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Steppenwolf (Penguin Modern Classics) (original 1927; edition 2001)

by Hermann Hesse

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Member:catmistressel
Title:Steppenwolf (Penguin Modern Classics)
Authors:Hermann Hesse
Info:Penguin Classics (2001), Paperback, 256 pages
Collections:Owned Books
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Steppenwolf by Hermann Hesse (1927)

1001 (41) 1001 books (36) 1920s (20) 20th century (108) 20th century literature (19) classic (128) classics (86) existentialism (95) fantasy (24) fiction (1,013) German (262) German fiction (46) German literature (293) Germany (110) Hermann Hesse (38) Hesse (56) literature (240) modernism (25) Nobel (26) Nobel Prize (49) novel (207) novela (20) own (27) paperback (27) philosophy (116) read (104) Roman (65) to-read (87) translation (45) unread (60)
  1. 71
    Narcissus and Goldmund by Hermann Hesse (PandorasRequiem)
  2. 20
    Siddhartha by Hermann Hesse (snipermatze)
  3. 20
    The New York Trilogy by Paul Auster (Smiler69)
  4. 10
    The Hothouse by Wolfgang Koeppen (Liondancer)
    Liondancer: Die Persönlichkeit des "Treibhaus"-Abgeordneten Keetenheuve erinnert mich sehr an den "Steppenwolf" Harry Haller.
  5. 21
    The Master and Margarita by Mihail Bulgakov (owen1218)
  6. 10
    Herzog by Saul Bellow (roby72)
  7. 10
    Nausea by Jean-Paul Sartre (GaryPatella)
    GaryPatella: The protagonist in Nausea has a very similar personality to the protagonist in Steppenwolf. Both books have that same gloomy feel to them.
  8. 00
    Abel Sanchez by Miguel de Unamuno (Neurasthenio)
  9. 01
    The Magic Mountain by Thomas Mann (caflores)
  10. 24
    Lolita by Vladimir Nabokov (Smiler69)
  11. 18
    The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde by Robert Louis Stevenson (roby72)
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» See also 182 mentions

English (68)  Spanish (6)  German (5)  Italian (2)  French (2)  Dutch (1)  Catalan (1)  All languages (85)
Showing 1-5 of 68 (next | show all)
The tale of a man in his fifties who has reached a nadir in his life, a point of despair, from which the only exit is death or transformation of life. He undergoes a number of experiences to effect this transformation. This is the second Hesse book I've read (The Glass Bead Game was the other). His writing is earnest, but clear, and his concern is life and how it should be lived. ( )
  questbird | Mar 18, 2014 |
It’s no Glass Bead Game or Siddhartha, or at least it didn’t apply to me as much; though - it is a self acknowledged novel about being an ageing man. Basically, I understand why it was alt- popular, but really I think the magic theater scene at the end could have been tied into the rest of the story better and it would have been a much better read.

Tldr: a depressed academic guy who had disconnected from the world meets a depressed hedonistic girl and they learn from each other. It’s more than that but you get the idea.

Herman Hesse anticipates the Manic Pixie Dream Girl trope? Yeah, I’ll shut up ( )
  Achromatic | Feb 16, 2014 |
Listening to this book on tape while I take care of the baby, which is. . . pretty weird. I like it so far (just finished disk 1)

now I've started again, with a hard copy that belonged to my grandmother. . .
  allisonneke | Dec 17, 2013 |
There are bits of Steppenwolf I loved so much – mostly near the beginning - that at the time of reading them I was sure the book would end up among my favourites. The Steppenwolf idea encapsulates a type of person I’d never been able to describe succinctly, though it includes several of my favourite people I’ve ever known. (Plus a few of extremely brief acquaintance who scared me and I scarpered. Steppenwolf-people – can I bring myself simply to say wolves as among them is the most beautiful woman I’ve ever me , though she and the others always acknowledged a feral side as well as a particular aesthetic sense – are a type I’m drawn to and fascinated by, though there are a few less benign of that ilk out there.)

Steppenwolf was a book beloved of youth culture especially in the 1960s; the protagonist, however, is 50, and one of the central ideas (perhaps very obviously because I’m reading it in my mid 30s) is that this is a character who’s an outsider, somewhat alienated from society at an age when most people are settled, socialised and conformist. A lot of people are like him on the younger side of 25, but those who remain that way, continue to feel they are of a tribe “not made for this world” or topple into it later through some misfortune, are per se odder and rarer, and some perceive them as still trying to live like students, just refusing to grow up and pull their socks up or similar. To others it looks a picturesque existence, but one of the greatest characteristics inside that existence is pain: loneliness at least as much as bohemianism.

I might have recently almost ended up as one myself – I used to feel I was something between the normal world and Steppenwolf world – yet at the beginning where he meets the landlady I felt much as if I was reading about a male version of myself.

Herman Hesse’s introductory note, dated 1961, points out that he wrote the book at the age of 50; Harry Haller who shares his initials evidently represents him (and Hermine I’d guess may be HH’s Jungian anima). The thing is, Hesse isn’t terribly nice about the Steppenwolf: he has other characters make critical comments as a way of changing him; he’s not really in favour of accepting Harry as he is and as he sees himself – he’s supposed to be jolted out of it whether he likes it or not. (Harry, being a bit of a sap at times – far more so than the Steppenwolf-people I was thinking of above, stubborn sorts who decide for themselves - goes along with everything.) As in Siddhartha the character must go on a spiritual journey of self-discovery. Late in the book Hesse is quite explicit about religion being the source of negative judgement: They cannot help it either that Adam ate the apple. But they have to pay for it. … We cannot help it and we are responsible all the same. One’s born and at once one is guilty. You must have had a remarkable religious education not to know that.

In a positive sense, the second two thirds of Steppenwolf is about the process I know as psychological integration (though it probably has different terms in different traditions). Hesse digresses into discussion of different sides of people which seems to have something in common with Gestalt. (Here is where I realise that having read some more older psychology in depth as well as a lot of recent stuff would occasionally be useful). Hesse, writing in 1927, feels that the notion of different natures in one person is a controversial idea akin to asking to be labelled schizophrenic - his reaction against this sort of pathologising perhaps slightly prefigures Laing and Szasz – but it seems quite normal now. I am not sure what Gestalt ultimately has to say about integrating different sides of oneself but it is certainly a popular idea in modern circles which concentrate on neuroscience, attachment and mindfulness*. Buddhism may be behind it for these and for Hesse.

Harry’s integrative journey, as well as featuring some scenes similar to therapeutic exercises, is where it all starts to seem really really 60s. This grumpy guy, who had elitist views on classical music and literature, is tumbled into a pop-cultural bacchanal, ( jazz, given this was really the twenties), dancing all night, taking drugs offered by a new musician friend, becoming one of the several lovers of a beautiful woman who works in a theatre. And Harry then finds himself on psychedelic excursions, some exquisite or daft, some as dark as David Lynch. It’s a third alternative to the initial dichotomy of Harry’s chilly high culture and the “bourgeois” (which I’d now read as suburban) world, with which he has a love-hate relationship. The psychedelic flavour does at least stop it from being horribly trite in the way of a lot of realist fiction focused on “personal journeys”.

Nevertheless the second half seemed a bit hackneyed – the same problem I had with some of Mrs . Dalloway: once innovative, now so thoroughly absorbed into the wider culture that unless you read it when young enough, it might not seem like anything terribly new or exciting. You may also feel that later incarnations have done the same sort of thing better.


Also, how late-90s is this cover? The minimalism, the layering, the blurring. (This isn’t a book I’d kept for that long, it’s one where I went in search of the edition I’d once had for years, not read and got rid of.)
There must or should be a term for it, this someone-walked-over-my-grave (a phrase I used to hear all the time, but now not for years) sense of seeing something which had once seemed absolutely modern take on the appearance of being from a time past. A blog about book cover design shows most of the range it came from, following on from the covers of its 2011 equivalent. The recent designs confirm what I tend to see as the twee and flouncy taking over design even of things it doesn’t especially suit and possibly putting off a lot of people … But then perhaps it only looks that way because of my age and still seeing the 90s designs as more neutral and universal.

*See, for instance, Daniel J. Siegel. He has written some pop-science books which to the British eye look cheesey, but the more academic, The Developing Mind is a book I cannot recommend highly enough, which (in its first edition – I’ve not read the new one) had a big influence on how I understand almost everything to do with people.

Read 1-5 October. ( )
1 vote antonomasia | Oct 7, 2013 |
I love Hesse, one of my favorite authors ever. Not only is the spirtualism/sensualism dichotomy (which forms the major theme of all of his works) one of the more interesting philosophical questions of mankind, but I can't think of any author who has continually revealed his own personal neuroses and self-doubts through their characters. This quality has always provoked a certain empathy, admiration, and even self-recognition when I read his books. As someone concerned with those important questions of life, I can identify with his characters, and, because his characters are so autobiographical, I feel like I can consequently identify with Hesse himself.

One of the more fascinating thought exercises related to Hesse is studying his works as attempts to reconcile these two aspects of life: the ethereal, divine and ecstatic with the corporeal, material and sensual. As brilliant as he was, he never figured out how to do it completely, which is what makes all of his novels ultimately unsatisfying. The interesting part, however, is that each successive novel comes closer to the answer, so that [b:Demian|24861|Demian|Hermann Hesse|http://d.gr-assets.com/books/1351461962s/24861.jpg|5334697] feels by far the least developed, and while Hesse realizes "Nirvana" in [b:Siddhartha|52036|Siddhartha|Hermann Hesse|http://d.gr-assets.com/books/1320519981s/52036.jpg|4840290], it never feels authentically earned. [b:Steppenwolf|16631|Steppenwolf|Hermann Hesse|http://d.gr-assets.com/books/1347752205s/16631.jpg|57612] feels altogether more on the right track before devolving into a psychedelic madhouse (perhaps precisely because he didn't know where next to take it?), and then [b:Narcissus and Goldmund|5954|Narcissus and Goldmund|Hermann Hesse|http://d.gr-assets.com/books/1165553931s/5954.jpg|955995] and The [b:The Journey to the East|13519|The Journey to the East|Hermann Hesse|http://d.gr-assets.com/books/1316728881s/13519.jpg|1528180] get even closer to the ultimate reconciliation while still falling short. [b:The Glass Bead Game|16634|The Glass Bead Game|Hermann Hesse|http://d.gr-assets.com/books/1312020091s/16634.jpg|2959456] is by far the most developed of his novels and gets tantalizingly close to a "solution" for this problem, but it still leaves the reader vaguely grasping at the "how" of Hesse's prescription.

As obsessed as Hesse was with this issue, he was never able to solve it, and it leaves us with the suspicion that it is an insoluble problem, perhaps THE insoluble issue of humanity. His books are so enjoyable, though, precisely because nobody has ever taken up the question with such earnest seriousness. All of his books leave us unsatisfied, but upon further thought one concludes that they are unsatisfactory only because they so unerringly reflect the great human predicament: the paradox of the divine animal.

**Full Disclosure: I can no longer remember concretely, but I suspect that I owe a lot of credit for this analysis to Colin Wilson, from his fantastic [b:The Outsider|67880|The Outsider|Colin Wilson|http://d.gr-assets.com/books/1348172189s/67880.jpg|3310176].** ( )
  blake.rosser | Jul 28, 2013 |
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Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Hesse, Hermannprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Creighton, BasilTranslatormain authorsome editionsconfirmed
Manner, Eeva-LiisaTranslatormain authorsome editionsconfirmed
Peter MagnusTranslatormain authorsome editionsconfirmed
Bradac, JaroslavIllustratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Sorell, WalterEditorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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This book contains the records left us by a man whom, according to the expression he often used himself, we called the Steppenwolf.
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Ah, Harry, we have to stumble through so much dirt and humbug before we reach home. And we have no one to guide us. Our only guide is our homesickness.
I had the taste of blood and chocolate in my mouth, the one as hateful as the other.
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0312278675, Paperback)

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.

(retrieved from Amazon Mon, 30 Sep 2013 13:48:25 -0400)

(see all 5 descriptions)

"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."--Publisher's website.

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» see all 8 descriptions

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Penguin Australia

Four editions of this book were published by Penguin Australia.

Editions: 014118289X, 0141045531, 0241951526, 0141192097

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