9 of 9 people found the following review helpful
Great ideas, but a bit lacking as a novel,
This review is from: Steppenwolf (Penguin Modern Classics) (Paperback)
It's easy to understand why Hesse became a favorite of 1960s counterculture America, with his anti-war, anti-materialistic stance (and why the band famous for `Born To Be Wild' was inspired to name themselves after this book). There are some brilliant passages in this apparently semi-autobiographical novel, but they are separated by a few less-brilliant stretches that drag on a bit.
Having said that, I had no trouble reading to the end, partly because I was interested to see where exactly Hesse was taking this story of a man struggling with depression and thoughts of suicide, veering between the wild wolf of the title and a mild and apparently respectable citizen of 1920s Germany.
This is the very Nietzschean theme; the fact that we are all part animal and part rational being, and the balance between the two is a fine one indeed. It isn't surprising to learn that Nietzsche was a big influence on Hesse.
For some reason this novel doesn't seem to be classed as existentialist in genre, yet to me that's how it comes across - a forerunner to Sartre and Camus, for example. Harry Haller, the narrator who resembles Hesse in many respects, is the outsider; alienated yet also intrigued by the absurdity, pointlessness and randomness of life, as well as its occasional pleasures.
Much as I like such dark philosophical ramblings however, I found this hard going in places due to a writing style that occasionally becomes repetitive and slightly tedious. Well worth reading though.