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Narcissus and Goldmund (German: Narziß und Goldmund; also published as Death and the Lover) is a novel written by the German–Swiss author Hermann Hesse which was first published in 1930. At its publication, Narcissus and Goldmund was considered Hesse's literary triumph; chronologically, it follows Steppenwolf.
|Original title||Narziß und Goldmund|
|Translator||1932 Geoffrey Dunlop; 1968 Ursule Molinaro|
|Genre||historical fiction, philosophical fiction|
Published in English
|1932 (Dunlop translation as Death and the Lover); 1968 (Molinaro translation as Narcissus and Goldmund)|
|LC Class||PT2617.E85 N413 2003|
|Followed by||Journey to the East|
Narcissus and Goldmund is the story of a young man, Goldmund (pronounced [ˈɡɔlt.mʊnt]), who wanders aimlessly throughout Medieval Germany after leaving a Catholic monastery school in search of what could be described as "the meaning of life".
Narcissus (German: "Narziss or, before the German spelling reform of 1996, Narziß [naʁ.'ʦɪs]), a gifted young teacher at the cloister school, quickly befriends Goldmund, as they are only a few years apart, and Goldmund is naturally bright. Goldmund looks up to Narcissus, and Narcissus has much fondness for him in return. After straying too far in the fields one day on an errand gathering herbs, Goldmund comes across a beautiful Gypsy woman, who kisses him and invites him to make love. This encounter becomes his epiphany; he now knows he was never meant to be a monk. With Narcissus' help, he leaves the monastery and embarks on a wandering existence.
Goldmund finds he is very attractive to women, and has numerous love affairs. After seeing a particularly beautiful carved Madonna in a church, he feels his own artistic talent awakening and seeks out the master carver, with whom he studies for several years. However, in the end Goldmund refuses an offer of guild membership, preferring the freedom of the road. When the Black Death devastates the region, Goldmund encounters human existence at its ugliest. Finally, after being imprisoned and set to be executed, he is reunited with and saved by his friend Narcissus, now an abbot, and the two reflect upon the different paths their lives have taken, contrasting the artist with the thinker.
The timeline and geography of the narrative is left somewhat vague, as the tale is rather abstract, and there is little attempt at historical accuracy. For example, some of Narcissus and Goldmund's discussions of philosophy and science sound too modern to have taken place during medieval times.
In this novel the influence of Friedrich Nietzsche's theory of the Apollonian versus Dionysian spirit is evident. The polarization of Narcissus's individualist Apollonian character stands in contrast to the passionate and zealous disposition of Goldmund. Hesse, in the spirit of Nietzsche's The Birth of Tragedy, completes the equation by creating Goldmund as a wanderer (a Dionysian endeavour) balanced out by Narcissus, the structured and stable priest-monk (an Apollonian approach), and highlighting the harmonizing relationship between the main characters.
Goldmund is presented as an evolving seeker who attempts to embody both Apollonian and Dionysian elements, thus capturing Nietzsche's conception of the ideal tragedy. Goldmund comes to embody a wide spectrum of the human experience, lusting for the gruesome ecstasy of the sensual world yet capturing and representing it through his talent as a sculptor.
Like most of Hesse's works, the main theme of this book is the wanderer's struggle to find himself, as well as the Jungian union of polar opposites (Mysterium Coniunctionis). Goldmund represents nature and the "feminine conscious mind" (but also anima, a man's unconscious), while Narcissus represents science and logic and God and the "masculine conscious mind" (but also animus, a woman's unconscious). These "feminine" and "masculine" qualities are drawn from the Jungian archetypal structure, and is reminiscent of some of his earlier works, especially Demian. Throughout the novel, Goldmund increasingly becomes aware of memories of his own mother, which ultimately results in his desire to return to the Urmutter (primordial mother). However, he also tries to reconcile the Apollonian and Dionysian ideals through art (giving form to the formless).
The first translation into English (by Geoffrey Dunlop) appeared in 1932 titled Death and the Lover. Penguin Modern Classics published this translation in 1971, entitled "Narziss and Goldmund", reprinting in 1971, 1972x2, 1973x2, 1974x2, 1976, 1978. In 1968, a translation by Ursule Molinaro was published as Narcissus and Goldmund. In 1994 a new translation by Leila Vennewitz was shortlisted for the Schlegel-Tieck Prize.
A cinema adaption called Narziss und Goldmund, directed by the Austrian Oscar-winning director Stefan Ruzowitzky, was released in 2020. It starred Jannis Niewöhner as Goldmund and Sabin Tambrea as Narziss.