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A beautiful story of a boy discovering himself. With the encouragement of a befriended teacher, Goldmund leaves a safe cloister life in order to wander the world and discover his true nature. Through life's trails and adventures, he learns much of love and death, and shares a deeply moving view of the world with readers. 

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Mentally I refer to this book probably once a month for the last 20 years.
Two fine portraits of men swung to the apex of life.

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Narcissus and Goldmund, by Hermann Hesse, is a novel that details the paths of two friends and how they forge a friendship and pursue their own spirituality despite their different values. Goldmund is a wonderer, an artist who is sometimes naive, always curious and searching through life experience. Narcissus is an intellectual, a scholar committed to an ordered simple life in the confines of a religious cloister.
Through these two characters, we learn that it’s the range of experiences that shape a person, that provide individual identity and realize one’s destiny. At the same time, we come to understand the necessity of counterbalance through these diametrically opposed characters. While the conflict between flesh versus spirit is exposed through Goldmund’s free spiritedness and craving for life versus Narcissus’ piety and chaste thought, we learn that they also compliment one another.
In this book, Hesse takes you on a soul searching introspective journey that leads to the gift of discovering yourself and the realization that one needs passion to truly live.
 

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I first read this book in 1971

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This is a review of Molinaro's translation, not the novel itself, which I read in German. From reading the first page of Molinaro's translation, I have no confidence that this English version does any justice to Hesse's novel. For example, in reading the first page, I quickly saw one poorly translated sentence:
Molinaro: Generations of cloister boys passed beneath the foreign tree,...
Hesse: Unter dem ausländischen Baume waren schon manche Generationen von klosterschülern vorübergangen;...
A much more accurate English rendition of the German would be:
Many a generation of monastery pupils had passed beneath the exotic tree,...
Note that the German 'Kloster' usually means 'monastery' or 'convent'; that the tense of the German sentence is the past perfect, while Molinaro incorrectly puts it in the simple past; and the awkwardness of 'foreign' instead of 'exotic'.
In a quick glance, I noticed several unpalatable inaccuracies in the first paragraph as well.
I regret to say that if the rest of the translation is as poor as the first page, Molinaro drained much of the richness of Hesse's language from the work.
 

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Le livre qui a forgé mon adolescence (il y a de cela fort longtemps)! A l'instar des autres oeuvres de HESSE, nous sommes en pleine quête initiatique et ne sortons pas indemnes de cette lecture; la difficulté étant de prendre parti entre les fonctionnements en apparence opposés des deux protagonistes. La sagesse étant peut-être de considérer les deux acteurs que sont Narcisse et Goldmund comme les deux faces complémentaires de notre nature profonde.  

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