Cover of the original German edition
|Original title||Der Steppenwolf|
|Genre||Autobiographical, novel, existential|
|Publisher||S. Fischer Verlag (Ger)|
|Media type||Print (hardback and paperback)|
Steppenwolf (originally Der Steppenwolf) is the tenth novel by German-Swiss author Hermann Hesse.
Originally published in Germany in 1927, it was first translated into English in 1929. The novel was named after the German name for the steppe wolf. The story in large part reflects a profound crisis in Hesse's spiritual world during the 1920s while memorably portraying the protagonist's split between his humanity and his wolf-like aggression and homelessness.
Steppenwolf was wildly popular and has been a perpetual success across the decades, but Hesse later asserted that the book was largely misunderstood.
In 1924 Hermann Hesse married singer Ruth Wenger. After several weeks, however, he left Basel, only returning near the end of the year. Upon his return he rented a separate apartment, adding to his isolation. After a short trip to Germany with Wenger, Hesse stopped seeing her almost completely. The resulting feeling of isolation and inability to make lasting contact with the outside world led to increasing despair and return of Hesse's suicidal thoughts.
Hesse began writing Steppenwolf in Basel, and finished it in Zürich.[ citation needed ] In 1926 he published a precursor to the book, a collection of poems titled The Crisis: From Hermann Hesse's Diary. The novel was later released in 1927. The first English edition was published in 1929 by Martin Secker in the United Kingdom and by Henry Holt and Company in the United States. That version was translated by Basil Creighton.
The book is presented as a manuscript written by its protagonist, a middle-aged man named Harry Haller, who leaves it to a chance acquaintance, the nephew of his landlady. The acquaintance adds a short preface of his own and then has the manuscript published. The title of this "real" book-in-the-book is Harry Haller's Records (For Madmen Only).
As the story begins, the hero is beset by reflections on his being ill-suited for the world of everyday, regular people, specifically for frivolous bourgeois society. In his aimless wanderings about the city he encounters a person carrying an advertisement for a magic theatre who gives him a small book, Treatise on the Steppenwolf. This treatise, cited in full in the novel's text as Harry reads it, addresses Harry by name and strikes him as describing himself uncannily. It is a discourse on a man who believes himself to be of two natures: one high, the spiritual nature of man; the other is low and animalistic, a "wolf of the steppes". This man is entangled in an irresolvable struggle, never content with either nature because he cannot see beyond this self-made concept. The pamphlet gives an explanation of the multifaceted and indefinable nature of every man's soul, but Harry is either unable or unwilling to recognize this. It also discusses his suicidal intentions, describing him as one of the "suicides": people who, deep down, knew they would take their own life one day. But to counter that, it hails his potential to be great, to be one of the "Immortals".
By chance, Harry encounters the man who gave him the book, just as the man has attended a funeral. He inquires about the magic theater, to which the man replies, "Not for everybody." When Harry presses further for information, the man recommends him to a local dance hall, much to Harry's disappointment.
When returning from the funeral, Harry meets a former academic friend with whom he had often discussed Oriental mythology, and who invites Harry to his home. While there, Harry is disgusted by the nationalistic mentality of his friend, who inadvertently criticizes a column Harry wrote. In turn, Harry offends the man and his wife by criticizing the wife's bust of Goethe, which Harry feels is too thickly sentimental and insulting to Goethe's true brilliance. This episode confirms to Harry that he is, and will always be, a stranger to his society.
Trying to postpone returning home, where he fears all that awaits him is his own suicide, Harry walks aimlessly around the town for most of the night, finally stopping to rest at the dance hall where the man had sent him earlier. He happens upon a young woman, Hermine, who quickly recognizes his desperation. They talk at length; Hermine alternately mocks Harry's self-pity and indulges him in his explanations regarding his view of life, to his astonished relief. Hermine promises a second meeting, and provides Harry with a reason to live (or at least a substantial excuse to continue living) that he eagerly embraces.
During the next few weeks, Hermine introduces Harry to the indulgences of what he calls the "bourgeois". She teaches Harry to dance, introduces him to casual drug use, finds him a lover (Maria) and, more importantly, forces him to accept these as legitimate and worthy aspects of a full life.
Hermine also introduces Harry to a mysterious saxophonist named Pablo, who appears to be the very opposite of what Harry considers a serious, thoughtful man. After attending a lavish masquerade ball, Pablo brings Harry to his metaphorical "magic theatre", where the concerns and notions that plagued his soul disintegrate as he interacts with the ethereal and phantasmal. The Magic Theatre is a place where he experiences the fantasies that exist in his mind. The Theater is described as a long horseshoe-shaped corridor with a mirror on one side and a great number of doors on the other. Harry enters five of these labeled doors, each of which symbolizes a fraction of his life.
In the preface to the novel's 1960 edition, Hesse wrote that Steppenwolf was "more often and more violently misunderstood" than any of his other books. Hesse felt that his readers focused only on the suffering and despair that are depicted in Harry Haller's life, thereby missing the possibility of transcendence and healing.
From the very beginning, reception was harsh[ citation needed ] and it has had a long history of mixed critical reception and opinion.[ citation needed ] Already upset with Hesse's novel Siddhartha , political activists and patriots railed against him, and against the book, seeing an opportunity to discredit Hesse.[ citation needed ] Even close friends and longtime readers criticized the novel for its perceived lack of morality in its open depiction of sex and drug use, a criticism that indeed remained the primary rebuff of the novel for many years. However, as society changed and formerly taboo topics such as sex and drugs became more openly discussed, critics[ which? ] came to attack the book for other reasons; mainly that it was too pessimistic, and that it was a journey in the footsteps of a psychotic and showed humanity through his warped and unstable viewpoint, a fact that Hesse did not dispute, although he did respond to critics by noting the novel ends on a theme of new hope.[ citation needed ]
American novelist Jack Kerouac dismissed it in Big Sur (1962), though popular interest was renewed in the 1960s – specifically in the psychedelic movement – primarily because it was seen as a counterculture book, and because of its depiction of free love and explicit drug use. It was also introduced in many new colleges for study, and interest in the book and in Hermann Hesse was feted in America for more than a decade afterwards.[ citation needed ]
Hesse's 1928 short story "Harry, the Steppenwolf" forms a companion piece to the novel. It is about a wolf named Harry who is kept in a zoo, and who entertains crowds by destroying images of German cultural icons such as Goethe and Mozart.
A paragraph in Hesse's 1943 novel The Glass Bead Game states that the term 'magic theater' is another name of the glass bead game itself.
The name Steppenwolf has become notable in popular culture for various organizations and establishments. In 1967, the band Steppenwolf, headed by German-born singer John Kay, took their name from the novel. The Belgian band DAAU (Die Anarchistische Abendunterhaltung) is named after one of the advertising slogans of the novel's magical theatre. The innovative Magic Theatre Company, founded in 1967 in Berkeley and which later became resident in San Francisco, takes its name from the "Magic Theatre" of the novel, and the Steppenwolf Theatre Company in Chicago, founded in 1974 by actors Terry Kinney, Jeff Perry, and Gary Sinise, took its name from the novel. The lengthy track "Steppenwolf" appears on English rock band Hawkwind's album Astounding Sounds, Amazing Music and is directly inspired by the novel, including references to the magic theatre and the dual nature of the wolfman-manwolf (lutocost). Robert Calvert had initially written and performed the lyrics on "Distances Between Us" by Adrian Wagner in 1974. The song also appears on later, live Hawkwind CDs and DVDs. Danish acid rock band Steppeulvene (1967–68) also took their name from this novel. "He Was a Steppenwolf" is a song by Boney M. from the album Nightflight to Venus .
Zbigniew Brzezinski includes a quote from Steppenwolf as an epigraph to his 1970 book Between Two Ages .
The United States of America's eponymous album features the track "The American Metaphysical Circus", which has lyrical references to the novel ("And the price is right/The cost of one admission is your mind").
Be Here Now (1971), by author and spiritual teacher Richard Alpert (Ram Dass), contains an illustration of a door bearing a sign that reads "Magic Theatre – For Madmen Only – Price of Admission – Your Mind". This references an invitation that Steppenwolf's Harry Haller receives to attend an "Anarchist Evening at the Magic Theatre, For Madmen Only, Price of Admission Your Mind".
The Black Ice , by Michael Connelly, has J. Michael Haller making a reference to the author when he mentioned that, if his illegitimate son took his surname, he would be "Harry Haller" instead of Harry Bosch.
Paula Cole references the concept of the steppenwolf in her song "Pearl" on her 1999 album Amen .
French singer Alizée sings her song "Gourmandises" to "le loup des steppes", literally "the wolf of the steppes" (2001).
Steppenwolf was also referenced in the film Mall (2014). It is also read by the female lead, Maria, throughout the film “Manny Lewis” (2015).
"Lobo da Estepe" by the Brazilian band Os Cascavelletes was also inspired by the book.
The lyrics on the album "Finisterre" (2017) by the German black metal band Der Weg einer Freiheit are largely based on this book.
The novel was adapted into the 1974 film Steppenwolf . It starred Max von Sydow and Dominique Sanda and was written and directed by Fred Haines.
Hermann Karl Hesse was a German-born poet, novelist, and painter. His best-known works include Demian, Steppenwolf, Siddhartha, and The Glass Bead Game, each of which explores an individual's search for authenticity, self-knowledge and spirituality. In 1946, he received the Nobel Prize in Literature.
Paul Thomas Mann was a German novelist, short story writer, social critic, philanthropist, essayist, and the 1929 Nobel Prize in Literature laureate. His highly symbolic and ironic epic novels and novellas are noted for their insight into the psychology of the artist and the intellectual. His analysis and critique of the European and German soul used modernized versions of German and Biblical stories, as well as the ideas of Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, Friedrich Nietzsche and Arthur Schopenhauer.
Steppenwolf was a Canadian-American rock band, prominent from 1968 to 1972. The group was formed in late 1967 in Los Angeles by lead singer John Kay, keyboardist Goldy McJohn, and drummer Jerry Edmonton, all formerly of the Canadian band The Sparrows. Guitarist Michael Monarch and bass guitarist Rushton Moreve were recruited via notices placed in Los Angeles-area record and musical instrument stores.
Siddhartha is a novel by Hermann Hesse that deals with the spiritual journey of self-discovery of a man named Siddhartha during the time of the Gautama Buddha. The book, Hesse's ninth novel, was written in German, in a simple, lyrical style. It was published in the U.S. in 1951 and became influential during the 1960s. Hesse dedicated the first part of it to Romain Rolland and the second part to Wilhelm Gundert, his cousin.
The Glass Bead Game is the last full-length novel of the German author Hermann Hesse. It was begun in 1931 and published in Switzerland in 1943 after being rejected for publication in Germany due to Hesse's anti-Fascist views. A few years later, in 1946, Hesse won the Nobel Prize in Literature. In honoring him in its Award Ceremony Speech, the Swedish Academy said that the novel "occupies a special position" in Hesse's work.
Journey to the East is a short novel by German author Hermann Hesse. It was first published in German in 1932 as "Die Morgenlandfahrt". This novel came directly after his biggest international success, Narcissus and Goldmund.
Nick St. Nicholas is a bandleader, bass guitarist, singer and songwriter. best known for his partnership in Steppenwolf.
Hermine is a feminine form of Herman, consisting of the elements harja- "army" and mann- "man".
Poems is a collection of 31 poems written by the German author Hermann Hesse between 1899 and 1921. They were selected and translated to English by James Wright in 1970 from Die Gedichte, which was published in German in 1953. This collection was first published in 1971.
My Belief: Essays on Life and Art is a collection of essays by Hermann Hesse. The essays, written between 1904 and 1961, were originally published in German, either individually or in various collections between 1951 and 1973. This collection in English was first published in 1974, edited by Theodore Ziolkowski.
Early Steppenwolf is a collection of live recordings by Steppenwolf when they were still known as "The Sparrow" [nee: "The Sparrows"]. It was released in July 1969 on the ABC Dunhill Records label.
Steppeulvene was a Danish rock band which despite its short life has become the icon for the Danish hippie music scene. The name of the group was taken from the 1928 novel Steppenwolf by German Nobel laureate Hermann Hesse. Also in 1967, in California, the band Steppenwolf named itself after the novel.
Steppenwolf may refer to:
The steppe wolf, also known as the Caspian Sea wolf, is a subspecies of grey wolf native to the Caspian steppes, the steppe regions of the Caucasus, the lower Volga region, southern Kazakhstan north to the middle of the Emba, and the steppe regions of the lower European part of the former Soviet Union. It may also occur in northern Afghanistan and Iran and occasionally the steppe regions of Romania and Hungary. The German name is Steppenwolf, whence the novel (1927) by the German author Hermann Hesse got its name.
Adolf Muschg is a Swiss writer and professor of literature. Muschg was a member of the Gruppe Olten.
For Madmen Only is a rock album by the band Atomic Opera, released in 1994. The album was produced by ZZ Top video producer Sam Taylor. Taylor is known for his production and management work with the band King's X early in their career. The title is a reference to a sign above a hidden door, to the Magic Theatre in Steppenwolf by Hermann Hesse.
Steppenwolf is a 1974 film adaptation of Hermann Hesse's 1927 novel Steppenwolf. The film made heavy use of visual special effects that were cutting-edge at the time of its release. It follows the adventures of a half-man, half-animal individual named Harry Haller, who in the Germany of the 1920s, is depressed, resentful of his middle class station, and wants to die not knowing the world around him. He then meets two strange people who introduce him to life and a bizarre world called the Magic Theater.
The Magic Theatre is a theatre company founded in 1967, presently based at the historic Fort Mason Center on San Francisco's northern waterfront. For half a century, The Magic Theatre has been one of the most prominent theatre companies in the United States solely dedicated to development and production of new plays.
Ninon Hesse was an art historian and Hermann Hesse's third wife.
Gabriel Mekler was an American songwriter, musician, and record producer who attained fame in the 1960s, helming albums for Steppenwolf, Three Dog Night, and Janis Joplin. He also collaborated with R&B singer Etta James for two critically acclaimed albums in the early 1970s, mixing blues, soul, land then topped it off with Genya Ravan production jazz and rock.
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