Well, wow. This book was not what I expected, yet perhaps I should have known something wild was in store for me. I first discovered Hermann Hesse in college, a friend recommended that I read “Siddhartha” and that book changed my life. Hesse’s writing took me to a place that I thought only I knew, or understood. He pulled it off again when I read “The Glass Bead Game” several years ago- a book that I continue to think about daily, and is at the top of my list of favorite books. So, I had high hopes for “Steppenwolf” – and at the same time, wondered why I had always resisted reading it. My hesitation seems to have been well-founded, as I found this book to be rather indulgent and extreme.
There are passages in this book that soar with luminosity and clarity- astute observations on the human condition, the frustrations of intellectualism- and how to cope with mere mortals, which proves to be more challenging than I ever imagined, if what this book portrays is accurate on any level. I understand Hesse’s interest and desire to expose darkness and shadow, even bordering on the occult and magic— and maybe at another time in my life, this would have been a stimulating adventure. But, I thought, quite frankly, that it was over-kill. I was relieved to turn the final page and return to some reading that may prove to be both more productive, and enjoyable….
As with all experiences that I find distasteful, I certainly believe there was a lesson to be learned here- and because the book went so far over the cliff, I know that I will pause before entering this level of madness again anytime soon. In a few days, once the book has settled in and settled down in my nervous system, perhaps some nuggets of wisdom will be revealed– maybe I should have waited until then to post my thoughts, but here I am- and looking forward to moving into some new territory…
And just to clarify- I love love love Hermann Hesse, and his other books are still at the top of my charts, but this one just didn’t strike the same connection for me.