William1's Reviews > Steppenwolf

Steppenwolf by Hermann Hesse
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's review
Nov 15, 2011

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bookshelves: 20-ce, germany, translation, fiction
Read in January, 2012

The novel starts well with a preface by the young man of the house where the Steppenwolf (Harry Haller) is lodging, but then bogs down in a long disquisition on Harry's suffering called "The Treatise on the Steppenwolf." I found these pages turgid and thought they might easily be skipped. It's not until Harry enters a dance hall around page 95 that we meet Hermine, who becomes a matriarchal-figure for him; Maria, who becomes his lover; and Pablo, the impresario who leads the band and become's Harry's drug supplier. Hermine and Harry are soul mates with a death wish. They do not see the possibility of peace in this world, but only after death, which is supposed to bring them release and fulfillment. The culmination of the book is a great ball where Harry dances until dawn and the subsequent psychedelic drug fest known as The Magic Theater--For Madmen Only. I can see why the novel was so popular during the 1960s. There is liberal guiltless consumption of street drugs, mind-blowing sex (straight), cross dressing, and passages in the so-called Magic Theater where Harry is clearly tripping. The book is a novel of ideas and it is a strange freestyle combination of Buddhism and Christianity that informs its spiritual quest. Read this roman philosophique, at least its first hundred pages, as a period piece. The material of the first half to my mind does not transcend its time of its composition, the mid-1920s, i.e. decadent Weimar Germany. In these early pages author Hesse is taken up with a number of ideas: Freudian psychoanalysis; Decartesian mind-body "dualism"; Jungian archetypes and the collective unconcious; Einstein's theory of relativity; everything Nietszche; and a lot of literature in which the double or doppleganger runs amok. (Poe, Robert Louis Stevenson are some English-language examples). But then we get to page 95. Thank God.
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03/20/2016 marked as: read

Comments (showing 1-6 of 6) (6 new)

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message 1: by mark (new)

mark monday Read this roman philosophique, at least its first hundred pages, as a period piece.

interesting suggestion!

message 2: by William1 (last edited Nov 21, 2011 12:18PM) (new) - rated it 3 stars

William1 Hesse seems very good at gravitating toward lasting contributions that still engage us today. But many of his conclusions seem specious.

Czarny Pies Congratulations on a great William. You have left me wondering if I have anything to say on the book.

William1 Thank you, Czarny.

Saleem Khashan didn't get the vibe....I was a little disappointed

William1 It is a little flat. There is a slowburn beginning. But there are redeeming moments toward the end.

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