|My paperback cover -- terrible, isn't it?|
In my endeavor to appreciate Hesse, I've now read Siddhartha and Steppenwolf. I'm working my way up to The Glass Bead Game. Of course, this novel is indelibly and vaguely associated with 70s late-hippie music in my brain, as I'm sure it is for most people my age, but I never really knew what 'steppenwolf' was supposed to mean in English. It turns out to be very simple: wolf of the steppes, or as we'd say, a lone wolf. The title could be rendered as Lone Wolf and that would work. (For some reason, Wikipedia claims that a wolf of the steppes is a coyote, but it isn't and that doesn't work at all. My advice is not to try to think of this as Coyote. No.)
Harry Haller, mid-50s, thinks of himself as a double-natured being. One side of him is an intellectual, high-culture sort of man, and the other is a wild and bloodthirsty lone wolf, always on the move and never at home. Both sides of Harry despise the bourgeois society around him as frivolous and shallow, and he spends his life alone, reading, writing articles, and living in squalor. At the same time, he can't resist stopping occasionally to appreciate the housewifely virtues of cleanliness, comfort, and good food, but he thinks of them as alien and weak.
|Now this cover I like.|
It's a pretty strange novel. I kind of enjoyed it. I liked that Harry is portrayed as wrong in his scorn for plain middle-class life, good housekeeping, and enjoying dancing. I won't claim to have understood it well; I'd probably need a second read and a college course in Hesse before I could do that.