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.
Originally published in English in 1929, Steppenwolf ’s wisdom continues to speak to our souls and marks it as a classic of modern literature.
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Stunning book, stunning reading
Peter Weller's performance is stunning--he reads with feeling and conviction, and uses subtleties of accent to distinguish different characters' voices. Steppenwolf itself probably needs no review here, but I might as well say that it is a compact and muscular narrative of madness, self, and society. Depending on your point of view, you can walk away from this book with a variety of different ideas regarding those topics--Harry Haller can represent a struggle against bourgeois materialism, or a struggle with ideals, a lone genius, or a hopelessly troubled man imprisoned by his own psychology. To me the book was profoundly personal, and I think that it really lends itself to personal interpretation--I really think the reader is invited to see himself in the book's abstractions about self/society/personality.
Anyway--the book is fascinating, it makes for an engaging and quick listen, and I can't imagine a more perfect reader than Peter Weller.
But about the book:
In addition to being a rock band (Hesse would perhaps be pleased by the comparison), Steppenwolf is my favorite of Hesse's work, and I've enjoyed many. It's about a cultured man, steeped in Goethe, Mozart, the great philosophers, who imagines himself to be part human, part wolf. When he tries to fit into the world of men, the wolf snarls and laughs at his pathetic antics. When he gives himself over to judgment and cruelty, his higher nature is mortified. How can he reconcile these two halves of his personality, which seem designed only to interfere with each other? He's handed a small book on the street by a mysterious fellow, and finds it to be all about him! It fascinates him, but the magic fades, as it always has. On the verge of suicide, he happens into a small bar, where he meets a mysterious woman. Simple and wise, she begins to show him all of life that he's ignored. His journey is all of our journeys, if we have a mind and perceive the futility that can seem to hang over the things of our life. Steppenwolf is an odyssey of the self, brilliantly told, often hilarious, sometimes deeply touching. While it can be read to rock music, it will probably command much of your attention, make you feel, make you think, make you wonder how many pieces of you there are... and how they can become reconciled at last.