My eyes widened. I breathed sighs of relief and agreement. My heart raced. I wept.
In short, this book rocked my world. Upon first impression, Demian seems to be a chronicle of Emil Sinclair’s rocky, sometimes painful, transitions from childhood, through puberty, into adulthood. I would venture to say that Sinclair actually, upon deeper reflection, has the opportunity to transition out of the “real world,” but only if he so chooses.
At an early age, Sinclair is aware of an alluring dichotomy in life. On the one hand, he is part of the world of purity and goodness. He exists in this world with his parents and sisters, living a prayerful, righteous life. In opposition to this fair world, a dark world lurks, reeking of prison, scandal and mischief. He is very curious and attracted to the seedier side of life, but when he lies to a school bully, he is quickly sucked into the latter world amidst extortion, lies and thievery. His world is now a painful twist of dark and light.
Enter Demian, a mysterious new boy from school. Demian comes in and out of Sinclair’s life, but the constant is the deep questioning Demian stirs in Sinclair. It’s clear from the moment they meet that Demian is different, and Demian invites the uniqueness in Sinclair out. Sinclair is at once attracted and repulsed by the different light Demian throws on ideas Sinclair and his peers have always held dear. Again, Sinclair finds his world will never be the same. “Whoever wants to be born must first destroy a world.”
We are all faced with life-altering situations, to varying degrees, and the decisions we make in those moments can change who we are and who we will become. This is a timeless piece that has extreme relevance today, when, at every turn in today’s world, we are being asked, “Who are you? What’s important to you? What will you sacrifice to belong?” This story is a staunch reminder of what’s at stake, and how important it is to have courage for the truth. Many times within the pages of this book, I felt Hesse was speaking through my own mouth, and I had a renewed sense of strength and resolve after finishing this book. Strength to follow my own cause and resolve to speak openly about that choice we all have in our life and work.