Steppenwolf: A Novel

Steppenwolf: A Novel

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Overview

With its blend of Eastern mysticism and Western culture, Hesse's best-known and most autobiographical work is one of literature's most poetic evocations of the soul's journey to liberation

Harry Haller is a sad and lonely figure, a reclusive intellectual for whom life holds no joy. He struggles to reconcile the wild primeval wolf and the rational man within himself without surrendering to the bourgeois values he despises. His life changes dramatically when he meets a woman who is his opposite, the carefree and elusive Hermine. The tale of the Steppenwolf culminates in the surreal Magic Theater—For Madmen Only!

Originally published in English in 1929, Steppenwolf 's wisdom continues to speak to our souls and marks it as a classic of modern literature.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780312278670
Publisher: Picador
Publication date: 12/06/2002
Edition description: First Edition
Pages: 224
Sales rank: 77,028
Product dimensions: 5.54(w) x 8.52(h) x 0.57(d)
Age Range: 14 - 18 Years

About the Author

Hermann Hesse was born in Germany in 1877 and later became a citizen of Switzerland. As a Western man profoundly affected by the mysticism of Eastern thought, he wrote novels, stories, and essays bearing a vital spiritual force that has captured the imagination and loyalty of many generations of readers. His works include Steppenwolf, Narcissus and Goldmund, and The Glass Bead Game. He was awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1946. Hermann Hesse died in 1962.

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Steppenwolf 4.1 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 51 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Steppenwolf tells the story of alienated intellectual Harry Haller and his mid-life crisis. Actually, to say that this book tells a story is a bit misleading. Steppenwolf is not the book for you if you are looking for a riveting, action filled plot and a literal, straightforward ending. Steppenwolf is riveting in an entirely different way. It provides a window into Harry's troubled soul. The physical world and its inhabitants take a backseat to Haller's rich, symbol-laden inner realms. Although written in the 1920's, Steppenwolf reached a height of popularity in the 1960's and 1970's. The little action that does take place in this book largely revolves around Harry's introduction to jazz club night life and his casual affair with a pretty young courtesan. The closing sequence, an intense, surrealistic immersion in the "Magic Theater" of Harry's mind, is popularly interpreted as a drug-induced hallucination. Due to these themes, Steppenwolf is sometimes touted as a vindication of free-love and drug culture. I believe that this is a somewhat limiting interpretation of the book. Hesse's writings chronicle his own development as a person. In his earlier novel Demian, one character observes "If you hate a person, you hate something in him that is part of yourself." In Steppenwolf, Hesse portrays a man who must come to terms with those rejected parts of himself, particularly those he finds most shallow, sensual, and animalistic. The symbolism is heavily influenced by Hesse's experience with Jungian analysis, and having some familiarity with Jung's ideas greatly helps in understanding the odder portions of the novel. The Magic Theater sequence presents and recommends a ruthlessly honest self-examination, followed by an expansion of consciousness beyond the self. Such experiences are accessible to people in many forms of deep mediation and psychological therapies as well as through drugs. In a wonderful paradox, Hesse wrote frankly individualistic autobiographical fiction, yet hundreds, perhaps thousands, of people have identified themselves strongly with Hesse's characters. Steppenwolf is not for everyone. Most people seem to have a strong positive or negative reaction to this kind of work. I found this a powerful, thought provoking read, and highly recommend it for introspective readers.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Only Hesse can make a reader tremble as he/she reads about himself; self projected images abound.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Hesse has managed to bring out a beauty in misery. It's an excellent book, poetically writen, touching story, and a good challenge for the mind.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Steppenwolf, a novel that is wriiten in a sophisticated way, slightly unusual for Hesse. I enjoyed the book althougth I held reservations due to reviews about a man who was stuck on war. After reading this book I saw a man who was longing for the childhood past, a boy who dreamed of the child kindled inside his heart. This book is a great read and I guarantee you will pick-up a vocab word or two.
Anonymous 8 months ago
This was one of tge worst books I've ever read!
kuniyoshi on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
As Hesse might say, since we are on the other side of the riddle of suffering from the immortals, it behooves us to learn to laugh as they laugh at the piteous fumbling of our lives. To not only be willing to die, but be willing to live which might be much more terrifying a proposition. Read this book if you find yourself at odds with your own nature, or your own mind. It starts off a little slow, but the last fifty pages alone make it worth the read.
motorbike on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
This is a novel that can mean different things to different people. Is this a story where these events take place? Or is a spiritual journey? Or self-analysis? This is the pull of the novel. Whatever you make of it, it is a vehicle for Hesse to give us his view on a central axiom of Western man ¿ the spectrum of human pleasure at one end and ethics at the other. As a novel of ideas it is a little short on dialogue and action, so the writing may seem a little wooden. The central protagonist, Harry Haller, is on the verge of suicide ¿ an act he promised to do at the age of 50. He is now that age, is contemplating it but can¿t quite carry it off. He has devoted his life to study, to appreciating the great men of civilization like Mozart, Goethe and Nietzsche, to the extent of detesting everything in life that does not live to their ideals. Harry has a distorted view of life - he has rejected all of what passes for normal life, particularly bourgeois life, and hates all who adhere to it. He is alone, unable to participate in life and very unhappy. He describes his personal torment as a battle of two identities ¿ man, the enjoyer of life, and the wolf, the denier of that enjoyment. A series of chance and bizarre encounters leads to Harry, on a very depressed night and contemplating suicide, walking into a bar he has been lead to believe contains the answers to his life. There he meets a woman Hermine, who embodies the carnal aspects of life, the aspects Harry most despises. She and the bar specialize in dancing, jazz music and the sensual life. But Harry immediately identifies Hermine as a kindred spirit, and she him. But Hermine is not intellectual like Harry, but totally sensual, living the life of a courtesan. She hints at Harry eventually falling in love with her. She declares that she understands him and immediately offers to help Harry rehabilitate his life, but he must obey without question her every command.Hermine teaches Harry to dance the foxtrot and the boston and to enjoy jazz music. She also introduces him to Marie and makes her his lover. Harry must learn to laugh and enjoy life, and even be prepared to die for love, if he is to gain Hermine¿s love.Hermine and the bar scene is the very animal instincts of man ¿ pleasure seeking and living for the moment. Harry is the ethical man ¿ living all the aspects deemed as perfection in man. Neither are happy with their lot. Hermine teaches Harry that his problem is seeing himself as two souls whereas man really has thousands of souls. It is in discovering these other souls that will be his salvation. The trick with living with multiple souls is not to take anything seriously. Then there¿s Pablo, the saxophonist who eventually becomes the arbiter for a balanced life. His magical Theatre becomes the means by which Harry is finally forced to confront the absurdity of his view of himself and life, view his heroes in a new light and find a new path.Therein lies Hesse¿s view of western civilization ¿ a mix of two opposites. To live at either end is unsustainable. It is up to the individual to find his mix. The abhorrent bourgeois life ironically is just one mix ¿ where nothing is exciting, but in order. Taking life too seriously leads only to madness. Steppenwolf is the journey Harry Haller needs to take to achieve personal salvation and a reason to live.
bflatt72 on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Herman Hesse's novel Steppenwolf was a fanstastic read, just the sort of symbolic, metaphorical and metaphysical fiction that I love to read. However, reading it with a certain sociological imagination allowed me to gain even more insights than I would have otherwise. It allowed me to both participate in the reading and the enjoyment of the novel, but also to be able to analyze the broader meanings of what is going on in the book as it relates to sociology. C. Wright Mills thought that people often see their lives as having explanation solely in terms of personal success and failures, failing to see the many ways in which their own personal biographies link with the course of human history. This could be said to be the root of all of Harry Haller's problems. Steppenwolf is the story of Harry Haller, a middle aged intellectual who is unable to find any joy in life. Having taken a course in Sociology, one can see that an individual's choices are never free but are always determined to some extent by a person's environment. This is a core idea in Sociology and may have saved Harry a lot of heartache. He moves into a boarding house, where despairing, lonely, and suicidal, he laments his life and his lack of any feeling of identity with the society around him. Durkheim called the way Harry was feeling, anomie, and felt that it was caused by a lack of integration of the individual into social groups and communities. This feeling of anomie causes people to feel lost or adrift and it is this feeling that causes Harry to feel suicidal. Harry comes to view himself as a Steppenwolf, or a wolf of the steppes, in that he views himself as a man of a dual nature. He yearns to transcend the Normative order of the bourgeoise and into the world of the spiritual, but he also feels drawn to this world of sensual pleasures. Not being able to comprehend how society is able to find happiness in their lives of drab conformity, where people seem to coast along with productive diligence towards meaninglessness, yet unable to resist the charms of their easy sense of happiness, Harry begins to loathe the Steppenwolf he sees himself as. He is unable to come to terms with the concept of Socialization, the ways in which people learn to conform to their society's norms, values, and roles. Fom an interactionist perspective, it can be seen that Harry is having a difficult time with the devolopement of his social self through the interaction with others. Unable to take the role of the generalized other, unable to shape his participation in a social life according to the roles of others, identification becomes a problem for Harry in that he does not wholly identify with any social groups. Half man, half wolf, half desiring the easy and sensual pleasures of the common man, he also desires to transcend this life that, for him, has no value. In a Social Darwinistic manner of speaking, it could be said that Harry has been unable to adapt to the social environment in which he finds himself. One night, while walking through the city, Harry sees a sign over a door that reads reads "MAGIC THEATER¿ENTRANCE NOT FOR EVERYBODY." Looking closer he notices the words, "FOR MADMEN ONLY". Enthralled but unable to open the door, he is given a book by the sign holder entitled, "Treatise on the Steppenwolf." Upon reading it, Harry discovers that the book is describing himself, the half man, half wolf that he sees himself as, feeling drawn to more spiritual matters, but unable to altogether resist the sensual pleasures of this mundane world. At this point, Harry becomes even more convinced of his desire for suicide. Before he is able to do so though, and after a disastrous meeting with one of his former colleagues, in which Harry insults him about a picture of Goethe, the German poet, in his house, he ultimately meets the woman that will lead him towards salvation, a young sensual woman named Hermine. She teaches Harry to dance and how to enjoy life's simple pleasures without having
gbill on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I had a mixed reaction to ¿Steppenwolf¿. On the one hand, its exploration of the dual nature of man ¿ his high, spiritual nature alongside being animalistic and like a ¿wolf of the steppes¿ ¿ as well as questioning whether life is worth living make it a thought-provoking read. On the other hand, the line between reality and symbolic fantasy is often blurred, particular in the scenes toward the end in the magic theater, and while I applaud Hesse for pushing the envelope, this made the novel less satisfying for me.It seems to have polarized readers since it was published in 1927; it¿s interesting to me that even in the 60¿s as a generation embraced it for its depictions of free love and drug use, Jack Kerouac criticized it in his novel Big Sur. Quotes:On art:¿When he worships his favorites among the immortals, Mozart, perchance, he always looks at him in the long run through bourgeois eyes. His tendency is to explain Mozart¿s perfected being, just as a schoolmaster would, as a supreme and special gift rather than as the outcome of his immense powers of surrender and suffering, of his indifference to the ideals of the bourgeois, and of his patience under that last extremity of loneliness¿¿On fate:¿The man of power is ruined by power, the man of money by money, the submissive man by subservience, the pleasure seeker by pleasure.¿On man¿s insignificance:¿¿the Steppenwolf¿s look pierced our whole epoch, its whole overwrought activity, the whole surge and strife, the whole vanity, the whole superficial play of a shallow, opinionated intellectuality. And, alas! The look went still deeper, went far below the faults, defects and hopelessness of our time, our intellect, our culture alone. It went right to the heart of all humanity, it bespoke eloquently in a single second the whole despair of a thinker, of one who knew the full worth and meaning of man¿s life. It said: `See what monkeys we are! Look, such is man!¿ and all at once all renown, all intelligence, all the attainments of the spirit, all progress towards the sublime, the great and enduring in man fell away and became a monkey¿s trick!¿On living life:¿How I used to love the dark, sad evenings of late autumn and winter, how eagerly I imbibed their moods of loneliness and melancholy when wrapped in my cloak I strode for half the night through rain and storm, through the leafless winter landscape, lonely enough then too, but full of deep joy, and full of poetry which later I wrote down by candlelight sitting on the edge of my bed! All that was past now. The cup was emptied and would never be filled again. Was that a matter of regret? No, I did not regret the past. My regret was for the present day, for all the countless hours and days that I lost in mere passivity and that brought me nothing, not even the shocks of awakening.¿¿It is certain in any case that life is quite disarmed by the gift to live so entirely in the present, to treasure with such eager care every flower by the wayside and the light that plays on every passing moment.¿On oneness:¿Man is not capable of thought in any high degree, and even the most spiritual and highly cultivated of men habitually sees the world and himself through the lenses of delusive formulas and artless simplifications ¿ and most of all himself. For it appears to be an inborn and imperative need of all men to regard the self as a unit. However often and however grievously this illusion is shattered, it always mends again.¿On selling out:¿Most intellectuals and most artists belong to the same type. Only the strongest of them force their way through the atmosphere of the bourgeois earth and attain to the cosmic. The others all resign themselves or make compromises. Despising the bourgeois, and yet belonging to it, they add to its strength and glory; for in the last resort they have to share their beliefs in order to live.¿On suicide:¿No, I am sure he has not taken his life. He is still alive, ¿. , listens to the world beneat
jwhenderson on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
A work like Steppenwolf is iconic in its artistic significance. Being so makes it more difficult to discuss the book as I would other "good" reads. A novel of ideas, one that challenges my own conception of the world, it raises more questions than it answers. It draws upon the ideas of other thinkers, notable Goethe and Nietzsche and Jung, and presents those ideas in new ways - challenging even those with which the author may agree. This is what Hermann Hesse set out to do in writing Der Steppenwolf in 1927.The novel presents a complex narrative that combines three different styles within its structure; a straightforward preface introducing the protagonist, Harry Haller, a "Treatise on the Steppenwolf" in the form of a pamphlet that Harry accepts and interprets as a study of his own life, and Harry's own narrative which moves into a dream sequence when Harry enters the "Magic Theater". We meet characters, both women and men, at least one of whom may be Harry's alter ego or "anima" in Jungian terms. We see a man who would separate himself from the Nietzschean herd and values individuality. Most of all we encounter a man facing not the "two souls" that dwell within his breast, as Goethe described Faust, but one who faces innumerable souls in a personality that seems to be breaking up into different persons. Through it all Harry looks up to artistic "Immortals" as representative of an ideal in the form of idealized visions of Goethe and Mozart. Especially Mozart who plays a critical role in Harry's dreams.What can I take away from this work? As I said it raises questions and the thoughts and process of reviewing the way I approach the world is one thing that this novel provides. With all great - read transcendent - works of art I continue to find new layers of meaning as I read and reread their pages. One fundamental question, and I think this is central to all of Hesse's writings, is what does it mean to be human? The philosophers from Plato and Aristotle have tried to define this, but Hesse's Steppenwolf continues to present the question and explore original ways to find the answer.
rboyechko on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
A very strange book and one that I don't really know how I feel. I remember trying to read this book at least three times, always putting it aside before finishing even a third. It was interesting, yet the complicated language and paragraphs that went on for a page or more were simply daunting. Perhaps the English translation isn't like that, but reading it in Russian was a challenge. The fourth time, however, I did get past the pamphlet that Harry picked up and read the rest quite eagerly. The ending was definitely odd and unexpected, which is probably to be expected from Hesse. For a long time it seemed as though in the character of Harry Haller I could see myself. I also remember trying to emulate him in his disdain of the modern "culture" and instead striving to the true beauty in classical music, art, and so on. Interestingly, just as with Harry, a woman (my beloved wife) came into my life and turned all that upside-down, exposing me to things that I have learned to look down on in contempt. As a result, I feel I am now much more open to new ideas and experiences than I would have been had I not met her.
Niecierpek on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Harry Haller is fifty, an artist and an intellectual, bitterly disillusioned with his life and society. He is repulsed by people¿s bourgeois attitudes and petty concerns, yet he is unable to live without them. He feels the untameable nature of a wolf inside him, lonely and free, which comes in conflict with the life he leads. Totally frustrated by the duality of his nature he vows to commit suicide, but finds out that he is unable to do it when the time comes. Desperate, he seeks solace in a bar where he meets a courtesan. She takes him on a symbolic journey of self discovery, where he tries to get rid of all his inhibitions, and through self reflection, sex, and drugs, is able to access higher levels of his consciousness, and finally find himself.An interesting book, likened to On the Road by Kerouac.
TakeItOrLeaveIt on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
the second Hesse book I read, and my second favorite. very dark shows the two sides of man Hesse always dealt with and what made him famous. epic tale.
lafincoff on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I couldn't finish this one, but I give it three stars. Perhaps it is the originating thought module of teenage angst. I felt very familiar indeed with the thoughts in the first part, the 'introduction' and so on. Then, considering whether or not to continue on through it, I read a great many reviews, being very interested in the book. The book certainly did catch my attention. All of the reviews sounded very fascinating.The reviews were detailed. The conclusion, the killing of a woman in tune with the beast nature, was revealed. While I remained interested, I found that all motivation to complete the novel ended. I can find the reasoning behind killing a woman in a porn video, rather than struggling through Steppenwolf in search of enlightenment.I can watch Moulin Rouge for a depiction of a woman character as a prostitute with character, which I have many times. I didn't finish the novel, but someday, I'll try reading it again. Perhaps the painful depiction of egotism which I expected which compelled me to put the novel down rather than finish it will not be there. Maybe my interpretation is totally wrong. I wouldn't mind being wrong at all. I like to find my expectations incorrect. But I put this one down.
Smiler69 on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
The principal character Harry Haller, also known as Steppenwolf, is a strange man, a loner and a recluse. He is convinced that his main problem in life is that he has two dueling personalities, namely that of a wolf; untamed, wild, savage, and that of a cultured man who is in awe of Mozart and Goethe (two name just those two) and all which is thought to come from evolved and refined minds. He comes to learn one day that we all in fact have countless personalities, but his mental and spiritual suffering become so intolerable that he decides the only solution is to kill himself. Then he meets Hermine, a lovely girl who understands Steppenwolf in all his complexity but also loves simply having a good time. She teaches Harry how to dance and enjoy the nightlife, and Harry is happy for the first time ever, though he feels that this happiness cannot last. I did not like this story. The main reason is that Harry reflected back to me all those things which I dislike about myself, in particular this insistence on living from the mind and not being able to break free and just have a good time for it¿s own sake. The book seemed pedantic. Some notions of Buddhism, were repeated over and over again which made the book feel more like a school manual than a novel. Towards the end where Steppenwolf ends up in the Magic Theater¿For Madmen Only! I just wanted Hesse to move on and couldn¿t understand what point he was trying to make if not simply to just repeatedly show how absurd life and humanity is. No big surprise there, but I suppose it may have been a new concept for readers when Steppenwolf was first published.
earthlistener on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Sometimes the book was a bit confusing to read; not knowing fully what is happening or what was fantasy or illusion and what was real, but that was what made the book great. The book really plays with your mind and perspective on things through-out the book on many levels. The book's look into Harry¿s inner wolf and human nature was really fascinating and intriguing. Highly recommended.
andyjb on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
A strange and disturbing book detailing one man's degeneration and redemption. Fantastical scenes and allusions to philosophy that results in one of those rare things, a book that makes you question the things you believe in.
deargreenplace on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Der Steppenwolf was first published in Germany in 1927 and in the foreword to this edition, Hesse writes that of all his books, this one was "more often and more violently misunderstood than any other". The protagonist Harry Haller is a 48 year-old career intellectual, who flits from one boarding room to another without ever being gainfully employed, and Hesse does indicate that the book deals with the problems of a man that age.Harry Haller's problems are mainly depression and suicidal thoughts - or, self pity and self absorption, depending on your outlook. He has decided to kill himself on his 50th birthday. He spends his days reading, listening to classical music, writing letters to the paper about the war, and visiting local bars to drink wine. He rather smugly considers himself to be a part of the bourgeoisie and is completely wrapped up in aesthetic and intellectual pursuits at the price of any possible interpersonal relationship. He enjoys the anonymity of being the eternal boarder, rarely striking up friendships with those he rents rooms from. Suffice to say, as someone who is not a 48 year-old man, I found it quite difficult to empathise with Harry Haller.Harry seizes on his internal Steppenwolf as the cause of his ennui, and identifies this as the negative and self-destructive part of his personality, and of course, the reason for his unhappiness. One night, while out at one of his favoured taverns, a stranger gives him a pamphlet called The Treatise of the Steppenwolf, which seems to him to explain everything. It discusses how the concept of the ego is a fiction, and proposes that individuals are composites of many personalities. The Treatise claims that Haller's perception of a dual personality is ludicrous and causes violence to his soul.I found the first hundred pages or so of this book pretty hard work. There's a lot of philosophising and precious little plot movement. It brightens up though, when Harry meets an outgoing lady named Hermine, who makes it her goal in life to show Harry how to enjoy himself. This involves him letting go of his snobbery about dancing and music and falling in lust with much younger women (icky, and such a total middle-aged man fantasy).Harry Haller is basically having a mid-life crisis. My own feeling is that he'd have had much less time to feel sorry for himself if he'd done some honest hard work every now and then. Definitely not a book for everyone.
sfisk on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
mandatory high school fare, nonetheless a must read
chickletta on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
To call this book a novel is to mislabel it. Ostensibly this book is about a loner, a self-described Steppenwolf or Wolf of the Steppes, Harry Haller. Steppenwolf rents an apartment from the initial narrator's aunt and is so weird that the narrator is put off by him. He slowly wins the narrator over with his tantalizing hints of a deeper inner nature. As suddenly as Steppenwolf appears in the lives of the narrator and his aunt, he disappears one day, leaving behind a Steppenwolf Treatise.The Steppenwolf treatise describes in both first and third person language the split personality of Haller, who believes he is part man and part wolf. The civilizing forces of humanity are always in conflict with the wilder sides of his nature represented by the wolf. The Steppenwolf is at a loss how to reconcile one with the other without feeling like he is betraying or being a hypocrite to an essential part of himself. He soon realizes that dividing his identity into two principal halves is a mistake. His identity is in fact made up of a many selves, each of which can be arranged like coins in three-D chess to manufacture a infinite number of identities.After months of living like a recluse, the Steppenwolf contemplates suicide, and it is a fortuitous encounter with the seductive and mysterious Hermine that saves him from that fate. Hermine is determined that he should learn to dance, to learn to enjoy everything that he considers low-brow and despises. In doing so, Haller finds that reaching the state of the Infinite is not to live in seclusion and living the high-brow life of contemplation and thought, but to expand the self to include even what is considered low and thus enter into an understanding the Infinite from the opposite direction - by loving, valuing, experiencing all.Hermine, clearly Herman Hesse's feminine alter ego, tells the Steppenwolf that while he still has to fall in love with her, fall in love with her he must and then he must do her bidding without question. The command she issues him is to kill her, an action that is reminiscent of the Buddha's exhortation to kill the Buddha. Meaning, once the wise Buddha has imparted everything that he knows, he must be killed because he too is shackled by the limits of his knowledge, which imposes artificial boundaries on whoever follows him.In spite of all these high ideas presented in this book, my main objection to it is how difficult it is to read it. There is page after page of contemplative thought, very little action, and much of it seems like regurgitated Buddhism lite. Why call it a novel then? I can, in fact, think of better people (eg. Joseph Campbell) who can explain these treatises in layman's terms. If the idea was to present Buddhism to an audience that is partially or fully unaware of it, it wouldn't work. Where this book holds value is how the mind of a schizophrenic or split personality works. The constant tussle between our infinite selves is something most of us undergo without giving much thought. This book deconstructs that process for us.
briandarvell on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Steppenwolf is a novel that takes the reader on a trip through the spiritual and carnal mind of a hermitic intellectual German in the 1920's. Written by Hermann Hesse (1877-1962: a Nobel prize winning author of many great German classics) throughout much of the mid-to-late 1920's, it would be published in 1928 and to this day is regarded as Hesse's premier work.Hesse made a reputation for himself by incorporating into his fiction many of the newly forming psychoanalysis theories of the early 20th century. A pure intellectual himself, Hesse was given to a wide range of emotional displays and it is agreed that much of the protagonist's mental tendencies in Steppenwolf are autobiographical.Steppenwolf is a term given by the protagonist of the novel unto himself for the reason which he regards himself as possessor of multiple conflicting personas. The Steppenwolf within is a savage and animalistic feeling which drives the character to become a nuisance and irritable and is in constant conflict with the 'human' character within. The story is very much about personal spiritual conflict and how various thoughts of reclusiveness, annoyance, cynicism and even suicide are constantly bombarding the mind of a person who knows his faults at face value but does not know how to change and take control of them.Another primary theme the novel takes is an argument of purpose. Steppenwolf is around 50 years of age and is starting to realize to himself that all of the pursuits of his life - the poetry, essays, histories and learning - were of almost useless value now that death's door is approaching. It is an interesting argument and leads to the character wanting to become associated more with the physical aspect of life which he has missed out on.The novel is extremely strong from the psychological aspect of the story. I constantly got the impression that the 1920's were a very depressing time for Hesse because with the words and anecdotes used within the story itself it is rather obvious that Hesse is writing about personal experiences. I have often noted how those with creative natures are often extremely prone to wide fluxations of personality and rationality and this novel would serve as an excellent start to people curious about this theme. Besides for a meandering section around a quarter-way through the novel, I found the story to be very enjoyable and it definitely leaves you with the impression that there is a very fine balance needed between that of intellectual pursuits and pleasurable ones.
GeraldLange on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Didn't like this one so much; neither did Hesse. He was frequently questioned about it in his later years; often asked, "What were you getting at when you...?" His invariable reply was, quite simply, "I wrote that thing twenty years ago. How the hell do I know what I was getting at?"Funny how an author's more famous works are often the least impressive ones. Siddartha and Demian do not escape this tendancy.
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