Steppenwolf (originally “Der Steppenwolf”) was the first real book I read in my younger days. I still remember my desk neighbor who passed me the book secretly under the table, telling me that I really had to read this book because I would find “the truth” in there. Of course, like any other adolescent, I was eager to know about the truth. And I was certain that it would be easy to find on the pages pressed in between two book covers.
Well, I must admit that I wasn’t able to find it to this day. But what I found in this book, was a description of everything I only felt unconsciously up to this point. The disgust on society, the grief about our culture and my loneliness. The loneliness that any feeling person living in this cold and mindless world knows about.
That book was my awakening.
That’s why I would like to restart with this story. Initially, I tried to avoid it because I read lots of negative comments about Hermann Hesse as the author, but also about this book.
And everyone who releases a review seems to agree with this negative attitude. The book is badly written, it tells an uninteresting story and Hesse can’t even be taken serious as a writer.
But I think that this is not because of the storytelling, nor because Hermann Hesse himself. It’s only the critics, and the person they have become over the course of time. Because they did not mature or grew up, they simply adapted to the world as it is. They learned how to howl with the crowd, how to laugh about her dreams and lost a part of their soul in the process.
But what about today? Is the book still appealing to me? Didn’t I grow much colder as well? Apparently, I am old beyond my years and more sensible, but in reality, I lack dreams and hope?
Here is my answer: The book still touches me. It touches my dreams (soul) and it plays some long-forgotten strings within me.
Of course, today I read it differently than I did back then and it speaks differently to me. It is no longer the book of wisdom or the guide for my life.
But today, I am also able to better understand his thoughts and feelings. The loneliness Haller is living in, his life of despair and the disappearance of culture. So much of it turned intoactual reality.
And I am still glad to be able to find all this expressed in words by someone.
Why is Hesse always considered an author for young readers? Do you read his stories when you are not really mature yet? But being mature does not mean that you concern yourself with authors such as Tolstoy or Shakespeare later on. You rather become sensible, go to work on a regular basis, and bury all your dreams and longings under a thick layer of entertainment and lame excuses.
What part of his creations is being criticized?
His language? Everyone thinking this should read “Klingsor’s Last Summer”. The first page of that book alone contains more beauty and virtuosity of a language than the majority of people are capable of feeling.
His choice of subject? But then, isn’t the artist absolutely free to create whatever he wants? Isn’t he driven to his subjects by unconscious instincts? Can you imagine a P. Rossegger as author of colorful social images? Or can you imagine Dostoyevsky as a writer of funny stories? Shouldn’t the author be able to write about anything he wants without having to be scared ofthe critic of others?
The way he approaches the topic? Hesse could not tell any real stories. All his figures were always stiff and artless, and so on.
But wouldn’t the style of his stories perfectly fit the way his stories are? Didn’t he exactly tell what he wanted to?
And even if I am not a fan of titles and awards, he’s actually one of the German authors who received the Nobel Prize.
But, apart from the critic’s opinion, why would I recommend to start reading books by Hermann Hesse? This has two main reasons.
First, it has a clear and simple language. This does not mean it’s not virtuoso, he just made sure to write in an easy and understandable language any reader can understand. That’s why most of his books are recommended for beginning readers.
And secondly, his stories touch us at a placewhich has been long forgotten in our world. His words touch our heart, there, where our longing is, the memory of simple things like a sunrise, a leaf in the snow, or a walk on our mother’s hand.
But for now, let’s get back to Steppenwolf and what I think about it today.
The book is still beautiful to me. It’s sad, it’s dark and weary, but it has its own beauty. Of course, my life is a lot different from that of H. Haller. But when I accompany him on his way, I always feel this longing in my heart.
But not for the path he follows, but because the path he took before. It’s my inner desire calling, begging me to spend my life with learning, reading and our culture again.
To make me look for the golden trail he describes.
I truly hope that many of you will feel the same way. Because we’ve all lived too much, we’ve all had too much fun, and we’ve been fighting to grow up for too long. So it would be a nice opportunity to start going into the opposite direction.
I don’t want to go into further detail regarding the story. If you want, read the book yourself and tell me what you think about it, how it makes you feel and what way you are choosing to go from now on.