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message 1: by Diane , Armchair Tour Guide (new) - rated it 4 stars

Diane  | 12974 comments Start discussion here for Steppenwolf by Hermann Hesse.

message 2: by Diane , Armchair Tour Guide (new) - rated it 4 stars

Diane  | 12974 comments About the Book (from The Guardian)

Steppenwolf is about one man's spiritual journey towards self-knowledge. Nearly 90 years on, its message to readers retains a religious intensity: we must explore ourselves and keep doing so. If we don't, then our lives become living deaths.

The novel's protagonist, 47-year-old Harry Haller, is living an extremely death-like existence. Once a public intellectual, he has retreated in disgust from modern European culture. Having lost his job, family and home, he lives in wolfish isolation, brooding by day and haunting taverns by night. Two souls war inside him: "the beast", yearning for savagery and isolation, and "the man" seeking culture, society and love. Harry longs to kill himself, yet clings stubbornly to his "evil days of inward emptiness and despair".

In writing Steppenwolf, Hesse drew on his own spiritual crisis. After leaving his wife in the mid-1920s, Hesse lived an isolated life in Basel, reaching suicidal depths of despair. This might explain Harry's painfully accurate descriptions of depression, which have perhaps been matched since only by William Styron's Darkness Visible.

However, in the 1960s, Hermann Hesse said that Steppenwolf was "more often and more violently misunderstood" than any of his other books. He felt many readers latched on to Harry's rebellion and despair, but overlooked his journey back from that point, which starts when he meets the beautiful young Hermine. Animating the whole theology of the novel, Hermine shows Harry he has far more than two souls in his breast and that he must let each one bloom.

Steppenwolf is a book about – but ultimately against – suicide. For all its savagely articulate descriptions of torment and isolation, it is most eloquent about something less glamorous but far more important: healing.

About the Author (from Algora Publishing)

The author, Hermann Hesse, a poet and novelist, is known for his stark explorations of the individual's spiritual search and the striving for a life of virtue, justice and understanding within the restrictions of society. Several of Hesse's novels are centered on the protagonist's journey into the inner self, with a spiritual guide assists the hero in his quest for self-knowledge and shows the way beyond the world "deluded by money, number and time." He was awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1946.

Hesse was born in the German state of Württemberg. His father was born a Russian citizen in Weissenstein, Estonia; his mother spent her early years in Talatscheri, India. Both parents served as missionaries in India, and these diverse cultural currents infuse his writing with unusual flavor.

message 3: by Diane , Armchair Tour Guide (new) - rated it 4 stars

Diane  | 12974 comments I read this book a few years ago and it was a pleasant surprise, as the first book I read by this author I found less than inspiring.

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