Hermann Hesse wrote Siddhartha during a period in his life in which he suffered what he described as a “sickness with life.” He claimed to be unable to complete the book because he had not experienced the kind of nirvana that Siddhartha, the main character, wants to achieve—so Hesse surrounded himself with sacred Buddhist and Hindu teachings and lived as a recluse in order to complete this work.
Siddhartha is a short, simple tale of a man’s quest to achieve enlightenment and happiness. Over twelve short chapters the reader follows Siddhartha through his time as a young adult, to his exploration of spirituality as a traveling ascetic, to his delvings in lust, business, and greed, to his time as an old man. At each stage of his life Siddhartha yearns for nirvana, finally achieving it only after realizing that it’s all of life’s experiences that form it, not the teachings of any one man.
Today Siddhartha remains an influential text in new Western spirituality.