Editorial Reviews. Review. “A poetic novel unique in its fascination.” ―Thomas Mann. “Hesse was a great writer in precisely the modern sense: complex, subtle, . Dec 4, Goldmund, a novice, enters the monastery. Like Narcissus, Goldmund is very beautiful. Goldmund’s horse stays in the monastery. His only. Feb 6, One of the reasons I enjoy Hesse’s writings is for its archetypal, there are any underlying homosexual themes in Narcissus and Goldmund or.

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The Labyrinth of Friendship: And friends, they tell us, share and share alike; so in this respect, at any rate, there will be no difference between you, if only you give me a true account of your friendship.

The fact that man is capable of action means that the unexpected can be expected from him, that is able to perform what is infinitely improbable. And hessw again is possible only because each man is unique, so that with each birth something uniquely new comes into the world.

On the Occasion of Friendship. With Narcissus narcie GoldmundHerman Hesse produced one of the premier reflections on the experience of friendship in the Twentieth Century. It received and continues to receive, however, decidedly mixed reviews.

On the one hand, the novel seems to unfold within an field of conceptual terms drawn entirely from philosophical reflections on friendship from Plato through to Montaigne. Particularly strong affinities exist narciis Aristotle and Hesse. This is not surprising because Aristotle in his Nichomachean Ethics and Eudemian Ethics developed both a rich description and a typology of hermahn which forms the touchstone of any analysis of friendship to this day.

Hesse echoes Aristotle in thinking: In its highest form, friendship is crucial in leading a virtuous life: Narcissus and Goldmund begins to present characteristics of friendship that Aristotle hermqnn either downplayed or attempted to explain away.

Concord is the sharing of interest and a willingness to act in common. Concord is constituted through a union of interest and unity of heese friends are willing to act in unison and their action brings them close. In this way, friendship can become a stable foundation of a city. It is here that Hesse diverges most sharply from Aristotle. For his text repetitively deploys metaphors, figures and structures of distance, space and room. So, what are we to make of this divergence?

Narcissus and Goldmund – Wikipedia

The first thing to say is that this divergence is worth reading; it is a clue that points to a entry point into the text, into the times and into the philosophical tradition concerning friendship. The recurrent issue of distance, space and dissonance in Hesse texts has the appearance of a necessity: Being attentive to these moments may narcos to read history itself from the literary text.

The second thing to say is that the issue of distance and dissonance in philosophical discussions of friendship is not a new one, not one that emerges with Hesse. It is an experience of friendship and it is co-extensive with philosophical reflection on friendship.

Aristotle famously defines the friend as one soul in two bodies Eudemian Ethics hessr. Taken literally this means that we find part of ourselves outside ourselves; who we properly are is split and sundered between bodies.

Such an understanding implies an aim of friendship: The sharing of communication implies a spacing between communicating beings; it also says something about the kind of space that must exist between the two beings in friendship.

The two friends must willing to keep the space and distance between them open for an actual sharing of thought and not a mere echoing or repeating. Friends must be occasions for communication. To be an occasion for communication implies an open-ness and willingness to engage differences and to allow them to enter oneself. For this communication to be mutual hdrmann, both must share a willingness to be an occasion for communication and so the spacing between them is the product of their joint action.

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It is a theme that Hesse will repeat, reduplicate and generalize: For what this implies is that friendship is a way to have an experience of intimate distance, to encounter a distance or spacing near to oneself, or even, more radically inside oneself.

Friendship, Hesse nrcis to show, allows us to experience distance intimately.

Narcissus and Goldmund

This shadow of difference or distance runs glodmund, to varying degrees of emphasis, attention and consciousness the entire western tradition of philosophical reflections on friendship. Space or distance is a substructure of friendship. In Hesse that substructure is made visible throughout the text, at the level of theme, setting, plot and structure.

And this experience of distance, of absence at-hand, is crucial to a broader array of the human condition.

The question that I wish to pose is how this recurrence of the idea of friendship as lived difference and distance functions in three registers: Within the text, Narcissus and Goldmundthe issue of difference and distance establishes the setting—both within the abbey and in the world—drives the plot, and constitutes the characters; more it helps to explain a recurrent question in the secondary literature on Hesse about the manner in which the novel ends.

Within the frame of wider debates in the western tradition about the character of friendship as a form of human being together that enables a good life, distance and difference goldmknd as a conditions for the a virtuous life to unfold. In other words, it is not a question of difference or spacing interrupting the quest for a virtuous life, it is rather that such a quest could not be undertaken without spacing and differentiation. Friendship, according to Hesse, goldmud one of the human social relationships and structures which enable and sustain human uniqueness.

By living distance and difference through friendship, we each, Hesse claims, offer the other the occasion to become more fully ourselves, realizing our potentialities andin so doing, realizing our happiness.

By emphasizing the necessity of spacing and differentiation to friendship, the text functions to disrupt efforts to organize a totalitarian community in which spacing and difference are either entirely erased or are commanded within a fixed set of allowable positions. This experience of lived distance has then a critical political and historical function.

Friendship is one of the structures of human existence which sustain the very possibility of political action, action understood as the emanation and maintenance of human plurality and natality; further, friendship is one of the structures from yesse history itself emerges. Friendship, as an experience of distance, generates the future.

Eric Ruckh

Hesse will do more than embed this claim into the content of the novel: To follow Hesse into the relationship of Narcissus and Goldmund will be to follow him into the labyrinth of human existence. And if we begin by asking ourselves why Hesse insists on presenting friendship as a relationship of difference, we should not expect to come out the other end with final answers. For we will instead gldmund drawn along with Hesse into ever more complicated and intractable problems: The Path of Friendship.

Spacing is the condition for the possibility of friendship. But more is at stake here in the first, long, labyrinthine paragraph of Narcissus and Goldmund: For these reasons, it is encumbent upon us to read carefully this drescription of space. Yet, in order to live, this space must be open; it must be porous, allowing for passages of beings, goods and information.

It figures the fertile possibilities of this space. Near the protective stone columns of the cloister, this stranger thrives, grows and produces fruit that sustains other strangers that the cloister welcomes into its embrace. And from this hemann emerges an entire tradition: History itself emerges out of the cloister space.


Nurtured by a balance between isolation and contact, between rigidity and fluidity, similarity and difference, the cloister is hermannn figure for a kind of space which sustains human plurality.

But, welcomed into the cloister, they would be welcomed into a realm of books, words, speech and action. The cloister is a space that nurtures beginnings: It is a space which provides the occasion for initiative: It is a figure of a kind of space in which humans can take the initiative to realize themselves.

Some will set themselves in motion to a greater degree than others and so the very character of the monastery, its worldly character, will morph over time: What this cloister space nurtures then is the unexpected, the surprising, the startling. This extended allegory on space is more than a mere description of setting. It projects into the world a vision of the space of friendship. We will see that the friendship establishes a parallel inner space between Narcissus and Goldmund.

Friendship is one of the pillars or columns which support the spacing of human action and plurality; without friendship the edifice of tolerant room would be seriously shaken and threatened with collapse.

Further, we will see that the cloister is at best only a provisional description of the tolerant space of friendship. If it gives birth to the friendship of Narcissus and Goldmund, it will also allow for that friendship to exceed it, extend beyond itself. In order to amplfy this point—that the cloister is only a poor model of a the type of space which nurtures plurality—the narrative structure of the novel will be radically truncated: In other words the very structure of the narrative will model this space: As a literary space, at the end, it will leave room for everything.

In other words, the novel, as a literary space, will help create a space conducive of freedom itself, for it is freedom understand as the possibility of unexpected, surprising action which is, to some degree, the product of friendship.

It makes no difference whether this description of a monastery is at all remotely similar to the historical reality of monasteries in the Middle Ages. For the history that is pressuring the novel is the history of the twentieth century.

Now in gathering place of the cloister, Narcissus and Goldmund meet. Their mutual action toward each other will manifest a certain type of space; for the spacing of friendship comes into being only through the action of human beings. He is immediately associated with the strange, chestnut tree, emblem of uniqueness and fertility. His introduction into the cloister will be an introduction to the name of the tree and to its strangeness.

More that question will launch Goldmund into his destiny: With that question, those words, Goldmund will be introduced and enter into the life community of the cloister. More, it links friendship as a structure of human living together with the capacity to begin, with starting out. For this reason their friendship seems to include both utility and pleasure.

Cicero will understand this spacing amongst the friends using an ocular metaphor: Augustine extends this tradition: On more careful examination though, Montaigne imagines it possible for friends to give to each other: And in providing an occasion for generosity, the recepient friend is more generous than the giving friend.