Oh, it was all hard to understand, and all sad, although it was so beautiful. Nobody really knew anything. People lived; they went here and there about the earth and rode through forests; so much seemed to challenge or to promise and so many sights to stir our longing : an evening star, a blue harebell, a lake half-covered in green reeds, the eyes of beasts and human eyes; and always it was as though something would happen, something never seen and yet sighed for, as though a veil would be pulled back off the world; till the feeling passed, and there had been nothing. The riddle was still unsolved, the hidden magic unrevealed, so that, in the end, people grew old and looked comic…
– Herman Hesse Narziss and Goldmund, pp. 71-72.
One of the greatest pleasures of reading is to find described an experience I previously thought private or indescribable. And here Hesse does it. What he describes is the feeling that objects of beauty or enchantment are about to open the door to something else, to some revelation.
I’m reading Hesse because my brother (who is so highly selective one might say) told me I had to, and thrust this coverless copy of Narziss and Goldmund in my hands. I’m so glad I’m persisting; Hesse is an insightful, precise writer, at once innocent and yet deeply wise.
It sounds related to “Sehnsucht”, the longing he mentions here…?
Check out http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sehnsucht
I wonder if he used that word in the original German.
And it also makes me think of the Emily Dickinson poem that begins, “A loss of something ever felt I”. Not exactly the same thing, but akin to it — the “delinquent palaces” she is searching for in that poem.
Not relevant to this post, but you might be interested in my review of Disch’s 334. I discovered that he may have wrote his own death at the end of this novel…
um, written his own death. 🙂
Nathan Hobby said:
I can’t remember the ending very well – look forward to reading your post.