Sunday, December 20, 2009

Hermann Hesse's Peter Camenzind

"In the beginning was the myth. God, in his search for self-expression, invested the souls of Hindus, Greeks, and Germans with poetic shapes and continues to invest each child's soul with poetry every day."

- Pg 1, Peter Camenzind by Hermann Hesse

Without knowing how to see nature in all its beauty, how does one claim to know poetry? Yet, we are all blessed with a love for nature, hence are poets at heart. I was enlightened - as one always does reading Hermann Hesse's work.

I had forgotten the opening paragraph after finishing the book. Then I searched the Internet only to find this and that this was Hermann Hesse's first novel. It was easy to see that its themes resemble those of Narcissus and Goldmund - the path to self-discovery, my favourite - though less polished and evocative somehow.

Again, Hermann Hesse scrutinised his character's life: the suffering, the grieving and the short-lived happiness and friendships. In the end, we are always alone.

Peter Camenzind is a mountain lad with a dream and a gift for the language. As a lover of nature, he is rare as a sensitive poet, yet as an outcast of the city's overwhelming pretentious, intellectuals' circle, he fails to fulfill his potential, resulting in his inevitable return.

In the process, Peter learns about the ugliness of humans, how they are no different from the plants, except for their pack of lies. Then, from caring for an invalid, as his saint, St Francis, had done, he realises - as I realised - how humans are creations of nature too, hence, to love humans is to love nature no less. This knowledge is perhaps more important to Peter's life than all the limited success his writing brings, for this is the essential of poetry or art.

P.S.: One reason I took so long to finish this review is the knowledge of how little I understand about art and poetry, hence my inability to express them fully in my own words - as in "I know, yes, or do I?" Another reason was that I came to know about another translation of "Peter Camenzind" and began to wonder if I really had understood the work - and would do justice to it - as even the first paragraph differs. In eventuality, I just did what I always do: just write what I read it as.

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