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  • Narcissus and Goldmund

  • By: Hermann Hesse
  • Narrated by: Simon Vance
  • Length: 10 hrs and 37 mins
  • 4.7 out of 5 stars (185 ratings)

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Narcissus and Goldmund

By: Hermann Hesse
Narrated by: Simon Vance
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Summary

Narcissus and Goldmund is the story of a passionate yet uneasy friendship between two men of opposite character. Narcissus, an ascetic instructor at a cloister school, has devoted himself solely to scholarly and spiritual pursuits. One of his students is the sensual, restless Goldmund, who is immediately drawn to his teacher's fierce intellect and sense of discipline. When Narcissus persuades the young student that he is not meant for a life of self-denial, Goldmund sets off in pursuit of aesthetic and physical pleasures, a path that leads him to a final, unexpected reunion with Narcissus.

©1957 Herman Hesse (P)2009 BBC Audio

What listeners say about Narcissus and Goldmund

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    4 out of 5 stars

Compelling listening, beautiful in parts

Impressive novel written in the '30s. Compelling listening with nuanced reference to sexual denial and abuse, trust, and power in relationships. Disturbing in many dimensions, not always satisfying, but nevertheless compulsive listening especially as the naive Goldmund leaves the Cloister only to engage in compulsive sexual and other exploits, at times exploitative... These are counterposed with the introspective ascetic life of his friend Narcissus and the inward looking world he inhabits.

7 people found this helpful

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Life Changing Moments

I first read this book 40 years ago, and it had a monumental effect on me. Listening to it again has been wonderful. I don't normally go in for recommending books to other people, but I would cheerfully encourage you to read this one.

5 people found this helpful

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A beautifully read story of manly love

Narcissus, somewhat inappropriately named, was for me not a fully formed character: and as such less interesting. The story really centres on Goldmund, and his wanderings wonderfully evoke the late medieval period in Central Europe.
I first read this as a young man and was deeply impressed. Forty years later, Hesse’s philosophical thoughts seem somewhat shallow and as such, a little tedious.
Nonetheless I recommend this book.

1 person found this helpful

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I will come back to this again and again

beautifully written and I so look forward to returning to it in future. the performance was talented and thoroughly enjoyable.

1 person found this helpful

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Uninspiring and tediously laboured

What disappointed you about Narcissus and Goldmund?

It is stuck uncomfortably between a grounding in reality and allegory. The characters are neither realistic nor likeable.

Has Narcissus and Goldmund put you off other books in this genre?

No, I am a fan of Hesse and have enjoyed many of his books. I wrote a detailed review on Amazon on why this one failed for me.

Which scene did you most enjoy?

The first quarter is quite good. It declines from then on

You didn’t love this book--but did it have any redeeming qualities?

The themes addressing the meaning of life, spirituality and rejection of the material.

1 person found this helpful

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An important read

What an incredible story, and so beautifully performed. loved every minute. I can't get enough of Herman Hesse.

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A book that takes us deep and far.

A profound and moving exploration of aspects of our humanity. Set in medieval Europe, and full of incident, but totally relevant to modern man. Exquisitely narrated.

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Freudian fairytale

A very enjoyable Freudian story of two men and the meaning of life for each of them.

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Highly recommend

Very good audiobook, this is a well narrated and great translation of Narcissus and Goldmund.

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A masterpiece by a truly great author

Spoiler Alert: Narcissus and Goldmund is the wonderful story of two young men who join a monastery. Narzissus is the classic aesthete. Goldmund initially longs for the life of an aesthete but Narcissus awakens the sensuous in him which was always his dominant feature. Goldmund leaves the monastery and explores the world and lives a life rich in sensuality with little purpose or meaning. At one point he sees a statue and is overcome by its beauty. He tracks down the master who carved it and becomes his apprentice or workmate. Starting gifted he eventually surpasses the master. Then he becomes restless and leaves to experience more of the world. The Black Death sweeps across the land he is in, and death is all around him but it doesn't claim him. Eventually, he is captured by a lord whose mistress he has seduced not far from the monastery he left in the beginning.
Condemned to death he is saved by Narcissus who has become abbot of the monastery. He stays there except for one small adventure and dies soon after his return.
This is a masterpiece by one of the world's truly great authors. It gives an amazing contrast between the sensuous and the aesthetic life although it tells little of the latter. The names of the main characters say much. The ideas are often magical in their depth and the writing has great beauty.
I have read quite a few of the brilliant books by Herman Hesse and some were very heavy going but this has always been the one I loved best.

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  • David
  • 21-10-11

My favorite of Hesse's novels, wonderfully read.

In my college years, Hermann Hesse was one author considered required reading by my peers. I read and reread all of his better known novels and found them all worthwhile. But of all of Hesse's work, it is Narcissus and Goldmund that moved me most deeply and it is the novel (of Hesse's) to which I have returned to most often.

Like all of Hesse's novels, it is about the the pursuit of the meaning of life, but here the writing is less self-conscious, simpler in some ways, but deeper in the exploring the range of human experience. It has drama, insight, poetic vision and covers a wide range of experiences. It is very Existential in some ways, but touches on the mystical in the arts with a more profound effect than the more "metaphysical" manner of the earlier novels.

This novel is about two medieval men with a very deep friendship but with very different temperaments. The meet in a monastery (after the death of Goldmund's mother). They appear to be complete opposites each seeks to bring meaning to their existence; Narcissus seeks peace and salvation (purity of mind) within a religious life in a monastery, while Goldmund is burning with the desire to experience life and throw himself into the world.

The story is about finding one's way and being true to one's inner nature. Narcissus lives a life of constraint but one that has purpose for him. Goldmund is unhappy in the monastery, and Narcissus tells him "be yourself, try to realize yourself" and encourages him to find his own way. The men separate to following their own paths. We follow the lives of both of these men, and in their contrasting experiences.

Goldmund then wanders the world in search of adventure, love and self-discovery . He has fantastic adventures, experiences the best and worst of humanity surrounded by the Black Plague; and in the mist of all these hardships, he finds meaning and beauty. After being profoundly touched by the beauty of wooden statue of the Madonna, the artist within himself awakens giving a new purpose and direction for his life. He seeks out the artist and becomes his apprentice. He develops his own skills, sacrificing the wild experiences and settling down to work (at least for the duration of the work) and he creates a sculpture of great merit.

Hesse writes powerfully and beautifully on the conflict between the Apollonian (understanding; form, order, restraint, conforming, the world of the intellect/mind) and the Dionysian (experience; passion, frivolity, lust, expression, the world of images/symbol/beauty). Hesse is able to bring out the conflict between flesh and spirit, emotion and control, ambition and modesty. This is a novel about the dilemma of life, and two possible paths that of spiritual pilgrims and that of artistic souls on the road of life. This was perfectly timed for me, in my early twenties, this book seems to express artistically and poignantly the central conflict of my life.

I own dozens of audiobooks, and none are better performed than this one. The narrator, Simon Vance, has the perfect voice, expression and pacing for such a meaningfull story. He varies the pitch and style of his speech to clearly portray each of the characters and expresses the difference between the thoughts and the words of the characters. He never over-acts nor does he ever rush the delivery. I've read the book several times, but in my listening to the audiobook I heard details that I'd never noticed before. As a result of the enjoyment of this performance, I've now purchased many other audiobooks narrated by Simon Vance, they are all well-read. Most highly recommended.

60 people found this helpful

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  • Merlin
  • 25-05-16

Typical Germanic "depth of soul" novel

I frankly found this novel a bit tedious. It's quintessentially Germanic. Set rather vaguely in a pre-industrial stylized world of monks, craftsmen, blacksmiths, gypsy women, etc., it tells the story of the life of Goldmund. The life is fairly implausible. There are long, long, sections in which his mind and feelings and relationships are described in depth. The author's outlook, when it comes right down to it, is that the only thing that has real value in the world is aesthetic experience. THe deeper your soul, the deeper, and hence more valuable this will be. EVen when Goldmund is having sex with every girl he meets, this is still understand as essentially aesthetic--or as the foundation for something aesthetic. I think if I'd read this when I was 19 I'd have been very impressed; but not being 19, I found it often tiresome. The narration is very good.

13 people found this helpful

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  • BeachyKeen
  • 26-07-16

A True Classic

This is the single most valuable book I have ever read in my life thus far. Long, but worth the time.

9 people found this helpful

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  • Joseph
  • 08-11-15

One of the greatest novels I've ever read

Superb, beautifully written (and well-translated!) and splendidly read by Simon Vance. I'd read most of Hesse's novels, but always avoided this one for some reason, thinking it was a minor work. Not at all! It's one of the greatest novels by a great writer. Spiritually and psychologically profound, it's mostly about Goldmund, one of the most engaging characters I've ever encountered. The large amount of introspective material is not boring for a second, and is seamlessly woven into the action and descriptions. One of the best Audible experiences I've had.

9 people found this helpful

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  • Kirk A Mann
  • 15-10-17

Riveting Masterepiece

One of the most amazing stories I have ever heard. So profound in its depth and breath of the human journey. Perhaps the best narrator I have ever heard. It's no wonder that the author Was recognized as a Nobel laureate.

5 people found this helpful

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  • Ka_rlos
  • 07-09-17

All that a good book should be

Would you consider the audio edition of Narcissus and Goldmund to be better than the print version?

Simon Vance's delivery is just spectacular. He brings out every detail of Hesse's beautiful prose and has allowed me to discover the beauty of passages that I missed while reading the print version.

Who was your favorite character and why?

I cannot help but to identify with Narcissus. He is all that I seek to emulate, a man devoted to the life of the mind who seeks transcendence through the wisdom that humanity has stored in text.

Which scene was your favorite?

The final scene shows the essence of what Hesse was trying to communicate, the importance of living before one can achieve a good death.

Was there a moment in the book that particularly moved you?

It is perhaps cliche to say that death was what moved me the most in the novel but I can't emphasize the beautiful sadness with which Hesse paints the tows ravaged by the Black Death.

4 people found this helpful

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  • Jory
  • 14-05-17

excellent !

i extremely enjoyed this book. the narrator has the voice for herman hesse works. my most memorable moment here is when goldmund is pursuing the mistress of the count and the second visit gets found in their castle by the guards. as if he were set up. the moment actually had my heart pounding as if i were in the moment.

second most memorable moment was when goldmund enters the cabin full of dead family members. such a moment takes one a while to accept if at all. even for the reader let alone being there. hesse paints an etchingly vivid canvas for what death looks like in person. that chapter struck me. goldmund analyzes the scene in such a romantic and artistic manner. it opens a door for new ways to look at death. it also left a heavy feeling of awe and confusion and rejection of the scene. you dont want to believe it but here it is. in your face. and goldmund shows you a sense of glory with his imagery.

3 people found this helpful

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  • CICADA
  • 17-01-21

this book is referenced in The Catcher in The Rye

Thie is referenced in the political allegory called The Catcher In The Rye by J. D. Salinger. i think to gain an even clearer understanding of the philosophy in this book i highly recommend the book The Light and The Cave. To see what i mean by The Catcher being a political allegory see on Goodreads "Breaking the Code To The Catcher in the Rye"

2 people found this helpful

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  • W Perry Hall
  • 19-01-16

Abbot and La Belle Au


Published in 1930, this is Herman Hesse's brilliant story of two friends in medieval Germany. Largely metaphorical, this has the feel of a cautionary fairy tale with no true compass as to geography or time. The story begins when Goldmund, a student, and Narcissus, a teacher only a few years older, become friends at a cloister school. At first, Goldmund earnestly focuses on his studies, but then a few fellow students invite him to go off campus, where he's seduced by a young Gypsy girl. From that day forward, his mind never wanders far from thoughts of women, their sheer beauty and the pleasures of the senses.

He leaves and on his journeys he has numerous affairs with women of all ages, statuses and sizes (similar to Wilt Chamberlain in legion and legend). All women find him irresistible. He falls for the first young lady to say no, loses her to the serpent of lust for her younger, prettier sister, and then travels far and wide. He settles to become a sculptor for several years, able to brilliantly capture the beauty he has seen. He becomes restless, continues his travels and runs into the unmitigated ugliness of the Black Plague. There's much more, but I'll add no more so I don't spoil the story, except to say that when both he and Narcissus, now an abbot, are much older, they visit and converse at length with each other.

The novel provides perhaps the most vivid contrast I've read between art, the beauty of the skin and sensual pleasures, on the one hand, and beauty of the spirit, stability, thinking and structure on the other.

2 people found this helpful

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  • Guilherme
  • 14-04-12

Existentialist essential!

Hesse once again explores with much depth the values, and inner forces that drives man. Religion, sex, behavior, friendship... Hesse's books are a guide to the appreciation of life.

2 people found this helpful