Demian The Story of Emil Sinlair's Youth by Hermann Hesse Introduction by Thomas Mann Translated from the German by Michael Roloff and Michael Lebeck a.b.e-book v3.0 / Notes at EOF
The passionate account of a young man's growing awareness of his own identity, of his involvement in the secret and dangerous world of petty crime, and how, influenced by a precocious schoolmate, he rebels against convention and discovers not only the great joy of independence, but his own new powers for good and evil.
I wanted only to try to live in accord with the promptings which came from my true self. Why was that so very difficult?
I cannot tell my story without reaching a long way back. If it were possible I would reach back farther still -- into the very first years of my childhood, and beyond them into distant ancestral past. Novelists when they write novels tend to take an almost godlike attitude toward their subject, pretending to a total comprehension of the story, a man's life, which they can therefore recount as God Himself might, nothing standing between them and the naked truth, the entire story meaningful in every detail. I am as little able to do this as the novelist is, even though my story is more important to me than any novelist's is to him -- for this is my story; it is the story of a man, not of an invented, or possible, or idealized, or otherwise absent figure, but of a unique being of flesh and blood. Yet, what a real living human being is made of seems to be less understood today than at any time before, and men -- each one of whom represents a unique and valuable experiment on the part of nature -- are therefore shot wholesale nowadays. If we were not something more than unique human beings, if each one of us could really be done away with once and for all by a single bullet, storytelling would lose all purpose. But every man is more than just himself; he also represents the unique, the very special and always significant and remarkable point at which the world's phenomena intersect, only once in this way and never again. That is why every man's story is important, eternal, sacred; that is why every man, as long as he lives and fulfills the will of nature, is wondrous, and worthy of every consideration. In each individual the spirit has become flesh, in each man the creation suffers, within each one a redeemer is nailed to the cross. Few people nowadays know what man is. Many sense this ignorance and die the more easily because of it, the same way that I will die more easily once I have completed this story. I do not consider myself less ignorant than most people. I have been and still am a seeker, but I have ceased to question stars and books; I have begun to listen to the teachings my blood whispers to me. My story is not a pleasant one; it is neither sweet nor harmonious, as invented stories are; it has the taste of nonsense and chaos, of madness and dreams -- like the lives of all men who stop deceiving themselves. Each man's life represents a road toward himself, an attempt at such a road, the
intimation of a path. No man has ever been entirely and completely himself. Yet each one strives to become that -- one in an awkward, the other in a more intelligent way, each as best he can. Each man carries the vestiges of his birth -- the slime and eggshells of his primeval past -- with him to the end of his days. Some never become human, remaining frog, lizard, ant. Some are human above the waist, fish below. Each represents a gamble on the part of nature in creation of the human. We all share the same origin, our mothers; all of us come in at the same door. But each of us -- experiments of the depths -- strives toward his own destiny. We can understand one another; but each of us is able to interpret himself to himself alone.
Ishall begin my story with an experience I had when I was ten and attended our small town's Latin school. The sweetness of many things from that time still stirs and touches me with melancholy: dark and well-lighted alleys, houses and towers, chimes and faces, rooms rich and comfortable, warm and relaxed, rooms pregnant with secrets. Everything bears the scent of warm intimacy, servant girls, household remedies, and dried fruits. The realms of day and night, two different worlds coming from two opposite poles, mingled during this time. My parents' house made up one realm, yet its boundaries were even narrower, actually embracing only my parents themselves. This realm was familiar to me in almost every way -- mother and father, love and strictness, model behavior, and school. It was a realm of brilliance, clarity, and cleanliness, gentle conversations, washed hands, clean clothes, and good manners. This was the world in which morning hymns were sung and Christmas celebrated. Straight lines and paths led into the future: there were duty and guilt, bad conscience and confession, forgiveness and good resolutions, love, reverence, wisdom and the words of the Bible. If one wanted an unsullied and orderly life, one made sure one was in league with this world. The other realm, however, overlapping half our house, was completely different; it smelled different, spoke a different language, promised and demanded different things. This second world contained servant girls and workmen, ghost stories, rumors of scandal. It was