My first Hesse book and will certainly not be the last. This one is the coming of age story of Emil Sinclair who, as I understand, is heavily based on Hesse himself. I think I would have loved this book had I read it when I was younger. All of Sinclair's feelings of isolation and inner angst would have totally resonated with my teenage self. But I'm encountering this book as an adult, and I'm of two minds about it. On one hand, I do think Hesse has a point about following your own path, regardless of what others or mainstream society thinks, even if it places you on a lonely road. There's definitely something to be said about finding your own (spiritual) path regardless of other people's beliefs. On the other hand, this is the exact kind of thinking that tends to make people refuse to grow and change and adapt to the reality they live in. Yes, there's something really romantic and beautifully tragic about the idea that you can't fit in because you know something that others don't, that your alienation is the product of being special and that other people just don't understand. But I find this line of thought to be largely immature. Anyway, I don't think this was what Hesse was going for, entirely, but the book is somewhat overwrought with metaphors and symbols and mystical/supernatural elements that Hesse's message is sometimes unclear. And I kind of agree with this other review I read that said Hesse seemed to be writing to make sense of his pain (like, why would God allow war?), rather than writing about self-discovery.
That said, there's still a lot to chew on in this thin book. I especially liked the different interpretations of well-known Bible stories, and the discussions about good and evil.