Genre: novel - bildungsroman
The novel follows Emil Sinclair's journey to adulthood and, most important, to understanding himself. The protagonist meets Max Demian who will later on become his mentor when he's merely ten years old, under his influence Sinclair starts questioning the safe [and Christian?] childhood universe. In the end, Sinclair realizes the importance of self-discovery, while Demian predicts the dawn of a new era - but the war starts and they're torn apart.
I have to admit I was a bit disappointed by the book. Hesse is one of my favorite writers and I've read most of his novels, as well as his book of fairy-tales [which by the way, was rather sweet], but Demian is not match to the later novels. I did enjoy the novel, I don't think you can not enjoy Hesse's writing style, but the story just somehow felt wrong.
It's a very personal opinion, but I don't think Hesse wrote the book to have anything to do with discovering the self, but rather with pain. It was during WWI, and his family was going through a rough time; my vision on the book, call it speculation or theory, is that he tried to write a book that would give meaning to all the sufferance - he tried to find -both for himself and his readers, soldiers themselves- an answer to the question "why would God allow pain or war?". That's how Abraxas appeared, how evil became a part of the good and of God, and how the war is beneficial -because to be born you need to destroy a world. But, surely, it's just my opinion.
Also reading: In the book I got from the library also contained the Knulp stories, I wasn't impressed by them either. I need to finish Marquez's The Autumn of the Patriarch these days, and I've also started Marguerite Yourcenar's The Abyss.