The Faithful Friend in the Bildungsroman

The female and male protagonists of the Bildungsroman (the novel of the self-cultivation) are young wanderers, supported in their peregrinations by a devoted companion, their daemon/δαίμων, who is their other/inner self.

Demian, the title of Herman Hesse’s novel, refers directly to such a daemon. In Hesse’s seminal Bildungsroman (written in 1917, published in 1919) the protagonist, Emil Sinclair, grows up feeling a constant inner conflict between his safe and innocent home (“the world of light”) and the outside world of loneliness and insecurity (“the forbidden realm”). He vacillates between his family — mother, father, and two sisters (whom one might also see as two aunts or sister and aunt) — and society at large, feeling that he does not belong to either. In order to impress older boys/men, he makes up stories, which get him into trouble and lead him to depression.

Sinclair meets Max Demian, his “other self,” for whom he develops a confused feeling of both love and hatred. While he feels gratitude towards his daemon for saving him from his demons, because of his inner fears he is unable to express this gratitude to his faithful friend and instead he confesses everything to his parents and regresses to the comfortable “world of light.” Yet the conflict between the two spheres rages in Sinclair’s mind, especially since Demian continues to challenge him with alternative perspectives.

As he advances in life, Sinclair outgrows his family, his “brother” Kromer, his love Beatrice, his mentor Pistorius, and his “mother” Eve, and in the end of the novel, with Demian’s support, he discovers the fundamental interdependence of opposite life forces, with their friendship providing a model of reconciliation between them. Demian is killed in World War I; Sinclair is wounded but survives to write the book of their friendship, the one we are reading. If you ask my “other self,” Pantelis Polychronidis, about his daemon, he too will have many interesting stories to tell you (and piano pieces to play you!) about friendship and the cultivation of the self.

August 5, 2014

Όταν έχω εσένα
When I have you
μπορώ να ονειρεύομαι ξανά
I can dream again
ν’ ανοίγω μες στις θάλασσες πανιά
I can open sails in the seas
και πιάνω με τα χέρια μου
and I take in my  hands
τον κόσμο να τον φτιάξω.
the world to make it.

Όταν έχω εσένα
When I have you
μπορώ να μη βυθίζομαι αργά,
I’m able to stop slowly sinking
τα βράδια που πληγώνεται η καρδιά,
the nights that the heart gets hurt,
και πιάνω το μαχαίρι
and I’m able to get a knife
το σκοτάδι να χαράξω.
to cut into the darkness.

Κάνε ένα βήμα
Take a step
να κάνω εγώ το επόμενο
and I’ll take the next one
αίμα μου και σχήμα
(You) my blood and shape
λόγος και ψυχή στο συμφραζόμενο.
word and soul in context.

Όταν έχω εσένα
When I have you
νοιώθω σαν παιδί, έχω έναν άνθρωπο
I feel like a child, I’ve a person
μη φοβού κανένα
don’t fear anybody
Εσύ κι εγώ στον κόσμο
You and I in the world
τον απάνθρωπο
the inhuman
Εσύ κι εγώ
You and I
Όταν έχω εσένα
When I have you

Όταν έχω εσένα
When I have you
μπορώ να βάψω με ασήμι τη σκουριά
I can paint the rust with silver
μπορώ να κοιμηθώ με σιγουριά
I can sleep safely
να πιάσω με τα χέρια μου
catch the dragons with my hands
τους δράκους να σκοτώσω
to kill them.

Όταν έχω εσένα
When I have you
αντέχω, πάω δίπλα στον γκρεμό
I endure, I walk by the cliff
το ξέρω, έχω ένα χέρι να πιαστώ
I know, I have a hand to hold on to
κοντά μου έναν άνθρωπο
a human being beside me
τα χρόνια μου να ενώσω
to unite the years of my lifetime with.

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