - which is the worst and most ruthless of dreams.""But the world consists of something else besides. And what is left over is ascribed to the devil, this entire slice of world, this entire half is suppressed and hushed up. In exactly the same way they praise God as the father of all life but simply refuse to say a word about our sexual life on which it's all based, describing it whenever possible as sinful, the work of the devil. I have no objection to worshipping this God Jehovah, far from it. But I mean we ought to consider everything sacred, the entire world, not merely this artificially separated half! Thus alongside the divine service we should also have a service for the devil.""But we consist of everything the world consists of, each of us, and just as our body contains the genealogical table as far back as the fish and even much further, so we bear everything in our soul that once was alive in the soul of men. Every god and devil that ever existed, be it among the Greeks, Chinese, or Zulus, are within us, exist as latent possibilities, as wishes, as alternatives. If the human race were to vanish from the face of the earth save for one halfway talented child that had received no education, this child would rediscover the entire course of evolution, it would be capable of producing everything once more, gods and demons, paradises, commandments, the Old and New Testament.""If you hate a person, you hate something in him that is part of yourself. What isn't part of ourselves doesn't disturb us."
carioca on LibraryThing 8 months ago
I first read Demian (my first Hermann Hesse) when I was 14. It was eye-opening and I fell in love with Bildungsroman in general, probably because at that time I was a teenager myself. The struggles Emil Sinclair goes through are not unlike those of many other young people, and the issue of belonging and peer pressure is explored in a realistic and yet lyrical manner by Hesse. On a borader and more universal level, the book also is an exercise in personal judgment, beliefs and reasoning right as Europe was emerging from the ashes of the Great War. Beautiful book, it should be required reading in high schools across the United States.
carrot_bosco on LibraryThing 10 months ago
This is an excellent book that chronicles a young man's discovery of a personal philosophy. The duality of nature as well as many of the tenants of individualism are fictionalized in an engaging manner. Personally I found the book to be an easy read, but there were certain passages that I read over and over out of sheer joy.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This book is definitely different from the kinds of novels I usually read. However I found it to be thought provoking and interesting. To me it was about the inner struggle we all have within ourselves between what we perceive to be good and evil. It makes us not question our beliefs as question our need for those beliefs.
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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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