Monday, August 2, 2010

Steppenwolf (1927)

I firmly believe that this is the greatest novel ever written. I can at least say it's my favorite. On the surface, this book has a lot in common with Journey to the End of the Night. Both novels feature a cynical, nihilistic anti-hero with a certain "sickness of the soul." However, there are critical differences between the two works. Whereas the outlook in Journey was mostly bleak, misanthropic and pessimistic throughout, in the end Steppenwolf is offered a solution to all his despair - and this solution is key. He comes to a realization, an enlightenment about his condition and how to remedy it with humor, dancing, and sex. This serves to repair his fragmented sense of self in a psychedelic and unforgettable climax that will leave you in contemplation long after you've finished reading.

"I had no motives, no incentives to exert myself, no duties. Life tasted horribly bitter. I felt that the long-standing disgust was coming to a crisis and that life pushed me out and cast me aside. I walked through the grey streets in a rage and everything smelt of moist earth and burial... Dear God, how had I, with the wings of youth and poetry, come to this? Art and travel and the glow of ideals--and now this! How had the paralysis crept over me so slowly and furtively, this hatred against myself and everybody, this deep-seated anger and obstruction of all feelings, this filthy hell of emptiness and despair."

- Hermann Hesse (Steppenwolf)

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