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Steppenwolf Mass Market Paperback – 1969


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Amazon.ca First Novel Award - 6 Canadian Novels Make the Shortlist



Product Details

  • Mass Market Paperback
  • Publisher: Bantam Book (1969)
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B000H01VP6
  • Product Dimensions: 17.8 x 10.4 x 1.8 cm
  • Shipping Weight: 136 g
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (67 customer reviews)

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4.4 out of 5 stars

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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Bob Newman on March 12 2001
Format: Paperback
When I was thirteen and went to many barmitzvahs, chugging down little cups of Manischewitz in a back room was considered exciting and daring. We hardly cared that it was incredibly sweet and not relished by many adults. Manishewitz was wine and the "alcoholic experience". By drinking it, we were participating, we were engaging in adult activity. I seldom drink any of that wine now, though a sip or two over the years keeps me convinced I'm not missing much. As with wines, I think it's fair to say that some books belong to different parts of life. Children's books give way to those meant for teenagers. Then there are some that seem to be exactly right when you've left home, maybe gone to college. Among the latter are Ayn Rand's works, Khalil Gibran, maybe "Catcher in the Rye", Kerouac's "On the Road", and the works of Hermann Hesse. You're young, you're looking for meaning, for the "real you", perhaps for a counterpoint to what you perceive as your parents' suburban inanities. I didn't go through this phase (though I did read Hesse's "Siddhartha")---not because I was so clever, but because I just happened to read other things. That's why now, at the advanced age of 58, I just read STEPPENWOLF for the first time, and that's probably why it reminded me of literary Manischewitz.
Hesse's portrayal of the two sides of one man, a disillusioned intellectual who imagines himself a lone wolf of the steppes amidst the crassness of the bourgeoisie, is carefully executed and probably autobiographical. It is full of philosophizing, fantasies, and dream-like sequences. STEPPENWOLF is a freshman literature teacher's dream---there is endless material for tutorial discussions, for essay topics too.
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Format: Paperback
I've read reviews where the reviewer has castigated this novel as "the perfect specimen of the Nietzschean overman who renounces the world." Others have said this book is blatantly anti-bourgeoisie as well. Such comments only reveal the misunderstanding of what Hesse was attempting to convey in this novel.
First I should point out that Nietzsche did not renounce the world at all. In some sense Hesse was heavily influenced by Nietzsche and so in order to understand something of this book it might be helpful to have read a little bit of Nietzsche himself. Unlike his predecessor Schopenhauer (another great philosopher), Nietzsche did not condemn the world. What Nietzsche really condemned was the current state of things (rampant nationalism, anti-semitism, Bolshevism, and materialism etc.) and the mentalities that produced them (racism, narrow-mindedness, complacency, and absolute religious convictions) when he scathingly criticized the 'majority', insofar as the majority embraced these doctrines. Hesse, like Nietzsche, is a 'Yes-Saying' man (Yes-saying to the world that is) and that is manifested in this novel. Obviously Hesse believed in progress and had much hope for humanity. Perhaps those who have charged the author with such nihilistic sentiments have not read further than the first half of the book and have only read the despair that Harry later transcends. This book isn't going to root out and remove suffering altogether but enough so that it isn't so overwelming that one gives up on life. As Hesse wrote, "But I would be happy if many of them were to realize that the story of the Steppenwolf pictures a disease and crisis-but not one leading to death and destruction, on the contrary: to healing.
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Format: Paperback
Harry Haller is a medium for Hesse to address some of the rather extremely intense issues. This is a story of a middle aged man who over the years becomes disillusioned with life. He cannot relate with the norm (bourgeois) yet continues to live within their system. Buried in his books and writings he confines himself to his own personal hell. Unable to find a way out he decides upon taking the "emergency exit" if life continues to disagree with him. On the decided night he comes across Hermine, a complete opposite of Harry who does not allow her intellect to limit her. She teaches Harry to look at life from different perspectives besides his own among many other life's lessons.
The ending of the book is like an answer key to all the questions that inflict Haller throughout. He makes some wrong choices only to end up with the right lessons in life.
Hesse maintains the level of intensity throughout as he continues to bring forth his opinions on war (keeping with the times it was first written), commentary on suicide ("it must be said that to call suicides only those who actually destroy themselves is false."), his attitude towards the bourgeois, music, poetry, etc.
Hesse stated in his note written in 1961 (many years after this book's first publication in 1927) that he found readers either completely misunderstanding it or partially understanding it. One must go beyond the main character's personal problems and study it in totality to understand what the author really intended to do with this story.
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