“Der Steppenwolf” was the first “real” book I read in my youth. I remember a neighbour of mine slipped it to me under the table and whispered to me that I absolutely had to read this book, because in it was “the truth”.
Of course, the truth! I was sure then that nothing must be easier than to press it between two covers.
What a fool I was!
Since then a quarter of a century has passed and my hair is slowly turning grey. But although I have gone many ways in all these years, I do not feel that I have come one step closer to the truth.
And faith is slowly leaving me.
But this book!
What made it so valuable to me at that time (and what still makes it so attractive today) was the description of all that I could only unconsciously feel during those years. The disgust for society, the sadness over the decay of our culture and above all the description of my ever-present loneliness.
And with that the path of awakening began for me.
That’s why I would like to inspire you a little bit for the “Steppenwolf” today.
Even if it sounds like a bad idea, since many critics say that it is a poor work and H. Hesse an outdated author.
But I don’t think that’s because of the narrative. That it’s not the fault of the book, but that it’s the critics who have learned to howl with wolves and laugh at their dreams. And who lost a part of themselves in the process.
Just like me.
I too have become more mature and sensible, have seen a part of the world and believe to be wiser and more sedate. But the truth is I’ve only lost my dreams. And my hope.
But this book touches me again and again. It makes strings sound inside of me that I thought were long torn apart.
I feel the loneliness that Haller lives in. The despair over his existence and the grief over the disappearance of culture. For all this has become the most important part of my own life.
Today, I am often touched by the question of why Hesse is always labelled the author of youth. Which you can only read when you’re not “mature” enough?
But what are you basically trying to say? That we are only mature when we are able to run with the masses, think the same as everyone else, and value money and power more highly than our culture? Or the miserable remains of our humanity?
The answer to this question would have to be a loud “no”.
A loud scream and a rebellion!
Let’s not get bogged down in entertainment and consumption.
Let us keep our dreams and our longing. Because aren’t they at the core of what makes up our lives? Do they not show us the path that leads us to humanity?
And H. Hesse can help us with that.
For all his life, he himself was the misunderstood dreamer, the seeker, the errant, who always set off on a journey.
And wrote about it. In clear, simple words and in stories that touch us in our innermost being.
If you feel longing, if you notice that something important is missing in your life, or if you miss your dreams, then take Hesse’s books to hand. And start with “Steppenwolf”.
For this work is sad, it is dark and tired like our time. But it is also animated by a strange beauty and drives a stake into the petrified heart of our time.
This Harry Haller is like us. He walks bitterly lonely his way. Lost on strange paths, he stumbles through the darkness of the world. But still he goes on and on until this cup runs out.
Then he takes the leap to music, to the stars, and maybe to himself.
And we should do the same.
We too should seek new paths. To our beloved books, to music and our history.
And we too should finally take that leap.
And this narrow volume by Hermann Hesse can help us do that.