Since it was first published in 1930, Hermann Hesse’s novel Narziss und Goldmund (Narcissus and Goldmouth) has been a secular bible for earnest young people (usually men) trying to reconcile “the life of action” and “the life of the mind”. Goldmund is the hedonist-artist, the adventurer who wants to experience the full gamut of love and pain, beauty and sorrow; Narziss is the monastic thinker, the philosopher who eschews society. 

The novel is heavy on Nietzschean and Jungian archetypes, curiously anachronistic — set in the 14th century but inflected by modern angst — and does not readily offer itself as a cherished text of 21st century spiritual and intellectual seekers. But it has been given a boost by a new film version, directed by Stefan Ruzowitzky and starring Sabin Tambrea and Jannis Niewöhner (imagine a German Brad Pitt and Ralph Fiennes 30 years ago)...

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