Saturday, September 27, 2008

Steppenwolf by Hermann Hesse (a review)

4 out of 5: Steppenwolf is Hermann Hesse's classic philosophical novel about the meaning of self and the source of personality. The protagonist Harry Haller thinks he has two souls--that of a man and that of a Steppenwolf (a wolf of the Steppes)--"in continual and deadly enmity." Over the course of many fantastical events, including a couple love affairs, a frenetic masked ball, and a magical theater filled with illusions, Haller is forced to abandon his view of himself as a flawed, two-souled creature and embrace the idea that each person consists of thousands of souls living in a single body:
The breast and the body are indeed one, but the souls that dwell in it are not two, nor five, but countless in number. Man is an onion made up of a hundred integuments, a texture made up of many threads.

In this slim novel, Hesse examines many complicated philosophical ideas all wrapped up in an entertaining tale. Recommended.

3 comments:

Sandra said...

I enjoyed this book, albeit many years ago. I really should read it again.

Jeane said...

It has been so long since I read Steppenwolf that I remember little except its dark, furtive mood. Thanks for the review- you've encouraged me to revisit this book.

Charley said...

I was disappointed by the end, but otherwise I thought Steppenwolf was an interesting character study. I reviewed it recently as well, and I would also give it a 4 out of 5.