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Siddhartha is a 1922 novel by Hermann Hesse that deals with the spiritual journey of self-discovery of a man named Siddhartha during the time of the Gautama Buddha. The book, Hesse's ninth novel, was written in German, in a simple, lyrical style. It was published in the U.S. in 1951 and became influential during the 1960s. Hesse dedicated the first part of it to Romain Rolland and the second to Wilhelm Gundert, his cousin. The word Siddhartha is made up of two words in Sanskrit language, siddha (achieved) + artha (what was searched for), which together means "he who has found meaning (of existence)" or "he who has attained his goals". In fact, the Buddha's own name, before his renunciation, was Siddhartha Gautama, Prince of Kapilavastu. In this book, the Buddha is referred to as "Gotama". The story takes place in the Nepalese district of Kapilvastu. Siddhartha decides to leave behind his home in the hope of gaining spiritual illumination by becoming an ascetic wandering beggar of the Shramanas. Joined by his best friend Govinda, Siddhartha fasts, becomes homeless, renounces all personal possessions, and intensely meditates, eventually seeking and personally speaking with Gautama, the famous Buddha, or Enlightened One. Afterward, both Siddhartha and Govinda acknowledge the elegance of the Buddha's teachings. Although Govinda hastily joins the Buddha's order, Siddhartha does not follow, claiming that the Buddha's philosophy, though supremely wise, does not account for the necessarily distinct experiences of each person. He argues that the individual seeks an absolutely unique and personal meaning that cannot be presented to him by a teacher. He thus resolves to carry on his quest alone. Siddhartha crosses a river, and the generous ferryman, whom Siddhartha is unable to pay, merrily predicts that Siddhartha will return to the river later to compensate him in some way.
Actor Ansdell guides listeners in his firm and gentle voice through Hesse's lyrical prose depicting the self-discovery journey of his protagonist, Siddhartha. Ansdell's pacing and English accent give his reading for the audiobook an air of philosopher's wisdom. Ansdell is especially good at pauses and inflections that express Siddhartha's moods of exaltation and utter despair at various points in his life as a young Brahman, an ascetic, a lover, businessman, and then as a father and elderly recluse who sits by the river and finally experiences the peace and tranquility he has always sought. Published in German in 1922 and in English in 1951, the revival of Hesse's novel in this era of widespread interest in Eastern religions offers Ansdell a vehicle for his diverse narrative talents.