Narcissus and Goldmund by Hermann Hesse

Always an interesting question, is a book a LGBT+ book if it “only” has LGBT+ characters, but isn’t about being LGBT+?Fischer_Verlag_Berlin_Erstausgabe_1930

“I hope death will be a great happiness, a happiness as great as that of love, fulfilled love”

Narcissus is a monk novice-ish (he’s not new, but isn’t a full fledge monk yet), who keeps getting into trouble because he “forgets” he’s not a monk yet. He meets Goldmund, a monk novice practicing becoming a monk because his father doesn’t want to pay for him anymore (it makes sense the way they present it in the book. Logically, not emotionally.). Narcissus and Goldmund are drawn towards one another, both romantically and as kindred spirits that aren’t that like one another. Narcissus is a strict, disciplined, logical person while Goldmund is an emotional, social butterfly. While Narcissus reflects over his feelings he reaches three conclusions. (1). That Goldmund is too young for him and that he doesn’t want to be like that kind of monk that takes advantage of the young novice (yes, there is no talk of homosexuality as a sin, even if it’s not mentioned by name) (2). That emotions are pointless, and (3) that Goldmund is too wonderful to be hidden away in the monastery, and should be out in the world. As the very “logical” person he is, Narcissus therefore “convince” Goldmund to leave the monastery and go out into the world. Goldmund does this, not really liking the idea of it. He spends his time wandering around having sex with women (I do read Goldmund as bi with Narcissus being gay) and trying to find a purpose (and a way to sustain) life. 70454186-nng

The two books he wrote before this one was Siddartha and Stepwoolf, two books focusing heavily on eastern philosophy. This book is no exception. It’s easy to read in the ideas of Yin and Yang into Narcissus and Goldmund, and them representing the struggle between assumed opposing issues like logic and emotions.

“We are sun and moon, dear friend; we are sea and land. It is not our purpose to become each other; it is to recognize each other, to learn to see the other and honor him for what he is: each the other’s opposite and complement.”

Doing a yin/yang philosophical story, while very popular, isn’t easy to do. To do it well (and correct as to the inner logics that a story like this demands) you must give credit to both sides, while also condemning both sides. This can be difficult, because if you have logical vs. emotional, then must say that sometimes logical is better than emotional. You need both, because one isn’t enough on its own. Hermann Hesse isn’t as spot on this duality as I would have liked, but his prose more than makes up for it.

“Did all this make sense?”

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