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Steppenwolf: A Novel Paperback – December 6, 2002

4.3 out of 5 stars 147 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews


"Hesse is a writer of suggestion, of nuance, of spiritual intimation."―The Christian Science Monitor

"For all its savagely articulate descriptions of torment and isolation, it is most eloquent about something less glamorous but far more important: healing."―The Guardian

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: 224 pages
  • Publisher: Picador; Reprint edition (December 1, 2002)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0312278675
  • ISBN-13: 978-0312278670
  • Product Dimensions: 5.5 x 0.6 x 8.3 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 5.6 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (147 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #16,992 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback
"Steppenwolf" is in part an autobiographical novel exploring the mid-life crisis of Hermann Hesse. Readers should be aware that German nationalists up to this point had criticised Hesse for his pacifist writings and activities during WWI. He like so many of his generation had helplessly watched the socio-economic turmoil and transition of Germany during the Weimar Republic, although he had long ago immigrated to Switzerland. He witnessed the deterioration of his first wife's mental health, which subsequently lead to their divorce. And he was afflicted with gout and other physical ailments, some of which are mentioned in the novel. With these tragic events weighing heavily on Hesse, he suffered a nervous break down, whereupon he underwent Jungian psychoanalysis and was inspired by it to put his accounts to paper.

The result was "Steppenwolf", a poetic tale about a middle-aged man who is spiritually, emotionally and physically sick. Any doubt to its subject matter can be easily dispelled in the book of poetry entitled "Crisis" or Crisis Pages From a Diary (Noonday), which Hesse published in 1927 at the same time as "Steppenwolf". It contains two poems found in "Steppenwolf" and a number of confessional poems describing his despair and personal loss.

Despite the abundance of reviews and narratives written on "Steppenwolf" and Hesse's philosophical position it was, he confided in the preface of editions printed after 1961, his most "violently misunderstood" work. Hippies in the late sixties embraced the book's references to drug use, anti-war activity, provocative music and sexual promiscuity. Even counter-culture guru and psychiatrist Dr.
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Ageing intellectual Harry Haller checks out of his attic rooms in a post-WWI German city leaving behind his "records" which constitute the bulk of this novel. They begin as the musings of a divided man: Harry struggles to reconcile the wild primeval "wolf" inside him and the rational, well-mannered, civilized self he presents to the world. He despises the banality of bourgeois life and yet nonetheless longs for its numbing comforts. Each side of his divided nature loathes the other, leaving him hovering between them in spiritual and social paralysis. He can do little more than wander the streets at night, too afraid to go home because he might take the razor to his throat. But everything changes when he meets the mysterious Hermine who wants to teach him to dance... As Hesse points out in a note to this Picador edition, his best loved work is also his most commonly misunderstood one. It isn't so much the book of a man despairing, as of a man believing. Through his relationships with Hermine, Maria and the handsome musician Pablo - and a climactic visitation to the Magic Theatre which has all the depraved beauty, nightmare logic and existential resonance of a David Lynch film - Harry comes to understand and accept the multiplicity of the personality as being ultimately inconsequential. There is a second, higher, indestructible world beyond the Steppenwolf and his problematic life. Ultimately, this novel is a call to connect with the positive, serene, super-personal and timeless reality behind the ridiculous play of life's daily round. It's there all the time, just as we can still hear the genius of Mozart though his music be channelled through a phonograph. Genius survives the transmission, and so it is with the human spirit.
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Format: Paperback
Steppenwolf is the depiction of a man, in a time, where the pain and anguish of living his life provides the courage necessary to seek change. Harry Haller, a.k.a., Steppenwolf (the wolf of the Steppes) spends his time "with his thoughts and his books, and pursues no practical calling." He is intelligent, educated, cultured, and lonely. Harry is a regular guy, an average man, a man we know, a man we are.

Harry is in pain - spiritual pain, emotional pain, social pain, political pain; deep and suffocating pain. Drinking alcohol doesn't cure Harry's pain, and his health is poor too. Kind landlords provide no relief, and the kindness of old colleagues bestowing social niceties only serve to prove to Harry how wretched he is, because Harry is a "genius of suffering, with a frightful capacity for pain...rooted in self-contempt." Harry is also authentically himself and without pretenses, though he is rejecting of himself. He escapes the pretenses of the world, yet he lives according to the rules of the world. He is accepting and honest with everyone he meets, yet is filled with deep contempt, for himself, and the "bourgeois" world. Conformity to the norm of the day is not the way of the wolf, and Harry Haller is a wolf; a wolf, "living a journey through hell...a soul dwelling in darkness." What Harry wants and needs is relief. Yet he is afraid. Afraid of others, the past, the present, the future, and so with despair for the life he lives, Harry wants to die. Harry also wants to be connected, to be present, and to live. He yearns for it; he even, "regrets the present day and the countless lost hours and days in mere passivity." Yet in Harry's darkest moments, he still has an ability to transcend the darkness and connect to nature as he "contemplates the araucaria.
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