Steppenwolf, by Hermann Hesse

That's French for "the ancient system," as in the ancient system of feudal privileges and the exercise of autocratic power over the peasants. The ancien regime never goes away, like vampires and dinosaur bones they are always hidden in the earth, exercising a mysterious influence. It is not paranoia to believe that the elites scheme against the common man. Inform yourself about their schemes here.

Re: Steppenwolf, by Hermann Hesse

Postby admin » Sun Jan 31, 2016 9:01 pm

Part 2 of 2

Though I saw Hermine only for the second time that day, she knew everything about me and it seemed to me quite impossible that I could ever have a secret from her. Perhaps she might not understand everything of my spiritual life, might not perhaps follow me in my relation to music, to Goethe, to Novalis or Baudelaire. This too, however, was open to question. Probably it would give her as little trouble as the rest. And anyway, what was there left of my spiritual life? Hadn't all that gone to atoms and lost its meaning? As for the rest, my more personal problems and concerns, I had no doubt that she would understand them all. I should very soon be talking to her about the Steppenwolf and the treatise and all the rest of it, though till now it had existed for myself alone and never been mentioned to a single soul. Indeed, I could not resist the temptation of beginning forthwith.

"Hermine," I said, "an extraordinary thing happened to me the other day. An unknown man gave me a little book, the sort of thing you'd buy at a fair, and inside I found my whole story and everything about me. Rather remarkable, don't you think?"

"What was it called," she asked lightly.

"Treatise on the Steppenwolf!"

"Oh, Steppenwolf is magnificent! And are you the Steppenwolf? Is that meant for you?"

"Yes, it's me. I am one who is half-wolf and half-man, or thinks himself so at least."

She made no answer. She gave me a searching look in the eyes, then looked at my hands, and for a moment her face and expression had that deep seriousness and sinister passion of a few minutes before. Making a guess at her thoughts I felt she was wondering whether I were wolf enough to carry out her last command.

"That is, of course, your own fanciful idea," she said, becoming serene once more, "or a poetical one, if you like. But there's something in it. You're no wolf today, but the other day when you came in as if you had fallen from the moon there was really something of the beast about you. It is just what struck me at the time."

She broke off as though surprised by a sudden idea.

"How absurd those words are, such as beast and beast of prey. One should not speak of animals in that way, They may be terrible sometimes, but they're much more right than men."

"How do you mean -- right?"

"Well, look at an animal, a cat, a dog, or a bird, or one of those beautiful great beasts in the zoo, a puma or a giraffe. You can't help seeing that all of them are right. They're never in any embarrassment. They always know what to do and how to behave themselves. They don't flatter and they don't intrude. They don't pretend. They are as they are, like stones or flowers or stars in the sky. Don't you agree? "

I did.

" Animals are sad as a rule," she went on. " And when a man is sad -- I don't mean because he has a toothache or has lost some money, but because he sees, for once in a way, how it all is with life and everything, and is sad in earnest -- he always looks a little like an animal. He looks not only sad, but more right and more beautiful than usual. That's how it is, and that's how you looked, Steppenwolf, when I saw you for the first time."

"Well, Hermine, and what do you think about this book with a description of me in it?"

"Oh, I can't always be thinking. We'll talk about it another time. You can give it to me to read one day. Or, no, if I ever start reading again, give me one of the books you've written yourself."

She asked for coffee and for a while seemed absent minded and distraught. Then she suddenly beamed and seemed to have found the clue to her speculations.

"Hullo," she cried, delighted, "now I've got it!"

"What have you got?"

"The fox trot. I've been thinking about it all the evening. Now tell me, have you a room where we two could dance sometimes? It doesn't matter if it's small, but there mustn't be anybody underneath to come up and play hell if his ceiling rocks a bit. Well, that's fine, you can learn to dance at home."

"Yes," I said in alarm, "so much the better. But I thought music was required."

"Of course it's required. You've got to buy that. At the most it won't cost as much as a course of lessons. You save that because I'll give them myself. This way we have the music whenever we like and at the end we have the gramophone in the bargain."

"The gramophone?"

"Of course. You can buy a small one and a few dance records -- "

"Splendid," I cried, "and if you bring it off and teach me to dance, the gramophone is yours as an honorarium. Agreed?"

I brought it out very pat, but scarcely from the heart. I could not picture the detested instrument in my study among my books, and I was by no means reconciled to the dancing either. It had been in my mind that I might try how it went for a while, though I was convinced that I was too old and stiff and would never learn now. But to plunge into it all at once seemed a bit too much. As an old and fastidious connoisseur of music, I could feel my gorge rising against the gramophone and jazz and modern dance-music. It was more than anyone could ask of me to have dance tunes that were the latest rage of America let loose upon the sanctum where I took refuge with Novalis and Jean Paul and to be made to dance to them. But it was not anyone who asked it of me. It was Hermine, and it was for her to command, and for me to obey. Of course, I obeyed.

We met at a cafe on the following afternoon. Hermine was there before me, drinking tea, and she pointed with a smile to my name which she had found in a newspaper. It was one of the reactionary jingo papers of my own district in which from time to time violently abusive references to me were circulated. During the war I had been opposed to it and, after, I had from time to time counseled quiet and patience and humanity and a criticism that began at home; and I had resisted the nationalist jingoism that became every day more pronounced, more insane and unrestrained. Here, then, was another attack of this kind, badly written, in part the work of the editor himself and in part stolen from articles of a similar kind in papers of similar tendencies to his own. It is common knowledge that no one writes worse than these defenders of decrepit ideas. No one plies his trade with less of decency and conscientious care. Hermine had read the article, and it had informed her that Harry Haller was a noxious insect and a man who disowned his native land, and that it stood to reason that no good could come to the country so long as such persons and such ideas were tolerated and the minds of the young turned to sentimental ideas of humanity instead of to revenge by arms upon the hereditary foe.

"Is that you?" asked Hermine, pointing to my name. "Well, you've made yourself some enemies and no mistake. Does it annoy you?"

I read a few lines. There was not a single line of stereotyped abuse that had not been drummed into me for years till I was sick and tired of it.

"No," I said, "it doesn't annoy me. I was used to it long ago. Now and again I have expressed the opinion that every nation, and even every person, would do better, instead of rocking himself to sleep with political catchwords about war guilt, to ask himself how far his own faults and negligences and evil tendencies are guilty of the war and all the other wrongs of the world, and that therein lies the only possible means of avoiding the next war. They don't forgive me that, for, of course, they are themselves all guiltless, the Kaiser, the generals, the trade magnates, the politicians, the papers. Not one of them has the least thing to blame himself for. Not one has any guilt. One might believe that everything was for the best, even though a few million men lie under the ground. And mind you, Hermine, even though such abusive articles cannot annoy me any longer, they often sadden me all the same. Two-thirds of my countrymen read this kind of newspaper, read things written in this tone every morning and every night, are every day worked up and admonished and incited, and robbed of their peace of mind and better feelings by them, and the end and aim of it all is to have the war over again, the next war that draws nearer and nearer, and it will be a good deal more horrible than the last. All that is perfectly clear and simple. Anyone could comprehend it and reach the same conclusion after a moment's reflection. But nobody wants to. Nobody wants to avoid the next war, nobody wants to spare himself and his children the next holocaust if this be the cost. To reflect for one moment, to examine himself for a while and ask what share he has in the world's confusion and wickedness -- look you, nobody wants to do that. And so there's no stopping it, and the next war is being pushed on with enthusiasm by thousands upon thousands day by day. It has paralyzed me since I knew it, and brought me to despair. I have no country and no ideals left. All that comes to nothing but decorations for the gentlemen by whom the next slaughter is ushered in. There is no sense in thinking or saying or writing anything of human import, to bother one's head with thoughts of goodness -- for two or three men who do that, there are thousands of papers, periodicals, speeches, meetings in public and in private, that make the opposite their daily endeavor and succeed in it too."

Hermine had listened attentively.

"Yes," she said now, "there you're right enough. Of course, there will be another war. One doesn't need to read the papers to know that. And of course one can be sad about it, but it isn't any use. It is just the same as when a man is sad to think that one day, in spite of his utmost efforts to prevent it, he will inevitably die. The war against death, dear Harry, is always a beautiful, noble and wonderful and glorious thing, and so, it follows, is the war against war. But it is always hopeless and quixotic too."

"That is perhaps true," I cried heatedly, "but truths like that -- that we must all soon be dead and so it is all one and the same -- make the whole of life flat and stupid. Are we then to throw everything up and renounce the spirit altogether and all effort and all that is human and let ambition and money rule forever while we await the next mobilization over a glass of beer?"

Remarkable the look that Hermine now gave me, a look full of amusement, full of irony and roguishness and fellow feeling, and at the same time so grave, so wise, so unfathomably serious.

"You shan't do that," she said in a voice that was quite maternal. "Your life will not be flat and dull even though you know that your war will never be victorious. It is far flatter, Harry, to fight for something good and ideal and to know all the time that you are bound to attain it. Are ideals attainable? Do we live to abolish death? No -- we live to fear it and then again to love it, and just for death's sake it is that our spark of life glows for an hour now and then so brightly. You're a child, Harry. Now, do as I tell you and come along. We've a lot to get done today. I am not going to bother myself any more today about the war or the papers either. What about you?"

Oh, no, I had no wish to.

We went together -- it was our first walk in the town -- to a music shop and looked at gramophones. We turned them on and off and heard them play, and when we had found one that was very suitable and nice and cheap I wanted to buy it. Hermine, however, was not for such rapid transactions. She pulled me back and I had to go off with her in search of another shop and there, too, look at and listen to gramophones of every shape and size, from the dearest to the cheapest, before she finally agreed to return to the first shop and buy the machine we first thought of.

"You see," I said, "it would have been as simple to have taken it at once."

"Think so? And then perhaps tomorrow we should have seen the very same one in a shop window at twenty francs less. And besides, it's fun buying things and you have to pay for your fun. You've a lot to learn yet."

We got a porter to carry the purchase home.

Hermine made a careful inspection of my room. She commended the stove and the sofa, tried the chairs, picked up the books, stood a long while in front of the photograph of Erica. We had put the gramophone on a chest of drawers among piles of books. And now my instruction began. Hermine turned on a fox trot and, after showing me the first steps, began to take me in hand. I trotted obediently around with her, colliding with chairs, hearing her directions and failing to understand them, treading on her toes, and being as clumsy as I was conscientious. After the second dance she threw herself on the sofa and laughed like a child.

"Oh! how stiff you are! Just go straight ahead as if you were walking. There's not the least need to exert yourself. Why, I should think you have made yourself positively hot, haven't you? No, let's rest five minutes! Dancing, don't you see, is every bit as easy as thinking, when you can do it, and much easier to learn. Now you can understand why people won't get the habit of thinking and prefer calling Herr Haller a traitor to his country and waiting quietly for the next war to come along."

In an hour she was gone, assuring me that it would go better next time. I had my own thoughts about that, and I was sorely disappointed over my stupidity and clumsiness. It did not seem to me that I had learned anything whatever and I did not believe that it would go better next time. No, one had to bring certain qualities to dancing that I was entirely without, gaiety, innocence, frivolity, elasticity. Well, I had always thought so.

But there, the next time it did in fact go better. I even got some fun out of it, and at the end of the lesson Hermine announced that I was now proficient in the fox trot. But when she followed it up by saying that I had to dance with her the next day at a restaurant, I was thrown into a panic and resisted the idea with vehemence. She reminded me coolly of my oath of obedience and arranged a meeting for tea on the following day at the Balance Hotel.

That evening I sat in my room and tried to read; but I could not. I was in dread of the morrow. It was a most horrible thought that I, an elderly, shy, touchy crank, was to frequent one of those modern deserts of jazz music, a the dansant, and a far more horrible thought that I was to figure there as a dancer, though I did not in the least know how to dance. And I own I laughed at myself and felt shame in my own eyes when alone in the quiet of my study I turned on the machine and softly in stockinged feet went through the steps of my dance.

A small orchestra played every other day at the Balance Hotel and tea and whisky were served. I made an attempt at bribing Hermine, I put cakes before her and proposed a bottle of good wine, but she was inflexible.

"You're not here for your amusement today. It is a dancing lesson.

I had to dance with her two or three times, and during an interval she introduced me to the saxophone player, a dark and good-looking youth of Spanish or South American origin, who, she told me, could play on all instruments and talk every language in the world. This senor appeared to know Hermine well and to be on excellent terms with her. He had two saxophones of different sizes in front of him which he played on by turns, while his darkly gleaming eyes scrutinized the dancers and beamed with pleasure. I was surprised to feel something like jealousy of this agreeable and charming musician, not a lover's jealousy, for there was no question of love between Hermine and me, but a subtle jealousy of their friendship; for he did not seem to me so eminently worthy of the interest, and even reverence, with which she so conspicuously distinguished him. I apparently was to meet some queer people, I thought to myself in ill humor. Then Hermine was asked to dance again, and I was left alone to drink tea and listen to the music, a kind of music that I had never till that day known how to endure. Good God, I thought, so now I am to be initiated, and made to feel at home in this world of idlers and pleasure seekers, a world that is utterly strange and repugnant to me and that to this day I have always carefully avoided and utterly despised, a smooth and stereotyped world of marble-topped tables, jazz music, cocottes and commercial travelers! Sadly, I swallowed my tea and stared at the crowd of second-rate elegance. Two beautiful girls caught my eye. They were both good dancers. I followed their movements with admiration and envy. How elastic, how beautiful and gay and certain their steps!

Soon Hermine appeared once more. She was not pleased with me. She scolded me and said that I was not there to wear such a face and sit idling at tea tables. I was to pull myself together, please, and dance. What, I knew no one? That was not necessary. Were there, then, no girls there who met with my approval?

I pointed out one of the two, and the more attractive who happened at the moment to be standing near us. She looked enchanting in her pretty velvet dress with her short luxuriant blonde hair and her rounded womanly arms. Hermine insisted that I should go up to her forthwith and ask her to dance. I shrank back in despair .

"Indeed, I cannot do it," I said in my misery. "Of course, if I were young and good-looking -- but for a stiff old hack like me who can't dance for the life of him -- she would laugh at me!"

Hermine looked at me contemptuously.

"And that I should laugh at you, of course, doesn't matter. What a coward you are! Everyone risks being laughed at when he addresses a girl. That's always at stake. So take the risk, Harry, and if the worst come to the worst let yourself be laughed at. Otherwise it's all up with my belief in your obedience...."

She was obdurate. I got up automatically and approached the young beauty just as the music began again.

"As a matter of fact, I'm engaged for this one," she said and looked me up and down with her large clear eyes, "but my partner seems to have got stranded at the bar over there, so come along."

I grasped her and performed the first steps, still in amazement that she had not sent me about my business. She was not long in taking my measure and in taking charge of me. She danced wonderfully and I caught the infection. I forgot for the moment all the rules I had conscientiously learned and simply floated along. I felt my partner's taut hips, her quick and pliant knees, and looking in her young and radiant face I owned to her that this was the first time in my life that I had ever really danced. She smiled encouragement and replied to my enchanted gaze and flattering words with a wonderful compliance, not of words, but of movements whose soft enchantment brought us more closely and delightfully in touch. My right hand held her waist firmly and I followed every movement of her feet and arms and shoulders with eager happiness. Not once, to my astonishment, did I step on her feet, and when the music stopped, we both stood where we were and clapped till the dance was played again; and then with a lover's zeal I devoutly performed the rite once more.

When, too soon, the dance came to an end, my beautiful partner in velvet disappeared and I suddenly saw Hermine standing near me. She had been watching us.

"Now do you see?" she laughed approvingly. "Have you made the discovery that women's legs are not table legs? Well, bravo! You know the fox trot now, thank the Lord. Tomorrow we'll get on to the Boston, and in three weeks there's the Masked Ball at the Globe Rooms."

We had taken seats for the interval when the charming young Herr Pablo, with a friendly nod, sat down beside Hermine. He seemed to be very intimate with her. As for myself, I must own that I was not by any means delighted with the gentleman at this first encounter. He was good-looking, I could not deny, both of face and figure, but I could not discover what further advantages he had. Even his linguistic accomplishments sat very lightly on him -- to such an extent, indeed, that he did not speak at all beyond uttering such words as please, thanks, you bet, rather and hallo. These, certainly, he knew in several languages. No, he said nothing, this Senor Pablo, nor did he even appear to think much, this charming caballero. His business was with the saxophone in the jazz-band and to his calling he appeared to devote himself with love and passion. Often during the course of the music he would suddenly clap with his hands, or permit himself other expressions of enthusiasm, such as, singing out "O O O, Ha Ha, Hallo." Apart from this, however, he confined himself to being beautiful, to pleasing women, to wearing collars and ties of the latest fashion and a great number of rings on his fingers. His manner of entertaining us consisted in sitting beside us, in smiling upon us, in looking at his wrist watch and in rolling cigarettes -- at which he was an expert. His dark and beautiful Creole eyes and his black locks hid no romance, no problems, no thoughts. Closely looked at, this beautiful demigod of love was no more than a complacent and rather spoiled young man with pleasant manners. I talked to him about his instrument and about tone colors in jazz music, and he must have seen that he was confronted by one who had the enjoyment of a connoisseur for all that touched on music. But he made no response, and while I, in compliment to him, or rather, to Hermine, embarked upon a musicianly justification of jazz, he smiled amiably upon me and my efforts. Presumably, he had not the least idea that there was any music but jazz or that any music had ever existed before it. He was pleasant, certainly, pleasant and polite, and his large, vacant eyes smiled most charmingly. Between him and me, however, there appeared to be nothing whatever in common. Nothing of all that was, perhaps, important and sacred to him could be so for me as well. We came of contrasted races and spoke languages in which no two words were akin. (Later, nevertheless, Hermine told me a remarkable thing. She told me that Pablo, after a conversation about me, had said that she must treat me very nicely, for I was so very unhappy. And when she asked what brought him to that conclusion, he said: "Poor, poor fellow. Look at his eyes. Doesn't know to laugh.")

When the dark-eyed young man had taken his leave of us and the music began again, Hermine stood up. "Now you might have another dance with me. Or don't you care to dance any more?"

With her, too, I danced more easily now, in a freer and more sprightly fashion, even though not so buoyantly and more self-consciously than with the other. Hermine had me lead, adapting herself as softly and lightly as the leaf of a flower, and with her, too, I now experienced all these delights that now advanced and now took wing. She, too, now exhaled the perfume of woman and love, and her dancing, too, sang with intimate tenderness the lovely and enchanting song of sex. And yet I could not respond to all this with warmth and freedom. I could not entirely forget myself in abandon. Hermine stood in too close a relation to me. She was my comrade and sister -- my double, almost, in her resemblance not to me only, but to Herman, my boyhood friend, the enthusiast, the poet, who had shared with ardor all my intellectual pursuits and extravagances.

"I know," she said when I spoke of it. "I know that well enough. All the same, I shall make you fall in love with me, but there's no use hurrying. First of all we're comrades, two people who hope to be friends, because we have recognized each other. For the present we'll each learn from the other and amuse ourselves together. I show you my little stage, and teach you to dance and to have a little pleasure and be silly; and you show me your thoughts and something of all you know."

"There's little there to show you, Hermine, I'm afraid. You know far more than I do. You're a most remarkable person -- and a woman. But do I mean anything to you? Don't I bore you?"

She looked down darkly to the floor.

"That's how I don't like to hear you talk. Think of that evening when you came broken from your despair and loneliness, to cross my path and be my comrade. Why was it, do you think, I was able to recognize you and understand you?"

"Why, Hermine? Tell me!"

"Because it's the same for me as for you, because I am alone exactly as you are, because I'm as little fond of life and men and myself as you are and can put up with them as little. There are always a few such people who demand the utmost of life and yet cannot come to terms with its stupidity and crudeness."

"You, you!" I cried in deep amazement. "I understand you, my comrade. No one understands you better than I. And yet you're a riddle. You are such a past master at life. You have your wonderful reverence for its little details and enjoyments. You are such an artist in life. How can you suffer at life's hands? How can you despair?"

"I don't despair. As to suffering -- oh, yes, I know all about that! You are surprised that I should be unhappy when I can dance and am so sure of myself in the superficial things of life. And I, my friend, am surprised that you are so disillusioned with life when you are at home with the very things in it that are the deepest and most beautiful, spirit, art, and thought! That is why we were drawn to one another and why we are brother and sister. I am going to teach you to dance and play and smile, and still not be happy. And you are going to teach me to think and to know and yet not be happy. Do you know that we are both children of the devil?"

"Yes, that is what we are. The devil is the spirit, and we are his unhappy children. We have fallen out of nature and hang suspended in space. And that reminds me of something. In the Steppenwolf treatise that I told you about, there is something to the effect that it is only a fancy of his to believe that he has one soul, or two, that he is made up of one or two personalities. Every human being, it says, consists of ten, or a hundred, or a thousand souls."

"I like that very much," cried Hermine. "In your case, for example, the spiritual part is very highly developed, and so you are very backward in all the little arts of living. Harry, the thinker, is a hundred years old, but Harry, the dancer, is scarcely half a day old. It's he we want to bring on, and all his little brothers who are just as little and stupid and stunted as he is."

She looked at me, smiling; and then asked softly in an altered voice:

"And how did you like Maria, then?"

"Maria? Who is she?"

"The girl you danced with. She is a lovely girl, a very lovely girl. You were a little smitten with her, as far as I could see."

"You know her then?"

"Oh, yes, we know each other well. Were you very much taken with her?"

"I liked her very much, and I was delighted that she was so indulgent about my dancing."

"As if that were the whole story! You ought to make love to her a little, Harry. She is very pretty and such a good dancer, and you are in love with her already, I know very well. You'll succeed with her, I'm sure."

"Believe me, I have no such aspiration."

"Now you're lying a little. Of course, I know that you have an attachment. There is a girl somewhere or other whom you see once or twice a year in order to have a quarrel with her. Of course, it's very charming of you to wish to be true to this estimable friend of yours, but you must permit me not to take it so very seriously. I suspect you of taking love frightfully seriously. That is your own affair. You can love as much as you like in your ideal fashion, for all I care. All I have to worry about is that you should learn to know a little more of the little arts and lighter sides of life. In this sphere, I am your teacher, and I shall be a better one than your ideal love ever was, you may be sure of that! It's high time you slept with a pretty girl again, Steppenwolf."

"Hermine," I cried in torment, "you have only to look at me, I am an old man!"

"You're a child. You were too lazy to learn to dance till it was nearly too late, and in the same way you were too lazy to learn to love. As for ideal and tragic love, that, I don't doubt, you can do marvelously -- and all honor to you. Now you will learn to love a little in an ordinary human way. We have made a start. You will soon be fit to go to a ball, but you must know the Boston first, and we'll begin on that tomorrow. I'll come at three. How did you like the music, by the way?"

"Very much indeed."

"Well, there's another step forward, you see. Up to now you couldn't stand all this dance and jazz music. It was too superficial and frivolous for you. Now you have seen that there's no need to take it seriously and that it can all the same be very agreeable and delightful. And, by the way, the whole orchestra would be nothing without Pablo. He conducts it and puts fire into it."

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Re: Steppenwolf, by Hermann Hesse

Postby admin » Sun Jan 31, 2016 9:02 pm

Part 1 of 2


Just as the gramophone contaminated the esthetic and intellectual atmosphere of my study and just as the American dances broke in as strangers and disturbers, yes, and as destroyers, into my carefully tended garden of music, so, too, from all sides there broke in new and dreaded and disintegrating influences upon my life that, till now, had been so sharply marked off and so deeply secluded. The Steppenwolf treatise, and Hermine too, were right in their doctrine of the thousand souls. Every day new souls kept springing up beside the host of old ones, making clamorous demands and creating confusion; and now I saw as clearly as in a picture what an illusion my former personality had been. The few capacities and pursuits in which I had happened to be strong had occupied all my attention, and I had painted a picture of myself as a person who was in fact nothing more than a most refined and educated specialist in poetry, music and philosophy; and as such I had lived, leaving all the rest of me to be a chaos of potentialities, instincts and impulses which I found an encumbrance and gave the label of Steppenwolf.

Meanwhile, though cured of an illusion, I found this disintegration of the personality by no means a pleasant and amusing adventure. On the contrary, it was often exceedingly painful, often almost intolerable. Often the sound of the gramophone was truly fiendish to my ears in the midst of surroundings where everything was tuned to so very different a key. And many a time, when I danced my one step in a stylish restaurant among pleasure seekers and elegant rakes, I felt that I was a traitor to all that I was bound to hold most sacred. Had Hermine left me for one week alone I should have fled at once from this wearisome and laughable trafficking with the world of pleasure. Hermine, however, was always there. Though I might not see her every day, I was all the same continually under her eye, guided, guarded and counseled -- besides, she read all my mad thoughts of rebellion and escape in my face, and smiled at them.

As the destruction of all that I had called my personality went on, I began to understand, too, why it was that I had feared death so horribly in spite of all my despair. I began to perceive that this ignoble horror in the face of death was a part of my old conventional and lying existence. The late Herr Haller, gifted writer, student of Mozart and Goethe, author of essays upon the metaphysics of art, upon genius and tragedy and humanity, the melancholy hermit in a cell encumbered with books, was given over bit by bit to self-criticism and at every point was found wanting. This gifted and interesting Herr Haller had, to be sure, preached reason and humanity and had protested against the barbarity of the war; but he had not let himself be stood against a wall and shot, as would have been the proper consequence of his way of thinking. He had found some way of accommodating himself; one, of course, that was outwardly reputable and noble, but still a compromise and no more. He was, further, opposed to the power of capital and yet he had industrial securities lying at his bank and spent the interest from them without a pang of conscience. And so it was all through. Harry Haller, had, to be sure, rigged himself out finely as an idealist and condemner of the world, as a melancholy hermit and growling prophet. At bottom, however, he was a bourgeois who took exception to a life like Hermine's and was much annoyed over the nights thrown away in a restaurant and the money squandered there, and had them on his conscience. Instead of longing to be freed and completed, he longed, on the contrary, most earnestly to get back to those happy times when his intellectual trifling had been his diversion and brought him fame. Just so those newspaper readers -- whom he despised and scorned -- longed to get back to the ideal time before the war, because it was so much more comfortable than taking a lesson from those who had gone through it. Oh, the devil, he made one sick, this Herr Haller! And yet I clung to him all the same, or to the mask of him that was already falling away, clung to his coquetting with the spiritual, to his bourgeois horror of the disorderly and accidental (to which death, too, belonged) and compared the new Harry -- the somewhat timid and ludicrous dilettante of the dance rooms -- scornfully and enviously with the old one in whose ideal and lying portrait he had since discovered all those fatal characteristics which had upset him that night so grievously in the professor's print of Goethe. He himself, the old Harry, had been just such a bourgeois idealization of Goethe, a spiritual champion whose all-too-noble gaze shone with the unction of elevated thought and humanity, until he was almost overcome by his own nobleness of mind! The devil! Now, at last, this fine picture stood badly in need of repairs! The ideal Herr Hailer had been lamentably dismantled! He looked like a dignitary who had fallen among thieves -- with his tattered breeches -- and he would have shown sense if he had studied now the role that his rags appointed him, instead of wearing them with an air of respectability and carrying on a whining pretence to lost repute.

I was constantly finding myself in the company of Pablo, the musician, and my estimate of him had to be revised if only because Hermine liked him so much and was so eager for his company. Pablo had left on me the impression of a pretty nonentity, a little beau, and somewhat empty at that, as happy as a child for whom there are no problems, whose joy is to dribble into his toy trumpet and who is kept quiet with praises and chocolate. Pablo, however, was not interested in my opinions. They were as indifferent to him as my musical theories. He listened with friendly courtesy, smiling as he always did; but he refrained all the same from any actual reply. On the other hand, in spite of this, it seemed that I had aroused his interest. It was clear that he put himself out to please me and to show me good-will. Once when I showed a certain irritation, and even ill humor, over one of these fruitless attempts at conversation he looked in my face with a troubled and sorrowful air and, taking my left hand and stroking it, he offered me a pinch from his little gold snuff-box. It would do me good. I looked inquiringly at Hermine. She nodded and I took a pinch. The almost immediate effect was that I became clearer in the head and more cheerful. No doubt there was cocaine in the powder. Hermine told me that Pablo had many such drugs, and that he procured them through secret channels. He offered them to his friends now and then and was a master in the mixing and prescribing of them. He had drugs for stilling pain, for inducing sleep, for begetting beautiful dreams, lively spirits and the passion of love.

One day I met him in the street near the quay and he turned at once to accompany me. This time I succeeded at last in making him talk.

"Herr Pablo," I said to him as he played with his slender ebony and silver walking stick, "you are a friend of Hermine's and that is why I take an interest in you. But I can't say you make it easy to get on with you. Several times I have attempted to talk about music with you. It would have interested me to know your thoughts and opinions, whether they contradicted mine or not, but you have disdained to make me even the barest reply."

He gave me a most amiable smile and this time a reply was accorded me.

"Well," he said with equanimity, "you see, in my opinion there is no point at all in talking about music. I never talk about music. What reply, then, was I to make to your very able and just remarks? You were perfectly right in all you said. But, you see, I am a musician, not a professor, and I don't believe that, as regards music, there is the least point in being right. Music does not depend on being right, on having good taste and education and all that."

"Indeed. Then what does it depend on?"

"On making music, Herr Haller, on making music as well and as much as possible and with all the intensity of which one is capable. That is the point, Monsieur. Though I carried the complete works of Bach and Haydn in my head and could say the cleverest things about them, not a soul would be the better for it. But when I take hold of my mouthpiece and play a lively shimmy, whether the shimmy be good or bad, it will give people pleasure. It gets into their legs and into their blood. That's the point and that alone. Look at the faces in a dance hall at the moment when the music strikes up after a longish pause, how eyes sparkle, legs twitch and faces begin to laugh. That is why one makes music."

"Very good, Herr Pablo. But there is not only sensual music. There is spiritual also. Besides the music that is actually played at the moment, there is the immortal music that lives on even when it is not actually being played. It can happen to a man to lie alone in bed and to call to mind a melody from the Magic Flute or the Matthew Passion, and then there is music without anybody blowing into a flute or passing a bow across a fiddle."

"Certainly, Herr Haller. Yearning and Valencia are recalled every night by many a lonely dreamer. Even the poorest typist in her office has the latest one step in her head and taps her keys in time to it. You are right. I don't grudge all those lonely persons their mute music, whether it's Yearning or the Magic Flute or Valencia. But where do they get their lonely and mute music from? They get it from us, the musicians. It must first have been played and heard, it must have got into the blood, before anyone at home in his room can think of it and dream of it."

"Granted," I said coolly, "all the same it won't do to put Mozart and the latest fox trot on the same level. And it is not one and the same thing whether you play people divine and eternal music or cheap stuff of the day that is forgotten tomorrow."

When Pablo observed from my tone that I was getting excited, he at once put on his most amiable expression and touching my arm caressingly he gave an unbelievable softness to his voice.

"Ah, my dear sir, you may be perfectly right with your levels. I have nothing to say to your putting Mozart and Haydn and Valencia on what levels you please. It is all one to me. It is not for me to decide about levels. I shall never be asked about them. Mozart, perhaps, will still be played in a hundred years and Valencia in two will be played no more -- we can well eave that, I think, in God's hands. God is good and has the span of all our days in his hands and that of every waltz and fox trot too. He is sure to do what is right. We musicians, however, we must play our parts according to our duties and our gifts. We have to play what is actually in demand, and we have to play it as well and as beautifully and as expressively as ever we can."

With a sigh I gave it up. There was no getting past the fellow.

At many moments the old and the new, pain and pleasure, fear and joy were quite oddly mixed with one another. Now I was in heaven, now in hell, generally in both at once. The old Harry and the new lived at one moment in bitter strife, at the next in peace. Many a time the old Harry appeared to be dead and done with, to have died and been buried, and then of a sudden there he was again, giving orders and tyrannizing and contradictory till the little new young Harry was silent for very shame and let himself be pushed to the wall. At other times the young Harry took the old by the throat and squeezed with all his might. There was many a groan, many a death struggle, many a thought of the razor blade.

Often, however, suffering and happiness broke over me in one wave. One such moment was when a few days after my first public exhibition of dancing, I went into my bedroom at night and to my indescribable astonishment, dismay, horror and enchantment found the lovely Maria lying in my bed.

Of all the surprises that Hermine had prepared for me this was the most violent. For I had not a moment's doubt that it was she who had sent me this bird of paradise. I had not, as usually, been with Hermine that evening. I had been to a recital of old church music in the Cathedral, a beautiful, though melancholy, excursion into my past life, to the fields of my youth, the territory of my ideal self. Beneath the lofty gothic of the church whose netted vaulting swayed with a ghostly life in the play of the sparse lights, I heard pieces by Buxtehude, Pachelbel, Bach and Haydn. I had gone the old beloved way once more. I had heard the magnificent voice of a Bach singer with whom, in the old days when we were friends, I had enjoyed many a memorable musical occasion. The notes of the old music with its external dignity and sanctity had called to life all the exalted enchantment and enthusiasm of youth. I had sat in the lofty choir, sad and abstracted, a guest for an hour of this noble and blessed world which once had been my home. During a Haydn duet the tears had come suddenly to my eyes. I had not waited for the end of the concert. Dropping the thought I had had of seeing the singer again (what evenings I had once spent with the artists after such concerts) and stealing away out of the Cathedral, I had wearily paced the dark and narrow streets, where here and there behind the windows of the restaurants jazz orchestras were laying the tunes of the life I had now come to live. Oh, what a dull maze of error I had made of my life!

For long during this night's walk I had reflected upon the significance of my relation to music, and not for the first time recognized this appealing and fatal relation as the destiny of the entire German spirit. In the German spirit the matriarchal link with nature rules in the form of the hegemony of music to an extent unknown in any other people. We intellectuals, instead of fighting against this tendency like men, and rendering obedience to the spirit, the Logos, the Word, and gaining a hearing for it, are all dreaming of a speech without words that utters the inexpressible and gives form to the formless. Instead of playing his part as truly and honestly as he could, the German intellectual has constantly rebelled against the word and against reason and courted music. And so the German spirit, carousing in music, in wonderful creations of sound, and wonderful beauties of feeling and mood that were never pressed home to reality, has left the greater part of its practical gifts to decay. None of us intellectuals is at home in reality. We are strange to it and hostile. That is why the part played by intellect even in our own German reality, in our history and politics and public opinion, has been so lamentable a one. Well, I had often pondered all this, not without an intense longing sometimes to turn to and do something real for once, to be seriously and responsibly active instead of occupying myself forever with nothing but esthetics and intellectual and artistic pursuits. It always ended, however, in resignation, in surrender to destiny. The generals and the captains of industry were quite right. There was nothing to be made of us intellectuals. We were a superfluous, irresponsible lot of talented chatterboxes for whom reality had no meaning. With a curse, I came back to the razor.

So, full of thoughts and the echoes of the music, my heart weighed down with sadness and the longing of despair for life and reality and sense and all that was irretrievably lost, I had got home at last; climbed my stairs; put on the light in my sitting room; tried in vain to read; thought of the appointment which compelled me to drink whisky and dance at the Cecil Bar on the following evening; thought with malice and bitterness not only of myself, but of Hermine too. She might have the best and kindest intentions and she might be a wonderful person, but she would have done better all the same to let me perish instead of drawing me down into this strange, dazzling, dizzying world of hers where I would always remain a stranger and where my real self pined and wasted away.

And so I had sadly put out the light and taken myself to my bedroom and sadly begun to undress; and then I was surprised by an unaccustomed smell. There was a faint aroma of scent, and looking round I saw the lovely Maria lying in my bed, smiling and a little startled, with large blue eyes.

"Maria!" I said. And my first thoughts were that my land lady would give me notice when she knew of it.

"I've come," she said softly. " Are you angry with me? "

"No, no. I see Hermine gave you the key. Isn't that it?"

"Oh, it does make you angry. I'll go again."

"No, lovely Maria, stay! Only, just tonight, I'm very sad. I can't be jolly tonight. Perhaps tomorrow I'll be better again."

I was bending over her and she took my head in her large firm hands and drawing it down gave me a long kiss. Then I sat down on the bed beside her and took her hands and asked her to speak low in case we were heard, and looked at her beautiful full rounded face that lay so strangely and wonderfully on my pillow like a large flower. She drew my hand slowly to her lips and laid it beneath the clothes on her warm and evenly breathing breast.

"You don't need to be jolly," she said. "Hermine told me that you had troubles. Anyone can understand that. Tell me, then, do I please you still? The other day, when we were dancing, you were very much in love with me."

I kissed her eyes, her mouth and neck and breasts. A moment ago I had thought of Hermine with bitterness and reproach. Now I held her gift in my hands and was thankful. Maria's caresses did not harm the wonderful music I had heard that evening. They were its worthy fulfillment. Slowly I drew the clothes from her lovely body till my kisses reached her feet. When I lay down beside her, her flower face smiled back at me omniscient and bountiful.

During this night by Maria's side I did not sleep much, but my sleep was as deep and peaceful as a child's. And between sleeping I drank of her beautiful warm youth and heard, as we talked softly, a number of curious tales about her life and Hermine's. I had never known much of this side of life. Only in the theatrical world, occasionally, in earlier years had I come across similar existences -- women as well as men who lived half for art and half for pleasure. Now, for the first time, I had a glimpse into this kind of life, remarkable alike for its singular innocence and singular corruption. These girls, mostly from poor homes, but too intelligent and too pretty to give their whole lives to some ill-paid and joyless way of gaining their living, all lived sometimes on casual work, sometimes on their charm and easy virtue. Now and then, for a month or two, they sat at a typewriter; at times were the mistresses of well-to-do men of the world, receiving pocket money and presents; lived at times in furs and motorcars, at other times in attics, and though a good offer might under some circumstances induce them to marry, they were not at all eager for it. Many of them had little inclination for love and gave themselves very unwillingly, and then only for money and at the highest price. Others, and Maria was one of them, were unusually gifted in love and unable to do without it. They lived solely for love and besides their official and lucrative friends had other love affairs as well. Assiduous and busy, care-ridden and light-hearted, intelligent and yet thoughtless, these butterflies lived a life at once childlike and raffine; independent, not to be bought by everyone, finding their account in good luck and fine weather, in love with life and yet clinging to it far less than the bourgeois, always ready to follow a fairy prince to his castle, always certain, though scarcely conscious of it, that a difficult and sad end was in store for them.

During that wonderful first night and the days that followed Maria taught me much. She taught me the charming play and delights of the senses, but she gave me, also, new understanding, new insight, new love. The world of the dance and pleasure resorts, the cinemas, bars and hotel lounges that for me, the hermit and esthete, had always about it something trivial, forbidden, and degrading, was for Maria and Hermine and their companions the world pure and simple. It was neither good nor bad, neither loved nor hated. In this world their brief and eager lives flowered and faded. They were at home in it and knew all its ways. They loved a champagne or a special dish at a restaurant as one of us might a composer or poet, and they lavished the same enthusiasm and rapture and emotion on the latest craze in dances or the sentimental cloying song of a jazz singer as one of us on Nietzsche or Hamsun. Maria talked to me about the handsome saxophone player, Pablo, and spoke of an American song that he had sung them sometimes, and she was so carried away with admiration and love as she spoke of it that I was far more moved and impressed than by the ecstasies of any highly cultured person over artistic pleasures of the rarest and most distinguished quality. I was ready to enthuse in sympathy, be the song what it might. Maria's loving words, her fond and tender looks tore large gaps in the bulwark of my esthetics. There was to be sure a beauty, one and indivisible, small and select, that seemed to me, with Mozart at the top, to be above all dispute and doubt, but where was the limit? Hadn't we all as connoisseurs and critics in our youth been consumed with love for works of art and for artists that today we regarded with doubt and dismay? Hadn't that happened to us with Liszt and Wagner, and, to many of us, even with Beethoven? Wasn't the blossoming of Maria's childish emotion over the song from America just as pure and beautiful an artistic experience and exalted as far beyond doubt as the rapture of any academic big-wig over Tristan, or the ecstasy of a conductor over the Ninth Symphony? And didn't this agree remarkably well with the views of Herr Pablo and prove him right?

Maria too appeared to love the beautiful Pablo extremely. "He certainly is a beauty," said I. "I like him very much too. But tell me, Maria, how can you have a fondness for me as well, a tiresome old fellow with no looks, who even has grey hairs and doesn't play a saxophone and doesn't sing any English love songs?"

"Don't talk so horribly," she scolded. "It is quite natural. I like you too. You, too, have something nice about you that endears you and marks you out. I wouldn't have you different. One oughtn't to talk of these things and want them accounted for. Listen, when you kiss my neck or my ear, I feel that I please you, that you like me. You have a way of kissing as though you were shy, and that tells me: 'You please him. He is grateful to you for being pretty.' That gives me great, great pleasure. And then again with another man it's just the opposite that pleases me, that he kisses me as though he thought little of me and conferred a favor."

Again we fell asleep and again I woke to find my arm still about her, my beautiful, beautiful flower.

And this beautiful flower, strange to say, continued to be nonetheless the gift that Hermine had made me. Hermine continued to stand in front of her and to hide her with a mask. Then suddenly the thought of Erica intervened -- my distant, angry love, my poor friend. She was hardly less pretty than Maria, even though not so blooming; and she was more constrained, and not so richly endowed in the little arts of making love. She stood a moment before my eyes, clearly and painfully, loved and deeply woven into my destiny; then fell away again in a deep oblivion, at a half regretted distance.

And so in the tender beauty of the night many pictures of my life rose before me Who for so long had lived in a poor pictureless vacancy. Now, at the magic touch of Eros, the source of them was opened up and flowed in plenty. For moments together my heart stood still between delight and sorrow to find how rich was the gallery of my life, and how thronged the soul of the wretched Steppenwolf with high eternal stars and constellations. My childhood and my mother showed in a tender transfiguration like a distant glimpse over mountains into the fathomless blue; the litany of my friendships, beginning with the legendary Herman, soul-brother of Hermine, rang out as clear as trumpets; the images of many women floated by me with an unearthly fragrance like moist sea flowers on the surface of the water. Women whom I had loved, desired and sung, whose love I had seldom won and seldom striven to win. My wife, too, appeared. I had lived with her many years and she had taught me comradeship, strife and resignation. In spite of all the shortcomings of our life, my confidence in her remained untouched up to the very day when she broke out against me and deserted me without warning, sick as I was in mind and body. And now, as I looked back, I saw how deep my love and trust must have been for her betrayal to have inflicted so deep and lifelong a wound.

These pictures -- there were hundreds of them, with names and without -- all came back. They rose fresh and new out of this night of love, and I knew again, what in my wretchedness I had forgotten, that they were my life's possession and all its worth. Indestructible and abiding as the stars, these experiences, though forgotten, could never be erased. Their series was the story of my life, their starry light the undying value of my being. My life had become weariness. It had wandered in a maze of unhappiness that led to renunciation and nothingness; it was bitter with the salt of all human things; yet it had laid up riches, riches to be proud of. It had been for all its wretchedness a princely life. Let the little way to death be as it might, the kernel of this life of mine was noble. It had purpose and character and turned not on trifles, but on the stars.

Time has passed and much has happened, much has changed; and I can only remember a little of all that passed that night, a little of all we said and did in the deep tenderness of love, a few moments of clear awakening from the deep sleep of love's weariness. That night, however, for the first time since my downfall gave me back the unrelenting radiance of my own life and made me recognize chance as destiny once more and see the ruins of my being as fragments of the divine. My soul breathed once more. My eyes were opened. There were moments when I felt with a glow that I had only to snatch up my scattered images and raise my life as Harry Haller and as the Steppenwolf to the unity of one picture, in order to enter myself into the world of imagination and be immortal. Was not this, then, the goal set for the progress of every human life?

In the morning, after we had shared breakfast, I had to smuggle Maria from the house. Later in the same day I took a little room in a neighboring quarter which was designed solely for our meetings.

True to her duties, Hermine, my dancing mistress, appeared and I had to learn the Boston. She was firm and inexorable and would not release me from a single lesson, for it was decided that I was to attend the Fancy Dress Ball in her company. She had asked me for money for her costume, but she refused to tell me anything about it. To visit her, or even to know where she lived, was still forbidden me.

This time, about three weeks before the Fancy Dress Ball, was remarkable for its wonderful happiness. Maria seemed to me to be the first woman I had ever really loved. I had always wanted mind and culture in the women I had loved, and I had never remarked that even the most intellectual and, comparatively speaking, educated woman never gave any response to the Logos in me, but rather constantly opposed it. I took my problems and my thoughts with me to the company of women, and it would have seemed to me utterly impossible to love a girl for more than an hour who had scarcely read a book, scarcely knew what reading was, and could not have distinguished Tschaikovsky from Beethoven. Maria had no education. She had no need of these circuitous substitutes. Her problems all sprang directly from the senses. All her art and the whole task she set herself lay in extracting the utmost delight from the senses she had been endowed with, and from her particular figure, her color, her hair, her voice, her skin, her temperament; and in employing every faculty, every curve and line and every softest modeling of her body to find responsive perceptions in her lovers and to conjure up in them an answering quickness of delight. The first shy dance I had had with her had already told me this much. I had caught the scent and the charm of a brilliant and carefully cultivated sensibility and had been enchanted by it. Certainly, too, it was no accident that Hermine, the all-knowing, introduced me to this Maria. She had the scent and the very significance of summer and of roses.

It was not my fortune to be Maria's only lover, nor even her favorite one. I was one of many. Often she had no time for me, often only an hour at midday, seldom a night. She took no money from me. Hermine saw to that. She was glad of presents, however, and when I gave her, perhaps, a new little purse of red lacquered leather there might be two or three gold pieces inside it. As a matter of fact, she laughed at me over the red purse. It was charming, but a bargain, and no longer in fashion. In these matters, about which up to that time I was as little learned as in any language of the Eskimos, I learned a great deal from Maria. Before all else I learned that these playthings were not mere idle trifles invented by manufacturers and dealers for the purposes of gain. They were, on the contrary, a little or, rather, a big world, authoritative and beautiful, many sided, containing a multiplicity of things all of which had the one and only aim of serving love, refining the senses, giving life to the dead world around us, endowing it in a magical way with new instruments of love, from powder and scent to the dancing show, from ring to cigarette case, from waist-buckle to handbag. This bag was no bag, this purse no purse, flowers no flowers, the fan no fan. All were the plastic material of love, of magic and delight. Each was a messenger, a smuggler, a weapon, a battle cry.

I often wondered who it was whom Maria really loved. I think she loved the young Pablo of the saxophone, with his melancholy black eyes and his long, white, distinguished, melancholy hands. I should have thought Pablo a somewhat sleepy lover, spoiled and passive, but Maria assured me that though it took a long time to wake him up he was then more strenuous and forward and virile than prize fighter or riding master.

In this way I got to know many secrets about this person and that, jazz musicians, actors and many of the women and girls and men of our circle. I saw beneath the surface of the various alliances and enmities and by degrees (though I had been such an entire stranger to this world) I was drawn in and treated with confidence. I learned a good deal about Hermine, too. It was of Herr Pablo, however, of whom Maria was fond, that I saw the most. At times she, too, availed herself of his secret drugs and was forever procuring these delights for me also; and Pablo was always most markedly on the alert to be of service to me. Once he said to me without more ado: "You are so very unhappy. That is bad. One shouldn't be like that. It makes me sorry. Try a mild pipe of opium." My opinion of this jolly, intelligent, childlike and, at the same time, unfathomable person gradually changed. We became friends, and I often took some of his specifics. He looked on at my affair with Maria with some amusement. Once he entertained us in his room on the top floor of an hotel in the suburbs. There was only one chair, so Maria and I had to sit on the bed. He gave us a drink from three little bottles, a mysterious and wonderful draught. And then when I had got into a very good humor, he proposed, with beaming eyes, to celebrate a love orgy for three. I declined abruptly. Such a thing was inconceivable to me. Nevertheless I stole glance at Maria to see how she took it, and though she at once backed up my refusal I saw the gleam in her eyes and observed that the renunciation cost her some regret. Pablo was disappointed by my refusal but not hurt. "Pity," he said. "Harry is too morally minded. Nothing to be done. All the same it would have been so beautiful, so very beautiful! But I've got another idea." He gave us each a little opium to smoke, and sitting motionless with open eyes we all three lived through the scenes that he suggested to us while Maria trembled with delight. As I felt a little unwell after this, Pablo laid me on the bed and gave me some drops, and while I lay with closed eyes I felt the fleeting breath of a kiss on each eyelid. I took the kiss as though I believed it came from Maria, but I knew very well it came from him.

And one evening he surprised me still more. Coming to me in my room he told me that he needed twenty francs and would I oblige him? In return he offered that I instead of him should have Maria for the night.

"Pablo," I said, very much shocked, "you don't know what you say. Barter for a woman is counted among us as the last degradation. I have not heard your proposal, Pablo."

He looked at me with pity. "You don't want to, Herr Harry. Very good. You're always making difficulties for yourself. Don't sleep tonight with Maria if you would rather not. But give me the money all the same. You shall have it back. I have urgent need of it."

"What for? "

"For Agostino, the little second violin, you know. He has been ill for a week and there's no one to look after him. He hasn't a sou, nor have I at the moment."

From curiosity and also partly to punish myself, I went with him to Agostino. He took milk and medicine to him in his attic, and a wretched one it was. He made his bed and aired the room and made a most professional compress for the fevered head, all quickly and gently and efficiently like a good sick nurse. The same evening I saw him playing till dawn in the City Bar.

I often talked at length and in detail about Maria with Hermine, about her hands and shoulders and hips and her way of laughing and kissing and dancing.

"Has she shown you this?" asked Hermine on one occasion, describing to me a peculiar play of the tongue in kissing. I asked her to show it me herself, but she was most earnest in her refusal. "That is for later. I am not your love yet."

I asked her how she was acquainted with Maria's ways of kissing and with many secrets as well that could be known only to her lovers.

"Oh," she cried, "we're friends, after all. Do you think we'd have secrets from one another? I must say you've got hold of a beautiful girl. There's no one like her ."

"All the same, Hermine, I'm sure you have some secrets from each other, or have you told her everything you know about me?"

"No, that's another matter. Those are things she would not understand. Maria is wonderful. You are fortunate. But between you and me there are things she has not a notion of. Naturally I told her a lot about you, much more than you would have liked at the time. I had to win her for you, you see. But neither Maria nor anyone else will ever understand you as I understand you. I've learned something about you from her besides, for she's told me all about you as far as she knows you at all. I know you nearly as well as if we had often slept together."

It was curious and mysterious to know, when I was with Maria again, that she had had Hermine in her arms just as she had me ... New, indirect and complicated relations rose before me, new possibilities in love and life; and I thought of the thousand souls of the Steppenwolf treatise.


In the short interval between the time that I got to know Maria and the Fancy Dress Ball I was really happy; and yet I never had the feeling that this was my release and the attainment of felicity. I had the distinct impression, rather, that all this was a prelude and a preparation, that everything was pushing eagerly forward, that the gist of the matter was to come.
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Re: Steppenwolf, by Hermann Hesse

Postby admin » Sun Jan 31, 2016 9:02 pm

Part 2 of 2

I was now so proficient in dancing that I felt quite equal to playing my part at the Ball of which everybody was talking. Hermine had a secret. She took the greatest care not to let out what her costume was to be. I would recognize her soon enough, she said, and should I fail to do so, she would help me; but beforehand I was to know nothing. She was not in the least inquisitive to know my plans for a fancy dress and I decided that I should not wear a costume at all. Maria, when I asked her to go with me as my partner, explained that she had a cavalier already and a ticket too, in fact; and I saw with some disappointment that I should have to attend the festivity alone. It was the principal Fancy Dress Ball of the town, organized yearly by the Society of Artists in the Globe Rooms.

During these days I saw little of Hermine, but the day before the Ball she paid me a brief visit. She came for her ticket, which I had got for her, and sat quietly with me for a while in my room. We fell into a conversation so remarkable that it made a deep impression on me.

"You're really doing splendidly," she said. "Dancing suits you. Anyone who hadn't seen you for the last four weeks would scarcely know you."

"Yes," I agreed. "Things haven't gone so well with me for years. That's all your doing, Hermine."

"Oh, not the beautiful Maria's?"

"No. She is a present from you like all the rest. She is wonderful."

"She is just the girl you need, Steppenwolf -- pretty, young, light hearted, an expert in love and not to be had every day. If you hadn't to share her with others, if she weren't always merely a fleeting guest, it would be another matter."

Yes, I had to concede this too.

"And so have you really got everything you want now?"

"No, Hermine. It is not like that. What I have got is very beautiful and delightful, a great pleasure, a great consolation. I'm really happy -- "

"Well then, what more do you want?"

"I do want more. I am not content with being happy. I was not made for it. It is not my destiny. My destiny is the opposite."

"To be unhappy in fact? Well, you've had that and to spare, that time when you couldn't go home because of the razor."

"No, Hermine, it is something else. That time, I grant you, I was very unhappy. But it was a stupid unhappiness that led to nothing."


"Because I should not have had that fear of death when I wished for it all the same. The unhappiness that I need and long for is different. It is of the kind that will let me suffer with eagerness and lust after death. That is the unhappiness, or happiness, that I am waiting for."

"I understand that. There we are brother and sister. But what have you got against the happiness that you have found now with Maria? Why aren't you content?"

"I have nothing against it. Oh, no, I love it. I'm grateful for it. It is as lovely as a sunny day in a wet summer. But I suspect that it can't last. This happiness leads to nothing either. It gives content, but content is no food for me. It lulls the Steppenwolf to sleep and satiates him. But it is not a happiness to die for."

"So it's necessary to be dead, Steppenwolf?"

"I think so, yes. My happiness fills me with content and I can bear it for a long while yet. But sometimes when happiness leaves a moment's leisure to look about me and long for things, the longing I have is not to keep this happiness forever, but to suffer once again, only more beautifully and less meanly than before. I long for the sufferings that make me ready and willing to die."

Hermine looked tenderly in my eyes with that dark look that could so suddenly come into her face. Lovely, fearful eyes! Picking her words one by one and piecing them together, and speaking slowly and so low that it was an effort to hear her, she said:

"I want to tell you something today, something that I have known for a long while, and you know it too; but perhaps you have never said it to yourself. I am going to tell you now what it is that I know about you and me and our fate. You, Harry, have been an artist and a thinker, a man full of joy and faith, always on the track of what is great and eternal, never content with the trivial and petty. But the more life has awakened you and brought you back to yourself, the greater has your need been and the deeper the sufferings and dread and despair that have overtaken you, till you were up to your neck in them. And all that you once knew and loved and revered as beautiful and sacred, all the belief you once had in mankind and our high destiny, has been of no avail and has lost its worth and gone to pieces. Your faith found no more air to breathe. And suffocation is a hard death. Is that true, Harry? Is that your fate?"

I nodded again and again.

"You have a picture of life within you, a faith, a challenge, and you were ready for deeds and sufferings and sacrifices, and then you became aware by degrees that the world asked no deeds and no sacrifices of you whatever, and that life is no poem of heroism with heroic parts to play and so on, but a comfortable room where people are quite content with eating and drinking, coffee and knitting, cards and wireless. And whoever wants more and has got it in him -- the heroic and the beautiful, and the reverence for the great poets or for the saints -- is a fool and a Don Quixote. Good. And it has been just the same for me, my friend. I was a gifted girl. I was meant to live up to a high standard, to expect much of myself and do great things. I could have played a great part. I could have been the wife of a king, the beloved of a revolutionary, the sister of a genius, the mother of a martyr. And life has allowed me just this, to be a courtesan of fairly good taste, and even that has been hard enough. That is how things have gone with me. For a while I was inconsolable and for a long time I put the blame on myself. Life, thought I, must in the end be in the right, and if life scorned my beautiful dreams, so I argued, it was my dreams that were stupid and wrong headed. But that did not help me at all. And as I had good eyes and ears and was a little inquisitive too, I took a good look at this so-called life and at my neighbors and acquaintances, fifty or so of them and their destinies, and then I saw you. And I knew that my dreams had been right a thousand times over, just as yours had been. It was life and reality that were wrong. It was as little right that a woman like me should have no other choice than to grow old in poverty and in a senseless way at a typewriter in the pay of a money-maker, or to marry such a man for his money's sake, or to become some kind of drudge, as for a man like you to be forced in his loneliness and despair to have recourse to a razor. Perhaps the trouble with me was more material and moral and with you more spiritual -- but it was the same road. Do you think I can't understand your horror of the fox trot, your dislike of bars and dancing floors, your loathing of jazz and the rest of it? I understand it only too well, and your dislike of politics as well, your despondence over the chatter and irresponsible antics of the parties and the press, your despair over the war, the one that has been and the one that is to be, over all that people nowadays think, read and build, over the music they play, the celebrations they hold, the education they carry on. You are right, Steppenwolf, right a thousand times over, and yet you must go to the wall. You are much too exacting and hungry for this simple, easygoing and easily contented world of today. You have a dimension too many. Whoever wants to live and enjoy his life today must not be like you and me. Whoever wants music instead of noise, joy instead of pleasure, soul instead of gold, creative work instead of business, passion instead of foolery, finds no home in this trivial world of ours -- "

She looked down and fell into meditation.

"Hermine," I cried tenderly, "sister, how clearly you see! And yet you taught me the fox trot! But how do you mean that people like us with a dimension too many cannot live here? What brings it about? Is it only so in our days, or was it so always?"

"I don't know. For the honor of the world, I will suppose it to be in our time only -- a disease, a momentary misfortune. Our leaders strain every nerve, and with success, to get the next war going, while the rest of us, meanwhile, dance the fox trot, earn money and eat chocolates -- in such a time the world must indeed cut a poor figure. Let us hope that other times were better, and will be better again, richer, broader and deeper. But that is no help to us now. And perhaps it has always been the same -- "

"Always as it is today? Always a world only for politicians, profiteers, waiters and pleasure-seekers, and not a breath of air for men?"

"Well, I don't know. Nobody knows. Anyway, it is all the same. But I am thinking now of your favorite of whom you have talked to me sometimes, and read me, too, some of his letters, of Mozart. How was it with him in his day? Who controlled things in his times and ruled the roost and gave the tone and counted for something? Was it Mozart or the business people, Mozart or the average man? And in what fashion did he come to die and be buried? And perhaps, I mean, it has always been the same and always will be, and what is called history at school, and all we learn by heart there about heroes and geniuses and great deeds and fine emotions, is all nothing but a swindle invented by the schoolmasters for educational reasons to keep children occupied for a given number of years. It has always been so and always will be. Time and the world, money and power belong to the small people and the shallow people. To the rest, to the real men belongs nothing. Nothing but death."

"Nothing else?"

"Yes, eternity.

"You mean a name, and fame with posterity?"

"No, Steppenwolf, not fame. Has that any value? And do you think that all true and real men have been famous and known to posterity?"

"No, of course not."

"Then it isn't fame. Fame exists in that sense only for the schoolmasters. No, it isn't fame. It is what I call eternity. The pious call it the kingdom of God. I say to myself: all we who ask too much and have a dimension too many could not contrive to live at all if there were not another air to breathe outside the air of this world, if there were not eternity at the back of time; and this is the kingdom of truth. The music of Mozart belongs there and the poetry of your great poets. The saints, too, belong there, who have worked wonders and suffered martyrdom and given a great example to men. But the image of every true act, the strength of every true feeling, belongs to eternity just as much, even though no one knows of it or sees it or records it or hands it down to posterity. In eternity there is no posterity."

"You are right."

"The pious," she went on meditatively, "after all know most about this. That is why they set up the saints and what they call the communion of the saints. The saints, these are the true men, the younger brothers of the Savior. We are with them all our lives long in every good deed, in every brave thought, in every love. The communion of the saints, in earlier times it was set by painters in a golden heaven, shining, beautiful and full of peace, and it is nothing else but what I meant a moment ago when I called it eternity. It is the kingdom on the other side of time and appearances. It is there we belong. There is our home. It is that which our heart strives for. And for that reason, Steppenwolf, we long for death. There you will find your Goethe again and Novalis and Mozart, and I my saints, Christopher, Philip of Neri and all. There are many saints who at first were sinners. Even sin can be a way to saintliness, sin and vice. You will laugh at me, but I often think that even my friend Pablo might be a saint in hiding. Ah, Harry, we have to stumble through so much dirt and humbug before we reach home. And we have no one to guide us. Our only guide is our homesickness."

With the last words her voice had sunk again and now there was a stillness of peace in the room. The sun was setting; it lit up the gilt lettering on the back of my books. I took Hermine's head in my hands and kissed her on the forehead and leaned my cheek to hers as though she were my sister, and so we stayed for a moment. And so I should have liked best to stay and to have gone out no more that day. But Maria had promised me this night, the last before the great Ball.

But on my way to join Maria I thought, not of her, but of what Hermine had said. It seemed to me that it was not, perhaps, her own thoughts but mine. She had read them like a clairvoyant, breathed them in and given them back, so that they had a form of their own and came to me as something new. I was particularly thankful to her for having expressed the thought of eternity just at this time. I needed it, for without it I could not live and neither could I die. The sacred sense of beyond, of timelessness, of a world which had an eternal value and the substance of which was divine had been given back to me today by this friend of mine who taught me dancing.

I was forced to recall my dream of Goethe and that vision of the old wiseacre when he laughed so inhumanly and played his joke on me in the fashion of the immortals. For the first time I understood Goethe's laughter, the laughter of the immortals. It was a laughter without an object. It was simply light and lucidity. It was that which is left over when a true man has passed through all the sufferings, vices, mistakes, passions and misunderstandings of men and got through to eternity and the world of space. And eternity was nothing else than the redemption of time, its return to innocence, so to speak, and its transformation again into space.

I went to meet Maria at the place where we usually dined. However, she had not arrived, and while I sat waiting at the table in the quiet and secluded restaurant, my thoughts still ran on the conversation I had had with Hermine. All these thoughts that had arisen between her and me seemed so intimate and well known, fashioned from a mythology and an imagery so entirely my own. The immortals, living their life in timeless space, enraptured, re-fashioned and immersed in a crystalline eternity like ether, and the cool starry brightness and radiant serenity of this world outside the earth -- whence was all this so intimately known? As I reflected, passages of Mozart's Cassations, of Bach's Well-tempered Clavier came to my mind and it seemed to me that all through this music there was the radiance of this cool starry brightness and the quivering of this clearness of ether. Yes, it was there. In this music there was a feeling as of time frozen into space, and above it there quivered a never-ending and superhuman serenity, an eternal, divine laughter. Yes, and how well the aged Goethe of my dreams fitted in too! And suddenly I heard this fathomless laughter around me. I heard the immortals laughing. I sat entranced. Entranced, I felt for a pencil in my waistcoat pocket, and looking for paper saw the wine card lying on the table. I turned it over and wrote on the back. I wrote verses and forgot about them till one day I discovered them in my pocket. They ran:


Ever reeking from the vales of earth
Ascends to us life's fevered surge,
Wealth's excess, the rage of dearth,
Smoke of death meals on the gallow's verge;
Greed without end, imprisoned air;
Murderers' hands, usurers' hands, hands of prayer;
Exhales in foetid breath the human swarm
Whipped on by fear and lust, blood raw, blood warm,
Breathing blessedness and savage heats,
Eating itself and spewing what it eats,
Hatching war and lovely art,
Decking out with idiot craze
Bawdy houses while they blaze,
Through the childish fair-time mart
Weltering to its own decay
In the glare of pleasure's way,
Rising for each newborn and then
Sinking for each to dust again.

But we above you ever more residing
In the ether's star translumined ice
Know not day nor night nor time's dividing,
Wear nor age nor sex for our device.
All your sins and anguish self-affrighting,
Your murders and lascivious delighting
Are to us but as a show
Like the suns that circling go,
Changing not our day for night;
On your frenzied life we spy,
And refresh ourselves thereafter
With the stars in order fleeing;
Our breath is winter; in our sight
Pawns the dragon of the sky;
Cool and unchanging is our eternal being,
Cool and star bright is our eternal laughter.

Then Maria came and after a cheerful meal I accompanied her to our little room. She was lovelier that evening, warmer and more intimate than she had ever been. The love she gave me was so tender that I felt it as the most complete abandon. "Maria," said I, "you are as prodigal today as a goddess. Don't kill us both quite. Tomorrow after all is the Ball. Whom have you got for a cavalier tomorrow? I'm very much afraid it is a fairy prince who will carry you off and I shall never see you any more. Your love tonight is almost like that of good lovers who bid each other farewell for the last time."

She put her lips close to my ear and whispered:

"Don't say that, Harry. Any time might be the last time. If Hermine takes you, you will come no more to me. Perhaps she will take you tomorrow."

Never did I experience the feeling peculiar to those days, that strange, bitter-sweet alternation of mood, more powerfully than on that night before the Ball. It was happiness that I experienced. There was the loveliness of Maria and her surrender. There was the sweet and subtle sensuous joy of inhaling and tasting a hundred pleasures of the senses that I had only begun to know as an elderly man. I was bathed in sweet joy like a rippling pool. And yet that was only the shell. Within all was significant and tense with fate, and while, love-lost and tender, I was busied with the little sweet appealing things of love and sank apparently without a care in the caress of happiness, I was conscious all the while in my heart how my fate raced on at breakneck speed, racing and chasing like a frightened horse, straight for the precipitous abyss, spurred on by dread and longing to the consummation of death. Just as a short while before I had started aside in fear from the easy thoughtless pleasure of merely sensual love and felt a dread of Maria's beauty that laughingly offered itself, so now I felt a dread of death, a dread, however, that was already conscious of its approaching change into surrender and release.

Even while we were lost in the silent and deep preoccupation of our love and belonged more closely than ever we had to one another, my soul bid adieu to Maria, and took leave of all that she had meant to me. I had learned from her, once more before the end, to confide myself like a child to life's surface play, to pursue a fleeting joy, and to be both child and beast in the innocence of sex, a state that (in earlier life) I had only known rarely and as an exception. The life of the senses and of sex had nearly always had for me the bitter accompaniment of guilt, the sweet but dread taste of forbidden fruit that puts a spiritual man on his guard. Now, Hermine and Maria had shown me this garden in its innocence, and I had been a guest there and thankfully. But it would soon be time to go on farther. It was too agreeable and too warm in this garden. It was my destiny to make another bid for the crown of life in the expiation of its endless guilt. An easy life, an easy love, an easy death -- these were not for me.

From what the girls told me I gathered that for the Ball next day, or in connection with it, quite unusual delights and extravagances were on foot. Perhaps it was the climax, and perhaps Maria's suspicion was correct. Perhaps this was our last night together and perhaps the morning would bring a new unwinding of fate. I was aflame with longing and breathless with dread; I clung wildly to Maria; and there flared within me a last burst of wild desire ...


I made up by day for the sleep I had lost at night. After a bath I went home dead tired. I darkened my bedroom and as I undressed I came on the verses in my pocket; but I forgot them again and lay down forthwith. I forgot Maria and Hermine and the Masked Ball and slept the clock round. It was not till I had got up in the evening and was shaving that I remembered that the Ball began in an hour and that I had to find a dress shirt. I got myself ready in very good humor and went out thereafter to have dinner.

It was the first masked ball I was to participate in. In earlier days, it is true, I had now and again attended such festivities and even sometimes found them very entertaining, but I had never danced. I had been a spectator merely. As for the enthusiasm with which others had talked and rejoiced over them in my hearing, it had always struck me as comic. And now the day had come for me too to find the occasion one of almost painful suspense. As I had no partner to take, I decided not to go till late. This, too, Hermine had counseled me.

I had seldom of late been to the Steel Helmet, my former refuge, where the disappointed men sat out their evenings, soaking in their wine and playing at bachelor life. It did not suit the life I had come to lead since. This evening, however, l was drawn to it before I was aware. In the mood between joy and fear that fate and parting imposed on me just now, all the stations and shrines of meditation in my life's pilgrimage, caught once more that gleam of pain and beauty that comes from things past; and so too had the little tavern, thick with smoke, among whose patrons I had lately been numbered and whose primitive opiate of a bottle of cheap wine had lately heartened me enough to spend one more night in my lonely bed and to endure life for one more day. I had tasted other specifics and stronger stimulus since then, and sipped a sweeter poison. With a smile I entered the ancient hostel. The landlady greeted me and so, with a nod, did the silent company of habitues. A roast chicken was commended and soon set before me. The limpid Elsasser sparkled in the thick peasant glass. The clean white wooden tables and the old yellow paneling had a friendly look. And while I ate and drank there came over me that feeling of change and decay and of farewell celebrations, that sweet and inwardly painful feeling of being a living part of all the scenes and all the things of an earlier life that has never yet been parted from, and from which the time to part has come. The modern man calls this sentimentality. He has lost the love of inanimate objects. He does not even love his most sacred object, his motorcar, but is ever hoping to exchange it as soon as he can for a later model. This modern man has energy and ability. He is healthy, cool and strenuous -- a splendid type, and in the next war he will be a miracle of efficiency. But all that was no concern of mine. I was not a modern man, nor an old-fashioned one either. I had escaped time altogether, and went my way, with death at my elbow and death as my resolve. I had no objection to sentimentalities. I was glad and thankful to find a trace of anything like a feeling still remaining in my burned-out heart. So I let my memories of the old tavern and my attachment to the solid wooden chairs and the smell of smoke and wine and the air of use and wont and warmth and homeliness that the place had carry me away. There is beauty in farewells and a gentleness in their very tone. The hard seat was dear to me, and so was the peasant glass and the cool racy taste of the Elsasser and my intimacy with all and everything in this room, and the faces of the bent and dreaming drinkers, those disillusioned ones, whose brother I had been for so long. All this was bourgeois sentimentality, lightly seasoned with a touch of the old-fashioned romance of inns, a romance coming from my boyhood when inns and wine and cigars were still forbidden things -- strange and wonderful. But no Steppenwolf rose before me baring his teeth to tear my sentiment to pieces. I sat there in peace in the glow of the past whose setting still shed a faint afterglow.

A street seller came in and I bought a handful of roasted chestnuts. An old woman came in with flowers and I bought a bunch of violets and presented them to the landlady. It was not till I was about to pay my bill and felt in vain for the pocket of the coat I usually wore that I realized once more that I was in evening dress. The Masked Ball. And Hermine!

It was still early enough, however. I could not convince myself to go to the Globe Rooms straight away. I felt too -- as I had in the case of all the pleasures that had lately come my way -- a whole array of checks and resistances. I had no inclination to enter the large and crowded and noisy rooms. I had a schoolboy's shyness of the strange atmosphere and the world of pleasure and dancing.

As I sauntered along I passed by a cinema with its dazzling lights and huge colored posters. I went on a few steps, then turned again and went in. There till eleven I could sit quietly and comfortably in the dark. Led by the usher's flashlight I stumbled through the curtains into the darkened hall, found a seat and was suddenly in the middle of the Old Testament. The film was one of those that are nominally not shown for money. Much expense and many refinements are lavished upon them in a more sacred and nobler cause, and at midday even school-children are brought to see them by their religious teachers. This one was the story of Moses and the Israelites in Egypt, with a huge crowd of men, horses, camels, palaces, splendors of the pharaohs and tribulations of the Jews in the desert. I saw Moses, whose hair recalled portraits of Walt Whitman, a splendidly theatrical Moses, wandering through the desert at the head of the Jews, with a dark and fiery eye and a long staff and the stride of a Wotan. I saw him pray to God at the edge of the Red Sea, and I saw the Red Sea parted to give free passage, a deep road between piled-up mountains of water (the confirmation classes conducted by the clergy to see this religious film could argue without end as to how the film people managed this). I saw the prophet and his awestruck people pass through to the other side, and behind them I saw the war chariots of Pharaoh come into sight and the Egyptians stop and start on the brink of the sea, and then, when they ventured courageously on, I saw the mountainous waters close over the heads of Pharaoh in all the splendor of his gold trappings and over all his chariots and all his men, recalling, as I saw it, Handel's wonderful duet for two basses in which this event is magnificently sung. I saw Moses, further, climbing Sinai, a gloomy hero in a gloomy wilderness of rocks, and I looked on as Jehovah in the midst of storm and thunder and lightning imparted the Ten Commandments to him, while his worthless people set up the golden calf at the foot of the mountain and gave themselves over to somewhat boisterous celebrations. I found it so strange and incredible to be looking on at all this, to be seeing the sacred writ, with its heroes and its wonders, the source in our childhood of the first dawning suspicion of another world than this, presented for money before a grateful public that sat quietly eating the provisions brought with it from home. A nice little picture, indeed, picked up by chance in the huge wholesale clearance of culture in these days! My God, rather than come to such a pass it would have been better for the Jews and everyone else, let alone the Egyptians, to have perished in those days and forthwith of a violent and becoming death instead of this dismal pretence of dying by inches that we go in for today. Yes indeed!

My secret repressions and unconfessed fright in face of the Masked Ball were by no means lessened by the feelings provoked in me by the cinema. On the contrary, they had grown to uncomfortable proportions and I had to shake myself and think of Hermine before I could go to the Globe Rooms and dared to enter. It was late, and the Ball had been for a long time in full swing. At once before I had even taken off my things I was caught up, shy and sober as I was, in the swirl of the masked throng. I was accosted familiarly. Girls summoned me to the champagne rooms. Clowns slapped me on the back, and I was addressed on all sides as an old friend. I responded to none of it, but fought my way through the crowded rooms to the cloakroom, and when I got my cloakroom ticket I put it in my pocket with great care, reflecting that I might need it before very long when I had had enough of the uproar.

Every part of the great building was given over to the festivities. There was dancing in every room and in the basement as well. Corridors and stairs were filled to overflowing with masks and dancing and music and laughter and tumult. Oppressed in heart I stole through the throng, from the Negro orchestra to the peasant band, from the large and brilliantly lighted principal room into the passages and on to the stairs, to bars, buffets and champagne parlors. The walls were mostly hung with wild and cheerful paintings by the latest artists. All the world was there, artists, journalists, professors, business men, and of course every adherent of pleasure in the town. In one of the orchestras sat Pablo, blowing with enthusiasm in his curved mouthpiece. As soon as he saw me he sang out a greeting. Pushed hither and thither in the crowd I found myself in one room after another, upstairs here and downstairs there. A corridor in the basement had been staged as hell by the artists and there a band of devils played furiously. After a while, I began to look for Hermine or Maria and strove time after time to reach the principal room; but either I missed my way or had to meet the current. By midnight I had found no one, and though I had not danced I was hot and giddy. I threw myself into the nearest chair among utter strangers and ordered some wine, and came to the conclusion that joining in such rowdy festivals was no part for an old man like me. I drank my glass of wine while I stared at the naked arms and backs of the women, watched the crowd of grotesquely masked figures drifting by and silently declined the advances of a few girls who wished to sit on my knee or get me to dance. "Old Growler," one called after me; and she was right. I decided to raise my spirits with the wine, but even the wine went against me and I could scarcely swallow a second glass. And then the feeling crept over me that the Steppenwolf was standing behind me with his tongue out. Nothing pleased me. I was in the wrong place. To be sure, I had come with the best intentions, but this was no place for me to be merry in; and all this loud effervescence of pleasure, the laughter and the whole foolery of it on every side, seemed to me forced and stupid.
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Re: Steppenwolf, by Hermann Hesse

Postby admin » Sun Jan 31, 2016 9:03 pm

Part 1 of 2


Thus it was that, at about one o'clock, in anger and disillusionment I steered a course for the cloakroom, to put on my coat again and go. It was surrender and backsliding into my wolfishness, and Hermine would scarcely forgive me for it. But I could not do otherwise. All the way as I squeezed through the throng to the cloakroom, I still kept a careful lookout in case I might yet see one of my friends, but in vain. Now I stood at the counter. Already the attendant was politely extending his hand for my number. I felt in my waistcoat pocket -- the number was no longer there! The devil was in it if even this failed me. Often enough during my forlorn wanderings through the rooms and while I sat over my tasteless wine I had felt in my pocket, fighting back the resolve to go away again, and I had always found the round flat check in its place. And now it was gone. Everything was against me.

"Lost your number?" came in a shrill voice from a small red and yellow devil at my elbow. "Here, comrade, you can take mine," and he held it out to me without more ado. While I mechanically took it and turned it over in my fingers the brisk little fellow rapidly disappeared.

When, however, I examined the pasteboard counter for a number, no number was to be seen. Instead there was a scribble in a tiny hand. I asked the attendant to wait and went to the nearest light to read it. There in little crazy letters that were scarcely legible was scrawled:


As a marionette whose thread the operator has let go for a moment wakes to new life after a brief paralysis of death and coma and once more plays its lively part, so did I at this jerk of the magic thread throw myself with the elasticity and eagerness of youth into the tumult from which I had just retreated in the listlessness and weariness of elderly years. Never did sinner show more haste to get to hell. A moment before my patent-leather shoes had galled me, the heavily scented air disgusted me, and the heat undone me. Now on my winged feet I nimbly one-stepped through every room on the way to hell. The very air had a charm. The warmth embedded me and wafted me on, and so no less did the riotous music, the intoxication of colors, the perfume of women's shoulders, the clamor of the hundred tongues, the laughter, the rhythm of the dance, and the glances of all the kindled eyes. A Spanish dancing girl flung herself into my arms: "Dance with me!" "Can't," said I. "I'm bound for hell. But I'll gladly take a kiss with me." The red mouth beneath the mask met mine and with the kiss I recognized Maria. I caught her tight in my arms and like a June rose bloomed her full lips. By this time we were dancing, our lips still joined. Past Pablo we danced, who hung like a lover over his softly wailing instrument. Those lovely animal eyes embraced us with their half-abstracted radiance. But before we had gone twenty steps the music broke off and regretfully I let go of Maria.

"I'd have loved to have danced with you again," I said, intoxicated with her warmth. "Come with me a step or two, Maria. I'm in love with your beautiful arm. Let me have it a moment longer! But, you see, Hermine has summoned me. She is in hell."

"I thought so. Farewell, Harry. I won't forget you." She left me-left me indeed. Yes, it was autumn, it was fate, that had given the summer rose so full and ripe a scent.

On I went through the long corridors, luxuriously thronged, and down the stairs to hell. There, on pitch-black walls shone wicked garish lights, and the orchestra of devils was playing feverishly. On a high stool at the bar there was seated a pretty young fellow without a mask and in evening dress who scrutinized me with a cursory and mocking glance. Pressed to the wall by the swirl of dancers -- about twenty couples were dancing in this very confined space -- I examined all the women with eager suspense. Most were still in masks and smiled at me, but none was Hermine. The handsome youth on the high stool glanced mockingly at me. At the next pause, thought I, she will come and summon me. The dance ended but no one came.

I went over to the bar which was squeezed into a corner of the small and low room, and taking a seat near the young man ordered a whisky. While I drank it I saw his profile. It had a familiar charm, like a picture from long ago, precious for the very dust that has settled on it from the past. Oh, then it flashed through me. It was Herman, the friend of my youth.

"Herman!" I stammered.

She smiled. "Harry? Have you found me?"

It was Hermine, barely disguised by the make-up of her hair and a little paint. The stylish collar gave an unfamiliar look to the pallor of her intelligent face, the wide black sleeves of her dress coat and the white cuffs made her hands look curiously small, and the long black trousers gave a curious elegance to her feet in their black and white silk socks.

"Is this the costume, Hermine, in which you mean to make me fall in love with you?"

"So far," she said, "I have contented myself with turning the heads of the ladies. But now your turn has come. First, let's have a glass of champagne."

So we did, perched on our stools, while the dance went on around us to the lively and fevered strain of the strings. And without Hermine appearing to give herself the least trouble I was very soon in love with her. As she was dressed as a boy, I could not dance with her nor allow myself any tender advances, and while she seemed distant and neutral in her male mask, her looks and words and gestures encircled me with all her feminine charm. Without so much as having touched her I surrendered to her spell, and this spell itself kept within the part she played. It was the spell of a hermaphrodite. For she talked to me about Herman and about childhood, mine and her own, and about those years of childhood when the capacity for love, in its first youth, embraces not only both sexes, but all and everything, sensuous and spiritual, and endows all things with a spell of love and a fairylike ease of transformation such as in later years comes again only to a chosen few and to poets, and to them rarely. Throughout she kept up the part of a young man, smoking cigarettes and talking with a spirited ease that often had a little mockery in it; and yet it was all iridescent with the rays of desire and transformed, as it reached my senses, into a charming seduction.

How well and thoroughly I thought I knew Hermine, and yet what a completely new revelation of herself she opened up to me that night! How gently and inconspicuously she cast the net I longed for around me, and how playfully and how like a pixie she gave the sweet poison to drink!

We sat and talked and drank champagne. We strolled through the rooms and looked about us. We went on voyages of exploration to discover couples whose love-making it amused us to spy upon. She pointed out women whom she recommended me to dance with, and gave me advice as to the methods of attack to be employed with each. We took the floor as rivals and paid court for a while to the same girl, danced with her by turns and both tried to win her heart. And yet it was all only a carnival, only a game between the two of us that caught us more closely together in our own passion. It was all a fairy tale. Everything had a new dimension, a deeper meaning. Everything was fanciful and symbolic. There was one girl of great beauty but looking tragic and unhappy. Herman danced with her and drew her out. They disappeared to drink champagne together, and she told me afterwards that she had made a conquest of her not as a man but as a woman, with the spell of Lesbos. For my part, the whole building reverberated everywhere with the sound of dancing, and the whole intoxicated crowd of masks, became by degrees a wild dream of paradise. Flower upon flower wooed me with its scent. I toyed with fruit after fruit. Serpents looked at me from green and leafy shadows with mesmeric eyes. Lotus blossoms luxuriated over black bogs. Enchanted birds sang allurement from the trees. Yet all was a progress to one longed-for goal, the summons of a new yearning for one and one only. Once I was dancing with a girl I did not know. I had swept her with the ardor of a lover into the giddy swirl of dancers and while we hung in this unreal world, she suddenly remarked with a laugh: "One wouldn't know you. You were so dull and flat before." Then I recognized the girl who had called me "Old Growler" a few hours before. She thought she had got me now, but with the next dance it was another for whom my ardor glowed. I danced without ceasing for two hours or more -- every dance and some, even, that I had never danced before. Every now and then Herman was near me, and gave me a nod and a smile as he disappeared in the throng.

An experience fell to my lot this night of the Ball that I had never known in all my fifty years, though it is known to every flapper and student -- the intoxication of a general festivity, the mysterious merging of the personality in the mass, the mystic union of joy. I had often heard it spoken of. It was known, I knew, to every servant girl. I had often observed the sparkle in the eye of those who told me of it and I had always treated it with a half-superior, half-envious smile. A hundred times in my life I had seen examples of those whom rapture had intoxicated and released from the self, of that smile, that half-crazed absorption, of those whose heads have been turned by a common enthusiasm. I had seen it in drunken recruits and sailors, and also in great artists in the enthusiasm, perhaps, of a musical festival; and not less in young soldiers going to war. Even in recent days I had marveled at and loved and mocked and envied this gleam and this smile in my friend, Pablo, when he hung over his saxophone in the blissful intoxication of playing in the orchestra, or when, enraptured and ecstatic, he looked over to the conductor, the drum, or the man with the banjo. It had sometimes occurred to me that such a smile, such a childlike radiance could be possible only to quite young persons or among those peoples whose customs permitted no marked differences between one individual and another. But today, on this blessed night, I myself, the Steppenwolf, was radiant with this smile. I myself swam in this deep and childlike happiness of a fairy tale. I myself breathed the sweet intoxication of a common dream and of music and rhythm and wine and women -- I, who had in other days so often listened with amusement, or dismal superiority, to its panegyric in the ballroom chatter of some student. I was myself no longer. My personality was dissolved in the intoxication of the festivity like salt in water. I danced with this woman or that, but it was not only the one I had in my arms and whose hair brushed my face that belonged to me. All the other women who were dancing in the same room and the same dance and to the same music, and whose radiant faces floated past me like fantastic flowers, belonged to me, and I to them. All of us had a part in one another. And the men too. I was with them also. They, too, were no strangers to me. Their smile was mine, and mine their wooing and theirs mine.

A new dance, a fox trot, with the title "Yearning," had swept the world that winter. Once we had heard it we could not have enough of it. We were all soaked in it and intoxicated with it and everyone hummed the melody whenever it was played. I danced without stop and with anyone who came in my way, with quite young girls, with women in their earlier or their later prime, and with those who had sadly passed them both; and with them all I was enraptured -- laughing, happy, radiant. And when Pablo saw me so radiant, me whom he had always looked on as a very lamentable poor devil, his eyes beamed blissfully upon me and he was so inspired that he got up from his chair and blowing lustily in his horn climbed up on it. From this elevation he blew with all his might, while at the same time his whole body, and his instrument with it, swayed to the tune of "Yearning." I and my partner kissed our hands to him and sang loudly in response. Ah, thought I, meanwhile, let come to me what may, for once at least, I, too, have been happy, radiant, released from myself, a brother of Pablo's, a child.

I had lost the sense of time, and I don't know how many hours or moments the intoxication of happiness lasted. I did not observe either that the brighter the festal fire burned the narrower were the limits within which it was confined. Most people had already left. The corridors were silent and many of the lights out. The stairs were deserted and in the rooms above one orchestra after another had stopped playing and gone away. It was only in the principal room and in Hell below that the orgy still raged in a crescendo. Since I could not dance with Hermine as a boy, we had only had fleeting encounters in the pauses between the dances, and at last I lost sight of her entirely -- and not only sight but thought. There were no thoughts left. I was lost in the maze and whirl of the dance. Scents and tones and sighs and words stirred me. I was greeted and kindled by strange eyes, encircled by strange faces, borne hither and thither in time to the music as though by a wave.

And then of a sudden I saw, half coming to my senses for a moment, among the last who still kept it up in one of the smaller rooms, and filled it to overflowing -- the only one in which the music still sounded -- of a sudden I saw a black Pierrette with face painted white. She was fresh and charming, the only masked figure left and a bewitching apparition that I had never in the whole course of the night seen before. While in everyone else the late hour showed itself in flushed and heated faces, crushed dresses, limp collars and crumpled ruffs, the black Pierrette stood there fresh and neat with her white face beneath her mask. Her costume had not a crease and not a hair was out of place. Her ruff and pointed cuffs were untouched. I rushed towards her, put my arms around her, and drew her into the dance. Her perfumed ruff tickled my chin. Her hair brushed my cheek. The young vigor of her body answered my movements as no one else's had done that night, yielding to them with an inward tenderness and compelling them to new contacts by the play of her allurements. I bent down to kiss her mouth as we danced. Its smile was triumphant and long familiar. Of a sudden I recognized the firm chin, the shoulders, arms and hands. It was Hermine, Herman no longer. Hermine in a change of dress, fresh, perfumed, powdered. Our lips met passionately. For a moment her whole body to her knees clung in longing and surrender to mine. Then she drew her mouth away and, holding back, fled from me as we danced. When the music broke off we were still clasped where we stood. All the excited couples round us clapped, stamped, cried out and urged the exhausted orchestra to play "Yearning" over again. And now a feeling that it was morning fell upon us all. We saw the ashen light behind the curtains. It warned us of pleasure's approaching end and gave us symptoms of the weariness to come. Blindly, with bursts of laughter, we flung ourselves desperately into the dance once more, into the music and the light that began to flood the room. Our feet moved in time to the music as though we were possessed, every couple touching, and once more we felt the great wave of bliss break over us. Hermine abandoned her triumphant air, her mockery and coolness. She knew that there was no more to do to make me in love with her. I was hers, and her way of dancing, her looks and smiles and kisses all showed that she gave herself to me. All the women of this fevered night, all that I had danced with, all whom I had kindled or who had kindled me, all whom I had courted, all who had clung to me with longing, all whom I had followed with enraptured eyes were melted together and had become one, the one whom I held in my arms.

On and on went this nuptial dance. Time after time the music flagged. The winds let their instruments fall. The pianist got up from the piano. The first fiddle shook his head. And every time they were won over by the imploring persistence of the last intoxicated dancers and played once more. They played faster and more wildly. Then at last, as we stood, still entwined and breathless after the last eager dance, the piano was closed with a bang, and our arms fell wearily to our sides like those of the winds and strings and the flutist, blinking sleepily, put his flute away in its case. Doors opened, the cold air poured in, attendants appeared with cloaks and the bar waiter turned off the light. The whole scene vanished eerily away and the dancers who a moment ago had been all on fire shivered as they put on coats and cloaks and turned up their collars. Hermine was pale but smiling. Slowly she raised her arm and pushed back her hair. As she did so one arm caught the light and a faint and indescribably tender shadow ran from her armpit to her hidden breast, and this little trembling line of shadow seemed to me to sum up all the charm and fascination of her body like a smile.

We stood looking at one another, the last in the hall, the last in the whole building. Somewhere below I heard a door bang, a glass break, a titter of laughter die away, mixed with the angry hurried noise of motorcars starting up. And somewhere, at an indeterminable distance and height, I heard a laugh ring out, an extraordinarily clear and merry peal of laughter. Yet it was eerie and strange. It was a laugh, made of crystal and ice, bright and radiant, but cold and inexorable. Where had I heard this laugh before? I could not tell.

We stood and looked at one another. For a moment I came to my sober self. I felt a fearful weariness descend upon me. I felt with repugnance how moist and limp my clothing hung around me. I saw my hands emerging red and with swollen veins from my crumpled and wilted cuffs. But all at once the mood passed, banished by a look from Hermine. At this look that seemed to come from my own soul all reality fell away, even the reality of my sensuous love of her. Bewitched we looked at one another, while my poor little soul looked at me.

"You're ready ?" asked Hermine, and her smile fled away like the shadows on her breast. Far up in unknown space rang out that strange and eerie laughter.

I nodded. Oh, yes, I was ready.

At this moment Pablo appeared in the doorway and beamed on us out of his jolly eyes that really were animal's eyes except that animal's eyes are always serious, while his always laughed, and this laughter turned them into human eyes. He beckoned to us with his usual friendly cordiality. He had put on a gorgeous silk smoking jacket. His limp collar and tired white face had a withered and pallid look above its red facings; but the impression was erased by his radiant black eyes. So was reality erased, for they too had the witchery.

We joined him when he beckoned and in the doorway he said to me in a low voice: "Brother Harry, I invite you to a little entertainment. For madmen only, and one price only -- your mind. Are you ready?"

Again I nodded.

The dear fellow gave us each an arm with kind solicitude, Hermine his right, me his left, and conducted us upstairs to a small round room that was lit from the ceiling with a bluish light and nearly empty. There was nothing in it but a small round table and three easy chairs in which we sat ourselves.

Where were we? Was I asleep? Was I at home? Was I driving in a car? No, I was sitting in a blue light in a round room and a rare atmosphere, in a stratum of reality that had become rarefied in the extreme.

Why then was Hermine so white? Why was Pablo talking so much? Was it not perhaps I who made him talk, spoke, indeed, with his voice? Was it not, too, my own soul that contemplated me out of his black eyes like a lost and frightened bird, just as it had out of Hermine's gray ones?

Pablo looked at us good-naturedly as ever and with something ceremonious in his friendliness; and he talked much and long. He whom I had never heard say two consecutive sentences, whom no discussion nor thesis could interest, whom I had scarcely credited with a single thought, discoursed now in his good-natured warm voice fluently and without a fault.

"My friends, I have invited you to an entertainment that Harry has long wished for and of which he has long dreamed. The hour is a little late and no doubt we are all slightly fatigued. So, first, we will rest and refresh ourselves a little."

From a recess in the wall he took three glasses and a quaint little bottle, also a small oriental box inlaid with differently colored woods. He filled the three glasses from the bottle and taking three long thin yellow cigarettes from the box and a box of matches from the pocket of his silk jacket he gave us a light. And now we all slowly smoked the cigarettes whose smoke was as thick as incense, leaning back in our chairs and slowly sipping the aromatic liquid whose strange taste was so utterly unfamiliar. Its effect was immeasurably enlivening and delightful -- as though one were filled with gas and had no longer any gravity. Thus we sat peacefully exhaling small puffs and taking little sips at our glasses, while every moment we felt ourselves growing lighter and more serene.

From far away came Pablo's warm voice.

"It is a pleasure to me, my dear Harry, to have the privilege of being your host in a small way on this occasion. You have often been sorely weary of your life. You were striving, were you not, for escape? You have a longing to forsake this world and its reality and to penetrate to a reality more native to you, to a world beyond time. You know, of course, where this other world lies hidden. It is the world of your own soul that you seek. Only within yourself exists that other reality for which you long. I can give you nothing that has not already its being within yourself. I can throw open to you no picture gallery but your own soul. All I can give you is the opportunity, the impulse, the key. I can help you to make your own world visible. That is all."

Again he put his hand into the pocket of his gorgeous jacket and drew out a round looking glass.

"Look, it is thus that you have so far seen yourself."

He held the little glass before my eyes (a childish verse came to my mind: "Little glass, little glass in the hand") and I saw, though indistinctly and cloudily, the reflection of an uneasy self-tormented, inwardly laboring and seething being -- myself, Harry Haller. And within him again I saw the Steppenwolf, a shy, beautiful, dazed wolf with frightened eyes that smoldered now with anger, now with sadness. This shape of a wolf coursed through the other in ceaseless movement, as a tributary pours its cloudy turmoil into a river. In bitter strife, each tried to devour the other so that his shape might prevail. How unutterably sad was the look this fluid inchoate figure of the wolf threw from his beautiful shy eyes.

"There you see yourself," Pablo remarked and put the mirror away in his pocket. I was thankful to close my eyes and take a sip of the elixir.

"And now," said Pablo, "we have had our rest. We have had our refreshment and a little talk. If your fatigue has passed off I will conduct you to my peep show and show you my little theater. Will you come?"

We got up. With a smile Pablo led. He opened a door and drew a curtain aside, and we found ourselves in the horseshoe-shaped corridor of a theater, and exactly in the middle. On either side, the curving passage led past a large number, indeed an incredible number, of narrow doors into the boxes.

"This," explained Pablo, "is our theater, and a jolly one it is. I hope you'll find lots to laugh at." He laughed aloud as he spoke, a short laugh, but it went through me like a shot. It was the same bright and peculiar laugh that I had heard before from below.

"This little theater of mine has as many doors into as many boxes as you please, ten or a hundred or a thousand, and behind each door exactly what you seek awaits you. It is a pretty cabinet of pictures, my dear friend; but it would be quite useless for you to go through it as you are. You would be checked and blinded at every turn by what you are pleased to call your personality. You have no doubt guessed long since that the conquest of time and the escape from reality, or however else it may be that you choose to describe your longing, means simply the wish to be relieved of your so-called personality. That is the prison where you lie. And if you were to enter the theater as you are, you would see everything through the eyes of Harry and the old spectacles of the Steppenwolf. You are therefore requested to lay these spectacles aside and to be so kind as to leave your highly esteemed personality here in the cloakroom where you will find it again when you wish. The pleasant dance from which you have just come, the treatise on the Steppenwolf, and the little stimulant that we have only this moment partaken of may have sufficiently prepared you. You, Harry, after having left behind your valuable personality, will have the left side of the theater at your disposal, Hermine the right. Once inside, you can meet each other as you please. Hermine will be so kind as to go for a moment behind the curtain. I should like to introduce Harry first."

Hermine disappeared to the right past a gigantic mirror that covered the rear wall from floor to vaulted ceiling.

"Now, Harry, come along, be as jolly as you can. To make it so and to teach you to laugh is the whole aim in getting up this entertainment -- I hope you will make it easy for me. You feel quite well, I trust? Not afraid? That's good, excellent. You will now, without fear and with unfeigned pleasure, enter our visionary world. You will introduce yourself to it by means of a trifling suicide, since this is the custom."

He took out the pocket mirror again and held it in front of my face. Again I was confronted by the same indistinct and cloudy reflection, with the wolf's shape encircling it and coursing through it. I knew it too well and disliked it too sincerely for its destruction to cause me any sorrow.

"You will now erase this superfluous reflection, my dear friend. That is all that is necessary. To do so, it will suffice that you greet it, if your mood permits, with a hearty laugh. You are here in a school of humor. You are to learn to laugh. Now, true humor begins when a man ceases to take himself seriously."

I fixed my eyes on the little mirror, where the man Harry and the wolf were going through their convulsions. For a moment there was a convulsion deep within me too, a faint but painful one like remembrance, or like homesickness, or like remorse. Then the slight oppression gave way to a new feeling like that a man feels when a tooth has been extracted with cocaine, a sense of relief and of letting out a deep breath, and of wonder, at the same time, that it has not hurt in the least. And this feeling was accompanied by a buoyant exhilaration and a desire to laugh so irresistible that I was compelled to give way to it.

The mournful image in the glass gave a final convulsion and vanished. The glass itself turned gray and charred and opaque, as though it had been burned. With a laugh Pablo threw the thing away and it went rolling down the endless corridor and disappeared.

"Well laughed, Harry," cried Pablo. "You will learn to laugh like the immortals yet. You have done with the Steppenwolf at last. It's no good with a razor. Take care that he stays dead. You'll be able to leave the farce of reality behind you directly. At our next meeting we'll drink to brotherhood, dear fellow. I never liked you better than I do today. And if you still think it worth your while we can philosophize together and argue and talk about music and Mozart and Gluck and Plato and Goethe to your heart's content. You will understand now why it was so impossible before. I wish you good riddance of the Steppenwolf for today at any rate. For naturally, your suicide is not a final one. We are in a magic theatre; a world of pictures, not realities. See that you pick out beautiful and cheerful ones and show that you really are not in love with your highly questionable personality any longer. Should you still, however, have a hankering after it, you need only have another look in the mirror that I will now show you. But you know the old proverb: 'A mirror in the hand is worth two on the wall.' Ha! ha!" (Again that laugh, beautiful and frightful!) "And now there only remains one little ceremony and quite a jolly one. You have now to cast aside the spectacles of your personality. So come here and look in a proper looking glass. It will give you some fun."

Laughingly with a few droll caresses he turned me about so that I faced the gigantic mirror on the wall. There I saw myself.

I saw myself for a brief instant as my usual self, except that I looked unusually good-humored, bright and laughing. But I had scarcely had time to recognize myself before the reflection fell to pieces. A second, a third, a tenth, a twentieth figure sprang from it till the whole gigantic mirror was full of nothing but Harrys or bits of him, each of which I saw only for the instant of recognition. Some of these multitudinous Harrys were as old as I, some older, some very old. Others were young. There were youths, boys, schoolboys, scamps, children. Fifty-year-olds and twenty-year-olds played leap frog. Thirty-year-olds and five-year-olds, solemn and merry, worthy and comic, well-dressed and unpresentable, and even quite naked, long haired, and hairless, all were I and all were seen for a flash, recognized and gone. They sprang from each other in all directions, left and right and into the recesses of the mirror and clean out of it. One, an elegant young fellow, leaped laughing into Pablo's arms and embraced him and they went off together. And one who particularly pleased me, a good looking and charming boy of sixteen or seventeen years, sprang like lightning into the corridor and began reading the notices on the doors. I went after him and found him in front of a door on which was inscribed:


The dear boy hurled himself forward, made a leap an, falling head first into the slot himself, disappeared behind the door.

Pablo too had vanished. So apparently had the mirror and with it all the countless figures. I realized that I was now left to myself and to the theater, and I went with curiosity from door to door and read on each its alluring invitation.

The inscription


attracted me. I opened the narrow door and stepped in.

I was swept at once into a world of noise and excitement. Cars, some of them armored, were run through the streets chasing the pedestrians. They ran them down and either left them mangled on the ground or crushed them to death against the walls of the houses. I saw at once that it was the long-prepared, long- waited and long-feared war between men and machines, now at last broken out. On all sides lay dead and decomposing bodies, and on all sides, too, smashed and distorted and half-burned cars. Airplanes circled above the frightful confusion and were being fired upon from many roofs and windows with rifles and machine guns. On every wall were wild and magnificently stirring placards, whose giant letters flamed like torches, summoning the nation to side with the men against the machines, to make an end at last of the fat and well-dressed and perfumed plutocrats who used machines to squeeze the fat from other men's bodies, of them and their huge fiendishly purring automobiles. Set factories afire at last! Make a little room on the crippled earth! Depopulate it so that the grass may grow again, and woods, meadows, heather, stream and moor return to this world of dust and concrete. Other placards, on the other hand, in wonderful colors and magnificently phrased, warned all those who had a stake in the country and some share of prudence (in more moderate and less childish terms which testified to the remarkable cleverness and intellect of those who had composed them) against the rising tide of anarchy. They depicted in a truly impressive way the blessings of order and work and property and education and justice, and praised machinery as the last and most sublime invention of the human mind. With its aid, men would be equal to the gods. I studied these placards, both the red and the green, and reflected on them and marveled at them. The flaming eloquence affected me as powerfully as the compelling logic. They were right, and I stood as deeply convinced in front of one as in front of the other, a good deal disturbed all the time by the rather juicy firing that went on all round me. Well, the principal thing was clear. There was a war on, a violent, genuine and highly sympathetic war where there was no concern for Kaiser or republic, for frontiers, flags or colors and other equally decorative and theatrical matters, all nonsense at bottom; but a war in which everyone who lacked air to breathe and no longer found life exactly pleasing gave emphatic expression to his displeasure and strove to prepare the way for a general destruction of this iron-cast civilization of ours. In every eye I saw the unconcealed spark of destruction and murder, and in mine too these wild red roses bloomed as rank and high, and sparkled as brightly. I joined the battle joyfully.

The best of all, however, was that my schoolfriend, Gustav, turned up close beside me. I had lost sight of him for dozens of years, the wildest, strongest, most eager and venturesome of the friends of my childhood. I laughed in my heart as I saw him blink at me with his bright blue eyes. He beckoned and at once I followed him joyfully.

"Good Lord, Gustav," I cried happily, "I haven't seen you in ages. Whatever has become of you?"

He gave a derisive snort, just as he used to do as a boy. "There you are again, you idiot, jabbering and asking questions. I'm a professor of theology if you want to know. But, the Lord be praised, there's no occasion for theology now, my boy. It's war. Come on!"

He shot the driver of a small car that came snorting towards us and leaping into it as nimbly as a monkey, brought it to a standstill for me to get in. Then we drove like the devil between bullets and crashed cars out of town and suburbs.

" Are you on the side of the manufacturers?" I asked my friend.

"Oh, Lord, that's a matter of taste, so we can leave it out of account -- though now you mention it, I rather think we might take the other side, since at bottom it's all the same, of course. I'm a theologian and my predecessor, Luther, took the side of the princes and plutocrats against the peasants. So now we'll establish the balance a little. This rotten car, I hope it'll hold out another mile or two."

Swift as the wind, that child of heaven, we rattled on, and reached a green and peaceful countryside many miles distant. We traversed a wide plain and then slowly climbed into the mountains. Here we made a halt on a smooth and glistening road that led in bold curves between the steep wall of rock and the low retaining wall. Far below shone the blue surface of a lake.

"Lovely view," said I.

"Very pretty. We'll call it the Axle Way. A good many axles of one sort or another are going to crash here, Harry, my boy. So watch out!"
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Re: Steppenwolf, by Hermann Hesse

Postby admin » Sun Jan 31, 2016 9:04 pm

Part 2 of 2

A tall pine grew by the roadside, and among the tall branches we saw something like a little hut made of boards to serve as an outlook and point of vantage. Gustav smiled with a knowing twinkle in his blue eyes. We hurried out of the car, climbed up the trunk and, breathing hard, concealed ourselves in the outlook post, which pleased us much. We found rifles and revolvers there and boxes of ammunition. We had scarcely cooled down when we heard the hoarse imperious horn of a big luxury car from the next bend of the road. It came purring at top speed up the smooth road. Our rifles were ready in our hands. The excitement was intense.

"Aim at the chauffeur," commanded Gustav quickly just as the heavy car went by beneath us. I aimed, and fired at the chauffeur in his blue cap. The man fell in a heap. The car careened on, charged the cliff face, rebounded, attacked the lower wall furiously with all its unwieldy weight like a great bumble bee and, tumbling over, crashed with a brief and distant report into the depths below.

"Got him!" Gustav laughed. "My turn next."

Another came as he spoke. There were three of four occupants packed in the back seat. From the head of a woman a bright blue veil streamed out behind. It filled me with genuine remorse. Who could say how pretty a face it might adorn? Good God, though we did play the brigand we might at least emulate the illustrious and spare pretty women. Gustav, however, had already fired. The driver shuddered and collapsed. The car leaped against the perpendicular cliff, fell back and overturned, wheels uppermost. Its engine was still running and the wheels turned absurdly in the air; but suddenly with a frightful explosion it burst into flames.

"A Ford," said Gustav. "We must get down and clear the road."

We climbed down and watched the burning heap. It soon burned out. Meanwhile we made levers of green wood and hoisted it to the side of the road and over the wall into the abyss, where for a long time it went crashing through the undergrowth. Two of the dead bodies had fallen out as we turned the car over and lay on the road with their clothing partly burned. One wore a coat which was still in fairly good condition. I searched the pockets to see who he was and came across a leather portfolio with some cards in it. I took one and read: Tat Twam Asi.

"Very witty," said Gustav. "Though, as a matter of fact, it is all one what our victims are called. They're poor devils just as we are. Their names don't matter. This world is done for and so are we. The least painful solution would be to hold it under water for ten minutes. Now to work -- "

W e threw the bodies after the car. Already another one was tooting. We shot it down with a volley where we stood. It made a drunken swerve and reeled on for a stretch: then turned over and lay gasping. One passenger was still sitting inside, but a pretty young girl got out uninjured, though she was white and trembling violently. We greeted her politely and offered our assistance. She was too much shaken to speak and stared at us for a while quite dazed.

"Well, first let us look after the old boy," said Gustav and turned to the occupant of the car who still clung to his seat behind the chauffeur. He was a gentleman with short grey hair. His intelligent, clear gray eyes were open, but he seemed to be seriously hurt; at least, blood flowed from his mouth and he held his neck askew and rigid.

"Allow me to introduce myself. My name is Gustav. We have taken the liberty of shooting your chauffeur. May we inquire whom we have the honor to address?"

The old man looked at us coolly and sadly out of his small gray eyes.

"I am Attorney-General Loering," he said slowly. "You have not only killed my poor chauffeur, but me too, I fancy. Why did you shoot on us?"

"For exceeding the speed limit."

"We were not traveling at more than normal speed."

"What was normal yesterday is no longer normal today, Mr. Attorney-General. We are of the opinion that whatever speed a motorcar travels is too great. We are destroying all cars and all other machines also."

"Your rifles too?"

"Their turn will come, granted we have the time. Presumably by tomorrow or the day after we shall all be done for. You know, of course, that this part of the world was shockingly overpopulated. Well, now we are going to let in a little air."

" Are you shooting everyone, without distinction?"

"Certainly. In many cases it may no doubt be a pity. I'm sorry, for example, about this charming young lady. Your daughter, I presume."

"No. She is my stenographer."

"So much the better. And now will you please get out, or let us carry you out, as the car is to be destroyed."

"I prefer to be destroyed with it."

"As you wish. But allow me to ask you one more question. You are a public prosecutor. I never could understand how a man could be a public prosecutor. You make your living by bringing other men, poor devils mostly, to trial and passing sentence on them. Isn't that so?"

"It is. I do my duty. It was my office. Exactly as it is the office of the hangman to hang those whom I condemn to death. You too have assumed a like office. You kill people also."

"Quite true. Only we do not kill from duty, but pleasure, or much more, rather, from displeasure and despair of the world. For this reason we find a certain amusement in killing people. Has it never amused you?"

"You bore me. Be so kind as to do your work. Since the conception of duty is unknown to you -- "

He was silent and made a movement of his lips as though to spit. Only a little blood came, however, and clung to his chin.

"One moment!" said Gustav politely. "The conception of duty is certainly unknown to me -- now. Formerly I had a great deal of official concern with it. I was a professor of theology. Besides that, I was a soldier and went through the war. What seemed to me to be duty and what the authorities and my superior officers from time to time enjoined upon me was not by any means good. I would rather have done the opposite. But granting that the conception of duty is no longer known to me, I still know the conception of guilt -- perhaps they are the same thing. In so far as a mother bore me, I am guilty. I am condemned to live. I am obliged to belong to a state, to serve as a soldier, to kill and to pay taxes for armaments. And now at this moment the guilt of life has brought me once more to the necessity of killing the people as it did in the war. And this time I have no repugnance. I am resigned to the guilt. I have no objection to this stupid congested world going to bits. I am glad to help and glad to perish with it."

The public prosecutor made an effort to smile a little with his lips on which the blood had coagulated. He did not succeed very well, though the good intention was manifest.

"Good," said he. "So we are colleagues. Well, as such, please do your duty."

The pretty girl had meanwhile sat down by the side of the road and fainted.

At this moment there was again the tooting of a car coming down the road at full speed. We drew the girl a little to one side and, standing close against the cliff, let the approaching car run into the ruins of the other. The brakes were applied violently and the car reared up in the air. It came to a standstill undamaged. We seized our rifles and quickly had the newcomers covered.

"Get out!" commanded Gustav. "Hands up!"

Three men got out of the car and obediently held up their hands.

"Is anyone of you a doctor?" Gustav asked.

They shook their heads.

"Then be so good as to remove this gentleman. He is seriously hurt. Take him in your car to the nearest town. Forward, and get on with it."

The old gentleman was soon lying in the other car. Gustav gave the word and off they went.

The stenographer meanwhile had come to herself and had been watching these proceedings. I was glad we had made so fair a prize.

"Madam," said Gustav, "you have lost your employer. I hope you were not bound to the old gentleman by other ties. You are now in my service. So be our good comrade. So much for that; and now time presses. It will be uncomfortable here before long. Can you climb, Madam? Yes? Then go ahead and we'll help you up between us."

We all climbed up to our hut in the tree as fast as we could. The lady did not feel very well up there, but we gave her some brandy, and she was soon so much recovered that she was able to admire the wonderful view over lake and mountains and to tell us also that her name was Dora.

Immediately after this, there was another car below us. It steered carefully past the overturned one without stopping and then gathered speed.

"Poltroon!" laughed Gustav and shot the driver. The car zigzagged and dashing into the wall stove it in and hung suspended over the abyss.

"Dora," I said, "can you use firearms?"

She could not, but we taught her how to load. She was clumsy at first and hurt her finger and cried and wanted court-plaster. But Gustav told her it was war and that she must show her courage. Then it went better.

"But what's going to become of us?" she asked.

"Don't know," said Gustav. "My friend Harry is fond of pretty girls. He'll look after you."

"But the police and the soldiers will come and kill us."

"There aren't any police and such like any more. We can choose, Dora. Either we stay quietly up here and shoot down every car that tries to pass, or else we can take a car and drive off in it and let others shoot at us. It's all the same which side we take. I'm for staying here."

And now there was the loud tooting of another car beneath us. It was soon accounted for and lay there wheels uppermost.

Gustav smiled. "Yes, there are indeed too many men in the world. In earlier days it wasn't so noticeable. But now that everyone wants air to breathe, and a car to drive as well, one does notice it. Of course, what we are doing isn't rational. It's childishness, just as war is childishness on a gigantic scale. In time, mankind will learn to keep its numbers in check by rational means. Meanwhile, we are meeting an intolerable situation in a rather irrational way. However, the principle's correct -- we eliminate."

"Yes," said I, "what we are doing is probably mad, and probably it is good and necessary all the same. It is not a good thing when man overstrains his reason and tries to reduce to rational order matters that are not susceptible of rational treatment. Then there arise ideals such as those of the Americans or of the Bolsheviks. Both are extraordinarily rational, and both lead to a frightful oppression and impoverishment of life, because they simplify it so crudely. The likeness of man, once a high ideal, is in process of becoming a machine-made article. It is for madmen like us, perhaps, to ennoble it again."

With a laugh Gustav replied: "You talk like a book, my boy. It is a pleasure and a privilege to drink at such a fount of wisdom. And perhaps there is even something in what you say. But now kindly reload your piece. You are a little too dreamy for my taste. A couple of bucks can come dashing by here again any moment, and we can't kill them with philosophy. We must have ball in our barrels."

A car came and was dropped at once. The road was blocked. A survivor, a stout red-faced man, gesticulated wildly over the ruins. Then he stared up and down and, discovering our hiding place, came for us bellowing and shooting up at us with a revolver.

"Get off with you or I'll shoot," Gustav shouted down. The man took aim at him and fired again. Then we shot him.

After this two more came and were bagged. Then the road was silent and deserted. Apparently the news had got about that it was dangerous. We had time to enjoy the beauty of the view. On the far side of the lake a small town lay in the valley. Smoke rose from it and soon we saw fire leaping from roof to roof. Shooting could be heard. Dora cried a little and I stroked her wet cheeks.

"Have we all got to die then?" she asked. There was no reply. Meanwhile a man on foot went past below. He saw the smashed-up cars and began nosing round them. Leaning over into one of them he pulled out a gay parasol, a lady's handbag and a bottle of wine. Then he sat down contentedly on the wall, took a drink from the bottle and ate something wrapped in tinfoil out of the handbag. After emptying the bottle he went on, well pleased, with the parasol clasped under his arm; and I said to Gustav: "Could you find it in you to shoot at this good fellow and make a hole in his head? God knows, I couldn't."

"You're not asked to," my friend growled. But he did not feel very comfortable either. We had no sooner caught sight of a man whose behavior was harmless and peaceable and childlike and who was still in a state of innocence than all our praise-worthy and most necessary activities became stupid and repulsive. Pah -- all that blood! We were ashamed of ourselves. But in the war there must have been generals even who felt the same.

"Don't let us stay here any longer," Dora implored. "Let's go down. We are sure to find something to eat in the cars. Aren't you hungry, you Bolsheviks?"

Down in the burning town the bells began to peal with a wild terror. We set ourselves to climb down. As I helped Dora to climb over the breast work, I kissed her knee. She laughed aloud, and then the planks gave way and we both fell into vacancy --


Once more I stood in the round corridor, still excited by the hunting adventure. And everywhere on all the countless doors were the alluring inscriptions:









The series of inscriptions was endless. One was


This seemed to me to be worth looking into and I went in at this door.

I found myself in a quiet twilit room where a man with something like a large chessboard in front of him sat in Eastern fashion on the floor. At the first glance I thought it was friend Pablo. He wore at any rate a similar gorgeous silk jacket and had the same dark and shining eyes.

"Are you Pablo ?" I asked.

"I am not anybody," he replied amiably. '"We have no names here and we are not anybody. I am a chess player. Do you wish for instruction in the building up of the personality?"

"Yes, please."

"Then be so kind as to place a few dozen of your pieces at my disposal."

"My pieces -- ?"

"Of the pieces into which you saw your so-called personality broken up. I can't play without pieces."

He held a glass up to me and again I saw the unity of my personality broken up into many selves whose number seemed even to have increased. The pieces were now, however, very small, about the size of chessmen. The player took a dozen or so of them in his sure and quiet fingers and placed them on the ground near the board. As he did so he began to speak in the monotonous way of one who goes through a recitation or reading that he has often gone through before.

"The mistaken and unhappy notion that a man is an enduring unity is known to you. It is also known to you that man consists of a multitude of souls, of numerous selves. The separation of the unity of the personality into these numerous pieces passes for madness. Science has invented the name schizomania for it. Science is in this so far right as no multiplicity may be dealt with unless there be a series, a certain order and grouping. It is wrong insofar as it holds that one only and binding and lifelong order is possible for the multiplicity of subordinate selves. This error of science has many unpleasant consequences, and the single advantage of simplifying the work of the state-appointed pastors and masters and saving them the labors of original thought. In consequence of this error many persons pass for normal, and indeed for highly valuable members of society, who are incurably mad; and many, on the other hand, are looked upon as mad who are geniuses. Hence it is that we supplement the imperfect psychology of science by the conception that we call the art of building up the soul. We demonstrate to anyone whose soul has fallen to pieces that he can rearrange these pieces of a previous self in what order he pleases, and so attain to an endless multiplicity of moves in the game of life. As the playwright shapes a drama from a handful of characters, so do we from the pieces of the disintegrated self build up ever new groups, with ever new interplay and suspense, and new situations that are eternally inexhaustible. Look!"

With the sure and silent touch of his clever fingers he took hold of my pieces, all the old men and young men and children and women, cheerful and sad, strong and weak, nimble and clumsy, and swiftly arranged them on his board for a game. At once they formed themselves into groups and families, games and battles, friendships and enmities, making a small world. For a while he let this lively and yet orderly world go through its evolutions before my enraptured eyes in play and strife, making treaties and fighting battles, wooing, marrying and multiplying. It was indeed a crowded stage, a moving breathless drama.

Then he passed his hand swiftly over the board and gently swept all the pieces into a heap; and, meditatively with an artist's skill, made up a new game of the same pieces with quite other groupings, relationships and entanglements. The second game had an affinity with the first, it was the same world built of the same material, but the key was different, the time changed, the motif was differently given out and the situations differently presented.

And in this fashion the clever architect built up one game after another out of the figures, each of which was a bit of myself, and every game had a distant resemblance to every other. Each belonged recognizably to the same world and acknowledged a common origin. Yet each was entirely new.

"This is the art of life," he said dreamily. "You may yourself as an artist develop the game of your life and lend it animation. You may complicate and enrich it as you please. It lies in your hands. Just as madness, in a higher sense, is the beginning of all wisdom, so is schizomania the beginning of all art and all fantasy. Even learned men have come to a partial recognition of this, as may be gathered, for example, from Prince Wunderhorn, that enchanting book, in which the industry and pains a man of learning, with the assistance of the genius of a number of madmen and artists shut up as such, are immortalized. Here, take your little pieces away with you. The game will often give you pleasure. The piece that today grew to the proportions of an intolerable bugbear, you will degrade tomorrow to a mere lay figure. The luckless Cinderella will in the next game be the princess. I wish you much pleasure, my dear sir."

I bowed low in gratitude to the gifted chess player, put the little pieces in my pocket and withdrew through the narrow door.

My real intention was to seat myself at once on the floor in the corridor and play the game for hours, for whole eternities; but I was no sooner in the bright light of the circular theater passage than a new and irresistible current carried me along. A dazzling poster flashed before my eyes:


Many different emotions surged up in me at the sight of this announcement. My heart was painfully contracted by all kinds of fears and repressions from my former life and the reality I had left behind. With trembling hand I opened the door and found myself in the booth of a fair with an iron rail separating me from a wretched stage. On the stage I saw an animal tamer -- a cheap-jack gentleman with a pompous air -- who in spite of a large moustache, exuberantly muscular biceps and his absurd circus getup had a malicious and decidedly unpleasant resemblance to myself. The strong man led on a leash like a dog -- lamentable sight -- large, beautiful but terribly emaciated wolf, whose eyes were cowed and furtive; and it was as disgusting as it was intriguing, as horrible as it was all the same secretly entertaining, to see this brutal tamer of animals put the noble and yet so ignominiously obedient beast of prey through a series of tricks and sensational turns.

At any rate, the man, my diabolically distorted double, had his wolf marvelously broken. The wolf was obediently attentive to every command and responded like a dog to every call and every crack of the whip. He went down on his knees, lay for dead, and, aping the lord of creation, carried a loaf, an egg, a piece of meat, a basket in his mouth with cheerful obedience; and he even had to pick up the whip that the tamer had let fall and carry it after him in his teeth while he wagged his tail with an unbearable submissiveness. A rabbit was put in front of him and then a white lamb. He bared his teeth, it is true, and the saliva dropped from his mouth while he trembled with desire, but he did not touch either of the animals; and at the word of command he jumped over them with a graceful leap, as they cowered trembling on the floor. More -- he laid himself down between the rabbit and the lamb and embraced them with his foremost paws to form a touching family group, at the same time eating a stick of chocolate from the man's hand. It was an agony to witness the fantastic extent to which the wolf had learned to belie his nature; and I stood there with my hair on end.

There was some compensation, however, both for the horrified spectator and for the wolf himself, in the second part of the program. For after this refined exhibition of animal taming and when the man with a winning smile had made his triumphant bow over the group of the wolf and the lamb, the roles were reversed. My engaging double suddenly with a low reverence laid his whip at the wolf's feet and became as agitated, as shrunken and wretched, as the wolf had been before. The wolf, however, licked his chops with a grin, his constraint and dissimulation erased. His eyes kindled. His whole body was taut and showed the joy he felt at recovering his wild nature.

And now the wolf commanded and the man obeyed. At the word of command the man sank on his knees, let his tongue loll out and tore his clothes off with his filed teeth. He went on two feet or all-fours just as the wolf ordered him, played the human being, lay for dead, let the wolf ride on his back and carried the whip after him. With the aptness of a dog he submitted gladly to every humiliation and perversion of his nature. A lovely girl came on to the stage and went up to the tamed man. She stroked his chin and rubbed her cheek against his; but he remained on all fours, remained a beast. He shook his head and began to show his teeth at the charming creature -- so menacingly and wolfishly at last, that she ran away. Chocolate was put before him, but with a contemptuous sniff he thrust it from him with his snout. Finally the white lamb and the fat mottled rabbit were brought on again and the docile man gave his last turn and played the wolf most amusingly. He seized the shrieking creatures in his fingers and teeth, tore them limb from limb, grinningly chewed the living flesh and rapturously drank their warm blood while his eyes closed in a dreamy delight.

I made for the door in horror and dashed out. This Magic Theater was clearly no paradise. All hell lay beneath its charming surface. O God, was there even here no release?

In fear I hurried this way and that. I had the taste of blood and chocolate in my mouth, the one as hateful as the other. I desired nothing but to be beyond this wave of disgust. I wrestled with myself for more bearable, friendlier pictures. "O Friend, not these notes!" sang in my head, and with horror I remembered those terrible photographs from the Front that one saw occasionally during the war -- those heaps of bodies entangled with each other, whose faces were changed to grinning ghouls by their gas masks. How silly and childish of me, a humanely minded opponent of war though I was, to have been horrified by those pictures. Today I knew that no tamer of beasts, no general, no insane person could hatch a thought or a picture in his brain that I could not match myself with one every bit as frightful, every bit as savage and wicked, as crude and stupid.

With an immense relief I remembered the notice I had seen on first entering the theater, the one that the nice boy had stormed so furiously --


and it seemed to me, all in all, that there was really nothing else so desirable as this. I was greatly cheered at finding that I could escape from that cursed wolf world, and went in.

The fragrance of spring-time met me. The very atmosphere of boyhood and youth, so deeply familiar and yet so legendary, was around me and in my veins flowed the blood of those days. All that I had done and thought and been since, fell away from me and I was young again. An hour, a few minutes before, I had prided myself on knowing what love was and desire and longing, but it had been the love and the longing of an old man. Now I was young again and this glowing current of fire that I felt in me, this mighty impulse, this unloosening passion like that wind in March that brings the thaw, was young and new and genuine. How the flame that I had forgotten leaped up again, how darkly stole on my ears the tones of long ago! My blood was on fire, and blossomed forth as my soul cried aloud and sang. I was a boy of fifteen or sixteen with my head full of Latin and Greek and poetry. I was all ardor and ambition and my fancy was laden with the artist's dreams. But far deeper and stronger and more awful than all there burned and leaped in me the flame of love, the hunger of sex, the fever and the foreboding of desire.

I was standing on a spur of the hills above the little town where I lived. The wind wafted the smell of spring and violets through my long hair. Below in the town I saw the gleam of the river and the windows of my home, and all that I saw and heard and smelled overwhelmed me, as fresh and reeling from creation, as radiant in depth of color, swayed by the wind of spring in as magical a transfiguration, as when once I looked on the world with the eyes of youth -- first youth and poetry. With wandering hand I pulled a half-opened leaf bud from a bush that was newly green. I looked at it and smelled it (with the smell everything of those days came back in a glow) and then I put it between my lips, lips that no girl had ever kissed, and began playfully to bite it. At the sour and aromatically bitter taste I knew at once and exactly what it was that I was living over again. It all came back. I was living again an hour of the last years of my boyhood, a Sunday afternoon in early spring, the day that on a lonely walk I met Rosa Kreisler and greeted her so shyly and fell in love with her so madly.
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Re: Steppenwolf, by Hermann Hesse

Postby admin » Sun Jan 31, 2016 9:04 pm


She came, that day, alone and dreamingly up the hill towards me. She had not seen me and the sight of her approaching filled me with apprehension and suspense. I saw her hair, tied in two thick plaits, with loose strands on either side, her cheeks blown by the wind. I saw for the first time in my life how beautiful she was, and how beautiful and dream-like the play of the wind in her delicate hair, how beautiful and provocative the fall of her thin blue dress over her young limbs; and just as the bitter spice of the chewed bud coursed through me with the whole dread pleasure and pain of spring, so the sight of the girl filled me with the whole deadly foreboding of love, the foreboding of woman. In that moment was contained the shock and the forewarning of enormous possibilities and promises, nameless delight, unthinkable bewilderments, anguish, suffering, release to the innermost and deepest guilt. Oh, how sharp was the bitter taste of spring on my tongue! And how the wind streamed playfully through the loose hair beside her rosy cheeks! She was close now. She looked up and recognized me. For a moment she blushed a little and looked aside; but when I took off my school cap, she was self-possessed at once and, raising her head, returned my greeting with a smile that was quite grown-up. Then, entirely mistress of the situation, she went slowly on, in a halo of the thousand wishes, hopes and adorations that I sent after her.

So it had once been on a Sunday thirty-five years before, and all that had been then came back to me in this moment. Hill and town, March wind and buddy taste, Rosa and her brown hair, the welling-up of desire and the sweet suffocation of anguish. All was as it was then, and it seemed to me that I had never in my life loved as I loved Rosa that day. But this time it was given me to greet her otherwise than on that occasion. I saw her blush when she recognized me, and the pains she took to conceal it, and I knew at once that she had a liking for me and that this encounter meant the same for her as for me. And this time instead of standing ceremoniously cap in hand till she had gone by, I did, in spite of anguish bordering on obsession, what my blood bade me do. I cried: "Rosa! Thank God, you've come, you beautiful, beautiful girl. I love you so dearly." It was not perhaps the most brilliant of all the things that might have been said at this moment, but there was no need for brilliance, and it was enough and more. Rosa did not put on her grown-up air, and she did not go on. She stopped and looked at me and, growing even redder than before, she said: "Heaven be praised, Harry -- do you really like me?" Her brown eyes lit up her strong face, and they showed me that my past life and loves had all been false and perplexed and full of stupid unhappiness from that very moment on a Sunday afternoon when I had let Rosa pass me by. Now, however, the blunder was put right. Everything went differently and everything was good.

We clasped hands, and hand in hand walked slowly on as happy as we were embarrassed. We did not know what to do or to say, so we began to walk faster from embarrassment and then broke into a run, and ran till we lost our breath and had to stand still. But we did not let go our hands. We were both still children and did not know quite what to do with each other. That Sunday we did not even kiss, but we were, immeasurably happy. We stood to get our breath. We sat on the grass and I stroked her hand while she passed the other one shyly over my hair. And then we got up again and tried to measure which of us was the taller. In reality, I was the taller by a finger's breath, but I would not have it so. I maintained that we were of exactly the same height and that God had designed us for each other and that later on we would marry. Then Rosa said that she smelled violets and we knelt in the short spring grass and looked for them and found a few with short stalks and I gave her mine and she gave me hers, and as it was getting chill and the sun slanted low over the cliffs, Rosa said she must go home. At this we both became very sad, for I dared not accompany her. But now we shared a secret and it was our dearest possession. I stayed behind on the cliffs and lying down with my face over the edge of the sheer descent, I looked down over the town and watched for her sweet little figure to appear far below and saw it pass the spring and over the bridge. And now I knew that she had reached her home and was going from room to room, and I lay up there far away from her; but there was a bond between her and me. The same current ran in both of us and a secret passed to and fro.

We saw each other again here and there all through this spring, sometimes on the cliffs, sometimes over the garden hedge; and when the elder began to bloom we gave each other the first shy kiss. It was little that children like us had to give each other and our kiss lacked warmth and fullness. I scarcely ventured to touch the strands of her hair about her ears. But all the love and all the joy that was in us were ours. It was a shy emotion and the troth we plighted was still unripe, but this timid waiting on each other taught us a new happiness. We climbed one little step up on the ladder of love. And thus, beginning from Rosa and the violets, I lived again through all the loves of my life -- but under happier stars. Rosa I lost, and Irmgard appeared; and the sun was warmer and the stars less steady, but lrmgard no more than Rosa was mine. Step by step I had to climb. There was much to live through and much to learn; and I had to lose Irmgard and Anna too. Every girl that I had once loved in youth, I loved again, but now I was able to inspire each with love. There was something I could give to each, something each could give to me. Wishes, dreams and possibilities that had once had no other life than my own imagination were lived now in reality. They passed before me like beautiful flowers, Ida and Laura and all whom I had loved for a summer, a month, or a day.

I was now, as I perceived, that good-looking and ardent boy whom I had seen making so eagerly for love's door. I was living a bit of myself only -- a bit that in my actual life and being had not been expressed to a tenth or a thousandth part, and I was living it to the full. I was watching it grow unmolested by any other part of me. It was not perturbed by the thinker, nor tortured by the Steppenwolf, nor dwarfed by the poet, the visionary or the moralist. No -- Iwas nothing now but the lover and I breathed no other happiness and no other suffering than love. Irmgard had already taught me to dance and Ida to kiss, and it was Emma first, the most beautiful of them all, who on an autumn evening beneath a swaying elm gave me her brown breasts to kiss and the cup of passion to drink.

I lived through much in Pablo's little theater and not a thousandth part can be told in words. All the girls I had ever loved were mine. Each gave me what she alone had to give and to each I gave what she alone knew how to take. Much love, much happiness, much indulgence, and much bewilderment, too, and suffering fell to my share. All the love that I had missed in my life bloomed magically in my garden during this hour of dreams. There were chaste and tender blooms, garish ones that blazed, dark ones swiftly fading. There were flaring lust, inward reverie, glowing melancholy, anguished dying, radiant birth. I found women who were only to be taken by storm and those whom it was a joy to woo and win by degrees. Every twilit corner of my life where, if but for a moment, the voice of sex had called me, a woman's glance kindled me or the gleam of a girl's white skin allured me, emerged again and all that had been missed was made good. All were mine, each in her own way. The woman with the remarkable dark brown eyes beneath flaxen hair was there. I had stood beside her for a quarter of an hour in the corridor of an express and afterwards she often appeared in my dreams. She did not speak a word, but what she taught me of the art of love was unimaginable, frightful, deathly. And the sleek, still Chinese, from the harbor of Marseilles, with her glassy smile, her smooth dead-black hair and swimming eyes -- she too knew undreamed-of things. Each had her secret and the bouquet of her soil. Each kissed and laughed in a fashion of her own, and in her own peculiar way was shameful and in her own peculiar way shameless. They came and went. The stream carried them towards me and washed me up to them and away. I was a child in the stream of sex, at play in the midst of all its charm, its danger and surprise. And it astonished me to find how rich my life -- the seemingly so poor and loveless life of the Steppenwolf -- had been in the opportunities and allurements of love. I had missed them. I had fled before them. I had stumbled on over them. I had made haste to forget them. But here they all were stored up in their hundreds, and not one missing. And now that I saw them I gave myself up to them without defense and sank down into the rosy twilight of their underworld. Even that seduction to which Pablo had once invited me came again, and other, earlier ones which I had not fully grasped at the time, fantastic games for three or four, caught me up in their dance with a smile. Many things happened and many games, best unmentioned, were played.

When I rose once more to the surface of the unending stream of allurement and vice and entanglement, I was calm and silent. I was equipped, far gone in knowledge, wise, expert-ripe for Hermine. She rose as the last figure in my populous mythology, the last name of an endless series; and at once I came to myself and made an end of this fairy tale of love; for I did not wish to meet her in this twilight of a magic mirror. I belonged to her not just as this one piece in my game of chess -- I belonged to her wholly. Oh, I would now so lay out the pieces in my game that all was centered in her and led to fulfillment.

The stream had washed me ashore. Once again I stood in the silent theater passage. What now? I felt for the little figures in my pocket -- but already this impulse died away. Around me was the inexhaustible world of doors, notices and magic mirrors. Listlessly I read the first words that caught my eye, and shuddered.


was what it said.

Swiftly a picture was flashed upon my memory with a jerk and remained there one instant. Hermine at the table of a restaurant, turning all at once from the wine and food, lost in an abyss of speech, with a terrifying earnestness in her face as she said that she would have one aim only in making me her lover, and it was that she should die by my hand. A heavy wave of anguish and darkness flooded my heart. Suddenly everything confronted me once more. Suddenly once more the sense of the last call of fate gripped my heart. Desperately I felt in my pocket for the little figures so that I might practice a little magic and rearrange the layout of the board. The figures were no longer there. Instead of them I pulled out a knife. In mortal dread I ran along the corridor, past every door. I stood opposite the gigantic mirror. I looked into it. In the mirror there stood a beautiful wolf as tall as myself. He stood still, glancing shyly from unquiet eyes. As he leered at me, his eyes blazed and he grinned a little so that his chops parted and showed his red tongue.

Where was Pablo? Where was Hermine? Where was that clever fellow who had discoursed so pleasantly about the building up of the personality?

Again I looked into the mirror. I had been mad. I must have been mad. There was no wolf in the mirror, lolling his tongue in his maw. It was I, Harry. My face was gray, forsaken of all fancies, wearied by all vice, horribly pale. Still it was a human being, someone one could speak to.

"Harry," I said, "what are you doing there?"

"Nothing," said he in the mirror, "I am only waiting. I am waiting for death."

"Where is death then?"

"Coming," said the other. And I heard from the empty spaces within the theater the sound of music, a beautiful and awful music, that music from Don Giovanni that heralds the approach of the guest of stone. With an awful and an iron clang it rang through the ghostly house, coming from the other world, from the immortals.

"Mozart," I thought, and with the word conjured up the most beloved and the most exalted picture that my inner life contained.

At that, there rang out behind me a peal of laughter, a clear and ice-cold laughter out of a world unknown to men, a world beyond all suffering, and born of divine humor. I turned about, frozen through with the blessing of this laughter, and there came Mozart. He passed by me laughing as he went and, strolling quietly on, he opened the door of one of the boxes and went in. Eagerly I followed the god of my youth, the object, all my life long, of love and veneration. The music rang on. Mozart was leaning over the front of the box. Of the theater nothing was to be seen. Darkness filled the boundless space.

"You see," said Mozart, "it goes all right without the saxophone -- though to be sure, I shouldn't wish to tread on the toes of that famous instrument."

"Where are we?" I asked.

"We are in the last act of Don Giovanni. Leporello is on his knees. A superb scene, and the music is fine too. There is a lot in it, certainly, that's very human, but you can hear the other world in it -- the laughter, eh?"

"It is the last great music ever written," said I with the pomposity of a schoolmaster. "Certainly, there was Schubert to come. Hugo Wolf also, and I must not forget the poor, lover, Chopin either. You frown, Maestro? Oh, yes, Beethoven -- he is wonderful too. But all that -- beautiful as it may be -- has something rhapsodical about it, something of disintegration. A work of such plentitude and power as Don Giovanni has never since arisen among men."

"Don't overstrain yourself," laughed Mozart, in frightful mockery. "You're a musician yourself, I perceive. Well, I have given up the trade and retired to take my ease. It is only for amusement that I look on at the business now and then."

He raised his hands as though he were conducting, and a moon, or some pale constellation, rose somewhere. I looked over the edge of the box into immeasurable depths of space. Mist and clouds floated there. Mountains and seashores glimmered, and beneath us extended world-wide a desert plain. On this plain we saw an old gentleman of a worthy aspect, with a long beard, who drearily led a large following of some ten thousand men in black. He had a melancholy and hopeless air; and Mozart said:

"Look, there's Brahms. He is striving for redemption, but it will take him all his time."

I realized that the thousands of men in black were the players of all those notes and parts in his scores which according to divine judgment were superfluous.

"Too thickly orchestrated, too much material wasted," Mozart said with a nod.

And thereupon we saw Richard Wagner marching at the head of a host just as vast, and felt the pressure of those thousands as they clung and closed upon him. Him, too, we watched as he dragged himself along with slow and sad step.

"In my young days," I remarked sadly, "these two musicians passed as the most extreme contrasts conceivable."

Mozart laughed.

"Yes, that is always the way. Such contrasts, seen from a little distance, always tend to show their increasing similarity. Thick orchestration was in any case neither Wagner's nor Brahms' personal failing. It was a fault of their time."

"What? And have they got to pay for it so dearly?" I cried in protest.

"Naturally. The law must take its course. Until they have paid the debt of their time it cannot be known whether anything personal to themselves is left over to stand to their credit."

"But they can't either of them help it!"

"Of course not. They cannot help it either that Adam ate the apple. But they have to pay for it all the same."

"But that is frightful."

"Certainly. Life is always frightful. We cannot help it and we are responsible all the same. One's born and at once one is guilty. You must have had a remarkable sort of religious education if you did not know that."

I was now thoroughly miserable. I saw myself as a dead-weary pilgrim, dragging myself across the desert of the other world, laden with the many superfluous books I had written, and all the articles and essays; followed by the army of compositors who had had the type to set up, by the army of readers who had had it all to swallow. My God -- and over and above it all there was Adam and the apple, and the whole of original sin. All this, then, was to be paid for in endless purgatory. And only then could the question arise whether, behind all that, there was anything personal, anything of my own, left over; or whether all that I had done and all its consequences were merely the empty foam of the sea and a meaningless ripple in the flow of what was over and done.

Mozart laughed aloud when he saw my long face. He laughed so hard that he turned a somersault in the air and played trills with his heels. At the same time he shouted at me: "Hey, my young fellow, does your tongue smart, man, do your lungs really pinch, man? You think of your readers, those carrion feeders, and all your typesetters, those wretched abettors, and saber-whetters. You dragon, you make me laugh till I shake me and burst the stitches of my breeches. O heart of a gull, with printer's ink dull, and soul sorrow-full. A candle I'll leave you, if that'll relieve you. Betittled, betattled, spectacled and shackled, and pitifully snagged and by the tail wagged, with shilly and shally no more shall you dally. For the devil, I pray, who will bear you away and slice you and splice you till that shall suffice you for your writings and rotten plagiarisings ill-gotten."

This, however, was too much for me. Anger left me no time for melancholy. I caught hold of Mozart by the pigtail and off he flew. The pigtail grew longer and longer like the tail of a comet and I was whirled along at the end of it. The devil -- but it was cold in this world we traversed! These immortals put up with a rarefied and glacial atmosphere. But it was delightful all the same -- this icy air. I could tell that, even in the brief moment that elapsed before I lost my senses. A bitter- sharp and steel-bright icy gaiety coursed through me and a desire to laugh as shrilly and wildly and unearthly as Mozart had done. But then breath and consciousness failed me.


When I came to myself I was bewildered and exhausted. The white light of the corridor shone in the polished floor. I was not among the immortals, not yet. I was still, as ever, on this side of the riddle of suffering, of wolf-men and torturing complexities. I had found no happy spot, no endurable resting place. There must be an end of it.

In the great mirror, Harry stood opposite me. He did not appear to be very flourishing. His appearance was much the same as on that night when he visited the professor and sat through the dance at the Black Eagle. But that was far behind, years, centuries behind. He had grown older. He had learned to dance. He had visited the magic theater. He had heard Mozart laugh. Dancing and women and knives had no more terrors for him. Even those who have average gifts, given a few hundred years, come to maturity. I looked for a long time at Harry in the looking glass. I still knew him well enough, and he still bore a faint resemblance to the boy of fifteen who one Sunday in March had met Rosa on the cliffs and taken off his school cap to her. And yet he had grown a few centuries older since then. He had pursued philosophy and music and had his fill of war and his Elsasser at the Steel Helmet and discussed Krishna with men of honest learning. He had loved Erica and Maria, and had been Hermine's friend, and shot down motorcars, and slept with the sleek Chinese, and encountered Mozart and Goethe, and made sun-dry holes in the web of time and rents in reality's disguise, though it held him a prisoner still. And suppose he had lost his pretty chessman again, still he had a fine blade in his pocket. On then, old Harry, old weary loon.

Bah, the devil -- how bitter the taste of life! I spat at Harry in the looking glass. I gave him a kick and kicked him to splinters. I walked slowly along the echoing corridor, carefully scanning the doors that had held out So many glowing promises. Not one now showed a single announcement. Slowly I passed by all the hundred doors of the Magic Theater. Was not this the day I had been to a masked ball? Hundreds of years had passed since then. Soon years would cease altogether. Something, though, was still to be done. Hermine awaited me. A strange marriage it was to be, and a sorrowful wave it was that bore me on, drearily bore me on, a slave, a wolf-man. Bah, the devil!

I stopped at the last door. So far had the sorrowful wave borne me. O Rosa! O departed youth! O Goethe! O Mozart!

I opened it. What I saw was a simple and beautiful picture. On a rug on the floor lay two naked figures, the beautiful Hermine and the beautiful Pablo, side by side in a sleep of deep exhaustion after love's play. Beautiful, beautiful figures, lovely pictures, wonderful bodies. Beneath Hermine's left breast was a fresh round mark, darkly bruised -- a love bite of Pablo's beautiful, gleaming teeth. There, where the mark was, I plunged in my knife to the hilt. The blood welled out over her white and delicate skin. I would have kissed away the blood if everything had happened a little differently. As it was, I did not. I only watched how the blood flowed and watched her eyes open for a little moment in pain and deep wonder. What makes her wonder? I thought. Then it occurred to me that I had to shut her eyes. But they shut again of themselves. So all was done. She only turned a little to one side, and from her armpit to her breast I saw the play of a delicate shadow. It seemed that it wished to recall something, but what I could not remember. Then she lay still.

For long I looked at her and at last I waked with a shudder and turned to go. Then I saw Pablo stretch himself. I saw him open his eyes and stretch his limbs and then bend over the dead girl and smile. Never, I thought, will this fellow take anything seriously. Everything makes him smile. Pablo, meanwhile, carefully turned over a corner of the rug and covered Hermine up as far as her breast so that the wound was hidden, and then he went silently out of the box. Where was he going? Was everybody leaving me alone? I stayed there, alone with the half-shrouded body of her whom I loved -- and envied. The boyish hair hung low over the white forehead. Her lips shone red against the dead pallor of her blanched face and they were a little parted. Her hair diffused its delicate perfume and through it glimmered the little shell-like ear.

Her wish was fulfilled. Before she had ever been mine, I had killed my love. I had done the unthinkable, and now I kneeled and stared and did not know at all what this deed meant, whether it was good and right or the opposite. What would the clever chess player, what would Pablo have to say to it? I knew nothing and I could not think. The painted mouth glowed more red on the growing pallor of the face. So had my whole life been. My little happiness and love were like this staring mouth, a little red upon a mask of death.

And from the dead face, from the dead white shoulders and the dead white arms, there exhaled and slowly crept a shudder, a desert wintriness and desolation, a slowly, slowly increasing chill in which my hands and lips grew numb. Had I quenched the sun? Had I stopped the heart of all life? Was it the coldness of death and space breaking in?

With a shudder I stared at the stony brow and the stark hair and the cool pale shimmer of the ear. The cold that streamed from them was deathly and yet it was beautiful, it rang, it vibrated. It was music!

Hadn't I once felt this shudder before and found it at the same time a joy? Hadn't I once caught this music before? Yes, with Mozart and the immortals.

Verses came into my head that I had once come upon somewhere:

We above you ever more residing
In the ether's star translumined ice
Know nor day nor night nor time's dividing,
Wear nor age nor sex as our device.
Cool and unchanging is our eternal being,
Cool and star bright is our eternal laughter.

Then the door of the box opened and in came Mozart. I did not recognize him at the first glance, for he was without pigtail, knee breeches and buckled shoes, in modern dress. He took a seat close beside me, and I was on the point of holding him back because of the blood that had flowed over the floor from Hermine's breast. He sat there and began busying himself with an apparatus and some instruments that stood beside him. He took it very seriously, tightening this and screwing that, and I looked with wonder at his adroit and nimble fingers and wished that I might see them playing a piano for once. I watched him thoughtfully, or in a reverie rather, lost in admiration of his beautiful and skillful hands, warmed too, by the sense of his presence and a little apprehensive as well. Of what he was actually doing and of what it was that he screwed and manipulated, I took no heed whatever.

I soon found, however, that he had fixed up a radio and put it in going order, and now he inserted the loudspeaker and said: "Munich is on the air. Concerto Grosso in F Major by Handel."

And in fact, to my indescribable astonishment and horror, the devilish tin trumpet spat out, without more ado, a mixture of bronchial slime and chewed rubber; that noise that owners of gramophones and radios have agreed to call music. And behind the slime and the croaking there was, sure enough, like an old master beneath a layer of dirt, the noble outline of that divine music. I could distinguish the majestic structure and the deep wide breath and the full broad bowing of the strings.

"My God," I cried in horror, "what are you doing, Mozart? Do you really mean to inflict this mess on me and yourself, this triumph of our day, the last victorious weapon in the war of extermination against art? Must this be, Mozart?"

How the weird man laughed! And what a cold and eerie laugh! It was noiseless and yet everything was shattered by it. He marked my torment with deep satisfaction while he bent over the cursed screws and attended to the tin trumpet. Laughing still, he let the distorted, the murdered and murderous music ooze out and on; and laughing still, he replied:

"Please, no pathos, my friend! Anyway, did you observe the ritardando? An inspiration, eh? Yes, and now you tolerant man, let the sense of this ritardando touch you. Do you hear the basses? They stride like gods. And let this inspiration of old Handel penetrate your restless heart and give it peace. Just listen, you poor creature, listen without either pathos or mockery, while far away behind the veil of this hopelessly idiotic and ridiculous apparatus the form of this divine music passes by. Pay attention and you will learn something. Observe how this crazy funnel apparently does the most stupid, the most useless and the most damnable thing in the world. It takes hold of some music played where you please, without distinction, stupid and coarse, lamentably distorted, to boot, and chucks it into space to land where it has no business to be; and yet after all this it cannot destroy the original spirit of the music; it can only demonstrate its own, senseless mechanism, its inane meddling and marring. Listen, then, you poor thing. Listen well. You have need of it. And now you hear not only a Handel who, disfigured by radio, is, all the same, in this most ghastly of disguises still divine; you hear as well and you observe, most worthy sir, a most admirable symbol of all life. When you listen to radio you are a witness of the everlasting war between idea and appearance, between time and eternity, between the human and the divine. Exactly, my dear sir, as the radio for ten minutes together projects the most lovely music without regard into the most impossible places, into respectable drawing rooms and attics and into the midst of chattering, guzzling, yawning and sleeping listeners, and exactly as it strips this music of its sensuous beauty, spoils and scratches and beslimes it and yet cannot altogether destroy its spirit, just so does life, the so-called reality, real with the sublime picture-play of the world and make a hurley-burley of it. It makes its unappetizing tone -- slime of the most magic orchestral music. Everywhere it obtrudes its mechanism, its activity, its dreary exigencies and vanity between the ideal and the real, between orchestra and ear. All life is so, my child, and we must let it be so; and, if we are not asses, laugh at it. It little becomes people like you to be critics of radio or of life either. Better learn to listen first! Learn what is to be taken seriously and laugh at the rest. Or is it that you have done better yourself, more nobly and fitly and with better taste? Oh, no, Mr. Harry, you have not. You have made a frightful history of disease out of your life, and a misfortune of your gifts. And you have, as I see, found no better use for so pretty, so enchanting a young lady than to stick a knife into her body and destroy her. Was that right, do you think?"

Right?" I cried in despair. "No! My God, everything is so false, so hellishly stupid and wrong! I am a beast, Mozart, a stupid, angry beast, sick and rotten. There you're right a thousand times. But as for this girl -- it was her own desire. I have only fulfilled her own wish."

Mozart laughed his noiseless laughter. But he had the great kindness to turn off the radio.

My self-extenuation sounded unexpectedly and thoroughly foolish even to me who had believed in it with all my heart. When Hermine had once, so it suddenly occurred to me, spoken about time and eternity, I had been ready forthwith to take her thoughts as a reflection of my own. That the thought, however, of dying by my hand had been her own inspiration and wish and not in the least influenced by me I had taken as a matter of course. But why on that occasion had I not only accepted that horrible and unnatural thought, but even guessed it in advance. Perhaps because it had been my own. And why had I murdered Hermine just at the very moment when I saw her lying naked in another's arms? All-knowing and all-mocking rang Mozart's soundless laughter.

"Harry," said he, "you're a great joker. Had this beautiful girl really nothing to desire of you but the stab of a knife? Keep that for someone else! Well, at least you have stabbed her properly. The poor child is stone dead. And now perhaps, would be an opportune moment to realize the consequences of your gallantry towards this lady. Or do you think of evading the consequences?"

"No," I cried. "Don't you understand at all? I evade the consequences? I have no other desire than to pay and pay and pay for them, to lay my head beneath the axe and pay the penalty of annihilation."

Mozart looked at me with intolerable mockery.

"How pathetic you always are. But you will learn humor yet, Harry. Humor is always gallows-humor, and it is on the gallows you are now constrained to learn it. You are ready? Good. Then off with you to the public prosecutor and let the law take its course with you till your head is coolly hacked off at break of dawn in the prison yard. You are ready for it?"

Instantly a notice flashed before my eyes:


and I consented with a nod. I stood in a bare yard enclosed by four walls with barred windows, and shivered in the air of a gray dawn. There were a dozen gentlemen there in morning coats and gowns, and a newly erected guillotine. My heart was contracted with misery and dread, but I was ready and acquiescent. At the word of command I stepped forward and at the word of command I knelt down. The public prosecutor removed his cap and cleared his throat and all the other gentlemen cleared their throats. He unfolded an official document and held it before him and read out:

"Gentlemen, there stands before you Harry Haller, accused and found guilty of the willful misuse of our Magic Theater. Haller has not alone insulted the majesty of art in that he confounded our beautiful picture gallery with so-called reality and stabbed to death the reflection of a girl with the reflection of a knife; he has in addition displayed the intention of using our theater as a mechanism of suicide and shown himself devoid of humor. Wherefore we condemn Haller to eternal life and we suspend for twelve hours his permit to enter our theater. The penalty also of being laughed out of court may not be remitted. Gentlemen, all together, one-two, three!"

On the word "three" all who were present broke into one simultaneous peal of laughter, a laughter in full chorus, a frightful laughter of the other world that is scarcely to be borne by the ears of men.

When I came to myself again, Mozart was sitting beside me as before. He clapped me on the shoulder and said: "You have heard your sentence. So, you see, you will have to learn to listen to more of the radio music of life. It'll do you good. You are uncommonly poor in gifts, a poor blockhead, but by degrees you will come to grasp what is required of you. You have got to learn to laugh. That will be required of you. You must apprehend the humor of life, its gallows-humor. But of course you are ready for everything in the world except what will be required of you. You are ready to stab girls to death. You are ready to be executed with all solemnity. You would be ready, no doubt, to mortify and scourge yourself for centuries together. Wouldn't you?"

"Oh, yes, ready with all my heart," I cried in my misery.

"Of course! When it's a question of anything stupid and pathetic and devoid of humor or wit, you're the man, you tragedian. Well, I am not. I don't care a fig for all your romantics of atonement. You wanted to be executed and to have your head chopped off, you lunatic! For this imbecile ideal you would suffer death ten times over. You are willing to die, you coward, but not to live. The devil, but you shall live! It would serve you right if you were condemned to the severest of penalties."

"Oh, and what would that be?"

"We might, for example, restore this girl to life again and marry you to her.

"No, I should not be ready for that. It would bring unhappiness."

"As if there were not enough unhappiness in all you have designed already! However, enough of pathos and death-dealing. It is time to come to your senses. You are to live and to learn to laugh. You are to learn to listen to the cursed radio music of life and to reverence the spirit behind it and to laugh at its distortions. So there you are. More will not be asked of you.

Gently from behind clenched teeth I asked: "And if I do not submit? And if I deny your right, Mozart, to interfere with the Steppenwolf, and to meddle in his destiny?"

"Then," said Mozart calmly, "I should invite you to smoke another of my charming cigarettes." And as he spoke and conjured up a cigarette from his waistcoat pocket and offered it me, he was suddenly Mozart no longer. It was my friend Pablo looking warmly at me out of his dark exotic eyes and as like the man who had taught me to play chess with the little figures as a twin.

"Pablo!" I cried with a convulsive start. "Pablo, where are we?"

"We are in my Magic Theater," he said with a smile, "and if you wish at any time to learn the Tango or to be a general or to have a talk with Alexander the Great, it is always at your service. But I'm bound to say, Harry, you have disappointed me a little. You forgot yourself badly. You broke through the humor of my little theater and tried to make a mess of it, stabbing with knives and spattering our pretty picture-world with the mud of reality. That was not pretty of you. I hope, at least, you did it from jealousy when you saw Hermine and me lying there. Unfortunately, you did not know what to do with this figure. I thought you had learned the game better. Well, you will do better next time."

He took Hermine who at once shrank in his fingers to the dimensions of a toy figure and put her in the very same waistcoat pocket from which he had taken the cigarette.

Its sweet and heavy smoke diffused a pleasant aroma. I felt hollow, exhausted, and ready to sleep for a whole year.

I understood it all. I understood Pablo. I understood Mozart, and somewhere behind me I heard his ghastly laughter. I knew that all the hundred thousand pieces of life's game were in my pocket. A glimpse of its meaning had stirred my reason and I was determined to begin the game afresh. I would sample its tortures once more and shudder again at its senselessness. I would traverse not once more, but often, the hell of my inner being.

One day I would be a better hand at the game. One day I would learn how to laugh. Pablo was waiting for me, and Mozart too.

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