Spider

Victor notices the spider’s web swaying gently in the space between the rearview mirror and the body of the car. It is the eighth time in a month that he has encountered the same surprise, but it is the first time that Lucia notices it. An unimportant detail for her, who passes her hand without hesitation and removes the spider’s web at once.

– Don’t tell me, there’s a spider living in the car.

– Yes, there is. I think so at least.

– You think so?

– Yes, I think so. I remember one day I was driving back to the apartment when I saw a spider walking along the edge of the window. I slowed down to help it, so it wouldn’t fall out. It went through a gap in the door and I never saw it again, then these spider webs started appearing.

– You have to fill the inside of the car with insecticide and that’s it, it’s over.

Victor smiles without saying another word and gets into the car, Lucia does the same. The car leaves.

– Where did you say we were going? she asks.

– I didn’t say where we were going.

Victor keeps his gaze on the horizon that stretches vast and imperishable in front of his eyes. A couple walks down the left side of the street. Victor looks at them and sighs, he wonders if all couples are like Lucia and him, deep down he hopes this is not the case.

– Well, so, are you going to tell me or do I have to guess? Lucía continues.

– You know, spiders are not insects.

– So?

– You know that, right?

– Okay, spiders are not insects. Where are we going?

– You would think that an insecticide is designed to kill insects, but no… it’s just poison. It’s for killing and nothing else.

– Victor, I hate it when you do that, are you going to answer the question?

– No, I’m not.

The red light of the traffic light forces Victor to stop at an uncomfortable point in the conversation, experience indicates that refusing to answer a question can involve more time spent in circular conversations. Before Lucia can get another word in edgewise, he hurries to turn on the radio.

“Breaking news; the search for little Pedro, who disappeared almost a month ago in the outskirts of the city, will end tonight, when police officers conclude their efforts to find him.”

“The young boy’s mother wasted no time in giving statements about the disappointment caused by this decision.”

– “He is my son, I need to find him, do you understand me? I can’t continue my life if I don’t know what happened to him”.

– Dude, can I clean your windshield?

A homeless man approaches Victor’s window, waving his hands at the windshield marked by a series of dust and dirt smudges. The truth is that it’s been days since Victor has washed the car, made the bed, and a thousand other tasks that are still pending in his mind.

– Okay my friend, thank you.

– Don’t say yes, Victor, don’t you know? He’s going to spend the money on alcohol and drugs.

Lucia intervenes in the conversation with her classic angry tone that makes Victor’s stomach boil. The homeless man also listens to Lucia’s words, although he prefers not to react, perhaps because the promise of a few coins is enough to silence the voice of his pride.

– He is like you then. Victor responds after the initial seconds of discomfort.

– What did you say?

Victor bursts out laughing and the homeless man follows soon after. Thirty seconds remain until the light changes at the traffic light, enough time to make a new friend. The homeless man’s arm passes swiftly across the surface of the windshield, in a short time the glass returns to immaculate transparency.

– It is impeccable, here and thanks for the help.

Victor hands the coins to the homeless man.

– Thank you sir and God bless you.

– “God bless me…”

The phrase echoes in Victor’s mind as the green light returns to the traffic light. The car leaves once again, the sun’s rays escape from the side of a building and go to rest on the tops of the leafy trees that stand over the concrete walls of the metropolitan park, Victor smiles.

– Are you still laughing? Are you okay with ridiculing me in front of strangers?

Victor does not answer, he is not sure of his answer, the first thing that comes to his mind is to answer that yes, it is okay to ridicule Lucia in front of strangers. But at the same time, he realizes about the anger that slowly takes over his conscience, he prefers to keep silent. The light in the skies is lost between two large bodies of gray clouds, the day is tinged with pale blues and greens, with staggered grays. Victor steps on the accelerator as if trying to escape the growing melancholy that surpasses even rage, which at least demands some kind of affective bonding, that he felt before and that now is diluted among imaginary tears.

– Lucia listen, I’m not sure about this, but I think all the sentences you’ve said since we left the apartment have been questions.

– What does that have to do with it?

– I’m not sure.

– Can you slow down?

– Yes, but I don’t want to.

Another hint of anger escapes unconsciously and leads Victor to press the accelerator harder, even before he looks ahead, towards the next traffic light that is already yellow. The space left is not enough to stop, Victor continues the race and passes the next intersection accompanied by the incipient red light, together with the trumpeting of the horn of other vehicles.

– I want to go back to the house Victor, I don’t want to be here anymore.

– You are always here.

– Do you want to tell me something?

The sound of the police beacon interrupts the conversation, the flashing reddish beam pierces the interior of Victor’s vehicle, who prefers to stop at the side of the street before trying any alternative escape.

– What I really want is to escape the conversation.

Victor looks back in the rearview mirror, expecting to see the policeman, but in reality he stares at the traces of the spider’s web in the space between the mirror and the body of the car. He wonders about the spider, will it be sad after losing its precious web? The policeman also arrives at his side.

– Good afternoon, sir. Your driver’s license, please.

Victor takes the wallet and checks inside for the driver’s license. In the process he tries not to fix his attention on the mocking face that Lucia is surely making. He doesn’t succeed.

– God has blessed me…

– I beg your pardon? The policeman replies.

– Yes? Ah, no nothing. I was talking to myself. Here’s the license.

– Do you know how fast you were going?

– What are you asking me for? I guess you know. You’d better tell me how fast I was going.

– But I want to know if you know how fast you were going.

– I see, you’re not sure. Well look, I think I was going right at 60 miles per hour. Now, I recently saw a sign that said the maximum speed was infact 60 miles per hour. So I guess we’re good, right?

– The policeman takes a step back and scratches his head, it takes him a while to process the information, when he’s done he returns to the window.

– I guess so, all ok with the license. Have a nice day, sir.

The policeman returns the license to Victor and walks back to the police car, leaving the scene shortly after. Victor breathes a sigh of relief, turns the key to start the engine and prepares to resume driving.

– I don’t understand, what happened? – Lucia asks with an air of annoyance.

– Nothing, nothing happened.

– But you went through the intersection with a red light, you committed an infraction.

– Strange, I don’t feel like I committed anything.

The next song on the radio ends and the urgent news announcement returns.

“Breaking news, a stunning turnaround in the case of little Peter, as we had commented earlier, the police were about to call off the search for the boy, but now it has been confirmed that little Peter has been found by talent scouts in Hollywood, he has signed a million dollar contract to star in a new movie franchise. We have his shocking statements.”

– “Hello everyone, I’m fine. I’m here to fulfill my dream. To all of you who are looking for me I say, forget me, because we’re not going to see each other again.”

– What a nasty little boy. And so many people had been worried about him.

Lucia grumbles in front of the radio and then changes the dial, stops at another station.

“And God said to Moses; Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself. On these two commandments hang all the Law and the Prophets” ….

– What is that? Victor asks.

– That is the bible, dumbass. You’ve never heard it before?

– No, it’s not that, it’s something else. It’s something that’s talking about what happens.

– What are you talking about?

– It knows what is going to happen.

– Cut it out Victor! I’ve had enough of you. You wouldn’t tell me where we’re going, you’re laughing at me and now you’re talking weird. What the fuck is wrong with you?

Victor is paralyzed, he keeps his eyes on the street but prefers not to make any false moves, he assumes that his life depends on it.

– Are you going to answer me?

– The spider… Victor answers almost without moving his lips.

– What spider?

– The spider is in my head…

The spider walks hurriedly over Victor’s head, moving from one side to the other without deciding which way to go, planted in the infinite center of a circle. Unexpectedly, the spider takes the lower path and now advances on Victor’s neck, who instinctively moves to protect his life, letting go of the steering wheel and losing control of the car. A new intersection is coming up and this time Victor does not even manage to see it, nor does he manage to press the brake pedal before receiving the impact on the right side. The car spins three or four times in the air before stopping in the middle of the street, Victor opens his eyes and finds the asphalt next to the window, the car is lying on its left side.

– Lucia… Lucia, are you okay? I’m sorry, I didn’t see…

Lucia is not inside the car. The sunlight shines through the gaps in the thick clouds and partially illuminates the long and little-traveled street, some people approach from a distance and murmur words that cannot be understood. Victor looks at the window frame of the windshield, the spider walks along the edge and goes back through the gap into the interior.

The interrupted Journey (1949)

Among the great paraphernalia of books and movies about the UFO phenomenon, it is strange and at the same time expected (paradoxical) that The Interrupted Journey is the only one of them that manages to present this controversial topic in a convincing way, and as we will see, much of it comes from the choices the author has made in this regard. It is the fact on which the whole story is based, it is the way it is presented, and it is the author’s position on it, factors that conspire to keep the reader on the lookout for the next revelation, while retaining a sense of reality and critical thinking, especially in the evidence presented.

But let’s see… what is The interrupted Journey about? Well, it’s about the famous “Hills abduction”, it’s the recapitulation of this event, the first documented case of alien abduction in the history of mankind (actually I think there were some earlier ones, but it’s the first one to achieve enough fame to get into popular culture). And well the Hills were very unlucky I guess, to have been wandering around at night on a dark, secluded road after going on vacation for a weekend. What happens to them on the way home will remain in their memories for the rest of their lives, although not exactly on their conscience. What occurs is that the Hills, initially, could only remember a part of what had happened to them; on their way home along the highway they encounter a strange light in the sky, strange in the way it moves, back and forth at great speed (which Jung lucidly warns is very similar to the movement of insects). But this light does not remain just circling the night sky, no no, soon this light is above the Hills’ car, chasing them like the shadow of the hawk over the timid rabbit, hunter and prey (in fact this is the sensation that the opening story of the book provokes in the reader). In an almost heroic act, Barney Hill gets out of the car and decides to walk in the open (without really knowing why he is doing it) and I say a heroic act because honestly, how many of us would have gotten out of the car to get a better look at a ship flying menacingly over our car? The thing is, Barney just happened to have some binoculars (the couple later indicates that they had them because they didn’t have the money to buy a camera) and he uses them to get a closer look at the ship, manages to see some people inside and one of these people tells him to stay still using telepathy. The being inside the ship wants to convince him to stay still in that place, away from the car where Betty Hill is yelling at him to come back to her. It is here that Barney feels an inexpressible terror that urges him to run to his wife, carrying with him a terrible premise; “they want to kidnap us”.

Little more than this is what the Hills initially remember, although every time they tell the story to the different people the book reports, especially to people from the U.S. Air Force (since the shock was so great that they did not hesitate to contact the authorities), they become aware of a lot of details that make them think that during that night more things happened than they can remember. In the initial story, Barney and Betty remember escaping in the car after seeing the beings inside the ship, although they also remember arriving home almost three hours later than usual. And it is here where the genius of author John G. Fuller appears in the ordering of the events in the story, who starts the story by telling us this first version of the events, and then moves on to all the evidence that forces the Hill family to question this story and question their own memories, to the point of deciding to venture into hypnosis therapy, with the aim of recovering possible repressed memories. In this way, the author uses the chronological order of events to present us, not only with the two versions of the story, but also to effectively introduce all the characters involved (and I say characters, but they are actually real people).

And that’s how we get to the second version of the story, the version that comes from retrieving memories under hypnosis. I have to say that, initially, the Hills had no intention of telling their story to the rest of the world, especially Barney. However, the feeling that something was wrong and the desires to get it off her chest are what lead, initially Betty Hill, to tell the affair, first to her sister and then to the rest of the people (including the military officers and people close to them). Barney remains in a position of skepticism towards the possibilities, specifically, he does not want to know anything about the existence of extraterrestrials, in an attitude very similar to that demonstrated by people who manifest post-traumatic stress syndrome; the idea is that as long as you can live in denial that the traumatic event happened you can live under the premise that the event did not occur and therefore you are protecting your daily life from that event being part of the reality in which you operate. However, that all stops after the hypnosis sessions to which they both submit. It is here where it is “revealed” what happened during those almost three hours lost in memory. Both Barney and Betty recall under hypnosis being approached by “strange men”, who somehow or other impeded the Hills’ movement and that these strange men took them inside a spaceship, where they underwent a series of apparently medical tests without any explanation and without either of them being able to do anything to stop them.

Now, there are antecedents that are stated in the story that are not, however, taken as established facts or as ultimate conclusions about what happened to the Hills. The conclusion the couple comes to at the end of the hypnosis sessions is that they both were abducted by aliens (the literal sense of the narrative), but others do not see the same truth in the matter. Specifically, the opinion of the psychiatrist who helped them, Dr. Simon, is much more concrete and critical of the story under hypnosis. You see, there is one point in the whole story that I haven’t mentioned that may have had a great influence on everything that happened. The thing is that Barney and Betty are an interracial couple, he is black and she is white. The detail may seem superficial, but let’s remember that the events described in the book took place during the 1960s, a time marked by racial conflict in the United States. Moreover, Barney himself relates in a hypnotic state having been worried (even scared) that something might happen to them because of this. Now, what does an alien abduction have to do with the racial phenomenon in the United States? But wait a minute, there’s still another piece of background missing. Betty’s sister was always an enthusiast of the UFO phenomenon and Betty loved to talk about it with her. So what could have happened? Well, a more concrete possibility is that Barney and Betty experienced a traumatic situation on the road and during the night, perhaps they were approached by a group of racist people and the situation quickly escalated, perhaps too much so, to the point where they both had no choice but to repress the whole thing. There is some evidence to support this idea, such as the fact that Barney had a tool under the driver’s seat (as if he had prepared to fight).

In the end I think this is the best thing about the book, which presents all these versions explicitly but does not settle for any of them, as I guess the author has not taken any side in the matter. In the end it is very difficult to know what really happened, but what we can say, following Jungian logic is that, what is known is that a strange phenomenon (meaning that it does not find a convincing explanation under the logic of consciousness) occurred and that there is an unconscious explanation to the matter (the recovery under hypnosis). The problem is that the unconscious tells us more about the beliefs and mythologies of the person and little about the concrete reality. But well, I think the idea of the book is to present this particular case without making a priori judgments about it and that is why I think it is undoubtedly the best book I have read on the subject of UFOs. The truth is that it is the only good book I have read (without taking into account Jung’s Flying saucers: a modern myth which is more a treaty of psychology) and I have tried to read several (but they are so bad!). I think The Mothman prophecies and Secret Life are worthy contenders, I’ll read them and tell you later.

Illusions (1977)

Illusions is a novel written by Richard Bach, a guy who is a writer and an airplane pilot, how can a person be so interesting? Well, the thing is that this story is about a guy named Richard, which is the author’s name, who is an old airplane pilot and who makes money by taking people for rides in his airplane. The thing is that this Richard meets another guy named Donald Shimoda, who claims to be waiting for him and who happens to be the reincarnation of Jesus, Siddhartha and so many other prophets of antiquity. Donald is waiting for Richard to teach him the art of being a messiah, since Richard has the stuff to be one of them, or as it is later revealed, he belongs to the same family. According to what I have read, it is possible that this novel is the continuation of Jonathan Livingston Seagull, but the big difference between the two books is that in Illusions, the narrative has little visuality and a lot of dialogue (in the form of allegories and existential conversations), while in the first one (Seagull…) the ideas are fused with the action. This makes Illusions a more difficult story to read, except for its final passages, where the action is present and has narrative importance. But hey, do you want to know why this book, despite its monotonous parts, has some very interesting ideas about human existence and a philosophy of life that can free you from suffering? Then let’s talk a bit about Illusions.

As I said before, Illusions is about a messiah who comes to teach the protagonist to be a messiah too, what he teaches him is that life is a dream and that we can all do what we really want to do and that this is the way to freedom.The way Donald Shimoda teaches Richard about all these things is that they both spend time together, traveling in their vintage airplanes and taking people for rides, a very simple and free life that allows them to talk about existence and practice miracles along the way, things like walking on water, swimming on land or walking through walls. It’s all about understanding that the ideations we have in our minds are actually limitations that we impose on ourselves by seeing life in a structured way, when the truth is that life is a dream of what in the novel is named as the “is” (the self I suppose). Also, as I said before, the way the novel is written may seem monotonous to some people, as everything is set up with a lot of dialogues in the form of conversations, where Donald may even seem a bit heavy or mumbo jumbo with his know-it-all attitude. To be honest, the first time I read this story I liked it much more than I do now, this reading prior to the review I found it much harder to keep my attention, except towards the end of the story, where the actions take over the plot, albeit somewhat abruptly.

Something interesting about the story is that it is written in a circular way, it all starts with some words written on a draft, it is a story about a person who is born in Indiana and has a very normal life until he recovers memories of other lives, these memories make him strong and wise. Then, other people come to him for advice and he asks them a question; what would they all do if God commanded them to be happy for as long as they live? This is the premise of the story, it is the reason for the violent denouement over the ending, it is the foundation of all the conversations Richard and Donald have throughout the story and it is the reason Donald chooses Richard to teach him the ways of the messiah. And the whole thing takes on a circular nuance because in the epilogue, Richard has a dream where he meets Donald (posthumously) and Donald asks him to write a book containing the teachings of the messiahs, Richard does not want to do it, but ends up accepting Donald’s request and starts writing, which is how the last words of the novel are identical to the first. So the whole time we’ve been reading something that ended but starts at the end, when this idea of writing the things that happened comes to be, but that we already lived through all those things having read the whole novel. Tangled? It made me nauseous too.

Remembering that Lagos Esgri lesson about the point of attack in dramatic stories, I have to say that this story is a very clear example of how to choose that point to build a story. The tale is about a messiah teaching a messiah candidate the job, right? And well, according to the story, a messiah does what he wants, because he knows that the divine goal of life is to be happy. So it is not surprising that at the beginning of the story, Richard lives comfortably and in solitude, he owes nothing to anyone and does what he wants, the only thing he needs is to get rid of the mentality that life is a problem that must be solved at every moment. And that’s when Donald Shimoda shows up and even says, “I’ve been waiting for you”. Could it be that he was waiting for Richard to have this life? The way they meet, flying in old airplanes over the fields, gives the impression that this is the case, although we could also be reading too much between the lines, what do you think?

Before I finish, I cannot but refer to the end of the story, it is a must that cannot be missed. It is a very strange thing because it is at the same time gratifying and at the same time abrupt, the end comes like a heavy stomp on the brake before crashing. Donald is interviewed on the radio about flying over the fields in old airplanes (we don’t know why he is being interviewed) and there he says some controversial things that upset the locals. What he says in summary is that all the people who have done something important for humanity, really what they were doing was living for their own interests with a divinely selfish soul. Something like live and be happy for yourself or live for others and be unhappy. For these words people label him as antichrist and end up shooting him with a shotgun, in a scene very well written by Richard Bach, demonstrating once again his mastery in constructing vivid action sequences (the most interesting aspect of Jonathan Livingston Seagull, I feel). But, even though this scene is so well constructed I couldn’t help but feel that the novel falls into this sequence of events randomly and half disconnected from the rest of the narrative. But what does that matter, if the most interesting thing is when Richard reads the messiah manual, yes seriously, it’s a book that teaches messiahship, right after Donald’s death, and the words he finds there are “Everything in this book can be wrong”. Which I guess is Donald’s last test for Richard, the last threshold to break the lasso of dependency between teacher and student.

That’s all I can say about Richard Bach’s Illusions, I know I said that the book had some monotonous parts, but honestly, when I was younger I found these parts equally interesting, I guess it’s because now I’m a damn cynical nihilist that I can’t enjoy things the way they should be. The first time I read it, I remember this novel having a strong impact on my life, it brought me peace and hope in human existence, beyond the “survival of the fittest” nightmare we’re in right now. That is why I feel that these Bach stories are so important, especially now, because in them you find some very interesting reflections on life and it leads you to think from another perspective, about a world where magic is everywhere, even in those that cause us pain. For all these reasons I feel that if a large number of people read Illusions and other novels by Richard Bach it is more than likely that the author will end up as a candidate for the Nobel Peace Prize.

Candide by Voltaire (1759)

I want to be honest with you, I really wanted to write a review of Charles Baudelaire’s book “Le Fleurs du mal” but because of strange phenomena in life I ended up with Candide by Voltaire in my hands, which I do not regret. Can anyone say that there is something wrong with this novel by the famous French novelist? On the contrary, I find this story so interesting and strange, both in its execution and in its narrative, that the accident of having confused this book with Baudelaire’s seems to me a wonderful accident that cannot be wasted. Having said that, let’s talk about Voltaire’s Candide, shall we? The first thing I can say about it is that this story is so strange in its execution that I would say it is unique in this respect. It’s that Voltaire doesn’t waste a single second in tedious descriptions of places or people, but goes straight to the action. So much so that Candide can be read, in my opinion, in one go without much effort and without a doubt that the important points of his narrative will remain in the memory after finishing the first reading.

But, what is Candide about? Well, he is a young man, whose origins are never clarified, beyond a series of suspicions about him, who lives in the castle of a powerful baron and whose vicissitudes lead him to travel almost all over the world, following the logic established by the German philosopher Gottfried Leibniz, founder of the thought of sufficient reason (thought that permeates even in the present time). This thought of sufficient reason is the seed that we suppose has inspired Voltaire to build this epic story about a man who struggles against circumstances to realize his dreams, take Cunegunde, the daughter of the barons, as his wife and together forge a life of happiness. But I feel that, to further advance the logic of this story, we need to talk a bit about what this thought is of sufficient reason and why Voltaire has felt the need to satirize (for this is what he has done) about it. The thought of sufficient reason, as the name indicates, is a logical construction, under which, Leibniz indicates that for every event in the world or in reality there are always sufficient reasons, which determine and justify the events. Just as it is said, I feel that Leibniz is talking to us about a kind of justification for causal reasoning (in its most fundamental terms), thereby granting a cause for all causes. This philosophical construction is put to the test in each of Candide’s pages, since Voltaire has managed to build a narrative where the vicissitudes and the “plot twists” have become the cornerstone of the story. In simple terms, the story is about the protagonist, Candide, whose origins, as we said before, we do not know but, because of the little information, and more specifically, because of the people (servants/employees of the count’s house) and the words they dedicate to this subject, we can intuit that he is the son of indiscretion (you understand what I mean, right?). Well, the thing is that Candide, in his desire to get Cunegunde for himself, gets into a gigantic problem that involves summarizing all the European, American and even African idiosyncrasies of the European empire around the world, during the years of the heyday of European culture and conquests, both American and African. Could it be that Voltaire is telling us that all the killing, all the indiscretions committed during this period of time, have been due to or justified in the belief that all the events occurred because there were sufficient causes for them to occur?

I believe that this is so, not only because the reasoning of “sufficient reason” is a constant excuse within the piece, which impels the protagonist to continue in his stubborn search for happiness, under the eave of his companion, the philosopher Pangloss, who justifies every immoral act that occurs in history, but we can also find this impudence (I say this because we should think that the facts occur only because there are sufficient reasons, which takes away from the importance of cognition, the human factor and the moral sense) in the same main character, in his blind and illusory acting, always expecting things to work out by some general law of morality that invites individuals to behave the way he expects them to behave, obviously encountering disappointment after disappointment because of this thought. I had already said that the story brings the main character face to face with the idiosyncrasies of different European kingdoms of the time, from the English to the Spanish and their American counterparts. Each of them receives the characteristic satirical treatment of Voltaire, who had to categorically deny authorship of the novel once it was published (and let’s say that by reading the work we can easily recognize why this was so). Nobody is saved from the mockery in this work, not even Candide himself, who reaches the maximum expression of satire about the end of the story, when he gets everything he wants, but deprived of all the value he was looking for in those things, I mean the achievement of Cunegunde as a couple, after she loses all her beauty and charm. Even more, after Candide loses all his fortune and wealth and comes to the conclusion (how lucid this conclusion is) that it’s better to do anything than to sit still in boredom, as if to say that all the suffering (and let’s say that in Candide’s journey there’s a lot of this) is worth more than what you get after going through all of it, the lethargic comfort of having no goal.

In summary, I have to say that Candide by Voltaire is one of the best stories I have read and I recommend it completely, especially to people who are interested in writing, not specifically because of its political or philosophical content, but because of the amount of vicissitudes and jumps in the plot that keep the tension and invite the reader to continue reading. I know that there are many famous and recognized authors, but I have to say that Voltaire and his work take the prize for originality, execution and the almost endless number of situations that the protagonist has to face, without even talking about the way he faces such situations!

The good stuff:

  • The decalogue of vicissitudes that can be found within the book.
  • The final reflection permeates even in our time.

The bad:

  • Some people may feel that there is no general thread to the story. (I am one of them, but what the hell!)

In short, read it or die!


Demian (1919)

Demian is a novel by Hermann Hesse, an awesome German writer who is obsessed with certain psychological aspects that are repeated in his stories, an introspective path that determines all the main characters he occupies and which I suppose adheres to people (like me and perhaps like you) who tend to talk more to themselves than to others. In this novel, the author reflects on the changes that occur in adolescence and the road to adulthood, something like a “coming of age” novel that even adventures, in its final pages, a kind of meaning for life and good living.

But let’s take it one step at a time, what is Demian all about? The answer is not so easy to find, I say this because, in the beginning of the reading one can get a more or less clear idea of what can happen in the following pages, however, such things do not happen and if they do happen they do so at the end, but in a completely different way than you might expect. I understand, what I have just written does not make sense, I know, but give me a little time to be able to process better what I want to say. Maybe this is something that happened to me because I was more used to cinematic narrative, I guess when I read the beginning of the story I had the idea that the plot would go a certain way, but the story went the other way completely, except for this initiatic idea about the world of light and the world of darkness, I will explain about this later.

For those who have not read the novel, the beginning follows the steps of the main character, Emil Sinclair, a name that was also Hesse’s first pseudonym, and his first reflections (mmm… let’s say innocent) on the differences between his own life and the lives of lesser-privileged people (poor people). The theoretical framework Sinclair uses to make this comparison comes from his father and from Judaeo-Christian thought. Under these parameters, Sinclair sees the world in two great opposites, the world of light, where he is and all good people (people who have sufficient resources). On the other side of the pond are the inhabitants of the dark world, who tend to behave in morally questionable ways, namely, stealing, lying, manipulating, etc. The protagonist begins the story by getting involved with one of these dark beings, Franz Kromer, in an attempt not to appear weak in front of a group of schoolmates, all of whom have already participated (supposedly) in risky and let’s say morally questionable feats. Well, the thing is that Sinclair lies about having stolen some apples to be part of the conversation, finding with it the first seed of what he calls “darkness” inside, but which is clearly a need like the one that leads a person who doesn’t have enough to eat to steal and so on. This darkness within him leads Sinclair to abandon the paradisiacal fictional world of the Christian religion and to begin the search for a framework more in line with reality that he himself can see in front of his eyes and that differs completely from the beliefs taught in his home (which also makes him gradually move away from his family). In order not to tell the whole story, I will only say that the search ends with the encounter of a new deity called Abraxas, a being that represents the duality of opposites (that is to say that the opposites, like light and darkness, are only graduations of something more general).

So far so good, but… why is the story called Demian? Well, the thing is that Demian is a very important character in Sinclair’s story, let’s say he’s his mentor, he’s the person who initiates him into this path of self-knowledge in a very particular way. Using a rational and logical discourse, Demian presents Sinclair with his own theory about one of the biblical stories, that of Cain and Abel. Demian talks about the possibility that Cain is really the good character in the story. His reasoning is that Cain did or does what he has to do, is a pragmatic character, while Abel is simply a blind worshipper, unable to question the words of his master (God). Demian postulates that there are people in the world, who have certain abilities and can see things as they really are, called the “sons of Cain” and that they are the ones who have taken on their shoulders the destiny of all humanity, acting to protect others, the sheep, the Abels of the world (blind worshippers).

So far with the story, which is very interesting, although I have to say that in the middle parts it tends to get a little out of focus, I feel, on Sinclair’s way, that he seems to be listening to others all the time and rarely gets to act on his own. This, in my opinion, makes certain chapters feel less decisive and even derivative. One thing that seems a bit random to me is the way Sinclair meets Abraxas. Let’s say that in perspective it is understood that it is in the moment that the “abilities” of the protagonist are activated (see more than the apparent), but in the way it is described everything seems to me to be half hung up on the general story, or in reality it feels that here another story begins. All of this is fixed at the end, when Sinclair and Demian get back together (they have been separated for much of the story). Especially since Demian’s character is very attractive to read and it makes you want to know how the new Sinclair (the more awakened Sinclair) will stand up to his first mentor, after defeating his previous teacher (who has read the story will understand). The end of the story is crazy, I’m serious, it’s one of the best endings I’ve ever read or seen and it makes the whole story an incredible epic, it reminded me of the end of another extremely interesting story, Hemingway’s Old Man and the Sea.

In short, I think Demian by Hermann Hesse is an excellent story, one of those stories that alters your life’s path when you read it. For me, these stories have as much power as a religion, they appear as a spiritual path that clarifies many things and opens up new perspectives and possibilities. The characters you meet in the story have all their own forms and truths that come together as layers within your own perception of events and about life itself, which is what good stories are about, what we are experiencing and what changes with every moment. The feeling that comes from finding meaning, perhaps in teleological terms rather than in a present state, a goal, a form of transcendence that allows you to go through life without regret, this and much more you will find in Demian, a fully recommended novel.

The good stuff:

  • The initial conversations between Sinclair and Demian are pure gold.
  • The search for Abraxas and all the ideas that come out of it.
  • The end!

The bad:

  • Some chapters in the middle of the story may seem superfluous.

In short… read it or die!