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4.2 out of 5 stars
Steppenwolf: A Novel
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
on November 20, 2003
This would probably classify as the most favourite of all my books. As a past Literature major, I have read much, and I find an affinity with both Hesse and his Steppenwolf.
For those who would like to know what exactly the book is about, it's about a man who does not relate to society, in general. An outcast, because of his high sensitivity and talents. He doesn't relate to most people, and doesn't care to. He is a rebel. He is a genius.
It's about the Artist, the True Genius, attempting to live in a world where mediocrity reigns supreme, like the United States of America, a country where a University or Graduate education depends on making money off of students and lowering standards as a result, not true intelligence or ability; in a country where human beings worship the tv set; in a country where the President had a C- average in school. This book is still applicable in many ways to the current mediocre mentality, which is alive and well, and how the above average or superior human being cannot bear to live within such an atmosphere of stupidity, and yet must come to terms somehow.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on April 14, 2004
Outstanding. One of the best books I have ever read. An interesting examination of existentisal philosophy ( more specifically nietzsche), that really creates a sence of the isolation and alienation that is a fact of life in the modern world.
So back in the 27' Tyler Durden would have been named Hermine, the story is just as compelling and indicates that the difficulties that face those who can't just be cogs in the machine are not something new to our generation. ( Perhaps when Yam child has become Yam woman she will realize this, too ).
This story is not exciting, there is little action, it can be dull. Rather, it is a meditation on the world, the problems it creates for one who wants to maintain his individuality in the face of modernity, and the problems furthur raised by any atempt to circumvent those conditions.
This is not a book to give you answers to your journey to selfhood. It is a book to show you A way, and to give you hope that such a journey is possible. Enjoy
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
Hesse was fifty when he wrote this book and to me that's the key. The main character, Harry Haller is approaching fifty and is going through a crisis in his life, hence this is not the stuff for college kids to read as they apparently did back in the 1960s. How could a twenty-five year old possibly understand the problems of a fifty year old???

Harry was, in my opinion, suffering from depression; in the author's note written in 1961, Hesse states that this is a story of "a disease and crisis" and ultimately a healing. Harry Haller did not feel that he fit in with society, he felt contempt for life and for bourgeois society, for the modern world. His safety valve was his razor, the knowledge that he could commit suicide whenever he wanted. Bring it on life! The emergency door is always open!

What happened next is open to debate. How much of what Harry experiences after meeting Hermine (was she real?) and Maria and Pablo - how much of all that was real to Harry? I have no idea. Reading this book was a wonderful experience despite the ups and downs, but I don't claim to fully understand it. Kinda like life, I guess.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on September 4, 2003
Hermann Hesse was in bad shape at this point in his life. Death of a beloved child; a turbulant marriage to a mentally deteriorating woman ending in a painful separation; his devout humanitarianism and pacifism causing him to be scorned and ostracized by a population increasingly obsessed with a very jingoistic form of German nationalism. His ensuing severe depression compell him to undergo analysis by a Jungian and to open a dialogue with Carl himself. They recommend he use his incredible narrative talents, in the framework of Jung's theory of personality, to purge himself of his demons. Steppenwolf is the result. Since narrative flow and reader accessibility were not a top priority for Hesse in this attempt at self-therapy, one has to understand Jungs ideas of the evolution of self-discovery (the road to the Immortals)and the mechanics of ego, anima, self through which this evolution takes place. Hesse, true to form, takes these psychological abstractions and breathes life into them, as Harry (ego), Hermine (anima) and Pablo/Mozart (self) compete, instruct and eventually synthesize to allow Harry (Hesse) to look past his own self-imposed limitations of father, husband, respected citizen and yes, even steppenwolf, to the rarified air of the Immortals where life's foibles produce one cosmic belly-laugh after another and give us the ability to see that "our past was not a shattering of ruins, but fragments of the divine and that our life turned not on trifles, but on stars".
One of the most powerful blueprints of the human experience ever written; mainly because it's a true story, written by one with the courage to go down this road and the skill to put what he finds on paper.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on November 3, 2007
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful:
Worth the effort, July 6, 2007

I read this book in 2001 when I first started making an effort to read and still remember the effect in had on me. I would read about 10 pages a night before having to put it down because in a lot of ways the story brought on a feeling of emptiness and depression similar to what the main character experienced in the story. Yet the story and the character Harry Haller made me think, look at myself and life which to me is one of the most valuable things a book, story or experience can provide a person. The story has a chance to stir your soul if you reflect on the main themes and question - what is life.
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on March 2, 2004
Steppenwolf, by Hermann Hesse, is a captivating, but sometimes confusing novel. It deals with the inner conflicts of Harry Haller and his split personality, the Steppenwolf.
The preface is long and drawn out, but take your time and carefully read it. You will find that it is extremely important to the development of the book. After you finish the arduous task of completing the first 25 pages, you get to take a stroll in the life of the Steppenwolf. It is a distorted look on the "bourgeois society" that Harry lives in, a post war Germany. Haller deals with ex-girlfriends, gramophones, Mozart, and a Magical Theatre that is for Madmen only. The end of the book is worth its weight in pages. If you're not a mad man by the time you get there, you will be when you're finished.
I was extremely satisfied when I completed this novel. It was hard to get through at times, but well worth getting through. Everyone that can handle a little self-analysis should definitely read Steppenwolf.
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on February 29, 2004
When I read the book Steppenwolf by Hermann Hesse I was very puzzled throughout the whole book. The vivid and colorful language and speech lost my attetion for the first half of the book. Expecially when the Steppenwolf is discribing his bitter sadnesses/losses in life. I also was very confused when Harry Holla, aka Steppenwolf, was speaking in a regular vocabulary, difficult and some points but understandable for part of the time. I consider myself and average reader, and the novel was to complicated for me to understand. The staleness and lack of action of the book took my attion away. In most parts of Steppenwolf, there would be huge dialog scenes and little or no actuall action going on. I would recomend this book to the more advanced reader because the vocabulary is very difficult for and average reader, such as myself. All in all the novel was very challenging to read and to interpret. My advice for people that are going to read Steppenwolf is to study this book hard to understand it because the themes are confusing and frustrating at some points in the book.
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on February 21, 2004
Tie this in with Wittgenstein (I am thinking of Ray Monk's book here) and others -- like Theodore Adorno (Can one live after Auschwitz?) to try to build a picture of what was happening in the minds of intellectuals in Europe from WWI through and after WWII.
I would also tie this in with the mindset of Kierkegaard and others post-Hegel to see how they are dealing with the unhappy consciousness. Was no one besides Hegel able to see what Hegel meant?
This is well worth still considering since the task -- overcoming negativity after becoming a self-consciousness aware of self-consciousness aware of itself and what this means -- is still a tragic fight for many of us. Perhaps only more tragic for those who never get to fight it.
But what about those of us that do? Today instead of Jung we have folks like Yalom.
Then compare these to folks like C.S. Lewis. What makes the difference so stark?
Quotations:
"True humor begins when a man ceases to take himself seriously." p. 177
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on November 18, 2003
While we like to view ourselves as polarized beings composed of both good and evil --and hopefully coexist in some healthy realm in between,--we are really composed of the myriad of all things universal. Steppenwolf is a mirror into the soul of each and every sensitive human being trying to avoid becoming a wreck alongside a super-highway called egomaniacal nihilism. Hesse reveals in startling detail the conflict within our hearts, the struggle for the survival of the Self, the utter beauty of love, prose, poetry, music; and the rest of the earthly riches that we recieve when we are born unto this world. He even prophesizes the armored struggle that becomes the second world war a decade before it transpired. The palates of this tome run the gamut from contemplated suicide, deep depression, and substance abuse; to the joys of meaningful relationships and the revelry of re-discovering a rewarding life. This is not a book to be read in a casual manner; put on some gentle music and read it slowly like a prayer or a meditation, you will emerge all the better for it, God bless.
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on May 16, 2003
What Herman Hesse presents us as his literary books, are actually his gifts to the humankind. His depictions reflect a mirror to us. Be it his 'Siddartha', be it Josef Knecht in 'The Glass Bead Game', or be it 'Steppenwolf'... It is absolutely essential, that we look at ourselves in these 'mirrors'.
Steppenwolf represents 'the search for a balance' in life. 'It is the striving after a mean between the countless extremes and opposites that arise in human conduct'. 'Life and resoluton, action and reaction, impulse and impetus' make up the total gathering he and we are seeking. Joy of life encapsulates one strangely, just at the time one's thinking of the eternal after-life. It is the conflict, it is the war between love and hatred, in and beyond things. It is the 'balance' we're seeking, indeed. Steppenwolf 'will never surrender himself either to lust or to asceticism.' Instead, he will be a 'Steppenwolf'.
World is a 'magic theater'; and the entrance is, indeed, not for everybody. One must be a wolf; and a man at times. Acting is a personal pleasure. Reading this book is a further pleasure. 'Steppenwolf' is an enchantment that awaits you...
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