This short novel begins with the narrator explaining to the reader that they are moving into a journey at the behest of “The League” a mysterious organization that is concerned with Eastern religion, enlightenment, and a code of sorts. Our narrator also realizes that something has failed in his journey and he is investigating what that is. His journey to the East, however, also starts and ends in the southern part of Germany, not expressly known for being a haven of Eastern religion, and so while he investigates his own journey, it quickly becomes apparent that Germans (or in this case specifically Swabians) training Germans in the art of Eastern religion might yield limited results. Germany, land of the Protestant Reformation, and all that.
The journey is ultimately a failure and our narrator is removed from the League, but I would like to think that he understands the inherent failure of the league to adequately deal with his spiritual needs. Like in Siddhartha, our narrator cannot seem to escape the trappings of the West, in looking to the East.
What feels most interesting to me, and this novel is somewhat autobiographical, is how mysterious this all feels. There’s an element of Kafka in these pages and the League is treated with a kind of ironic seriousness. It’s almost the literary equivalent of “hobby drama” but then again, so is all religious intrigue that doesn’t blend into or bleed over into governmental control. The amount of paranoiac feeling contained in this little book is quite rich for how limited the viewpoint feels.