My strongest memory of reading this book a as teenager was of the power Siddhartha’s ability to fast gave him in his negotiation with the businessman Kamaswami. His asceticism freed him from being disciplined by the desire for material things, even food, removing much of Kamaswami’s leverage over him.
I was prompted to re-read this book by my own Ash Wednesday fast, which brought this interaction back to me. Having now re-read the book, the scene remains effective. Kamaswami assumes that as Siddhartha is without possessions he is destitute and comes to him seeking to serve him to survive. Instead Siddhartha points to the value of his experience fasting, saying that if he hadn’t learned to fast ‘I would have to accept any kind of service before the day is up, […] because hunger would force me to do so’. As it is he can ‘wait calmly, knowing no impatience’. The demonstration puts him on an equal footing with Kamaswami and he prospers as his business partner from there. Continue reading “Review: Re-reading Siddhartha by Hermann Hesse”