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

by Hermann Hesse

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9,744128296 (4.02)211
Member:catmistressel
Title:Steppenwolf (Penguin Modern Classics)
Authors:Hermann Hesse
Info:Penguin Classics (2001), Paperback, 256 pages
Collections:Owned Books
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Work details

Steppenwolf by Hermann Hesse (1927)

  1. 71
    Narcissus and Goldmund by Hermann Hesse (PandorasRequiem)
  2. 30
    Siddhartha by Hermann Hesse (snipermatze, chwiggy)
  3. 30
    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.
  4. 30
    The New York Trilogy by Paul Auster (Smiler69)
  5. 10
    Fight Club by Chuck Palahniuk (paradoxosalpha)
    paradoxosalpha: Fight Club could be read as an updated rewriting of Steppenwolf, with Hermine replaced by Tyler Durden, and the dance hall transformed to the fight club. Maria becomes Marla, and the Magic Theater becomes Operation Mayhem.
  6. 10
    The Hothouse by Wolfgang Koeppen (Liondancer)
    Liondancer: Die Persönlichkeit des "Treibhaus"-Abgeordneten Keetenheuve erinnert mich sehr an den "Steppenwolf" Harry Haller.
  7. 32
    The Master and Margarita by Mikhail Bulgakov (owen1218)
  8. 10
    Herzog by Saul Bellow (roby72)
  9. 00
    Abel Sánchez by Miguel de Unamuno (Neurasthenio)
  10. 11
    The Magic Mountain by Thomas Mann (caflores)
  11. 26
    Lolita by Vladimir Nabokov (Smiler69)
  12. 28
    The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde by Robert Louis Stevenson (roby72)
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English (105)  Spanish (8)  German (4)  French (4)  Italian (2)  Catalan (2)  Dutch (1)  Norwegian (1)  All (127)
Showing 1-5 of 105 (next | show all)
A rewarding but peculiar reading experience. It ostensibly tells the story of Harry Haller, an obvious author avatar who refers to himself as a 'Steppenwolf'. This term, coined by author Hermann Hesse, is used to refer to those 'lost souls' who feel they have no place from society; not out of any sort of repulsion or banishment on behalf of the society, but from an inner feeling of being different – shy, lonely, apart, thinking in a different frequency than the mass of humanity. The foreignness of the term to the reader is resolved very early on: "He really was a wolf of the steppes, as he called himself, a strange, wild, shy – very shy – being from another world than mine" (pg. 7), and I found it very easy to engage with Hesse's philosophy.

Indeed, Steppenwolf is less a novel than a philosophical treatise with novelistic adornments. ("You talk like a book," one character remarks to Harry on page 219.) The great mass of it deals with the abstract and, somewhat surprisingly, this is very engaging and eloquent. One doesn't really tire of it. Hesse is very good at explaining the inner turmoil of those who feel outcasts or pariahs or just a bit different from other people. The inner turbulence of the Steppenwolf – half-man, half-beast – is teased out until it is rather stark ("… he was always recognizing and affirming with one half of himself, in thought and act, what with the other half he fought against and denied" (pg. 63)). And who hasn't felt like that at times, really? There's plenty to ponder and reflect upon here.

Like many, I imagine, I am more familiar with the term 'Steppenwolf' from the Sixties band of the same name ('Born to Be Wild' and 'Magic Carpet Ride'). I knew the band name had been inspired by this book, and reading it I quickly assumed it was because of a sort of kinship felt with lost souls – Hesse's stray fearfulness and inner turmoil and feeling of apartness from society striking a chord with that Sixties hippy counter-culture. However, as you come towards the final part of the book, you realize that this probably wasn't the case. You see, the final part of the book sees Harry go on some weird Alice in Wonderland-style journey, with secret parties, drugs, orgies and mind-bending freakouts. He even plays a sort of schizophrenic chess game with fragments of his personality as board pieces (pg. 223), a parlour game that perhaps even Alice's hosts wouldn't trot out if the tea party began to flag. And I suspect it was this part of the novel – moreso than the earlier, more universal feelings of disconnectedness – which appealed to the Sixties crowd.

Peculiarly, it is this latter part of the book, developing a more identifiable (if irregular) plotline, which is actually less interesting than the more explicit and academic philosophising that went on earlier. Hesse often noted that Steppenwolf was one of his most misunderstood books, but part of the beauty and appeal of it is that it is so eloquently schizophrenic that there is something for everyone, some fragment or cluster of fragments that will resonate. One must be careful not to drown in pure thought (pg. 21), but there is plenty of odd and misshaped clay here for you to mold into your own approach.

"He left nothing behind but his manuscript. It was written during the time he was here, and he left it with a few lines of dedication saying that I may do with it whatever I desire." (pg. 25) ( )
1 vote MikeFutcher | May 27, 2017 |
I knew so little about Hermann Hesse when I read this book. I knew that Steppenwolf was the name of a band and that band was named after a book and thought perhaps it is a good book. I did get a lot out of it and when I reflect on the things I remember--things I understood and things I did not understand--they make sense according to the drives and ideals that make up Hesse's philosophy. This book is fascinating and I really must return to it, because I think that the middle-aged protagonist was a real barrier to me as a teenager because how could I ever relate? When I read it before I think I wanted it to always fit my worldview. I hope that I would be a more clever reader of it now. ( )
  likecymbeline | Apr 1, 2017 |


Although magic is usually not the subject of literary novels, even less so when magic involves hallucinogens, visions, dreams, and phantasmagoria, many literary novels are page-turners, filled with a compelling, straightforward storyline and lots of action; think of Our Mutual Friend and Crime and Punishment, think of Heart of Darkness and No Country for Old Men, or novels like The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo or The Spy Who Came in from the Cold. Hermann Hesse's novel Steppenwolf is a work of a completely different cast; a reader might find the story gripping, even riveting, but for much different reasons, for the action takes place not in a major city or obscure outpost but primarily in the mind.

Our first introduction to main character Harry Haller is through the eyes of the thirty-something middle-class nephew of Haller's landlady. The nephew observes how Haller lives a lonely, unsocial life and refers to himself as an old Steppenwolf. The nephew's curiosity prompts him to enter Harry's room, where he discovers stacks of books by authors such as Goethe, Jean Paul, and Dostoevsky; a statue of the Buddha; a photo of Gandhi; empty brandy bottles; and half-smoked cigars. In a word, living quarters bespeaking a chaotic, artistic lifestyle.

The nephew explains how Harry suddenly vanishes from the apartment, leaving a manuscript entitled "HARRY HALLER'S RECORDS" that warns potential readers that what follows is "FOR MADMEN ONLY." It is this record that comprises the remainder of the novel. Harry records how he has two natures in conflict: one as a reflective, refined, cultivated gentleman, and the other a wild wolf of the steppes. As such, he is a Steppenwolf, a despiser and destroyer of the middle class who is at the same time supported and comforted by the middle class. Harry's conflict causes him to become so depressed that he sets his 50th birthday as the date for taking his own life.

But life has other plans for Harry the Steppenwolf. We read how Harry encounters a dreamlike inscription over a door in the old section of town. Then the fun begins. Harry's identity and view of reality are challenged by a series of happenings, most notably meeting the beautiful young Hermine, who can be considered in a number of ways: as Harry's double, his doppelgänger; as a reflection of Harry's inner, spiritual self; or as a Jungian archetypal, female part of his psyche - his `anima.'

Hesse wrote Steppenwolf fresh from his own Jungian psychoanalytic experience. Indeed, Hesse plays with the idea of doubles, mirrors, and archetypes throughout this novel. Harry's world is further jazzed up with the entrée of jazz saxophonist/shape-shifter/sensualist Pablo and the beautiful and voluptuous Maria. Jazz, dancing, drugs, and sex all contribute to the death of the formerly old and depressed Harry, transforming him into a revitalized man poised for a full range of experiences at the much-anticipated masked ball.

The masked ball is the final section of the novel. In one of the inner rooms Harry encounters the Magic Theater, which enlarges any previous notions he might have held of both magic and theater. Harry is informed that there is a definite admission price to this theater: "PRICE OF ADMISSION YOUR MIND." Pablo explains to Harry how the theater has as many doors and boxes as one pleases, ten or a hundred or a thousand, and how "behind each door exactly what you seek awaits you."

Wild! And as we enter and move through the Magic Theater, things become progressively wilder. Recall how Timothy Leary encouraged users of LSD to consult this part of Hesse's novel as a manual to negotiate their hallucinogen-induced trips. Hesse would probably have objected to Leary's statement: He wrote in 1961, "... it seems to me that of all of my books Steppenwolf is the one that was more often and more violently misunderstood than any other, and frequently it is actually the affirmative and enthusiastic readers, rather than those who rejected the book, who have reacted to it oddly."

On this point I agree with Hesse--you need not take LSD to enter The Magic Theater; what you really need is openness and imagination, along with the willingness to courageously peer into the subconscious and unconscious areas of your own psyche. If you have a few decades of adult experience, as Hesse evidently hopes, so much the better.

( )
  GlennRussell | Feb 16, 2017 |

The title of this novel by Hermann Hesse refers to the main character, Harry Haller, who is described at first as an individual that is caught between two extremes, surrender to god or asceticism depicted by a man and surrender to physical corruption or lust depicted by the wolf.
Haller, having been raised in a comfortable bourgeoisie existence, finds himself unable to fully surrender to either side yet hateful of the lukewarm middle state of his origin. He is brought to the verge of suicide by the conflict but feels there must be more to life and determines to
explore it fully before his end despite the pain.

Hesse then introduces the notion that all men are more than a single or even dual nature but are instead the combination of a great many souls and that the integration of these parts is the path to unity. He makes the point that the goal is to expand to incorporate all these selves not to collapse these selves into a single entity.

Through his interaction with the characters of Hermine, Maria, and Pable, Haller explores this idea and Hesse's conception of individuals whom he terms "immortals" which seem to represent the type of life that one should aim for to reach this unity. Such individuals strive for greatness and immortality through self expression even though they are not rewarded in life or even interested in money or fame. The self expression lives on after death so they never truly die. He provides the examples of Mozart and his music.
( )
  bzbooks | Jan 4, 2017 |
At first I wasn't sure about this book, but after a slow start this really became quite compelling. The story of Harry Haller, a middle aged misanthrope, the Steppenwolf of the title, a man who has closed himself of from the world, from love, desire, faith, from the very experience of life itself. He lives in a state of hatred, both of himself and the world, a world he feels out of step with, alienated from.

Slowly, after meeting a woman named Hermine, he is drawn back into the world, shown how to live, laugh and love again. The novel has many things to say about religion, sex, love, life and how we experience the world, far too much to go into in a review.

The novel becomes quite hallucinatory towards the end and we are never quite sure if what Haller goes through is 'real' in the true sense of the word. But he emerges a changed man, ready to re-engage with the world and live his life to the full. Carpe Diem indeed.

Highly recommended. ( )
  David.Manns | Nov 28, 2016 |
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» Add other authors (66 possible)

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
Dekker, MauritsTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Pocar, ErvinoTranslatorsecondary 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 Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:18:28 -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.

(summary from another edition)

» see all 8 descriptions

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Penguin Australia

4 editions of this book were published by Penguin Australia.

Editions: 014118289X, 0141045531, 0241951526, 0141192097

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