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Beneath the Wheel Paperback – July 1, 2003

4.3 out of 5 stars 153 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Review

“A remarkable mixture of affection, gentle humor, compassion, light irony, bitterness, and cold, angry indignation.” ―The Sacramento Bee

“Can be read for sheer pleasure. Hesse's peculiarly supple lyricism, his brittle irony, and his stunning descriptions of nature are marvelously carried over into the English.” ―The Saturday Review

“[A] Black Forest Catcher in the Rye, a work infused with that sense of homesickness that Kurt Vonnegut, Jr., quite rightly said was so prominent in Hesse's novels.” ―The National Observer

About the Author

Hermann Hesse was born in Germany in 1877 and later became a citizen of Switzerland. As a Western man profoundly affected by the mysticism of Eastern thought, he wrote novels, stories, and essays bearing a vital spiritual force that has captured the imagination and loyalty of many generations of readers. His works include Steppenwolf, Narcissus and Goldmund, and The Glass Bead Game. He was awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1946. Hermann Hesse died in 1962.

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 192 pages
  • Publisher: Picador; Reprint edition (July 1, 2003)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 9780312422301
  • ISBN-13: 978-0312422301
  • ASIN: 031242230X
  • Product Dimensions: 5.5 x 0.4 x 8.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 6.4 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (153 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #292,409 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Guillermo Maynez on February 12, 2001
Format: Paperback
This novel is supposedly the writings of Harry Haller, a lonely intellectual who feels isolated from the rest of the world. The story is the account of his existential transformation. Beyond the plot, it is an exploration, a painful one, on the hollowness, emptiness and meaninglessness of life. It talks about how lonely we really are, in the confusing and unexplainable world in which we live. It also talks about the desperation routine brings on, the fakeness of love, the necessity of death. But, in the final analysis, it also shows a probably undeserved love for life. This is not a simple "grunge" book: it's thoughtful philosophy expressed in a fine literary piece of work, which shows vividly some concepts that sometimes formal philosophy renders in abstract and obscure ways.
Harry Haller, the steppenwolf, will meet a simple woman who takes him into the life of the flesh and the simplicity of people. This is very important: Haller comes to realize, in an intuitive more than analytical way, how we all humans feel the same loneliness and confusion, but how most of us manage to live and somehow enjoy many aspects of being alive.
This is an intelligent, deep and moving novel. It is not always pleasant, but then again life is not always pleasant either. Steppenwolf is perhaps the novel in which Hesse best sums up many of the points made in his other novels, previous or subsequent. It is the round-up of a clear and interesting philosophy of life. No wonder people, especially young people, keep finding inspiration, advice and healing in his works. Maybe I shouldn't give it five stars, for it can't be compared with top-level literary masterpieces; but I think literature's importance is not only and not always stylistical. The content is important too, and at least for me, this is one of the most inspiring and memorable novels I've ever read.
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Format: Paperback
....because it meant so very much to me during a dark time in my life. I never realized how much of what we learn to see in ourselves as odd, strange, unacceptable, mentally ill, or whatnot makes perfect poetic-daimonic sense to an underground but vital chunk of fellow human beings like Hermann Hesse.
What's the book about? About one man's journey into the hell of his own being, paralleled only by the hell of a world he finds no home in; words from Hesse's DEMIAN come to mind: "My story is not a pleasant one....It is a story of nonsense and chaos, madness and dreams--like the lives of all men who stop deceiving themselves."
It's been years since I first came across this remarkable novel of the archetypally lonely man aptly named the Steppenwolf, and yet I still recall so much of it, especially the Author's Note which Hesse wrote when he felt the book was being misunderstood: pointing out that Harry Haller's (Hermann Hesse's) sufferings were opposed by a "positive, serene, superpersonal and timeless world of faith," Hesse adds, "May everyone find in it what strikes a chord in him and is of some use to him! 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
I couldn't have read this book at a better time. Like a lot of American high-schoolers in the "fast track" to college, I was feeling way overworked. I never had time anymore to enjoy nature, good books or anything else. It seemed that my life was school, and nothing else.
On a whim, I picked this up. "Beneath the Wheel," or "Unterm Rad" (auf Deutsch) is the story of a brilliant young man (in the prodigy sense) who is worked to death by those who unconsciously care nothing for him, but to see his advancement.
While I never experienced anything as extreme as Hans, this book really made me question why I was doing what I was doing. Why was I working myself to death in high school? Was I learning anything? Was I growing as a person?
This book is wonderful because Hesse tells the story is such a simple and poetic way; and it is translated marvelously. Simply a joy to read. I can read it over and over again. So, take heed, reader. Enjoy this book and spend many an afternoon questioning the merits of forced education; and different systems of learning. A good technical follow-up is "Teaching As A Subersive Activity." Check it out.
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Format: Paperback
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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