I first knew Steppenwolf only as the name of a rock band from the 60s (I've always loved 'Magic Carpet Ride'). But then I heard it in relation to a book by a German author, something about a guy who thinks he's half wolf... Sounds hokey to me, I thought.
Several years later, someone gave me a copy of "Sidhartha", and I remembered the German author whom I had thought knocked off the name of a rock band. After reading Sidhartha and loving it, I thought about how all this time I had a misconception of the book "Steppenwolf".
It seems I in my state of ignorance am not the only one who has misunderstood the book. Hesse wrote, "Of all my books 'Steppenwolf' is the one that was more often and more violently misunderstood than any other". Hmmm... that alone sounds like a good topic for a discussion to me!
Here's a review and more about what the book is actually about to see if you're interested. http://www.helium.com/items/800258-book-review-steppenwolf-by-herman-hesse
Harry Haller, the protagonist of Hermann Hesse's Steppenwolf, calls himself a "wolf of the steppes," the steppes being the alien domain to which such divided personalities are exiled by self and society.
Haller has voluntarily cut himself off from those transitory things from which ordinary men derive their pleasure. These ordinary men are incapable of fathoming eternity, for they have not been endowed with the "Golden Thread."
Thus, Haller's plunging into sex, drugs, and jazz music is a plunge into the everyday bourgeois world in order to expand himself. As Haller experiences sensual pleasures, he expands his self-realisation and also expands his "selves." Hermine, Haller's feminine counterpart, serves as Haller's guide through the sensual world (much like Virgil leads Dante through Hell). But these sensual experiences are just a part of Haller's self-realisation process.
Hermine does more than teach Haller to dance, she serves as one of his other selves, one of many that Haller must develop and delve into so that he may reach a state of equilibrium and possibly even immortality, like Mozart. The theme of the thread of gold is an important one because it reminds Haller of "the eternal, and of Mozart, and the stars . . ." With this knowledge, Haller could "breathe once more and face existence" after encountering the sensual world of the ordinary man.
In effect, Steppenwolf is a novel about a man's agony caused by society's complacency in spiritual and artistic endeavours, and Mozart is Haller's "thread of gold" which represents the perfect and eternal elements of form.
The Steppenwolf, a bona fide genius, though long under continual torment of personality, is endowed with the gift to perceive reality and life in a way which an average person would not understand; however, because of his torment, the Steppenwolf often ends up hating himself. On the other hand, the Steppenwolf feels superior to others because other people are sheep-like and bourgeoisie.
The Steppenwolf, in a way, should not curse his state, but revel in it, not only because of his ability to gain immortality, but because the Steppenwolf is also endowed with great creative gifts and talents; and because of his or her perception of life, a Steppenwolf senses the sickness and dissonance of 20th Century's sterility of true art and spirituality, which enables him to be the next Mozart of his time.
Some argue that Hermann Hesse's work is about the "divided nature" of a man who is partially "wolf."
New to the Hungry Hundred Book Club? Here's what you need to know:
1. Read the book
2. Come to the meeting, always on the last Sunday of every month
3. Be prepared to order food/drink at the venue (where ever that may be) to show our appreciation for letting us use their space
4. Discuss! It's a casual conversation, so don't be afraid to ask questions and let us know what you think.
If this book inspires a creative element in you, please write a piece for the Creative Component of our book club. It can be about anything that has something to do with the book or the discussion. It might get you a free book! Check our facebook page or send me a message for more information.