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Steppenwolf [Mass Market Paperback]

Hermann Hesse
4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (67 customer reviews)

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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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5.0 out of 5 stars an intellectual's personal hell Sept. 8 2002
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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5.0 out of 5 stars Peeling an onion (laugh, don't cry) June 13 2002
Hesse is a genius -- go read his stuff! His writing is by no means light reading. Very deep and mysterious. This book, in particular -- magical and supernatural and profound. It was slow getting through the first third of the book, but after that I flew right threw it. The first part is a little boring -- but that's because the protagonist is boring at the beginning, and that's part of the point. (Don't give up!) The book then blossoms into a beautiful, vivid exploration of the senses and a visit to the strange and mysterious "magical theater" -- which contains some of the most beautiful and poignant scenes i've read in all of literature. Hesse has incredible insight into the complexity of mankind and has an amazing, profound wisdom of life and truth.
The book is basically about a man who is trapped in the personality he has created for himself, in the small, confined, grey world he has created, and how he learns to break free from those, to free himself from the restriction of the illusion of a singular soul, as each person is comprised of many souls. ("Man is an onion made up of a hundred integuments, a texture made up of many threads").
Harry experiences many strange encounters, including his visit to the "magial theater" in which he relives all the possibilities of love, engages in war, and meets Mozart, who, laughing ridiculously (I wouldn't have him depicted any other way), shares with Harry some of his Immortal wisdom, teaches him to laugh instead of taking himself so seriously.
Anyhow... go read this. You will never see the life the same way again.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Hesse is a Bodhisattva April 18 2002
By Malli
The idea of the divided man is Steppenwolf. If one is to understand what Hesse tries to potray through this character, some basic tenets of Buddhism help..
a) The fundamental problem with man is avidya-ignorance. Because of this he identifies with everything. That which is relative he takes for the absolute. Through grasping and ignorance he identifies with the 'I' and 'Mine'. Thus he creates the ego. He assumes that he is an unity but actually its the ego or 'not self' that gives him this false sense of integrity.
This is the state of Harry Haller before he became Steppenwolf. His being cultured, well-read, scholarly gave him this false sense of the ego. In Mahayanist principles, he is looking at the world with his 'eye of flesh' only.
b) The first step towards enlightenment is to realise the duality of the ego, the I, the mine.
Harry Haller as Steppenwolf - Here Harry realises that infact he is not one. That which is not him he calls as Wolf. He sees in him both man and wolf, kindness and cruelty, love and hate, passion and compassion. But his classifying and categorising mind again divides all these emotions into 'man like' characteristics and 'wolf-like' characteristics.
Though steppenwolf's state of existence cannot be envied, it must be realised that its still better than his false sense of oneness. Here, Hesse is using the concept of the 'Deva eye' - the vision that helps one discern the dualistic aspect of the world because of identification with the ego.
c) Then Harry meets Hermine and Maria, that seedy musician and a gallery of characters. He is thrown into a vortex of sex, debauchery, mundanities. These experiences of Harry are completely different from what he thought of himself as - Man and Wolf.
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Most recent customer reviews
3.0 out of 5 stars Judged by its cover
I have not read the book, but judging by its cover it is a book about a half-man half-wolf. That subject has been a favorite with horror writers through out history.
Published on April 16 2004 by Festir
5.0 out of 5 stars Different Hesse
This is one of Hesse's most well-known works that differs stylistically from his other works like Siddartha, Narcissus and Goldmund, etc. Read more
Published on Aug. 12 2003
2.0 out of 5 stars Overrated
It is a quick read so if one is interested they should pursue it, but with hesitation. It is not as good as the hype.
Published on March 3 2003 by Dustin Stein
5.0 out of 5 stars It doesn't get any better!
Herman Hesse was always an author I had heard about rather than experienced first hand. After reading Steppenwolf I am a fan. Read more
Published on Aug. 7 2002 by Gift Card Recipient
4.0 out of 5 stars HH as Carl Jung's student
It is quite a common (normal, frequent) experience to struggle to find out our own identity. The complex, multiple personalities that exists within an individual triggers a great... Read more
Published on June 30 2002 by Sathish Srinivasan
4.0 out of 5 stars 'A man cannot live intensly except at the cost of the self'
I moved on to 'Steppenwolf' after having read Herman Hesse's 'Siddhartha'.
In both novels is an interesting recurrance of Indian philosophical strands and Hesse's thematic... Read more
Published on June 28 2002 by Dr. Gege GATT
5.0 out of 5 stars One of the most important books of the 20th century.
This is one of my favorite books by a German writer, it is my first by Hesse, but certainly not be my last. Read more
Published on June 15 2002 by Silence Dogood
5.0 out of 5 stars Great Impact!
I read this book on my friend's recommendations.. it is the first book I read for Hermann Hesse!
At first I found it repetitive and over-detailed, and many times I had to... Read more
Published on June 7 2002 by rannoon
5.0 out of 5 stars A good self help book for some of us
I give it full marks because of the impact it had on me. I have for the span of my life been searching for a clear picture of who I am in contrast to society/other people. Read more
Published on May 24 2002 by thrainn
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