English translations of Hesse's Siddhartha


Hermann Hesse's 1922 novel Siddhartha was first published in English in 1951, in a translation by Hilda Rosner, and for many years this remained the only translation available to English-speaking readers of the book. A number of new English-language translations were published beginning in 1998. To make it easier to choose between them, this page reproduces a single paragraph—taken from the chapter "Among the Samanas"—from each of the five currently available translations.

  • Modern Library, a translation by Susan Bernofsky, foreword by Tom Robbins, translator's preface (2006)
Instructed by the eldest of the Samanas, Siddhartha practiced the eradication of ego, practiced samadhi according to new Samana rules. A heron flew over the bamboo forest—and Siddhartha received the heron into his soul, flew over forests and mountains, was heron, ate fish, felt the pangs of heron hunger, spoke in heron squawks, died heron death. A dead jackal lay on the sandy bank, and Siddhartha’s soul slipped into the corpse, was dead jackal, lay on the beach, grew bloated, stank, decayed, was torn apart by hyenas and flayed by vultures, became a skeleton, became dust, blew into the fields. And Siddhartha’s soul returned, it had died, had decayed, become dust, it had tasted the bleak euphoria of the cyclical journey, and then, freshly thirsty, it waited crouching like a hunter for the gap in the cycle where escape was possible, where the end of causality began, an eternity free of sorrow. He killed off his senses, he killed off his memory, he slipped from his Self to enter a thousand new shapes, was animal, was cadaver, was stone, was wood, was water, and each time he awakened he found himself once more, the sun would be shining, or else the moon, and he was once more a Self oscillating in the cycle, he felt thirst, overcame the thirst, felt new thirst.

  • Penguin, a translation by Joachim Neugroschel, introduction by Ralph Freedman, translator's note (2002).
Taught by the eldest of the samanas, Siddhartha practiced unselfing, practiced meditation, according to the samana rules. A heron flew over the bamboo forest—and Siddhartha took the heron into his soul, flew over forests and mountains, was a heron, ate fish, hungered heron hunger, spoke heron croaking, died heron death. A dead jackal lay on the sandy bank, and Siddhartha’s soul slipped into the cadaver, was a dead jackal, lay on the shore, swelled, stank, rotted, was shredded by hyenas, was skinned by vultures, became a skeleton, became dust, wafted into the fields. And Siddhartha’s soul returned, was dead, was rotted, was dispersed, had tasted the dismal drunkenness of the cycle of life, waited in new thirst like a hunter, waited for the gap through which he could escape the cycle, where the end of causes came, where painless eternity began. He killed his senses, he killed his memory, he slipped from his ego into a thousand different formations. He was animal, was carcass, was rock, was wood, was water, and he always found himself again upon awakening. Sun was shining or moon, he was self again, swinging in the cycle, felt thirst, overcame thirst, felt new thirst.

  • Barnes & Noble Classics, a translation by Rika Lesser, introduction and notes by Robert A.F. Thurman (2007)
Instructed by the eldest of the shramanas, Siddhartha practiced moving away from the self, practiced meditation, following new rules, the shramanas’ rules. A heron flew over the bamboo forest—and Siddhartha took the heron into his soul, flew over the forest and the mountains, was the heron, gobbled fish, hungered as a heron hungers, spoke heron croak, died the death of a heron. A dead jackal lay on the sandy shore, and Siddhartha’s soul slid inside its corpse, became the dead jackal, lay on the strand, swelled up, stank, putrefied, was dismembered by the hyenas, skinned by vultures, became bones, dust, blew in open country. And Siddhartha’s soul died, decayed, turned to dust, tasted the muddy rush of the cycle, waiting in new thirst like a hunter for the gap where the cycle would be escaped, where the end of causes, where eternity free of suffering would begin. He mortified his senses, he slew his memory, he slid out of his I into a thousand alien shapes, became beast, carrion, stone, wood, water, and found himself every time awakening again, in the light of the sun or the moon, again he was I, whirling around in the round, he felt thirst, conquered thirst, felt thirst anew.

  • Shambhala Classics, a translation by Sherab Chödzin Kohn, introduction by Paul W. Morris, translator's preface (1998).
Taught by the eldest shramana, Siddhartha practiced self-abnegation, practiced meditative absorption according to the new instructions of the shramanas. A heron flew over the bamboo grove, and Siddhartha became one with the heron in his mind, flew over forest and mountain, became a heron, ate fish, hungered with a heron’s hunger, spoke a heron’s croaking languages, died a heron’s death. There was a dead jackal lying on the sandy bank, and Siddhartha’s mind slipped into the carcass, became a dead jackal, lay on the shore, swelled up, stank, rotted, was torn to pieces by hyenas, flayed by vultures, became a skeleton, became dust, blew about in the fields. And Siddhartha’s mind returned, dead, rotten, reduced to dust, having tasted the dark drunkenness of the cycle of existence. With a new craving it lay in wait like a hunter for the gap where that cycle could be escaped, where the end of causation could begin, eternity without suffering. He slipped out of his ego into a thousand alien forms, became a beast, carrion, became stone, wood, water—yet each time when he awoke he found himself there again. By sunshine or by moonlight, he was once again ego, was pressed back into the cycle, felt craving, overcame the craving, felt craving anew.

  • Bantam Books, a translation by Hilda Rosner (1951). This translation is also available in a number of different editions from other publishers.
Instructed by the eldest of the Samanas, Siddhartha practiced self-denial and meditation according to the Samana rules. A heron flew over the bamboo wood and Siddhartha took the heron into his soul, flew over forest and mountains, became a heron, ate fishes, suffered heron hunger, used heron language, died a heron’s death. A dead jackal lay on the sandy shore and Siddhartha’s soul slipped into its corpse; he became a dead jackal, lay on the shore, swelled, stank, decayed, was dismembered by hyenas, was picked at by vultures, became a skeleton, became dust, mingled with the atmosphere. And Siddhartha’s soul returned, died, decayed, turned into dust, experienced the troubled course of the life cycle. He waited with new thirst like a hunter at a chasm where the life cycle ends, where there is an end to causes, where painless eternity begins. He killed his senses, he killed his memory, he slipped out of his Self in a thousand different forms. He was animal, carcass, stone, wood, water, and each time he reawakened. The sun or moon shone, he was again Self, swung into the life cycle, felt thirst, conquered thirst, felt new thirst.

  • The same paragraph in Hesse’s original German:
Vom Ältesten der Samanas belehrt, übte Siddhartha Entselbstung, übte Versenkung, nach neuen Samanaregeln. Ein Reiher flog überm Bambuswald--und Siddhartha nahm den Reiher in seine Seele auf, flog über Wald und Gebirg, war Reiher, frass Fische, hungerte Reiherhunger, sprach Reihergekrächz, starb Reihertod. Ein toter Schakal lag am Sandufer, und Siddharthas Seele schluüpfte in den Leichnam hinein, war toter Schakal, lag am Strande, blähte sich, stank, verweste, ward von Hyaenen zerstückt, ward von Geiern enthäutet, ward Gerippe, ward Staub, wehte ins Gefild. Und Siddharthas Seele kehrte zurück, war gestorben, war verwest, war zerstäubt, hatte den trüben Rausch des Kreislaufs geschmeckt, harrte in neuem Durst wie ein Jäger auf die Lücke, wo dem Kreislauf zu entrinnen wäre, wo das Ende der Ursachen, wo leidlose Ewigkeit begänne. Er tötete seine Sinne, er tötete seine Erinnerung, er schlüpfte aus seinem Ich in tausend fremde Gestaltungen, war Tier, war Aas, war Stein, war Holz, war Wasser, und fand sich jedesmal erwachend wieder, Sonne schien oder Mond, war wieder Ich, schwang im Kreislauf, fühlte Durst, überwand den Durst, fühlte neuen Durst.