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The Journey To The East”  —  book review
Today’s book review is for a book I finished last Saturday (July 11th), but never got around to posting about.  The book is: “The Journey To The East” (1956©), written by Hermann Hesse.  The book is supposedly autobiographically written by an un-named character “H. H.”, but as Hesse has written other books with main characters who share his initials, the intent seems to be to not make this novel personally semi-autobiographical.  “H. H.” is a member of a secret “League” which exists to assist its members in understanding life (via shared personal experiences) and in advancing civilization (via the creation of a vast library containing all of human knowledge).
The group on the journey with H. H. fails to reach their destination and the individual members lose faith in the League, with each other, and with themselves.  The author (H. H.), spends a good part of the rest of his life living as a “failure” and then decides to make himself whole by writing a book about the journey.  The problem is he can’t remember the specific details of his trip.  He seeks out a friend who’s advise is the find one of the other participants from his trip (Leo the servant) and to seek his (Leo’s) recollections.  Leo is not receptive at first and then he lets H. H. have access to the League’s library – which contains the sum of human knowledge, including entries about every single person (living or dead).
The journey to the East seems to be a metaphor for growing up, or more precisely, for going on a vision quest to seek the meaning of life.  The trip to the “East” is a trip to discover yourself and the realization from that discovery (for H. H.) is that the meaning of life is service to others.  Thus, “East” is not a direction of travel.  It is a destination.  Your “home”.
The novel is very short (120 pages) and can be read in a couple of hours.  It is a simple narrative told by the principal and is done in very straight forward language – so it’s easy to read.  I found the book interesting for a number of reasons.  The two main ones were (are): 1) the book created a reinforcing memory of a scene in the movie “Interstellar” where the main character is in a four dimensional representation of a library (actually behind a bookshelf in a bedroom); and, 2) because there are a lot of pseudo-Christian messages sprinkled throughout the book.  The meaning of life being service to others is just one of many such messages.
So, final recommendation:  Strong recommendation.  The book is short, easy to read and promotes thought for the reader about what is the purpose of life.  It worked for me…
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