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.

Steppenwolf, by Hermann Hesse

Postby admin » Sun Jan 31, 2016 8:57 pm

by Hermann Hesse
© 1963 by Holt, Rinehart and Winston, Inc.
Previous edition copyright 1929, copyright renewed
© 1957 by Holt, Rinehart and Winston, Inc.
Introduction by Joseph Mileck




Table of Contents:

• Introduction
• Bibliography
• A Note on the Translation
• Preface
• Harry Haller's Records, Part 1
• Harry Haller's Records, Part 2
• Harry Haller's Records, Part 3
• Harry Haller's Records, Part 4
• Harry Haller's Records, Part 5
• Harry Haller's Records, Part 6
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Re: Steppenwolf, by Hermann Hesse

Postby admin » Sun Jan 31, 2016 8:57 pm


In 1915, Romain Rolland paid Hermann Hesse a rare compliment when he referred to him as the only German poet of rank maintaining a truly Goethean attitude during the First World War. Andre Gide found a kindred soul in Hesse, a rebel individualist divorced from established dogma and institutions, a lonely, incorruptible seeker of new norms. In 1947, upon the occasion of Hesse's seventieth birthday, Thomas Mann had this to say of his friend and fellow writer: "For me his life work, with its roots in native German romanticism, for all its occasional strange individualism, its now humorously petulant and now mystically yearning estrangement from the world and the times, belongs to the highest and purest spiritual aspirations and labors of our epoch. Of the literary generation to which I belong I early chose him, who has now attained the Biblical age, as the one nearest and dearest to me and I have followed his growth with a sympathy which sprang as much from our differences as from our similarities." These are typical tributes to a foremost spokesman for three generations of enlightened Germans, to a most prominent figure on the literary scene of Germany from the outset of the century until his death, August 9, 1962.

Hermann Hesse was born in the little Swabian town of Calw, Wurttemberg, July 2, 1877. His father's side of the family was North German with a Slavic strain, and his mother's side was South German with a French inclusion. Both sides of the family were severely religious. His mother was born in India, daughter of the famous Swabian Pietist missionary and Indologist, Hermann Gundert. His father dedicated himself to the practical service of Christ at the age of eighteen and served for four years as a Pietist missionary in India. Brought back to Europe by ill health, he became editor of a Pietist periodical, taught at a Pietist mission school, and finally succeeded his father-in-law as director of the Pietist publishing house in Calw. This severe Pietism with its belief in the inherent sinfulness of man, in the necessity of breaking the will of the individual, and with its uncompromising renunciation of all that is of this world, was the first of many social structures which were to rouse the rebel in Hesse.

A hypersensitive, imaginative, lively, and extremely headstrong child, Hesse proved to be a constant source of despair and annoyance to his parents and his teachers. School held as little attraction for him as for Thomas Mann, and his formal education was even briefer than Mann's. Even as a youngster he was determined to become a writer and not to follow in the footsteps of his father. In 1892 he took French leave from the church school in Maulbronn only six months after his admission. He then managed to survive the first year at the Gymnasium in Cannstatt, but hardly had the second year begun before he again became delinquent and was promptly dismissed. An apprenticeship in a bookshop in Esslingen terminated abruptly only three days after it had begun. Hesse now assisted his father for about six months in the publishing house in Calw, then decided to learn a trade before emigrating to Brazil. However, after sixteen months of manual labor in a machine shop, he left Calw in October, 1895, to begin a relatively uneventful apprenticeship of four years in a bookshop in Tubingen.

Although Hesse composed poetry almost before he was able to wield a pencil, these years in Tubingen mark the actual beginning of his career. It was during this period that he wrote his first collection of verse, Ramantische Lieder (1899), and the very romantic prose episodes of Eine Stunde hinter Mitternacht (1899). Hesse's next five years in Basel (1899-19o4) were busy ones. He published his miscellaneous Hinterlassene Schriften und Gedichte van Hermann Lauscher in 1901. More poetry, Gedichte, followed in 1902. By 1903, he was financially able to leave the book business and to devote all of his time to his writing. His first novel, Peter Camenzind (1904), was an immediate success. Hesse became a celebrity almost overnight. That same year, he received the Wiener Bauernfeldpreis, the first of many literary awards.

In September, 1904, Hesse married Maria Bernoulli, the daughter of an old and prominent family of Basel. Soon there after, he and his bride left for the little village of Gaienhofen on the German side of the Untersee. Marriage and Gaienhofen were meant to end the morbid estheticism into which Hesse had allowed himself to drift. He hoped thereby to become an established, respected member of society. This hope was never realized. Except for the first few years, his marriage did not alleviate his loneliness, nor could his idyllic retreat long contain his inherent restlessness. By 1912, Gaienhofen had lost all its meaning. It had become quite apparent to Hesse that he could not be both a creative dreamer and a "solid citizen," a Phantasiemensch and a Burger, as he put it.

Despite their strong undercurrent of discord, these years from 1904 to 1912 were most prolific. Monographs on Boccaccio and St. Francis of Assisi were published in 1904. In Unterm Rad (1906), Hesse recalled his own unhappy days in Maulbronn and paid his respects to the tendentious school-novel fashionable in Germany at the turn of the century. In Peter Camenzind, he had concerned himself with the misfortunes of a troubled young writer; with Gertrud (1910), his second artist novel, Hesse turned his attention to an equally and similarly troubled young musician. Both gifted misfits were projections of their author; their problems of life were his. Three volumes of short stories playfully depicting life's little tragedies and comedies in a provincial setting were published in rapid succession: Diesseits (1907), Nachbarn (1909), and Umwege (1912). A third volume of poetry, Unterwegs, appeared in 1911. That same year, restive and discontented, unable to bear his comfortable, established mode of existence in Gaienhofen any longer, Hesse fled Europe for the Orient. His diary like impressions of this trip to Ceylon, Malaya, and Sumatra were published as Aus lndien in 1913. Most of the prose sketches of Bilderbuch (1926), and the tales of Fabulierbuch (1935) were also written during this period from 1904 to 1912. Hesse also found time to edit the periodical Marz (1907-12), and to contribute a steady stream of book reviews, articles, and short stories to such periodicals and newspapers as Neue Rundschau, Die Rheinlande, Simplicissimus, Neue Zuricher Zeitung, Berliner Tageblatt.

In 1912, after his return from the East, Hesse left Gaienhofen for Bern. He was to remain here only until the spring of 1919. These were to be grim years. The youngest of three sons was seriously ill for more than a year. The war brought with it endless mental agony and even privation. Hesse was an outspoken pacifist and soon fell into disrepute. The death of his father proved to be a severe shock. His wife became deranged and began to spend most of her time in asylums. And Hesse himself was compelled to seek relief in psychoanalysis (1916-17).

Despite this incessant harassment, Hesse's prolificacy continued undiminished in Bern. His third artist novel, Rosshalde (1914), is the story of a painter whose mismarriage foreshadowed the approaching impasse of Hesse's own marriage. Demian (1919), Hesse's very Freudian study of adolescence, with its Nietzschean emphasis upon the superior individual, immediately enjoyed the loud acclaim of postwar disillusioned German youth seeking a new way of life. Knulp, three episodes from the life of a romantic vagabond, appeared in 1915. Musik des Einsamen, another volume of poetry, was published in 1916. More short stories were gathered together in Kleiner Garten (1919) and in Marchen (1919), and more than half of the essays of Betrachtungen (1928) were written during this period. Hesse also continued to contribute his reviews, articles, and short stories to newspapers and periodicals, and even found time to help edit the Deutsche Internierten-Zeitung and a series of books for German prisoners of war.

Exhausted and distraught, Hesse left Bern in the spring of 1919 and wandered southward in quest of solitude. Before life could now become meaningful for him, he had to find and come to terms with himself. His wife remained in an asylum and his three sons were placed in the care of close friends. He found the retreat he sought in the remote village of Montagnola in southern Switzerland. Here he began painfully to take stock of himself and to devote himself assiduously to his art. For almost four poverty-stricken years Hesse lived like a hermit, and for years thereafter, except for regular winter visits to Zurich and for intermittent cures in Baden, he rarely left his refuge for any length of time. This pattern of life was interrupted only briefly by an unsuccessful second marriage in 1924.

Hesse remained in his bachelor quarters in Montagnola for twelve years, the most productive years of his life. In his relentless quest of the self, his writing now received a fresh impetus and assumed a new direction. The pre-First World War traditionalist became an uninhibited and exciting innovator. The short stories and novels which now followed one another in quick succession are all only slightly disguised inner autobiographies, Seelenbiographien, as Hesse himself termed them. In Klein und Wagner (1920), a tense psychological study, Hesse recalled his own flight from Bern. In Klingsors letzter Sommer (1920), he recorded the intoxicating emotional release he experienced during his first summer in Montagnola. Siddhartha, Hesse's Buddha-like search for the basic unity and meaningfulness of life, begun in the closing months of 1919, was finally finished and published in 1922. Kurgast, the ironic psychologizing and philosophizing of an embittered rheumatic, appeared in 1923. Nurnberger Reise, the tart memoirs of a lecture tour through southern Germany in the autumn of 1925, was published in 1927.

Steppenwolf, the experimental novel which Thomas Mann later termed no less daring than James Joyce's Ulysses or Andre Gide's Counterfeiters, appeared that same year. It was greeted with a curious mixture of awe, bewilderment, antagonism, and disgust. Harry Haller's story, Hesse's own uninhibited self-exposure accompanied by a searing appraisal of Western civilization, troubled even the staunchest of the author's supporters. In the concluding remarks of Krisis (1928), the poetic counterpart of Steppenwolf, Hesse had to remind his friends that his new literary ventures were not an irresponsible deviation but a necessary culmination in the self-quest which began with Demian. Repressions had to be exposed, even at the price of unpleasant notoriety. In his correspondence (Briefe, 1951), readers had to be cautioned repeatedly that the magic theater and the eternals, Mozart and Goethe, representatives of values which make life possible and worth living, and not jazz, eroticism, and cynicism, constituted the real substance of Steppenwolf. And in the postscript appended to the 1942 edition of Steppenwolf, Hesse insisted that his novel was actually an article of faith and not a document of despair. Like Harry Haller, Hesse wallowed in despair but lived in faith, a faith in the ultimate meaningfulness of life. For him, life never became the perplexing absurdity it was for Franz Kafka or the Sisyphean monotonous senselessness it was to become for Albert Camus.

Nor was the indictment of our age in Steppenwolf something new. Like Hesse's self-exposure, this rejection of twentieth-century civilization was again only a culmination, a sharper statement of attitudes already present in Peter Camenzind. Spiritually and culturally, the twentieth century had always appeared most bleak to Hesse. Our era was for him one of moral depravity and intellectual mediocrity, of surface glitter, smug comfort, sham conventionality, and foolish optimism. It is a materialistic age where science has become a religion and the final criterion of value is function. Man has lost his soul in this world of money, machines, and distrust. He has exchanged his spiritual peace for physical comfort. With his imagination stunted and his feelings stifled, he no longer appreciates beauty, nor is he capable of real artistic creation. All vital rapport with God and nature has been lost, reason has supplanted faith, and society has forgotten the individual.

The middle-class core of our civilization never ceased to be the butt of Hesse's ire. The bourgeois represents all that is negative. A stalwart and stodgy nonentity, he is governed in all his ideals and pursuits solely by the impulse of self-preservation. He fears individuation and deliberately sacrifices the precarious but precious intensities of life for comfort and security. He is the characterless Philistine who epitomizes mediocrity, cowardice, compromise, irresponsibility, and servility. He is the strapping, insensitive physical specimen who enjoys health and wealth but lacks all culture. He has a sound appetite but no taste, a good deal of confidence but no ideals. He possesses a surfeit of zeal and diligence but has no lofty aspirations or worthy goals. It is to him that the world belongs, while the sensitive worshipers of beauty and the earnest seekers after truth and the meaning of life are misfits and outcasts. Hesse and all of his heroes belong to these outsiders. Testy Harry Haller brooding at the edges of the bourgeois world and scoffing at its idols is no exception.

Steppenwolf was followed in 1930 by Narziss und Goldmund, the less personal and less excruciating adventures of a restless artist committed to the world of the senses. And Morgenlandfahrt, a playfully personal and highly symbolical fantasy, the timeless eastward trek of artists, philosophers, and scholars in search of wonder and truth, was completed in 1931. During this period a steady stream of verse accompanied Hesse's prose: Gedichte des Malers (1920), Ausgewahlte Gedichte (1921), ltalien (1923), Verse im Krankenbett (1927), the notorious Krisis (1928), and Trost der Nacht (1929). Numerous very personal prose episodes and literary studies were written: Wanderung (1920), eleven of the many items in Bilderbuch (1926), a considerable portion of the Betrachtungen (1928), two-thirds of the Traumfahrte (1945), and Eine Bibliothek der Weltliteratur (1929), a very intimate perusal of world literature. And in the midst of all this productivity, Hesse managed to continue his output of reviews, to edit some twenty new books and to serve as co-editor of Vivos Voco (October 1919 to December 1921), a pacifist periodical intended to assist youth in its quest for higher spiritual values and more worthy intellectual and physical pursuits.

Thanks to the generosity of his close friend and patron, Hans C. Bodmer, Hesse was able to quit his bachelor retreat in the summer of 1931 and move into the villa at the edge of Montagnola where he continued to live until his death. His third wife joined him in Casa Bodmer in the autumn of that same year.

With the rise of Hitler's regime, Hesse's popularity in Germany began again to wane. During the First World War he had been branded an enemy of the Fatherland. Now he became a Jew-lover and a traitor to the German cause. Nevertheless, since Hesse had become a Swiss citizen in 1923 and because he refrained from any public pronouncement of his otherwise obvious antipathy toward the Third Reich, his name never was put on the official black list of undesirable authors. His books, however, were tacitly banned and began to appear in ever decreasing numbers. By 1943 publishing houses had ceased to print them and bookdealers to display them. Since 1945, Hesse has again become one of the most widely read and respected authors in Germany.

The years after 1931 were marked more by effort than by spontaneity, more by persistence than by passion, and more by recollection than by new horizons. More than a decade was necessary to write the very enigmatic and monumental Glasperlenspiel (1943), the only novel of this period. Again Hesse was concerned with the individual, but quite impersonally now and no longer only in terms of self-knowledge and self-realization, but also in terms of his fellow human. Glasperlenspiel was also Hesse's final, most detailed and most mature scrutiny of our Western world.

The major volume of verse published after 1931 was Die Gedichte (1942), Hesse's collected poems. These have been supplemented several times since. Vom Baum des Lebens (1934), Neue Gedichte (1937), Der Blutenzweig (1945), and Jugendgedichte (1950) are only minor collections of selected poems. Stufen (1961), another collection of selected poems, includes Hesse's last poems. The idyl, Stunden im Garten (1936), and the poetic episode, Der Lahme Knabe (1937), both written in Greek hexameters, are the only verse publications which belong entirely to this last period of Hesse's life.

Most of the many later collections of short stories, brief recollections, and articles were only republications of old material. Hesse's earliest works are represented in Mahnung (1933), Kleine Welt (1933), Fruhe Prosa (1948), Gerbersau (1949), and Die Verlobung und andere Erzahlungen (1951). Wege zu Hermann Hesse (1947), Aus vielen Jahren (1949), Alle Bucher dieser Welt (1949), Gluck (1952), and Hermann Hesse. Eine Auswahl (1953), all afford sparse cross-sections of Hesse's lifetime work. Only eleven of the articles in Krieg und Frieden (1946) belong to the thirties and forties. Two of the four items in Dank an Goethe (1946) were first published in the twenties. Fabulierbuch (1935) returns to the earliest period of Hesse's career. Most of the Kleine Betrachtungen (1941) was written almost as early. Ten of the recollections Gedenkblatter (1937), two of the five tales in Der Pfirsichbaum und andere Erzahlungen (1945), both landscape studies of Berg und See (1948), Errinerung an Andre Gide (1951), and Bericht an die Freunde (1960) belong to the years after 1931. Spate Prosa (1951) and Beschworungen (1955), diarylike miscellanies, were written from 1944 to 1950 and from 1947 to 1955 respectively. Gesammelte Dichtungen, six volumes of Hesse's collected works were published in 1952; a seventh volume was added in 1957.

Only a small segment of Hesse's voluminous correspondence has been published to date. Briefe (1951) includes a broad and fascinating selection of letters from 1927 to 1950; a supplemented edition appeared in 1959. Eine Handvoll Briefe, also published in 1951, is only a briefer selection from this same period. And Hermann Hesse/Romain Rolland Briefe (1954) presents a revealing interchange between these two kindred spirits from 1915 to 1940.

Hesse was no stranger to literary honors. The Wiener Bauernfeldpreis of 1904 was followed in 1936 by the Swiss Gottfried-Keller-Preis. Frankfurt awarded him the Goethepreis in 1946, and that same year he received the Nobel Prize. In 1947, the University of Bern granted him an honorary doctorate. Braunschweig selected him for its Wilhelm-Raabe-Preis in 1950. In 1955, his name was added to the Friedensklasse des Ordens pour Ie Merite, and later that same year Hesse accepted his last major award, the Friedenspreis des Deutschen Buchhandels.


There was always a very close relationship between the circumstances of Hesse's life and his art. His life and his art fall into three distinct and coincident periods. Each represents a different stage in the author's struggle with himself and with life at large, and each reflects a correspondingly different phase in both the substance and the form of his art. As such, Hesse provides an excellent field of investigation for the psychology of art.

The first of these three periods, the two decades preceding Demian (finished in 1917), was one of uncertainty and vague presentiment. These were the early years of a sensitive outsider who could not cope directly with his particular problem of existence. He resorted instead to fantasy and withdrew into the realm of beauty, there to indulge in the extremes of late nineteenth-century estheticism. The first prose of these years (Eine Stunde hinter Mitternacht, 1899; Hermann Lauscher, 1901) is enveloped in a perfumed melancholy. It is characterized by exclamatory remarks and rhetorical questions, by sensuous adjectives and adverbs in languid cadence. The form is loose, a random succession of vignettes and dramatic monologues held together primarily by their common spirit of decadent romanticism. Eine Stunde hinter Mitternacht is notable for its affected heroic pose, its pathos, profuse colors, and its muted sounds. Hermann Lauscher, a Hoffmannesque fusion of fantasy and reality, is both cynical and morbidly intimate. This was the work of a talented beginner whose world of experience was still too limited, and whose imagination was entranced by the facile flow of beautiful language. In the absence of discipline and restraint, the whole was sacrificed to the part, and what was meant to be art failed to become more than picturesque patter.

Beginning with Hesse's determination to escape the isolation of the introverted esthete, and with his consequent efforts in marriage to find a place for himself in the bourgeois world, this initial, emotionally intense romanticism yielded abruptly to a hardier, more entertaining realism. Peter Camenzind (1904), Gertrud (1910), and to a lesser degree, Rosshalde (1914) continued the tradition of Gottfried Keller's Der Grune Heinrich (1880). The many Gerbersau short stories (Diesseits, 1907; Nachbarn, 1909; Umwege, 1912), with their humorous and pleasantly ironic treatment of small-town life, and even the more tragic school-novel, Unterm Rad (1906), are closely akin to Keller's Seldwyla tales. The dream world of Hesse's earliest prose was here succeeded by a more vigorous rustic reality. Hesse's characters became more human and less shadowy; inertia and desperation yielded to movement and humor. His prose now achieved a more narrative style, and his language became clearer, crisper and more forceful.

It was in this vein of nineteenth-century poetic realism that Hesse continued until his crisis of 1916-17. The decade to follow, the second of the three periods, marked the most dramatic and most critical years of his life. The war and the tragic events in his family had brought with them an over whelming accumulation of tensions. Hesse was now compelled to realize that in his desire to make existence less painful he had been avoiding a close look at the true nature of his inner discord, and had blinded himself to the morally and spiritually impoverished world around him. Like Veraguth, the hero of Rosshalde, Hesse left the comfortable fold of the bourgeois world, which had never afforded him the security he had hoped it might, and accepted the more difficult existence of an outsider. In a desperate and determined effort to find himself, he began systematically to diagnose his inner conflicts, to go his long-shunned inward path (Weg nach lnnen). Only now did he finally come to grips with the intrinsic problems of human existence.

In Montagnola escape became quest, and in quest Hesse's inner problems resolved themselves into the basic malaise humain, into the tension between the spiritual and the physical (Geist und Natur). For years he was to oscillate between these poles, acclaiming first one, then the other, then neither. He never ceased hoping for a harmonious accord, though well aware that for him this was impossible. In Demian (1919), he acclaimed spirit, stressing self-knowledge and self-realization with a Nietzschean emphasis upon the superior being. But spirit as a guiding principle of life could only mean greater individuation and more painful isolation. Hesse still lacked the firm conviction and the inner fortitude necessary to endure these consequences. The immediate reaction was as extreme as the initial impulse. The assertive Nietzschean activism of Demian yielded suddenly to a Schopenhauer-like passivity, a restless quest to a quietistic acceptance, and self-realization to a yearning for self-obliteration. The world of the senses is as demanding and as impossible for the hero of Klein und Wagner (1920) as is the realm of the spirit, and respite can be found only in the nirvana of a will-less "letting go of oneself" (Sichfallenlassen).

Hesse; however, was as unprepared to accept Klein's resolution as he had been to follow the path of Demian. Envisaging more possibilities and giving precedence neither to the spiritual nor to the physical, he proceeded with Klingsor, the hero of Klingsors letzter Sommer (1920), to revel in the intoxication of both. In Siddhartha (1922), Hesse continued to acknowledge the reality, the goodness and the necessity of both realms of experience. However, whereas Klingsor fails to emerge from his revelry, Siddhartha exhausts and transcends both his mental and his Physical self and rises to an impersonal plane which knows only unity, affirmation, and humble service. Kurgast (1924), however, was a reminder that resolutions ate more easily visualized than experienced. In a sober tone of acceptance, Hesse realized that despite all efforts to the contrary, his existence would probably continue as a restless tension., a constant oscillation between life's opposing poles. It was the most acute stage of this continued tension that was recorded in Steppenwolf (1927). In his own words, Hesse had reached another of those stages in life when spirit becomes tired of itself, dethrones itself, and retreats before nature, before chaos, before the animal in man (Krisis, p. 81). With his recuperation from this embittered and desperate state of mental exhaustion, this trying period of quest and indecision ended. A tired and wiser man, fully aware of the value and the necessity of humor, Hesse was at last prepared to accept spirit, that part of human nature repeatedly deemed the very bane of existence during the difficult years immediately following Demian, as his guiding principle.

The new, more vigorous approach to life of this second period brought with it a new, more vigorous stage in Hesse's creative activity. The years from Demian to Steppenwolf were recklessly prolific. An abrupt change in both the substance and the style of his prose extended Hesse's literary horizons far beyond their previous conventional range. The course of this new, more dramatic phase of his writing was very unpredictable. It Was characterized by spasmodic transition rather than by gradual progression.

With Demian, the once rather innocent entertainer suddenly became a disconcerting, problematic seeker whose complex expressionistic art all but defies satisfactory interpretation. The concrete world, the simplicity of language and clarity of thought which had become characteristic of Hesse's writings now gave way to the inner world, to abstractions, an enigmatic Freudian symbolism. But for their artistry, Demian and Klein und Wagner could be termed clinical reports. On the other hand, though obviously still under the influence of Demian and its symbolism, Klingsors letzter Sommer returns to a decadent romanticism similar to that of Eine Stunde hinter Mitternacht. The atmosphere is again scented, the scene removed and feverish. And although more vibrant and cohesive, the whole once more becomes a maze of melodramatic vignettes.

The unpredictable course of Hesse's art during this period is even more evident in the sudden transition from Klingsors letzter Sommer to Siddhartha. Intoxication and random spontaneity change to contemplation and severe artistry. Siddhartha is classical in the symmetry of its form, in the stylized pattern of its expression, and in the lofty simplicity of its language. This is followed by an equally abrupt transition to the diarylike intimacy, the capricious, comic realism, and the acrid leitmotiv technique of Kurgast. The extremes of Steppenwolf are even more startling. Here Hesse's path to himself reached its climax in a fascinating confusion of symbol and irony, fantasy and realism.

The excruciating catharsis of Steppenwolf and Krisis brought to an end Hesse's period of distress and quest. He had come to terms with himself. He was now to come to terms with life at large. Quitting his hermitage, he remarried, and, in a more philosophical spirit, allowed the third and last phase of his life to take its more even course. In quiet retirement and ever closer communion with nature, struggle with himself and the circumstances of life gradually subsided. Emotions became subdued, and thought yielded to contemplation. The schizophrenic Steppenwolf, with his somber seriousness and his desperate gospel of humor, became a serene Magister Ludi (Glasperlenspiel) who knew the value of playful observation, and for whom acceptance of the human predicament was that of faith and love. It was only now that Hesse at last found the peace of sincere self-affirmation and life-affirmation.

A corresponding change took place in Hesse's art, While the spirit-flesh dichotomy continued to be the vital issue in his world of thought, it was no longer the acutely personal problem it once had been. It was in the milder, the more detached manner of recollection, rather than in further quest, that the question was reconsidered in Narziss und Goldmund (1930). Both poles of life are again acknowledged and affirmed, but Hesse's previous attitude of resignation to a life drawn from one extreme to another is supplanted by a new, more determined adjustment to life. The individual must take and continue along that path which the predominant aspect of his nature impels him to choose. Each, whether given to the senses or to the spirit, must be prepared to suffer the lot of his kind; to attempt, in curiosity or desperation, to do otherwise is to foster a perpetual Steppenwolf-like dissension. Determined as he was to suffer this inner discord no longer, Hesse's future road was obvious to him. It could only be that of the Morgenlandfahrt (1932), the way of the spirit.

Glasperlenspiel (1943) was the final stage along this road. Spirit, formerly stressed primarily in terms of the individual and of self- expression, was now finally viewed in terms of humanity and of self-justification. Cultivated for its own sake in a Castalialike estrangement from reality, spirit must remain sterile. Only when it becomes a vital factor in human existence, mellowed by love, service, and sacrifice, as exemplified in Josef Knecht's (the hero of Glasperlenspiel) way of life, can spirit serve its true purpose.

In keeping with this new adjustment to life and more dispassionate attitude toward what he regarded as its basic problem, Hesse's once explosive inspiration became more disciplined and his creative activity less impulsive and also less prolific. His art came to reflect the slower and more orderly tempo his life assumed, less dramatic in its tensions, in its now expansive nature, and much more given to narrative. The atmosphere is less charged, the language is less constrained, the vocabulary is marked more than ever by a poetic simplicity, while syntax becomes more playfully involved and symbolism even more prevalent and profoundly enigmatic. In all three of his last tales, a romantic spirit again prevails. But, purged of its decadence, it is now mature, mellow, wider in its scope, and deeper in its thought. Hesse was now less conscious of himself and more conscious of his art. Narziss und Goldmund, while very modern in its psychological depth, belongs to German Romanticism's best tradition of storytelling. Morgenlandfahrt, reverting briefly to the episodic-tale form most characteristic of the second period, is a playful fantasia which could have been written by Novalis. Glasperlenspiel immediately recalls Goethe's Wilhelm Meister, both in substance and in its baroque proportions. But it is also quite romantic in its loose composition, its fragmentary nature, in the naivete of its idyllic setting, and in its efforts to give symbolic expression to the otherwise inexpressible. And it is decidedly romantic in its dream, the glass-bead game able with its esoteric language of symbols to achieve a mystical union of all fields of learning.

While Hesse's prose passes through the three phases just outlined, the center about which his creative activity revolves remains constant. This center is the individual, opposed to society, its mores, and its institutions. And the individual is Hesse himself. He recalls, nostalgically, the simpler years of childhood. He re-experiences youth with its excruciating years of awakening. He portrays modern man, the intellectual and the artist in particular, within the framework of a declining culture. For his subject he provides an ever-changing setting. The Occident yields to the Orient, commonplace reality to the magic realm of the fantasy, and the Middle Ages and the distant future are as immediate and vital as the present. This fluid, diversified, and yet continuous whole represents the Odyssey of Hesse's changing self. It is in this, its intimately egocentric nature, that his art bears the stamp of its age, an age of cultural decline, of spiritual and moral distress, and of extreme loneliness.

Hesse's pre-1917 heroes are made of soft stuff. They are predominantly esthetes who live only in dreams, hopes and anticipation, and who shrink before realization. Self-preoccupied, temperamental artists or kindred souls, they are paralyzed by chronic indecision and indulge in romantic morbidity. They are outsiders consumed by their own loneliness, misfits to whom the art of life and the art of love are foreign, timid souls who ask too little of life and expect too much of it. They live in perpetual frustration and disillusionment. Such is the nature and fate of the sentimental cynic Lauscher, of the would-be child of nature Camenzind, of the timorous composer Kuhn (Gertrud), even of the more resolute painter Veraguth (Rosshalde), and of the more stoic wanderer Knulp. Such, too, was Hesse.

While Hesse's figure looms behind the person and fate of each of his pre-Demian heroes, in the decade to follow author and hero gradually merge in a poetic autobiographical fusion. Wayward Klein, frenzied Klingsor, and, in particular, the rheumatic protagonist of Kurgast and the desperate Steppenwolf are almost flesh of Hesse's person and spirit of his being. Now, like Hesse, in serious quest of self-knowledge and self-realization, these new heroes shed their lethargy and take fate by the forelock.

It is perhaps only in Siddhartha, Narziss und Goldmund, and in Glasperlenspiel, that Hesse managed to extricate himself sufficiently from this engrossment with his own immediate personal problems to enable him to mold his art with that care necessary to insure it beyond any doubt against the wear of time, and to give it some of the more universal implications inherent in all truly great art. Steppenwolf, however, will remain Hesse's most gripping and most fascinating "document of the times, for Haller's sickness of the soul . . . is not the eccentricity of a single individual, but the sickness of the times themselves, the neurosis of that generation to which Haller belongs, a sickness, it seems, that by no means attacks the weak and worthless only but, rather, precisely those who are strongest in spirit and richest in gifts."

University of California, Berkeley, March, 1963. Joseph Mileck
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Re: Steppenwolf, by Hermann Hesse

Postby admin » Sun Jan 31, 2016 8:57 pm



Romantische Lieder (Dresden, 1899),44 pp. Poems.
Eine Stunde hinter Mitternacht (Leipzig, 1899), 84- pp. Prose vignettes.
Hinterlassene Schriften und Gedichte von Hermann Lauscher (Basel, 1901), 83 pp. Miscellany of prose, poetry and diary.
Peter Camenzind (Berlin, 1904), 260 pp. Novel.
Unterm Rad (Berlin, 1906), 294 pp. School-novel.
Diesseits (Berlin, 1907), 308 pp. Short stories.
Nachbarn (Berlin, 1909), 317 pp. Short stories.
Gertrud (Berlin, 1910), 301 pp. Novel.
Umwege (Berlin, 1912), 309 pp. Short stories.
Aus lndien (Berlin, 1913), 198 pp. Prose and poetry written during or shortly after Hesse's trip to the Orient in 1911.
Rosshalde (Berlin, 1914), 304 pp. Novel.
Knulp. Drei Geschichten aus dem Leben Knulps (Berlin, 1915), 146 pp. Prose.
Demian (Berlin, 1919), 256 pp. Novel.
Marchen (Berlin, 1919), 182 pp. Tales.
Klingsors letzter Sommer (Berlin, 1920), 215 pp. Three stories.
Siddhartha (Berlin, 1922), 147 pp. Novel.
Kurgast. Aufzeichnungen von einer Badener Kur (Berlin, 1925), 160pp. Prose.
Bilderbuch (Berlin, 1926), 320 pp. Prose sketches, 1901-24.
Die Nurnberger Reise (Berlin, 1927), 124 pp. Recollections of a lecture tour.
Der Steppenwolf (Berlin, 1927), 289 pp. Novel.
Betrachtungen (Berlin, 1928), 333 pp. Essays, 1904-27.
Krisis. Ein Stuck Tagebuch (Berlin, 1928), 85 pp. Poems.
Narziss und Goldmund (Berlin, 1930), 417 pp. Novel.
Die Morgenlandfahrt (Berlin, 1932), 113 pp. Novel.
Fabulierbuch (Berlin, 1935), 341 pp. Short stories.
Gedenkblatter (Berlin, 1937), 272 pp. Recollections.
Die Gedichte (Berlin, 1942), 448 pp. Collected poems.
Das Glasperlenspiel (Zurich, 1943), Vol. I, 452 pp.; Vol. 2, 442 pp. Novel.
Traumfahrte (Zurich, 1945), 244 pp. Miscellany of short stories, fairy tales, and autobiography, 1910-32.
Dank an Goethe (Zurich, 1946), 94 pp. Four essays about Goethe.
Krieg und Frieden (Zurich, 1946), 265 pp. Essays, 1914-48.
Briefe (Berlin, 1951), 431 pp. Letters.
Spate Prosa (Berlin, 1951), 194 pp. Essays, recollections.
Gesammelte Dichtungen (Frankfurt am Main, 1952), 6 vols. Collected works.
Beschworungen (Berlin, 1955), 295 pp. Miscellany of short stories, recollections and diary.


Hesse has been translated into thirty-five languages--a good indication of the international reputation he has enjoyed since the twenties. The following represents a list of the major works available in English.

Peter Camenzind, trans. W. J. Strachan (London, 1961), 174 pp.
The Prodigy, trans. W. J. Strachan (London, 1957), 188 pp.
Gertrude, trans. Hilda Rosner (London, 1955), 208 pp.
Demian, trans. N. H. Priday (New York, 1923), 207 pp.
Translated again by W. J. Strachan (London, 1958).
Siddhartha, trans. Hilda Rosner (New York, 1951), 153 pp.
Steppenwolf, trans. B. Creighton (New York, 1929), 309 pp.
Death and the Lover (Narziss und Goldmund), trans. G. Dunlop (New York, 1932), 281 pp.
The Journey to the East, trans. Hilda Rosner (London, 1956), 93 pp.
Magister Ludi (Glasperlenspiel), trans. Mervyn Si!.vill (London, 1949), 502 pp.


Dozens' of books, pamphlets, dissertations and hundreds of articles have been published about Hermann Hesse in many different languages. Unfortunately, a full-length study in English of Hesse has yet to appear. Joseph Mileck's Hermann Hesse and His Critics (University of North Carolina Press, 1958, 329 pp.) provides a good introduction to Hesse's life and works, an analysis of the secondary literature and all extensive bibliography of works by and about Hesse. Most of the numerous English articles have appeared since 1945. Many of these items are introductory surveys; some treat of specific themes; others deal with individual novels; and a few touch upon Hesse's narrative technique. The following represents a selected list of the better articles in these categories.

Gustav E. Mueller, "Hermann Hesse," Books Abroad, 21 (1947), 146-151.
Marion N. Foran, "Hermann Hesse," Queens Quarterly 55 (1948), 180-189.
Harvey Gross, "Hermann Hesse," Western Review, 17 (1953), 132- 40.
George W. Field, "Hermann Hesse. A neglected Nobel Prize Novelist," Queens Quarterly, 65 (1958), 514-520.
Claude Hill, "Hesse and Germany," German Quarterly, 21 (1948), 9- 5.
Eric Peters, "Hermann Hesse. The Psychological Implications of His Writings," German Life and Letters, 1 (1948), 209 214.
Walter Naumann, "The Individual and Society in the Work of Hermann Hesse," Monatshefte, 41(1949), 33-42.
Oskar Seidlin, "Hermann Hesse: The Exorcism of the Demon," Symposium, 4 (1950), 325-348.
Peter Heller, "The Creative Unconscious and the Spirit. A Study of Polarities in Hesse's Image of the Writer," Modern Language Forum, 38 (1953), 28-40.
Peter Heller, "The Writer in Conflict with His Age. A Study in the Ideology of Hermann Hesse," Monatshefte, 46 (1954), 137-47.
George W. Field, "Music and Morality in Thomas Mann and Hermann Hesse," University of Toronto Quarterly, 24 (1955), 175-190.
Murray Peppard, "Hermann Hesse's Ladder of Learning," Kentucky Foreign Language Quarterly, 3 (1956), 13-20.
Colin Wilson, The Outsider (Boston, 1956), pp. 51-68.
Ralph Freedman, "Romantic Imagination: Hermann Hesse as a Modern Novelist," Publications of the Modern Language Association of America, 73 (1958), 275-284.
Hans Beermann, "Hermann Hesse and the Bhagavad-Gita," Midwest Quarterly, 1 (1959), 27-40.
Kurt J. Fickert, "The Development of the Outsider Concept in Hesse's Novels," Monatshefte, 52 (1960),171-178.
George W. Field, "Hermann Hesse as Critic of English and American Literature," Monatshefte, 53 (1961), 147-158.
Joseph Mileck, "Names and the Creative Process," Monatshefte, 53 (1961),167-180.
Theodore Ziolkowski, "Hermann Hesse's Chiliastic Vision," Monatshefte, 53 (1961),199-210.
S. L. Flaxman, "Der Steppenwolf. Hesse's Portrait of the Intellectual," Modern Language Quarterly, 15 (1954), 349- 358.
Ruth Domino, "The Hunchback and Wings," Approach, 2 (1957), 20- 8 (Steppenwolf).
J. C. Middleton, "Hermann Hesse's Morgenlandfahrt," Germanic Review, 32 (1957), 299-310.
Hilde Cohn, "The Symbolic End of Hermann Hesse's Glasperlenspiel," Modern Language Quarterly, 11 (1950), 347-357.
Joseph Mileck, "Hermann Hesse's Glasperlenspiel," University of Calif. Publications in Modern Philology, 36 (1952), 243-270.
Sidney M. Johnson, "The Autobiographies in Hermann Hesse's Glasperlenspiel," German Quarterly, 24 (1956), 160-171.
J. C. Middleton, "An Enigma Transfigured in Hermann Hesse's Glasperlenspiel," German Life and Letters, 10 (1957), 298-303.
Inge D. Halpert, "Vita Activa and Vita Contemplativa," Monatshefte, 53 (1961), 159-166.
Kenneth Negus, "On the Death of Josef Knecht in Hermann Hesse's Glasperlenspiel," Monatshefte, 53 (1961), 181-189.
L. R. Shaw, "Time and Structure of Hermann Hesse's Siddhartha," Symposium, II (1957), 204-224.
Theodore Ziolkowski, "Hermann Hesse's Steppenwolf: A Sonata in Prose," Modern Language Quarterly, 19 (1958), 115-133.
Murray Peppard, "Notes on Hesse's Narrative Technique," Kentucky Foreign Language Quarterly, 6 (1959), 169-178.
Kurt J. Fickert, "Symbolism in Hesse's Heumond," German Quarterly, 34 (1961),118-122.
F. H. Willeke, "Style and Form of Hesse's Unterm Rad," Kentucky Foreign Language Quarterly, 8 (1961), 147-156.
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Re: Steppenwolf, by Hermann Hesse

Postby admin » Sun Jan 31, 2016 8:57 pm

A Note on the Translation

This is the first revised edition of Basil Creighton's translation of 1929. In the revision we were intent upon a more exact and more readily understood renditionl. British spellings and idioms have been Americanized, Germanisms removed, awkward sentences improved, and misleading translations corrected.

Joseph Mileck
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Re: Steppenwolf, by Hermann Hesse

Postby admin » Sun Jan 31, 2016 8:58 pm


This book contains the records left us by a man whom, according to the expression he often used himself, we called the Steppenwolf. Whether this manuscript needs any introductory remarks may be open to question. I, however, feel the need of adding a few pages to those of the Steppenwolf in which I try to record my recollections of him. What I know of him is little enough. Indeed, of his past life and origins I know nothing at all. Yet the impression left by his personality has remained, in spite of all, a deep and sympathetic one.

Some years ago the Steppenwolf, who was then approaching fifty, called on my aunt to inquire for a furnished room. He took the attic room on the top floor and the bedroom next it, returned a day or two later with two trunks and a big case of books and stayed nine or ten months with us. He lived by himself very quietly, and but for the fact that our bedrooms were next door to each other--which occasioned a good many chance encounters on the stairs and in the passage--we should have remained practically unacquainted. For he was not a sociable man. Indeed, he was unsociable to a degree I had never before experienced in anybody. He was, in fact, as he called himself, a real wolf of the Steppes, a strange, wild, shy -- very shy -- being from another world than mine. How deep the loneliness into which his life had drifted on account of his disposition and destiny and how consciously he accepted this loneliness as his destiny. I certainly did not know until I read the records he left behind him. Yet, before that, from our occasional talks and encounters, I became gradually acquainted with him, and I found that the portrait in his records was in substantial agreement with the paler and less complete one that our personal acquaintance had given me.

By chance I was there at the very moment when the Steppenwolf entered our house for the first time and became my aunt's lodger. He came at noon. The table had not been cleared and I still had half an hour before going back to the office. I have never forgotten the odd and very conflicting impressions he made on me at this first encounter. He came through the glazed door, having just rung the bell, and my aunt asked him in the dim light of the hall what he wanted. The Steppenwolf, however, first threw up his sharp, closely cropped head and sniffed around nervously before he either made any answer or announced his name.

"Oh, it smells good here," he said, and at that he smiled and my aunt smiled too. For my part, I found this manner of introducing himself ridiculous and was not favorably impressed.

"However," said he, "I've come about the room you have to let."

I did not get a good look at him until we were all three on our way up to the top floor. Though not very big, he had the bearing of a big man. He wore a fashionable and comfortable winter overcoat and he was well, though carelessly, dressed, clean-shaven, and his cropped head showed here and there a streak of grey. He carried himself in a way I did not at all like at first. There was something weary and undecided about it that did not go with his keen and striking profile nor with the tone of his voice. Later, I found out that his health was poor and that walking tired him. With a peculiar smile -- at that time equally unpleasant to me -- he contemplated the stairs, the walls, and windows, and the tall old cupboards on the staircase. All this seemed to please and at the same time to amuse him. Altogether he gave the impression of having come out of an alien world, from another continent perhaps. He found it all very charming and a little odd. I cannot deny that he was polite, even friendly. He agreed at once and without objection to the terms for lodging and breakfast and so forth, and yet about the whole man there was a foreign and, as I chose to think, disagreeable or hostile atmosphere. He took the room and the bedroom too, listened attentively and amiably to all he was told about the heating, the water, the service and the rules of the household, agreed to everything, offered at once to pay a sum in advance -- and yet, he seemed at the same time to be outside it all, to find it comic to be doing as he did and not to take it seriously. It was as though it were a very odd and new experience for him, occupied as he was with quite other concerns, to be renting a room and talking to people in German. Such more or less was my impression, and it would certainly not have been a good one if it had not been revised and corrected by many small instances. Above all, his face pleased me from the first, in spite of the foreign air it had. It was a rather original face and perhaps a sad one, but alert, thoughtful, strongly marked and highly intellectual. And then, to reconcile me further, there was his polite and friendly manner, which though it seemed to cost him some pains, was all the same quite without pretension; on the contrary, there was something almost touching, imploring in it. The explanation of it I found later, but it disposed me at once in his favor.

Before we had done inspecting the rooms and going into the arrangements, my luncheon hour was up and I had to go back to business. I took my leave and left him to my aunt. When I got back at night, she told me that he had taken the rooms and was coming in in a day or two. The only request he had made was that his arrival should not be notified to the police, as in his poor state of health he found these formalities and the standing about in official waiting rooms more than he could tolerate. I remember very well how this surprised me and how I warned my aunt against giving in to his stipulation. This fear of the police seemed to me to agree only too well with the mysterious and alien air the man had and struck me as suspicious. I explained to my aunt that she ought not on any account to put herself in this equivocal and in any case rather peculiar position for a complete stranger; it might well turn out to have very unpleasant consequences for her. But it then came out that my aunt had already granted his request, and, indeed, had let herself be altogether captivated and charmed by the strange gentleman. For she never took a lodger with whom she did not contrive to stand in some human, friendly, and as it were auntlike or, rather, motherly relation; and many a one has made full use of this weakness of hers. And thus for the first weeks things went on; I had many a fault to find with the new lodger, while my aunt every time warmly took his part.

As I was not at all pleased about this business of neglecting to notify the police, I wanted at least to know what my aunt had learnt about him; what sort of family he came of and what his intentions were. And, of course, she had learnt one thing and another, although he had only stayed a short while after I left at noon. He had told her that he thought of spending some months in our town to avail himself of the libraries and to see its antiquities. I may say it did not please my aunt that he was only taking the rooms for so short a time, but he had clearly quite won her heart in spite of his rather peculiar way of presenting himself. In short, the rooms were let and my objections came too late.

"Why on earth did he say that it smelt so good here ?" I asked.

"I know well enough," she replied, with her usual insight. "There's a smell of cleanliness and good order here, of comfort and respectability. It was that that pleased him. He looks as if he weren't used to that of late and missed it."

Just so, thought I to myself.

"But," I said aloud, "if he isn't used to an orderly and respectable life, what is going to happen? What will you say if he has filthy habits and makes dirt everywhere, or comes home drunk at all hours of the night?"

"We shall see, we shall see," she said, and laughed; and I left it at that.

And in the upshot my fears proved groundless. The lodger, though he certainly did not live a very orderly or rational life, was no worry or trouble to us. Yet my aunt and I bothered our heads a lot about him, and I confess I have not by a long way done with him even now. I often dream of him at night, and the mere existence of such a man, much as I got to like him, has had a thoroughly disturbing and disquieting effect on me.

Two days after this the stranger's luggage -- his name was Harry Haller -- was brought in by a porter. He had a very fine leather trunk, which made a good impression on me, and a big flat cabin trunk that showed signs of having traveled far--at least it was plastered with labels of hotels and travel agencies of various countries, some overseas.

Then he himself appeared, and the time began during which I gradually got acquainted with this strange man. At first I did nothing on my side to encourage it. Although Haller interested me from the moment I saw him, I took no steps for the first two or three weeks to run across him or to get into conversation with him. On the other hand I confess that I did, all the same and from the very first, keep him under observation a little, and also went into his room now and again when he was out and my curiosity drove me to do a little spy work.

I have already given some account of the Steppenwolf's outward appearance. He gave at the very first glance the impression of a significant, an uncommon, and unusually gifted man. His face was intellectual, and the abnormally delicate and mobile play of his features reflected a soul of extremely emotional and unusually delicate sensibility. When one spoke to him and he, as was not always the case, dropped conventionalities and said personal and individual things that came out of his own alien world, then a man like myself came under his spell on the spot. He had thought more than other men, and in matters of the intellect he had that calm objectivity, that certainty of thought and knowledge, such as only really intellectual men have, who have no axe to grind, who never wish to shame, or to talk others down, or to appear always in the right.

I remember an instance of this in the last days he was here, if I can call a mere fleeting glance he gave me an example of what I mean. It was when a celebrated historian, philosopher, and critic, a man of European fame, had announced a lecture in the school auditorium. I had succeeded in persuading the Steppenwolf to attend it, though at first he had little desire to do so. We went together and sat next to each other in the lecture hall. When the lecturer ascended the platform and began his address, many of his hearers, who had expected a sort of prophet, were disappointed by his rather dapper appearance and conceited air. And when he proceeded, by way of introduction, to say a few flattering things to the audience, thanking them for their attendance in such numbers, the Steppenwolf threw me a quick look, a look which criticized both the words and the speaker of them -- an unforgettable and frightful look which spoke volumes! It was a look that did not simply criticize the lecturer, annihilating the famous man with its delicate but crushing irony. That was the least of it. It was more sad than ironical; it was indeed utterly and hopelessly sad; it conveyed a quiet despair, born partly of conviction, partly of a mode of thought which had become habitual with him. This despair of his not only unmasked the conceited lecturer and dismissed with its irony the matter at hand, the expectant attitude of the public, the somewhat presumptuous title under which the lecture was announced -- no, the Steppenwolf's look pierced our whole epoch, its whole overwrought activity, the whole surge and strife, the whole vanity, the whole superficial play of a shallow, opinionated intellectuality. And alas! the look went still deeper, went far below the faults, defects and hopelessness of our time, our intellect, our culture alone. It went right to the heart of all humanity, it bespoke eloquently in a single second the whole despair of a thinker, of one who knew the full worth and meaning of man's life. It said: "See what monkeys we are! Look, such is man!" and at once all renown, all intelligence, all the attainments of the spirit, all progress towards the sublime, the great and the enduring in man fell away and became a monkey's trick!

With this I have gone far ahead and, contrary to my actual plan and intention, already conveyed what Haller essentially meant to me; whereas my original aim was to uncover his picture by degrees while telling the course of my gradual acquaintance with him.

Now that I have gone so far ahead it will save time to say a little more about Haller's puzzling "strangeness" and to tell in detail how I gradually guessed and became aware of the causes and meaning of this strangeness, this extraordinary and frightful loneliness. It will be better so, for I wish to leave my own personality as far as possible in the background. I do not want to put down my own confessions, to tell a story or to write an essay on psychology, but simply as an eyewitness to contribute something to the picture of the peculiar individual who left this Steppenwolf manuscript behind him.

At the very first sight of him, when he came into my aunt's home, craning his head like a bird and praising the smell of the house, I was at once astonished by something curious about him; and my first natural reaction was repugnance. I suspected (and my aunt, who unlike me is the very reverse of an intellectual person, suspected very much the same thing) -- I suspected that the man was ailing, ailing in the spirit in some way, or in his temperament or character, and I shrank from him with the instinct of the healthy. This shrinking was in course of time replaced by a sympathy inspired by pity for one who had suffered so long and deeply, and whose loneliness and inward death I witnessed. In course of time I was more and more conscious, too, that this affliction was not due to any defects of nature, but rather to a profusion of gifts and powers which had not attained to harmony. I saw that Haller was a genius of suffering and that in the meaning of many sayings of Nietzsche he had created within himself with positive genius a boundless and frightful capacity for pain. I saw at the same time that the root of his pessimism was not world-contempt but self-contempt; for however mercilessly he might annihilate institutions and persons in his talk he never spared himself. It was always at himself first and foremost that he aimed the shaft, himself first and foremost whom he hated and despised.

And here I cannot refrain from a psychological observation. Although I know very little of the Steppenwolf's life, I have all the same good reason to suppose that he was brought up by devoted but severe and very pious parents and teachers in accordance with that doctrine that makes the breaking of the will the cornerstone of education and upbringing. But in this case the attempt to destroy the personality and to break the will did not succeed. He was much too strong and hardy, too proud and spirited. Instead of destroying his personality they succeeded only in teaching him to hate himself. It was against himself that, innocent and noble as he was, he directed during his whole life the whole wealth of his fancy, the whole of his thought; and in so far as he let loose upon himself every barbed criticism, every anger and hate he could command, he was, in spite of all, a real Christian and a real martyr. As for others and the world around him he never ceased in his heroic and earnest endeavor to love them, to be just to them, to do them no harm, for the love of his neighbor was as deeply in him as the hatred of himself, and so his whole life was an example that love of one's neighbor is not possible without love of oneself, and that self-hate is really the same thing as sheer egoism, and in the long run breeds the same cruel isolation and despair.

It is now time, however, to put my own thoughts aside and to get to facts. What I first discovered about Haller, partly through my espionage, partly from my aunt's remarks, concerned his way of living. It was soon obvious that his days were spent with his thoughts and his books, and that he pursued no practical calling. He lay always very late in bed. Often he was not up much before noon and went across from his bedroom to his sitting room in his dressing gown. This sitting room, a large and comfortable attic room with two windows, after a few days was not at all the same as when occupied by other tenants. It filled up more and more as time went on. Pictures were hung on the walls, drawings tacked up -- sometimes illustrations cut out from magazines and often changed. A southern landscape, photographs of a little German country town, apparently Haller's home, hung there, and between them were some brightly painted water colors, which, as we discovered later, he had painted himself. Then there were photographs of a pretty young woman, or -- rather -- girl. For a long while a Siamese Buddha hung on the wall, to be replaced first by Michelangelo's "Night," then by a portrait of Mahatma Gandhi. Books filled the large bookcase and lay everywhere else as well, on the table, on the pretty old bureau, on the sofa, on the chairs and all about on the floor, books with notes slipped into them which were continually changing. The books constantly increased, for besides bringing whole armfuls back with him from the libraries he was always getting parcels of them by post. The occupant of this room might well be a learned man; and to this the all-pervading smell of cigar smoke might testify as well as the stumps and ash of cigars all about the room. Many of the books, however, were not of a scholarly nature. The majority were works of the poets of all times and peoples. For a long while there lay about on the sofa where he often spent whole days all six volumes of a work with the title Sophia's Journey from Memel to Saxony--a work of the latter part of the eighteenth century. A complete edition of Goethe and one of Jean Paul showed signs of wear, also Novalis, while Lessing, Jacobi and Lichtenberg were in the same condition. A few volumes of Dostoievski bristled with penciled slips. On the big table among the books and papers there was often a vase of flowers. There, too, a paint box, generally full of dust, reposed among flakes of cigar ash and (to leave nothing out) sundry bottles of wine. There was a straw-covered bottle usually containing Italian red wine, which he procured from a little shop in the neighborhood; often, too, a bottle of Burgundy as well as Malaga; and a squat bottle of Cherry brandy was, as I saw, nearly emptied in a very brief space -- after which it disappeared in a corner of the room, there to collect the dust without further diminution of its contents. I will not pretend to justify this espionage I carried on, and I will say openly that all these signs of a life full of intellectual curiosity, but thoroughly slovenly and disorderly all the same, inspired me at first with aversion and mistrust. I am not only a middle-class man, living a regular life, fond of work and punctuality; I am also an abstainer and nonsmoker, and these bottles in Haller's room pleased me even less than the rest of his artistic disorder.

He was just as irregular and irresponsible about his meal times as he was about his hours of sleep and work. There were days when he did not go out at all and had nothing but his coffee in the morning. Sometimes my aunt found nothing but a banana peel to show that he had dined. Other days, however, he took his meals in restaurants, sometimes in the best and most fashionable, sometimes in little out-lying taverns. His health did not seem good. Besides his limping gait that often made the stairs fatiguing to him, he seemed to be plagued with other troubles, and he once said to me that it was years since he had had either good digestion or sound sleep. I put it down first and last to his drinking. When, later on, I accompanied him sometimes to his haunts I often saw with my own eyes how he drank when the mood was on him, though neither I nor anyone else ever saw him really drunk.

I have never forgotten our first encounter. We knew each other then only as fellow lodgers whose rooms were adjoining ones. Then one evening I came home from business and to my astonishment found Haller seated on the landing between the first and second floors. He was sitting on the top step and he moved to one side to let me pass. I asked him if he was all right and offered to take him up to the top.

Haller looked at me and I could see that I had awoken him from a kind of trance. Slowly he began to smile his delightful sad smile that has so often filled my heart with pity. Then he invited me to sit beside him. I thanked him, but said it was not my custom to sit on the stairs at other people's doors.

"Ah, yes," he said, and smiled the more. "You're quite right. But wait a moment, for I really must tell you what it was made me sit here for a bit."

He pointed as he spoke to the entrance of the first floor flat, where a widow lived. In the little space with parquet flooring between the stairs, the window and the glazed front door there stood a tall cupboard of mahogany, with some old pewter on it, and in front of the cupboard on the floor there were two plants, an azalea and an araucaria, in large pots which stood on low stands. The plants looked very pretty and were always kept spotlessly neat and clean, as I had often noticed with pleasure.

"Look at this little vestibule," Haller went on, "with the araucaria and its wonderful smell. Many a time I can't go by without pausing a moment. At your aunt's too, there reigns a wonderful smell of order and extreme cleanliness, but this little place of the araucaria, why, it's so shiningly clean, so dusted and polished and scoured, so inviolably clean that it positively glitters. I always have to take a deep breath of it as I go by. Don't you smell it too, a fragrance given off by the odor of floor polish and a faint whiff of turpentine together with the mahogany and the washed leaves of the plants -- the very essence of bourgeois cleanliness, of neatness and meticulousness, of duty and devotion shown in little things. I don't know who lives here, but behind that glazed door there must be a paradise of cleanliness and spotless mediocrity, of ordered ways, a touching and anxious devotion to life's little habits and tasks.

"Do not, please, think for a moment," he went on when I said nothing in reply, "that I speak with irony. My dear sir, I would not for the world laugh at the bourgeois life. It is true that I live myself in another world, and perhaps I could not endure to live a single day in a house with araucarias. But though I am a shabby old Steppenwolf, still I'm the son of a mother, and my mother too was a middle-class man's wife and raised plants and took care to have her house and home as clean and neat and tidy as ever she could make it. All that is brought back to me by this breath of turpentine and by the araucaria, and so I sit down here every now and again; and I look into this quiet little garden of order and rejoice that such things still are."

He wanted to get up, but found it difficult; and he did not repulse me when I offered him a little help. I was silent, but I submitted just as my aunt had done before me to a certain charm the strange man could sometimes exercise. We went slowly up the stairs together, and at his door, the key in his hand, he looked me once more in the eyes in a friendly way and said: "You've come from business? Well, of course, I know little of all that. I live a bit to one side, on the edge of things, you see. But you too, I believe, interest yourself in books and such matters. Your aunt told me one day that you had been through the high school and were a good Greek scholar. Now, this morning I came on a passage in Novalis. May I show it you? It would delight you, I know."

He took me into his room, which smelt strongly of tobacco, and took out a book from one of the heaps, turned the leaves and looked for the passage.

"This is good too, very good," he said, "listen to this: 'A man should be proud of suffering. All suffering is a reminder of our high estate.' Fine! Eighty years before Nietzsche. But that is not the sentence I meant. Wait a moment, here I have it. This: 'Most men will not swim before they are able to.' Is not that witty? Naturally, they won't swim! They are born for the solid earth, not for the water. And naturally they won't think. They are made for life, not for thought. Yes, and he who thinks, what's more, he who makes thought his business, he may go far in it, but he has bartered the solid earth for the water all the same, and one day he will drown."

He had got hold of me now. I was interested; and I stayed on a short while with him; and after that we often talked when we met on the stairs or in the street. On such occasions I always had at first the feeling that he was being ironical with me. But it was not so. He had a real respect for me, just as he had for the araucaria. He was so convinced and conscious of his isolation, his swimming in the water, his uprootedness, that a glimpse now and then of the orderly daily round -- the punctuality, for example, that kept me to my office hours, or an expression let fall by a servant or tramway conductor--acted on him literally as a stimulus without in the least arousing his scorn. At first all this seemed to me a ridiculous exaggeration, the affectation of a gentleman of leisure, a playful sentimentality. But I came to see more and more that from the empty spaces of his lone wolfishness he actually really admired and loved our little bourgeois world as something solid and secure, as the home and peace which must ever remain far and unattainable, with no road leading from him to them. He took off his hat to our charwoman, a worthy person, every time he met her, with genuine respect; and when my aunt had any little occasion to talk to him, to draw his attention, it might be, to some mending of his linen or to warn him of a button hanging loose on his coat, he listened to her with an air of great attention and consequence, as though it were only with an extreme and desperate effort that he could force his way through any crack into our little peaceful world and be at home there, if only for an hour.

During that very first conversation, about the araucaria, he called himself the Steppenwolf, and this too estranged and disturbed me a little. What an expression! However, custom did not only reconcile me to it, but soon I never thought of him by any other name; nor could I today hit on a better description of him. A wolf of the Steppes that had lost its way and strayed into the towns and the life of the herd, a more striking image could not be found for his shy loneliness, his savagery, his restlessness, his homesickness, his homelessness.

I was able once to observe him for a whole evening. It was at a Symphony concert, where to my surprise I found him seated near me. He did not see me. First some Handel was played, noble and lovely music. But the Steppenwolf sat absorbed in his own thoughts, paying attention neither to the music nor to his surroundings. He sat there detached, a lonely stranger, with downcast eyes and a cold but troubled expression on his face. After the Handel came a little symphony by Friedemann Bach, and I saw with surprise how after a few bars my stranger began to smile and abandon himself to the music. He was completely absorbed in himself, and for about ten minutes so happily lost and rapt in pleasant dreams that I paid more attention to him than to the music. When the piece ended he woke up, and made a movement to go; but after all he kept his seat and heard the last piece too. It was Variations by Reger, a composition that many found rather long and tiresome. The Steppenwolf, too, who at first made up his mind to listen, wandered again, put his hands into his pockets and sank once more into his own thoughts, not happily and dreamily as before, but sadly and finally irritated. His face was once more vacant and grey. The light in it was quenched and he looked old, ill, and discontented.

I saw him again after the concert in the street and walked along behind him. Wrapped in his cloak he went his way joylessly and wearily in the direction of our quarter, but stopped in front of a small old-fashioned inn, and after looking irresolutely at the time, went in. I obeyed a momentary impulse and followed him; and there he sat at a table in the backroom of the bar, greeted by hostess and waitress as a well-known guest. Greeting him, too, I took my seat beside him. We sat there for an hour, and while I drank two glasses of mineral water, he accounted for a pint of red wine and then called for another half. I remarked that I had been to the concert, but he did not follow up this topic. He read the label on my bottle and asked whether I would not drink some wine. When I declined his offer and said that I never drank it, the old helpless expression came over his face.

"You're quite right there," he said. "I have practiced abstinence myself for years, and had my time of fasting too, but now I find myself once more beneath the sign of Aquarius, a dark and humid constellation."

And then, when I playfully took up his allusion and remarked how unlikely it seemed to me that he really believed in astrology, he promptly resumed the too polite tone which often hurt me and said: "You are right. Unfortunately, I cannot believe in that science either."

I took my leave and went. It was very late before he came in, but his step was as usual, and as always, instead of going straight to bed, he stayed up an hour longer in his sitting room, as I from my neighboring room could hear plainly enough.

There was another evening which I have not forgotten. My aunt was out and I was alone in the house, when the doorbell rang. I opened the door and there stood a young and very pretty woman, whom, as soon as she asked for Mr. Haller, I recognized from the photograph in his room. I showed her his door and withdrew. She stayed a short while above, but soon I heard them both come down stairs and go out, talking and laughing together very happily. I was much astonished that the hermit had his love, and one so young and pretty and elegant; and all my conjectures about him and his life were upset once more. But before an hour had gone he came back alone and dragged himself wearily upstairs with his sad and heavy tread. For hours on end he paced softly to and fro in his sitting room, exactly like a wolf in its cage. The whole night, nearly until dawn, there was light in his room. I know nothing at all about this occasion, and have only this to add. On one other occasion I saw him in this lady's company. It was in one of the streets of the town. They were arm in arm and he looked very happy; and again I wondered to see how much charm--what an even childlike expression -- his care-ridden face had sometimes. It explained the young lady to me, also the predilection my aunt had for him. That day, too, however, he came back in the evening, sad, and wretched as usual. I met him at the door and under his cloak, as many a time before, he had the bottle of Italian wine, and he sat with it half the night in his hell upstairs. It grieved me. What a comfortless, what a forlorn and shiftless life he led!

And now I have gossiped enough. No more is needed to show that the Steppenwolf lived a suicidal existence. But all the same I do not believe that he took his own life when, after paying all he owed but without a word of warning or farewell, he left our town one day and vanished. We have not heard from him since and we are still keeping some letters that came for him after he had left. He left nothing behind but his manuscript. It was written during the time he was here, and he left it with a few lines to say that I might do what I liked with it.

It was not in my power to verify the truth of the experiences related in Haller's manuscript. I have no doubt that they are for the most part fictitious, not, however, in the sense of arbitrary invention. They are rather the deeply lived spiritual events which he has attempted to express by giving them the form of tangible experiences. The partly fantastic occurrences in Haller's fiction come presumably from the later period of his stay here, and I have no doubt that even they have some basis in real occurrence. At that time our guest did in fact alter very much in behavior and in appearance. He was out a great deal, for whole nights sometimes; and his books lay untouched. On the rare occasions when I saw him at that time I was very much struck by his air of vivacity and youth. Sometimes, indeed, he seemed positively happy. This does not mean that a new and heavy depression did not follow immediately. All day long he lay in bed. He had no desire for food. At that time the young lady appeared once more on the scene, and an extremely violent, I may even say brutal, quarrel occurred which upset the whole house and for which Haller begged my aunt's pardon for days after.

No, I am sure he has not taken his life. He is still alive, and somewhere wearily goes up and down the stairs of strange houses, stares somewhere at clean-scoured parquet floors and carefully tended araucarias, sits for days in libraries and nights in taverns, or lying on a hired sofa, listens to the world beneath his window and the hum of human life from which he knows that he is excluded. But he has not killed himself, for a glimmer of belief still tells him that he is to drink this frightful suffering in his heart to the dregs, and that it is of this suffering he must die. I think of him often. He has not made life lighter for me. He had not the gift of fostering strength and joy in me. Oh, on the contrary! But I am not he, and I live my own life, a narrow, middle-class life, but a solid one, filled with duties. And so we can think of him peacefully and affectionately, my aunt and I. She would have more to say of him than I have, but that lies buried in her good heart.

And now that we come to these records of Haller's, these partly diseased, partly beautiful, and thoughtful fantasies, I must confess that if they had fallen into my hands by chance and if I had not known their author, I should most certainly have thrown them away in disgust. But owing to my acquaintance with Haller I have been able, to some extent, to understand them, and even to appreciate them. I should hesitate to share them with others if I saw in them nothing but the pathological fancies of a single and isolated case of a diseased temperament. But I see something more in them. I see them as a document of the times, for Haller's sickness of the soul, as I now know, is not the eccentricity of a single individual, but the sickness of the times themselves, the neurosis of that generation to which Haller belongs, a sickness, it seems, that by no means attacks the weak and worthless only but, rather, precisely those who are strongest in spirit and richest in gifts.

These records, however much or however little of real life may lie at the back of them, are not an attempt to disguise or to palliate this widespread sickness of our times. They are an attempt to present the sickness itself in its actual manifestation. They mean, literally, a journey through hell, a sometimes fearful, sometimes courageous journey through the chaos of a world whose souls dwell in darkness, a journey undertaken with the determination to go through hell from one end to the other, to give battle to chaos, and to suffer torture to the full.

A remark of Haller's gave me the key to this interpretation. He said to me once when we were talking of the so-called horrors of the Middle Ages: "These horrors were really nonexistent. A man of the Middle Ages would detest the whole mode of our present-day life as something far more than horrible, far more than barbarous. Every age, every culture, every custom and tradition has its own character, its own weakness and its own strength, its beauties and ugliness; accepts certain sufferings as matters of course, puts up patiently with certain evils. Human life is reduced to real suffering, to hell, only when two ages, two cultures and religions overlap. A man of the Classical Age who had to live in medieval times would suffocate miserably just as a savage does in the midst of our civilization. Now there are times when a whole generation is caught in this way between two ages, two modes of life, with the consequence that it loses all power to understand itself and has no standard, no security, no simple acquiescence. Naturally, everyone does not feel this equally strongly. A nature such as Nietzsche's had to suffer our present ills more than a generation in advance. What he had to go through alone and misunderstood, thousands suffer today."

I often had to think of these words while reading the records. Haller belongs to those who have been caught between two ages, who are outside of all security and simple acquiescence. He belongs to those whose fate it is to live the whole riddle of human destiny heightened to the pitch of a personal torture, a personal hell.

Therein, it seems to me, lies the meaning these records can have for us, and because of this I decided to publish them. For the rest, I neither approve nor condemn them. Let every reader do as his conscience bids him.
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Re: Steppenwolf, by Hermann Hesse

Postby admin » Sun Jan 31, 2016 8:58 pm

Part 1 of 2



The day had gone by just as days go by. I had killed it in accordance with my primitive and retiring way of life. I had worked for an hour or two and perused the pages of old books. I had had pains for two hours, as elderly people do. I had taken a powder and been very glad when the pains consented to disappear. I had lain in a hot bath and absorbed its kindly warmth. Three times the mail had come with undesired letters and circulars to look through. I had done my breathing exercises, but found it convenient today to omit the thought exercises. I had been for an hour's walk and seen the loveliest feathery cloud patterns penciled against the sky. That was very delightful. So was the reading of the old books. So was the lying in the warm bath. But, taken all in all, it had not been exactly a day of rapture. No, it had not even been a day brightened with happiness and joy. Rather, it had been just one of those days which for a long while now had fallen to my lot; the moderately pleasant, the wholly bearable and tolerable, lukewarm days of a discontented middle-aged man; days without special pains, without special cares, without particular worry, without despair; days when I calmly wonder, objective and fearless, whether it isn't time to follow the example of Adalbert Stifter and have an accident while shaving.

He who has known the other days, the angry ones of gout attacks, or those with that wicked headache rooted behind the eyeballs that casts a spell on every nerve of eye and ear with a fiendish delight in torture, or soul-destroying, evil days of inward vacancy and despair, when, on this distracted earth, sucked dry by the vampires of finance, the world of men and of so-called culture grins back at us with the lying, vulgar, brazen glamor of a Fair and dogs us with the persistence of an emetic, and when all is concentrated and focused to the last pitch of the intolerable upon your own sick self -- he who has known these days of hell may be content indeed with normal half-and-half days like today. Thankfully you sit by the warm stove, thankfully you assure yourself as you read your morning paper that another day has come and no war broken out, no new dictatorship has been set up, no particularly disgusting scandal been unveiled in the worlds of politics or finance. Thankfully you tune the strings of your moldering lyre to a moderated, to a passably joyful, nay, to an even delighted psalm of thanksgiving and with it bore your quiet, flabby and slightly stupefied half-and-half god of contentment; and in the thick warm air of a contented boredom and very welcome painlessness the nodding mandarin of a half-and-half god and the nodding middle-aged gentleman who sings his muffled psalm look as like each other as two peas.

There is much to be said for contentment and painlessness, for these bearable and submissive days, on which neither pain nor pleasure is audible, but pass by whispering and on tip-toe. But the worst of it is that it is just this contentment that I cannot endure. After a short time it fills me with irrepressible hatred and nausea. In desperation I have to escape and throw myself on the road to pleasure, or, if that cannot be, on the road to pain. When I have neither pleasure nor pain and have been breathing for a while the lukewarm insipid air of these so-called good and tolerable days, I feel so bad in my childish soul that I smash my moldering lyre of thanksgiving in the face of the slumbering god of contentment and would rather feel the very devil burn in me than this warmth of a well-heated room. A wild longing for strong emotions and sensations seethes in me, a rage against this toneless, flat, normal and sterile life. I have a mad impulse to smash something, a warehouse, perhaps, or a cathedral, or myself, to commit outrages, to pull off the wigs of a few revered idols, to provide a few rebellious schoolboys with the longed-for ticket to Hamburg, or to stand one or two representatives of the established order on their heads. For what I always hated and detested and cursed above all things was this contentment, this healthiness and comfort, this carefully preserved optimism of the middle classes, this fat and prosperous brood of mediocrity.

It was in such a mood then that I finished this not intolerable and very ordinary day as dusk set in. I did not end it in a manner becoming a rather ailing man and go to bed tempted by a hot water bottle. Instead I put oh my shoes ill-humoredly, discontented and disgusted with the little work I had done, and went out into the dark and foggy streets to drink what men according to an old convention call "a glass of wine," at the sign of the Steel Helmet.

So I went down the stairs from my room in the attic, those difficult stairs of this alien world, those thoroughly bourgeois, well-swept and scoured stairs of a very respectable three-family apartment house under whose roof I have my refuge. I don't know how it comes about, but I, the homeless Steppenwolf, the solitary, the hater of life's petty conventions, always take up my quarters in just such houses as this. It is an old weakness of mine. I live neither in palatial houses nor in those of the humble poor, but instead and deliberately in these respectable and wearisome and spotless middle-class homes, which smell of turpentine and soap and where there is a panic if you bang the door or come in with dirty shoes. The love of this atmosphere comes, no doubt, from the days of my childhood, and a secret yearning I have for something homelike drives me, though with little hope, to follow the same old stupid road. Then again, I like the contrast between my lonely, loveless, hunted, and thoroughly disorderly existence and this middle-class family life. I like to breathe in on the stairs this odor of quiet and order, of cleanliness and respectable domesticity. There is something in it that touches me in spite of my hatred for all it stands for. I like to step across the threshold of my room where all this suddenly stops; where, instead, cigar ash and wine bottles lie among the heaped-up books and there is nothing but disorder and neglect; and where everything -- books, manuscript, thoughts -- is marked and saturated with the plight of lonely men, with the problem of existence and with the yearning after a new orientation for an age that has lost its bearings.

And now I came to the araucaria. I must tell you that on the first floor of this house the stairs pass by a little vestibule at the entrance to a flat which, I am convinced, is even more spotlessly swept and garnished than the others; for this little vestibule shines with a superhuman housewifery. It is a little temple of order. On the parquet floor, where it seems desecration to tread, are two elegant stands and on each a large pot. In the one grows an azalea. In the other a stately araucaria, a thriving, straight-grown baby tree, a perfect specimen, which to the last needle of the topmost twig reflects the pride of frequent ablutions. Sometimes, when I know that I am unobserved, I use this place as a temple. I take my seat on a step of the stairs above the araucaria and, resting awhile with folded hands, I contemplate this little garden of order and let the touching air it has and its somewhat ridiculous loneliness move me to the depths of my soul. I imagine behind this vestibule, in the sacred shadow, one may say, of the araucaria, a home full of shining mahogany, and a life full of sound respectability -- early rising, attention to duty, restrained but cheerful family gatherings, Sunday church going, early to bed.

Affecting lightheartedness, I trod the moist pavements of the narrow streets. As though in tears and veiled, the lamps glimmered through the chill gloom and sucked their reflections slowly from the wet ground. The forgotten years of my youth came back to me. How I used to love the dark, sad evenings of late autumn and winter, how eagerly I imbibed their moods of loneliness and melancholy when wrapped in my cloak I strode for half the night through rain and storm, through the leafless winter landscape, lonely enough then too, but full of deep joy, and full of poetry which later I wrote down by candlelight sitting on the edge of my bed! All that was past now. The cup was emptied and would never be filled again. Was that a matter for regret? No, I did not regret the past. My regret was for the present day, for all the countless hours and days that I lost in mere passivity and that brought me nothing, not even the shocks of awakening. But, thank God, there were exceptions. There were now and then, though rarely, the hours that brought the welcome shock, pulled down the walls and brought me back again from my wanderings to the living heart of the world. Sadly and yet deeply moved, I set myself to recall the last of these experiences. It was at a concert of lovely old music. After two or three notes of the piano the door was opened of a sudden to the other world. I sped through heaven and saw God at work. I suffered holy pains. I dropped all my defenses and was afraid of nothing in the world. I accepted all things and to all things I gave up my heart. It did not last very long, a quarter of an hour perhaps; but it returned to me in a dream at night, and since, through all the barren days, I caught a glimpse of it now and then. Sometimes for a minute or two I saw it clearly, threading my life like a divine and golden track. But nearly always it was blurred in dirt and dust. Then again it gleamed out in golden sparks as though never to be lost again and yet was soon quite lost once more. Once it happened, as I lay awake at night, that I suddenly spoke in verses, in verses so beautiful and strange that I did not venture to think of writing them down, and then in the morning they vanished; and yet they lay hidden within me like the hard kernel within an old brittle husk. Once it came to me while reading a poet, while pondering a thought of Descartes, of Pascal; again it shone out and drove its gold track far into the sky while I was in the presence of my beloved. Ah, but it is hard to find this track of the divine in the midst of this life we lead, in this besotted humdrum age of spiritual blindness, with its architecture, its business, its politics, its men! How could I fail to be a lone wolf, and an uncouth hermit, as I did not share one of its aims nor understand one of its pleasures? I cannot remain for long in either theater or picture-house. I can scarcely read a paper, seldom a modern book. I cannot understand what pleasures and joys they are that drive people to the overcrowded railways and hotels, into the packed cafes with the suffocating and oppressive music, to the Bars and variety entertainments, to World Exhibitions, to the Corsos. I cannot understand nor share these joys, though they are within my reach, for which thousands of others strive. On the other hand, what happens to me in my rare hours of joy, what for me is bliss and life and ecstasy and exaltation, the world in general seeks at most in imagination; in life it finds it absurd. And in fact, if the world is right, if this music of the cafes, these mass enjoyments and these Americanized men who are pleased with so little are right, then I am wrong, I am crazy. I am in truth the Steppenwolf that I often call myself; that beast astray who finds neither home nor joy nor nourishment in a world that is strange and incomprehensible to him.

With these familiar thoughts I went along the wet street through one of the quietest and oldest quarters of the town. On the opposite side there stood in the darkness an old stone wall which I always noticed with pleasure. Old and serene, it stood between a little church and an old hospital and often during the day I let my eyes rest on its rough surface. There were few such quiet and peaceful spaces in the center of the town where from every square foot some lawyer, or quack, or doctor, or barber, or chiropodist shouted his name at you. This time, too, the wall was peaceful and serene and yet something was altered in it. I was amazed to see a small and pretty doorway with a Gothic arch in the middle of the wall, for I could not make up my mind whether this doorway had always been there or whether it had just been made. It looked old without a doubt, very old; apparently this closed portal with its door of blackened wood had opened hundreds of years ago onto a sleepy convent yard, and did so still, even though the convent was no longer there. Probably I had seen it a hundred times and simply not noticed it. Perhaps it had been painted afresh and caught my eye for that reason. I paused to examine it from where I stood without crossing over, as the street between was so deep in mud and water. From the sidewalk where I stood and looked across, it seemed to me in the dim light that a garland, or something gaily colored, was festooned round the doorway, and now that I looked more closely I saw over the portal a bright shield, on which, it seemed to me, there was something written. I strained my eyes and at last, in spite of the mud and puddles, went across, and there over the door I saw a stain showing up faintly on the grey-green of the wall, and over the stain bright letters dancing and then disappearing, returning and vanishing once more. So that's it, thought I. They've disfigured this good old wall with an electric sign. Meanwhile I deciphered one or two of the letters as they appeared again for an instant; but they were hard to read even by guess work, for they came with very irregular spaces between them and very faintly, and then abruptly vanished. Whoever hoped for any result from a display like that was not very smart. He was a Steppenwolf, poor fellow. Why have his letters playing on this old wall in the darkest alley of the Old Town on a wet night with not a soul passing by, and why were they so fleeting, so fitful and illegible? But wait, at last I succeeded in catching several words on end. They were:


I tried to open the door, but the heavy old latch would not stir. The display too was over. It had suddenly ceased, sadly convinced of its uselessness. I took a few steps back, landing deep into the mud, but no more letters came. The display was over. For a long time I stood waiting in the mud, but in vain.

Then, when I had given up and gone back to the alley, a few colored letters were dropped here and there, reflected on the asphalt in front of me. I read:


My feet were wet and I was chilled to the bone. Nevertheless, I stood waiting. Nothing more. But while I waited, thinking how prettily the letters had danced in their ghostly fashion over the damp wall and the black sheen of the asphalt, a fragment of my former thoughts came suddenly to my mind; the similarity to the track of shining gold which suddenly vanishes and cannot be found.

I was freezing and walked on following that track in my dreams, longing too for that doorway to an enchanted theater, which was for madmen only. Meanwhile I had reached the market place, where there is never a lack of evening entertainments. At every other step were placards and posters with their various attractions, Ladies' Orchestra, Variete, Cinema, Ball. But none of these was for me. They were for "everybody," for those normal persons whom I saw crowding every entrance. In spite of that my sadness was a little lightened. I had had a greeting from another world, and a few dancing, colored letters had played upon my soul and sounded its secret strings. A glimmer of the golden track had been visible once again.

I sought out the little ancient tavern where nothing had altered since my first visit to this town a good twenty-five years before. Even the landlady was the same as then and many of the patrons who sat there in those days sat there still at the same places before the same glasses. There I took refuge. True, it was only a refuge, something like the one on the stairs opposite the araucaria. Here, too, I found neither home nor company, nothing but a seat from which to view a stage where strange people played strange parts. Nonetheless, the quiet of the place was worth something; no crowds, no music; only a few peaceful townsfolk at bare wooden tables (no marble, no enamel, no plush, no brass) and before each his evening glass of good old wine. Perhaps this company of habitues, all of whom I knew by sight, were all regular Philistines and had in their Philistine dwellings their altars of the home dedicated to sheepish idols of contentment; perhaps, too, they were solitary fellows who had been sidetracked, quiet, thoughtful topers of bankrupt ideals, lone wolves and poor devils like me. I could not say. Either homesickness or disappointment, or need of change drew them there, the married to recover the atmosphere of his bachelor days, the old official to recall his student years. All of them were silent, and all were drinkers who would rather, like me, sit before a pint of Elsasser than listen to a Ladies' Orchestra. Here I cast anchor, for an hour, or it might be two. With the first sip of Elsasser I realized that I had eaten nothing that day since my morning roll.

It is remarkable, all that men can swallow. For a good ten minutes I read a newspaper. I allowed the spirit of an irresponsible man who chews and munches another's words in his mouth, and gives them out again undigested, to enter into me through my eyes. I absorbed a whole column of it. And then I devoured a large piece cut from the liver of a slaughtered calf. Odd indeed! The best was the Elsasser. I am not fond, for everyday at least, of racy, heady wines that diffuse a potent charm and have their own particular flavor. What I like the best is a clean, light, modest country vintage of no special name. One can carry plenty of it and it has the good and homely flavor of the land, and of earth and sky and woods. A pint of Elsasser and a piece of good bread is the best of all meals. By this time, however, I had already eaten my portion of liver, an unusual indulgence for me, as I seldom eat meat, and the second pint had been set before me. And this too was odd: that somewhere in a green valley vines were tended by good, strong fellows and the wine pressed so that here and there in the world, far away, a few disappointed, quietly drinking townsfolk and dispirited Steppenwolves could sip a little heart and courage from their glasses.

I didn't really care whether all this was odd or not. It was good, it helped, it raised my spirits. As I thought again of that newspaper article and its jumble of words, a refreshing laughter rose in me, and suddenly the forgotten melody of those notes of the piano came back to me again. It soared aloft like a soap bubble, reflecting the whole world in miniature on its rainbow surface, and then softly burst. Could I be altogether lost when that heavenly little melody had been secretly rooted within me and now put forth its lovely bloom with all its tender hues? I might be a beast astray, with no sense of its environment, yet there was some meaning in my foolish life, something in me gave an answer and was the receiver of those distant calls from worlds far above. In my brain were stored a thousand pictures:

Giotto's flock of angels from the blue vaulting of a little church in Padua, and near them walked Hamlet and the garlanded Ophelia, fair similitudes of all sadness and misunderstanding in the world, and there stood Gianozzo, the aeronaut, in his burning balloon and blew a blast on his horn, Attila carrying his new headgear in his hand, and the Borobudur reared its soaring sculpture in the air. And though all these figures lived in a thousand other hearts as well, there were ten thousand more unknown pictures and tunes there which had no dwelling place but in me, no eyes to see, no ears to hear them but mine. The old hospital wall with its grey- green weathering, its cracks and stains in which a thousand frescoes could be fancied, who responded to it, who looked into its soul, who loved it, who found the charm of its colors very delicately dying away? The old books of the monks, softly illumined with their miniatures, and the books of the German poets of two hundred and a hundred years ago whom their own folk have forgotten, all the thumbed and damp-stained volumes, and the works in print and manuscripts of the old composers, the stout and yellowing music sheets dreaming their music through a winter sleep -- who heard their spirited, their roguish and yearning tones, who carried through a world estranged from them a heart full of their spirit and their charm? Who still remembered that slender cypress on a hill over Gubbio, that though split and riven by a fall of stone yet held fast to life and put forth with its last resources a new sparse tuft at top? Who read by night above the Rhine the cloudscript of the drifting mists? It was the Steppenwolf. And who over the ruins of his life pursued its fleeting, fluttering significance, while he suffered its seeming meaninglessness and lived its seeming madness, and who hoped in secret at the last turn of the labyrinth of Chaos for revelation and God's presence?

I held my hand over my glass when the landlady wanted to fill it once more, and got up. I needed no more wine. The golden trail was blazed and I was reminded of the eternal, and of Mozart, and the stars. For an hour I could breathe once more and live and face existence, without the need to suffer torment, fear, or shame.

A cold wind was sifting the fine rain as I went out into the deserted street. It drove the drops with a patter against the streetlamps where they glimmered with a glassy sparkle. And now, whither? If I had had a magic wand at this moment I should have conjured up a small and charming Louis Seize music room where a few musicians would have played me two or three pieces of Handel and Mozart. I was in the very mood for it, and would have sipped the cool and noble music as gods sip nectar. Oh, if I had had a friend at this moment, a friend in an attic room, dreaming by candlelight and with a violin lying ready at his hand! How I should have slipped up to him in his quiet hour, noiselessly climbing the winding stair to take him by surprise, and then with talk and music we should have held heavenly festival throughout the night! Once, in years gone by, I had often known such happiness, but this too time had taken away. Withered years lay between those days and now.

I loitered as I wended my way homeward; turned up my collar and struck my stick on the wet pavement. However long I lingered outside I should find myself all too soon in my top-floor room, my makeshift home, which I could neither love nor do without; for the time had gone by when I could spend a wet winter's night in the open. And now my prayer was not to let the good mood the evening had given me be spoiled, neither by the rain, nor by gout, nor by the araucaria; and though there was no chamber music to be had nor a lonely friend with his violin, still that lovely melody was in my head and I could play it through to myself after a fashion, humming the rhythm of it as I drew my breath. Reflecting thus, I walked on and on. Yes, even without the chamber music and the friend. How foolish to wear oneself out in vain longing for warmth! Solitude is independence. It had been my wish and with the years I had attained it. It was cold. Oh, cold enough! But it was also still, wonderfully still and vast like the cold stillness of space in which the stars revolve.

From a dance hall there met me as I passed by the strains of lively jazz music, hot and raw as the steam of raw flesh. I stopped a moment. This kind of music, much as I detested it, had always had a secret charm for me. It was repugnant to me, and yet ten times preferable to all the academic music of the day. For me too, its raw and savage gaiety reached an underworld of instinct and breathed a simple honest sensuality.

I stood for a moment on the scent, smelling this shrill and blood-raw music, sniffing the atmosphere of the hall angrily, and hankering after it a little too. One half of this music, the melody, was all pomade and sugar and sentimentality. The other half was savage, temperamental and vigorous. Yet the two went artlessly well together and made a whole. It was the music of decline. There must have been such music in Rome under the later emperors. Compared with Bach and Mozart and real music it was, naturally, a miserable affair; but so was all our art, all our thought, all our makeshift culture in comparison with real culture. This music was at least sincere, unashamedly primitive and childishly happy. There was something of the Negro in it, and something of the American, who with all his strength seems so boyishly fresh and childlike to us Europeans. Was Europe to become the same? Was it on the way already? Were we, the old connoisseurs, the reverers of Europe as it used to be, of genuine music and poetry as once they were, nothing but a pig-headed minority suffering from a complex neurosis, whom tomorrow would forget or deride? Was all that we called culture, spirit, soul, all that we called beautiful and sacred, nothing but a ghost long dead, which only a few fools like us took for true and living? Had it perhaps indeed never been true and living? Had all that we poor fools bothered our heads about never been anything but a phantom?

I was now in the old quarter of the town. The little church stood up dim and grey and unreal. At once the experience of the evening came back to me, the mysterious Gothic doorway, the mysterious tablet above it and the illuminated letters dancing in mockery. How did the writing run? "Entrance not for Everybody." And: "For madmen only." I scrutinized the old wall opposite in the secret hope that the magic night might begin again; the writing invite me, the madman; the little doorway give me admittance. There perhaps lay my desire, and there perhaps would my music be played.

The dark stone wall looked back at me with composure, shut off in a deep twilight, sunk in a dream of its own. And there was no gateway anywhere and no pointed arch; only the dark unbroken masonry. With a smile I went on, giving it a friendly nod. "Sleep well. I will not awake you. The time will come when you will be pulled down or plastered with covetous advertisements. But for the present, there you stand, beautiful and quiet as ever, and I love you for it."

From the black mouth of an alley a man appeared with startling suddenness at my elbow, a lone man going his homeward way with weary step. He wore a cap and a blue blouse, and above his shoulders he carried a signboard fixed on a pole, and in front of him an open tray suspended by straps such as peddlers carry at fairs. He walked on wearily in front of me without looking round. Otherwise I should have bidden him a good evening and given him a cigar. I tried to read the device on his standard -- a red signboard on a pole -- in the light of the next lamp; but it swayed to and fro and I could decipher nothing. Then I called out and asked him to let me read his placard. He stopped and held his pole a little steadier. Then I could read the dancing reeling letters:


"I've been looking for you," I shouted with delight. "What is this Evening Entertainment? Where is it? When?"

He was already walking on.

"Not for everybody," he said dully with a sleepy voice. He had had enough. He was for home, and on he went.

"Stop," I cried, and ran after him. "What have you got there in your box ? I want to buy something from you."

Without stopping, the man felt mechanically in his box, pulled out a little book and held it out to me. I took it quickly and put it in my pocket. While I felt for the buttons of my coat to get out some money, he turned in at a doorway, shut the door behind him and disappeared. His heavy steps rang on a flagged yard, then on wooden stairs; and then I heard no more. And suddenly I too felt very tired. It came over me that it must be very late -- and high time to go home. I walked on faster and, following the road to the suburb, I was soon in my own neighborhood among the well-kept gardens, where in clean little apartment houses behind lawn and ivy are the dwellings of officialdom and people of modest means. Passing the ivy and the grass and the little fir tree I reached the door of the house, found the keyhole and the switch, slipped past the glazed doors, and the polished cupboards and the potted plants and unlocked the door of my room, my little pretence of a home, where the armchair and the stove, the ink-pot and the paint- box, Novalis and Dostoievski, awaited me just as do the mother, or the wife, the children, maid, dogs and cats in the case of more sensible people.

As I threw off my wet coat I came upon the little book, and took it out. It was one of those little books wretchedly printed on wretched paper that are sold at fairs, "Were you born in January?" or "How to be twenty years younger in a week."

However, when I settled myself in my armchair and put on my glasses, it was with great astonishment and a sudden sense of impending fate that I read the title on the cover of this companion volume to fortune-telling booklets. "Treatise on the Steppenwolf. Not for Everybody."

I read the contents at a sitting with an engrossing interest that deepened page by page.
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Re: Steppenwolf, by Hermann Hesse

Postby admin » Sun Jan 31, 2016 8:59 pm

Part 2 of 2


There was once a man, Harry, called the Steppenwolf. He went on two legs, wore clothes and was a human being, but nevertheless he was in reality a wolf of the Steppes. He had learned a good deal of all that people of a good intelligence can, and was a fairly clever fellow. What he had not learned, however, was this: to find contentment in himself and his own life. The cause of this apparently was that at the bottom of his heart he knew all the time (or thought he knew) that he was in reality not a man, but a wolf of the Steppes. Clever men might argue the point whether he truly was a wolf, whether, that is, he had been changed, before birth perhaps, from a wolf into a human being, or had been given the soul of a wolf, though born as a human being; or whether, on the other hand, this belief that he was a wolf was no more than a fancy or a disease of his. It might, for example, be possible that in his childhood he was a little wild and disobedient and disorderly, and that those who brought him up had declared a war of extinction against the beast in him; and precisely this had given him the idea and the belief that he was in fact actually a beast with only a thin covering of the human. On this point one could speak at length and entertainingly, and indeed write a book about it. The Steppenwolf, however, would be none the better for it, since for him it was all one whether the wolf had been bewitched or beaten into him, or whether it was merely an idea of his own. What others chose to think about it or what he chose to think himself was no good to him at all. It left the wolf inside him just the same.

And so the Steppenwolf had two natures, a human and a wolfish one. This was his fate, and it may well be that it was not a very exceptional one. There must have been many men who have had a good deal of the dog or the fox, of the fish or the serpent in them without experiencing any extraordinary difficulties on that account. In such cases, the man and the fish lived on together and neither did the other any harm. The one even helped the other. Many a man indeed has carried this condition to such enviable lengths that he has owed his happiness more to the fox or the hare in him than to the man. So much for common knowledge. In the case of Harry, however, it was just the opposite. In him the man and the wolf did not go the same way together, but were in continual and deadly enmity. One existed simply and solely to harm the other, and when there are two in one blood and in one soul who are at deadly enmity, then life fares ill. Well, to each his lot, and none is light.

Now with our Steppenwolf it was so that in his conscious life he lived now as a wolf, now as a man, as indeed the case is with all mixed beings. But, when he was a wolf, the man in him lay in ambush, ever on the watch to interfere and condemn, while at those times that he was man the wolf did just the same. For example, if Harry, as man, had a beautiful thought, felt a fine and noble emotion, or performed a so-called good act, then the wolf bared his teeth at him and laughed and showed him with bitter scorn how laughable this whole pantomime was in the eyes of a beast, of a waif who knew well enough in his heart what suited him, namely, to trot alone over the Steppes and now and then to gorge himself with blood or to pursue a female wolf. Then, wolfishly seen, all human activities became horribly absurd and misplaced, stupid and vain. But it was exactly the same when Harry felt and behaved as a wolf and showed others his teeth and felt hatred and enmity against all human beings and their lying and degenerate manners and customs. For then the human part of him lay in ambush and watched the wolf, called him brute and beast, and spoiled and embittered for him all pleasure in his simple and healthy and wild wolf's being.

Thus it was then with the Steppenwolf, and one may well imagine that Harry did not have an exactly pleasant and happy life of it. This does not mean, however, that he was unhappy in any extraordinary degree (although it may have seemed so to himself all the same, inasmuch as every man takes the sufferings that fall to his share as the greatest). That cannot be said of any man. Even he who has no wolf in him, may be none the happier for that. And even the unhappiest life has its sunny moments and its little flowers of happiness between sand and stone. So it was, then, with the Steppenwolf too. It cannot be denied that he was generally very unhappy; and he could make others unhappy also, that is, when he loved them or they him. For all who got to love him, saw always only the one side in him. Many loved him as a refined and clever and interesting man, and were horrified and disappointed when they had come upon the wolf in him. And they had to because Harry wished, as every sentient being does, to be loved as a whole and therefore it was just, with those whose love he most valued that he could least of all conceal and belie the wolf. There were those, however, who loved precisely the wolf in him, the free, the savage, the untamable, the dangerous and strong, and these found it peculiarly disappointing and deplorable when suddenly the wild and wicked wolf was also a man, and had hankerings after goodness and refinement, and wanted to hear Mozart, to read poetry and to cherish human ideals. Usually these were the most disappointed and angry of all; and so it was that the Steppenwolf brought his own dual and divided nature into the destinies of others besides himself whenever he came into contact with them.

Now, whoever thinks that he knows the Steppenwolf and that he can imagine to himself his lamentably divided life is nevertheless in error. He does not know all by a long way. He does not know that, as there is no rule without an exception and as one sinner may under certain circumstances be dearer to God than ninety and nine righteous persons, with Harry too there were now and then exceptions and strokes of good luck, and that he could breathe and think and feel sometimes as the wolf, sometimes as the man, clearly and without confusion of the two; and even on very rare occasions, they made peace and lived for one another in such fashion that not merely did one keep watch whilst the other slept but each strengthened and confirmed the other. In the life of this man, too, as well as in all things else in the world, daily use and the accepted and common knowledge seemed sometimes to have no other aim than to be arrested now and again for an instant, and broken through, in order to yield the place of honor to the exceptional and miraculous. Now whether these short and occasional hours of happiness balanced and alleviated the lot of the Steppenwolf in such a fashion that in the upshot happiness and suffering held the scales even, or whether perhaps the short but intense happiness of those few hours outweighed all suffering and left a balance over is again a question over which idle persons may meditate to their hearts' content. Even the wolf brooded often over this, and those were his idle and unprofitable days.

In this connection one thing more must be said. There are a good many people of the same kind as Harry. Many artists are of his kind. These persons all have two souls, two beings within them. There is God and the devil in them; the mother's blood and the father's; the capacity for happiness and the capacity for suffering; and in just such a state of enmity and entanglement towards and within each other as were the wolf and man in Harry. And these men, for whom life was no repose, live at times in their rare moments of happiness with such strength and indescribable beauty, the spray of their moment's happiness is flung so high and dazzlingly over the wide sea of suffering, that the light of it, spreading its radiance, touches others too with its enchantment. Thus, like a precious, fleeting foam over the sea of suffering arise all those works of art, in which a single individual lifts himself for an hour so high above his personal destiny that his happiness shines like a star and appears to all who see it as something eternal and as a happiness of their own. All these men, whatever their deeds and works may be, have really no life; that is to say, their lives are not their own and have no form. They are not heroes, artists or thinkers in the same way that other men are judges, doctors, shoemakers, or schoolmasters. Their life consists of a perpetual tide, unhappy and torn with pain, terrible and meaningless, unless one is ready to see its meaning in just those rare experiences, acts, thoughts and works that shine out above the chaos of such a life. To such men the desperate and horrible thought has come that perhaps the whole of human life is but a bad joke, a violent and ill-fated abortion of the primal mother, a savage and dismal catastrophe of nature. To them, too, however, the other thought has come that man is perhaps not merely a half-rational animal but a child of the gods and destined to immortality.

Men of every kind have their characteristics, their features, their virtues and vices and their deadly sins. Prowling about at night was one of the Steppenwolf's favorite tendencies. The morning was a wretched time of day for him. He feared it and it never brought him any good. On no morning of his life had he ever been in good spirits nor done any good before midday, nor ever had a happy idea, nor devised any pleasure for himself or others. By degrees during the afternoon he warmed and became alive, and only towards evening, on his good days, was he productive, active and, sometimes, aglow with joy. With this was bound up his need for loneliness and independence. There was never a man with a deeper and more passionate craving for independence than he. In his youth when he was poor and had difficulty in earning his bread, he preferred to go hungry and in torn clothes rather than endanger his narrow limit of independence. He never sold himself for money or an easy life or to women or to those in power; and had thrown away a hundred times what in the world's eyes was his advantage and happiness in order to safeguard his liberty. No prospect was more hateful and distasteful to him than that he should have to go to an office and conform to daily and yearly routine and obey others. He hated all kinds of offices, governmental or commercial, as he hated death, and his worst nightmare was confinement in barracks. He contrived, often at great sacrifice, to avoid all such predicaments. It was here that his strength and his virtue rested. On this point he could neither be bent nor bribed. Here his character was firm and indeflectable. Only, through this virtue, he was bound the closer to his destiny of suffering. It happened to him as it does to all; what he strove for with the deepest and most stubborn instinct of his being fell to his lot, but more than is good for men. In the beginning his dream and his happiness, in the end it was his bitter fate. The man of power is ruined by power, the man of money by money, the submissive man by subservience, the pleasure seeker by pleasure. He achieved his aim. He was ever more independent. He took orders from no man and ordered his ways to suit no man. Independently and alone, he decided what to do and to leave undone. For every strong man attains to that which a genuine impulse bids him seek. But in the midst of the freedom he had attained Harry suddenly became aware that his freedom was a death and that he stood alone. The world in an uncanny fashion left him in peace. Other men concerned him no longer. He was not even concerned about himself. He began to suffocate slowly in the more and more rarefied atmosphere of remoteness and solitude. For now it was his wish no longer, or his aim, to be alone and independent, but rather his lot and his sentence. The magic wish had been fulfilled and could not be cancelled, and it was no good now to open his arms with longing and goodwill to welcome the bonds of society. People left him alone now. It was not, however, that he was an object of hatred and repugnance. On the contrary, he had many friends. A great many people liked him. But it was no more than sympathy and friendliness. He received invitations, presents, pleasant letters; but no more. No one came near to him. There was no link left, and no one could have had any part in his life even had anyone wished it. For the air of lonely men surrounded him now, a still atmosphere in which the world around him slipped away, leaving him incapable of relationship, an atmosphere against which neither will nor longing availed. This was one of the significant earmarks of his life.

Another was that he was numbered among the suicides. And here it must be said that to call suicides only those who actually destroy themselves is false. Among these, indeed, there are many who in a sense are suicides only by accident and in whose being suicide has no necessary place. Among the common run of men there are many of little personality and, stamped with no deep impress of fate, who find their end in suicide without belonging on that account to the type of the suicide by inclination; while on the other hand, of those who are to be counted as suicides by the very nature of their beings are many, perhaps a majority, who never in fact lay hands on themselves. The "suicide," and Harry was one, need not necessarily live in a peculiarly close relationship to death. One may do this without being a suicide. What is peculiar to the suicide is that his ego, rightly or wrongly, is felt to be an extremely dangerous, dubious, and doomed germ of nature; that he is always in his own eyes exposed to an extraordinary risk, as though he stood with the slightest foothold on the peak of a crag whence a slight push from without or an instant's weakness from within suffices to precipitate him into the void. The line of fate in the case of these men is marked by the belief they have that suicide is their most probable manner of death. It might be presumed that such temperaments, which usually manifest themselves in early youth and persist through life, show a singular defect of vital force. On the contrary, among the "suicides" are to be found unusually tenacious and eager and also hardy natures. But just as there are those who at the least indisposition develop a fever, so do those whom we call suicides, and who are always very emotional and sensitive, develop at the least shock the notion of suicide. Had we a science with the courage and authority to concern itself with mankind, instead of with the mechanism merely of vital phenomena, had we something of the nature of an anthropology, or, a psychology, these matters of fact would be familiar to everyone.

What was said above on the subject of suicides touches obviously nothing but the surface. It is psychology, and, therefore, partly physics. Metaphysically considered, the matter has a different and a much clearer aspect. In this aspect suicides present themselves as those who are overtaken by the sense of guilt inherent in individuals, those souls that find the aim of life not in the perfecting and molding of the self, but in liberating themselves by going back to the mother, back to God, back to the all. Many of these natures are wholly incapable of ever having recourse to real suicide, because they have a profound consciousness of the sin of doing so. For us they are suicides nonetheless; for they see death and not life as the releaser. They are ready to cast themselves away in surrender, to be extinguished and to go back to the beginning.

As every strength may become a weakness (and under some circumstances must) so, on the contrary, may the typical suicide find a strength and a support in his apparent weakness. Indeed, he does so more often than not. The case of Harry, the Steppenwolf, is one of these. As thousands of his like do, he found consolation and support, and not merely the melancholy play of youthful fancy, in the idea that the way to death was open to him at any moment. It is true that with him, as with all men of his kind, every shock, every pain, every untoward predicament at once called forth the wish to find an escape in death. By degrees, however, he fashioned for himself out of this tendency a philosophy that was actually serviceable to life. He gained strength through familiarity with the thought that the emergency exit stood always open, and became curious, too, to taste his suffering to the dregs. If it went too badly with him he could feel sometimes with a grim malicious pleasure: "I am curious to see all the same just how much a man can endure. If the limit of what is bearable is reached, I have only to open the door to escape." There are a great many suicides to whom this thought imparts an uncommon strength.

On the other hand, all suicides have the responsibility of fighting against the temptation of suicide. Every one of them knows very well in some corner of his soul that suicide, though a way out, is rather a mean and shabby one, and that it is nobler and finer to be conquered by life than to fall by one's own hand. Knowing this, with a morbid conscience whose source is much the same as that of the militant conscience of so-called self-contented persons, the majority of suicides are left to a protracted struggle against their temptation. They struggle as the kleptomaniac against his own vice. The Steppenwolf was not unfamiliar with this struggle. He had engaged in it with many a change of weapons. Finally, at the age of forty-seven or thereabouts, a happy and not unhumorous idea came to him from which he often derived some amusement. He appointed his fiftieth birthday as the day on which he might allow himself to take his own life. On this day, according to his mood, so he agreed with himself, it should be open to him to employ the emergency exit or not. Let happen to him what might, illness, poverty, suffering and bitterness, there was a time-limit. It could not extend beyond these few years, months, days whose number daily diminished. And in fact he bore much adversity, which previously would have cost him severer and longer tortures and shaken him perhaps to the roots of his being, very much more easily. When for any reason it went particularly badly with him, when peculiar pains and penalties were added to the desolateness and loneliness and savagery of his life, he could say to his tormentors: "Only wait, two years and I am your master." And with this he cherished the thought of the morning of his fiftieth birthday. Letters of congratulation would arrive, while he, relying on his razor, took leave of all his pains and closed the door behind him. Then gout in the joints, depression of spirits, and all pains of head and body could look for another victim.


It still remains to elucidate the Steppenwolf as an isolated phenomenon, in his relation, for example, to the bourgeois world, so that his symptoms may be traced to their source. Let us take as a starting point, since it offers itself, his relation to the bourgeoisie.

To take his own view of the matter, the Steppenwolf stood entirely outside the world of convention, since he had neither family life nor social ambitions. He felt himself to be single and alone, whether as a queer fellow and a hermit in poor health, or as a person removed from the common run of men by the prerogative of talents that had something of genius in them. Deliberately, he looked down upon the ordinary man and was proud that he was not one. Nevertheless his life in many aspects was thoroughly ordinary. He had money in the bank and supported poor relations. He was dressed respectably and inconspicuously, even though without particular care. He was glad to live on good terms with the police and the tax collectors and other such powers. Besides this, he was secretly and persistently attracted to the little bourgeois world, to those quiet and respectable homes with tidy gardens, irreproachable staircases and their whole modest air of order and comfort. It pleased him to set himself outside it, with his little vices and extravagances, as a queer fellow or a genius, but he never had his domicile in those provinces of life where the bourgeoisie had ceased to exist. He was not at ease with violent and exceptional persons or with criminals and outlaws, and he took up his abode always among the middle classes, with whose habits and standards and atmosphere he stood in a constant relation, even though it might be one of contrast and revolt. Moreover, he had been brought up in a provincial and conventional home and many of the notions and much of the examples of those days had never left him. In theory he had nothing whatever against the servant class, yet in practice it would have been beyond him to take a servant quite seriously as his equal. He was capable of loving the political criminal, the revolutionary or intellectual seducer, the outlaw of state and society, as his brother, but as for theft and robbery, murder and rape, he would not have known how to deplore them otherwise than in a thoroughly bourgeois manner.

In this way he was always recognizing and affirming with one half of himself, in thought and act, what with the other half he fought against and denied. Brought up, as he was, in a cultivated home in the approved manner, he never tore part of his soul loose from its conventionalities even after he had long since individualized himself to a degree beyond its scope and freed himself from the substance of its ideals and beliefs.

Now what we call "bourgeois," when regarded as an element always to be found in human life, is nothing else than the search for a balance. It is the striving after a mean between the countless extremes and opposites that arise in human conduct. If we take any one of these coupled opposites, such as piety and profligacy, the analogy is immediately comprehensible. It is open to a man to give himself up wholly to spiritual views, to seeking after God, to the ideal of saintliness. On the other hand, he can equally give himself up entirely to the life of instinct, to the lusts of the flesh, and so direct all his efforts to the attainment of momentary pleasures. The one path leads to the saint, to the martyrdom of the spirit and surrender to God. The other path leads to the profligate, to the martyrdom of the flesh, the surrender to corruption. Now it is between the two, in the middle of the road, that the bourgeois seeks to walk. He will never surrender himself either to lust or to asceticism. He will never be a martyr or agree to his own destruction. On the contrary, his ideal is not to give up but to maintain his own identity. He strives neither for the saintly nor its opposite. The absolute is his abhorrence. He may be ready to serve God, but not by giving up the fleshpots. He is ready to be virtuous, but likes to be easy and comfortable in this world as well. In short, his aim is to make a home for himself between two extremes in a temperate zone without violent storms and tempests; and in this he succeeds though it be at the cost of that intensity of life and feeling which an extreme life affords. A man cannot live intensely except at the cost of the self. Now the bourgeois treasures nothing more highly than the self (rudimentary as his may be). And so at the cost of intensity he achieves his own preservation and security. His harvest is a quiet mind which he prefers to being possessed by God, as he does comfort to pleasure, convenience to liberty, and a pleasant temperature to that deathly inner consuming fire. The bourgeois is consequently by nature a creature of weak impulses, anxious, fearful of giving himself away and easy to rule. Therefore, he has substituted majority for power, law for force, and the polling booth for responsibility.

It is clear that this weak and anxious being, in whatever numbers he exists, cannot maintain himself, and that qualities such as his can play no other role in the world than that of a herd of sheep among free roving wolves. Yet we see that, though in times when commanding natures are uppermost, the bourgeois goes at once to the wall, he never goes under; indeed at times he even appears to rule the world. How is this possible? Neither, the great numbers of the herd, nor virtue, nor common sense, nor organization could avail to save it from destruction. No medicine in the world can keep a pulse beating that from the outset was so weak. Nevertheless the bourgeoisie prospers. Why?

The answer runs: Because of the Steppenwolves. In fact, the vital force of the bourgeoisie resides by no means in the qualities of its normal members, but in those of its extremely numerous "outsiders" who by virtue of the extensiveness and elasticity of its ideals it can embrace. There is always a large number of strong and wild natures who share the life of the fold. Our Steppenwolf, Harry, is a characteristic example. He who is developed far beyond the level possible to the bourgeois, he who knows the bliss of meditation no less than the gloomy joys of hatred and self-hatred, he who despises law, virtue and common sense, is nevertheless captive to the bourgeoisie and cannot escape it. And so all through the mass of the real bourgeoisie are interposed numerous layers of humanity, many thousands of lives and minds, everyone of whom, it is true, would have outgrown it and have obeyed the call to unconditioned life, were they not fastened to it by sentiments of their childhood and infected for the most part with its less intense life; and so they are kept lingering, obedient and bound by obligation and service. For with the bourgeoisie the opposite of the formula for the great is true: He who is not against me is with me.

If we now pause to test the soul of the Steppenwolf, we find him distinct from the bourgeois in the higher development of his individuality -- for all extreme individuation turns against itself, intent upon its own destruction. We see that he had in him strong impulses both to be a saint and a profligate; and yet he could not, owing to some weakness or inertia, make the plunge into the untrammeled realms of space. The parent constellation of the bourgeoisie binds him with its spell. This is his place in the universe and this his bondage. Most intellectuals and most artists belong to the same type. Only the strongest of them force their way through the atmosphere of the bourgeois earth and attain to the cosmic. The others all resign themselves or make compromises. Despising the bourgeoisie, and yet belonging to it, they add to its strength and glory; for in the last resort they have to share their beliefs in order to live. The lives of these infinitely numerous persons make no claim to the tragic; but they live under an evil star in a quite considerable affliction; and in this hell their talents ripen and bear fruit. The few who break free seek their reward in the unconditioned and go down in splendor. They wear the thorn crown and their number is small. The others, however, who remain in the fold and from whose talents the bourgeoisie reaps much gain, have a third kingdom left open to them, an imaginary and yet a sovereign world, humor. The lone wolves who know no peace, these victims of unceasing pain to whom the urge for tragedy has been denied and who can never break through the starry space, who feel themselves summoned thither and yet cannot survive in its atmosphere -- for them is reserved, provided suffering has made their spirits tough and elastic enough, a way of reconcilement and an escape into humor. Humor has always something bourgeois in it, although the true bourgeois is incapable of understanding it. In its imaginary realm the intricate and many-faceted ideal of all Steppenwolves finds its realization. Here it is possible not only to extol the saint and the profligate in one breath and to make the poles meet, but to include the bourgeois, too, in the same affirmation. Now it is possible to be possessed by God and to affirm the sinner, and vice versa, but it is not possible for either saint or sinner (or for any other of the unconditioned) to affirm as well that lukewarm mean, the bourgeois. Humor alone, that magnificent discovery of those who are cut short in their calling to highest endeavor, those who falling short of tragedy are yet as rich in gifts as in affliction, humor alone (perhaps the most inborn and brilliant achievement of the spirit) attains to the impossible and brings every aspect of human existence within the rays of its prism. To live in the world as though it were not the world, to respect the law and yet to stand above it, to have possessions as though "one possessed nothing," to renounce as though it were no renunciation, all these favorite and often formulated propositions of an exalted worldly wisdom, it is in the power of humor alone to make efficacious.

And supposing the Steppenwolf were to succeed, and he has gifts and resources in plenty, in decocting this magic draught in the sultry mazes of his hell, his rescue would be assured. Yet there is much lacking. The possibility, the hope only are there. Whoever loves him and takes his part may wish him this rescue. It would, it is true, keep him forever tied to the bourgeois world, but his suffering would be bearable and productive. His relation to the bourgeois world would lose its sentimentality both in its love and in its hatred, and his bondage to it would cease 'to cause him the continual torture of shame.

To attain to this, or, perhaps it may be, to be able at last to dare the leap into the unknown, a Steppenwolf must once have a good look at himself. He must look deeply into the chaos of his own soul and plumb its depths. The riddle of his existence would then be revealed to him at once in all its changelessness, and it would be impossible for him ever after to escape first from the hell of the flesh to the comforts of a sentimental philosophy and then back to the blind orgy of his wolfishness. Man and wolf would then be compelled to recognize one another without the masks of false feeling and to look one another straight in the eye. Then they would either explode and separate forever, and there would be no more Steppenwolf, or else they would come to terms in the dawning light of humor.

It is possible that Harry will one day be led to this latter alternative. It is possible that he will learn one day to know himself. He may get hold of one of our little mirrors. He may encounter the Immortals. He may find in one of our magic theaters the very thing that is needed to free his neglected soul. A thousand such possibilities await him. His fate brings them on, leaving him no choice; for those outside of the bourgeoisie live in the atmosphere of these magic possibilities. A mere nothing suffices -- and the lightning strikes.

And all this is very well known to the Steppenwolf, even though his eye may never fall on this fragment of his inner biography. He has a suspicion of his allotted place in the world, a suspicion of the Immortals, a suspicion that he may meet himself face to face; and he is aware of the existence of that mirror in which he has such bitter need to look and from which he shrinks in such deathly fear.

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Re: Steppenwolf, by Hermann Hesse

Postby admin » Sun Jan 31, 2016 9:00 pm

Part 1 of 2


For the close of our study there is left one last fiction, a fundamental delusion to make clear. All interpretation, all psychology, all attempts to make things comprehensible, require the medium of theories, mythologies and lies; and a self-respecting author should not omit, at the close of an exposition, to dissipate these lies so far as may be in his power. If I say "above" or "below," that is already a statement that requires explanation, since an above and a below exist only in thought, only as abstractions. The world itself knows nothing of above or below. So too, to come to the point, is the Steppenwolf a fiction. When Harry feels himself to be a werewolf, and chooses to consist of two hostile and opposed beings, he is merely availing himself of a mythological simplification. He is no werewolf at all, and if we appeared to accept without scrutiny this lie which he invented for himself and believes in, and tried to regard him literally as a two-fold being and a Steppenwolf, and so designated him, it was merely in the hope of being more easily understood with the assistance of a delusion, which we must now endeavor to put in its true light.

The division into wolf and man, flesh and spirit, by means of which Harry tries to make his destiny more comprehensible to himself is a very great simplification. It is a forcing of the truth to suit a plausible, but erroneous, explanation of that contradiction which this man discovers in himself and which appears to himself to be the source of his by no means negligible sufferings. Harry finds in himself a human being, that is to say, a world of thoughts and feelings, of culture and tamed or sublimated nature, and besides this he finds within himself also a wolf, that is to say, a dark world of instinct, of savagery and cruelty, of unsublimated or raw nature. In spite of this apparently clear division of his being between two spheres, hostile to one another, he has known happy moments now and then when the man and the wolf for a short while were reconciled with one another. Suppose that Harry tried to ascertain in any single moment of his life, any single act, what part the man had in it and what part the wolf, he would find himself at once in a dilemma, and his whole beautiful wolf-theory would go to pieces. For there is not a single human being, not even the primitive Negro, not even the idiot, who is so conveniently simple that his being can be explained as the sum of two or three principal elements; and to explain so complex a man as Harry by the artless division into wolf and man is a hopelessly childish attempt. Harry consists of a hundred or a thousand selves, not of two. His life oscillates, as everyone's does, not merely between two poles, such as the body and the spirit, the saint and the sinner, but between thousand and thousands.

We need not be surprised that even so intelligent and educated a man as Harry should take himself for a Steppenwolf and reduce the rich and complex organism of his life to a formula so simple, so rudimentary and primitive. Man is not capable of thought in any high degree, and even the most spiritual and highly cultivated of men habitually sees the world and himself through the lenses of delusive formulas and artless simplifications-and most of all himself. For it appears to be an inborn and imperative need of all men to regard the self as a unit. However often and however grievously this illusion is shattered, it always mends again. The judge who sits over the murderer and looks into his face, and at one moment recognizes all the emotions and potentialities and possibilities of the murderer in his own soul and hears the murderer's voice as his own, is at the next moment one and indivisible as the judge, and scuttles back into the shell of his cultivated self and does his duty and condemns the murderer to death. And if ever the suspicion of their manifold being dawns upon men of unusual powers and of unusually delicate perceptions, so that, as all genius must, they break through the illusion of the unity of the personality and perceive that the self is made up of a bundle of selves, they have only to say so and at once the majority puts them under lock and key, calls science to aid, establishes schizomania and protects humanity from the necessity of hearing the cry of truth from the lips of these unfortunate persons. Why then waste words, why utter a thing that every thinking man accepts as self-evident, when the mere utterance of it is a breach of taste? A man, therefore, who gets so far as making the supposed unity of the self two-fold is already almost a genius, in any case a most exceptional and interesting person. In reality, however, every ego, so far from being a unity is in the highest degree a manifold world, a constellated heaven, a chaos of forms, of states and stages, of inheritances and potentialities. It appears to be a necessity as imperative as eating and breathing for everyone to be forced to regard this chaos as a unity and to speak of his ego as though it were a one-fold and clearly detached and fixed phenomenon. Even the best of us shares the delusion.

The delusion rests simply upon a false analogy. As a body everyone is single, as a soul never. In literature, too, even in its ultimate achievement, we find this customary concern with apparently whole and single personalities. Of all literature up to our days the drama has been the most highly prized by writers and critics, and rightly, since it offers (or might offer) the greatest possibilities of representing the ego as a manifold entity, but for the optical illusion which makes us believe that the characters of the play are one-fold entities by lodging each one in an undeniable body, singly, separately and once and for all. An artless esthetic criticism, then, keeps its highest praise for this so-called character-drama in which each character makes his appearance unmistakably as a separate and single entity. Only from afar and by degrees the suspicion dawns here and there that all this is perhaps a cheap and superficial esthetic philosophy, and that we make a mistake in attributing to our great dramatists those magnificent conceptions of beauty that come to us from antiquity. These conceptions are not native to us, but are merely picked up at second hand, and it is in them, with their common source in the visible body, that the origin of the fiction of an ego, an individual, is really to be found. There is no trace of such a notion in the poems of ancient India. The heroes of the epics of India are not individuals, but whole reels of individualities in a series of incarnations. And in modern times there are poems, in which, behind the veil of a concern with individuality and character that is scarcely, indeed, in the author's mind, the motive is to present a manifold activity of soul. Whoever wishes to recognize this must resolve once and for all not to regard the characters of such a poem as separate beings, but as the various facets and aspects of a higher unity, in my opinion, of the poet's soul. If "Faust" is treated in this way, Faust, Mephistopheles, Wagner and the rest form a unity and a supreme individuality; and it is in this higher unity alone, not in the several characters, that something of the true nature of the soul is revealed. When Faust, in a line immortalized among schoolmasters and greeted with a shudder of astonishment by the Philistine, says: "Two souls, alas, do dwell within my breast!" he has forgotten Mephisto and a whole crowd of other souls that he has in his breast likewise. The Steppenwolf, too, believes that he bears two souls (wolf and man) in his breast and even so finds his breast disagreeably cramped because of them. The breast and the body are indeed one, but the souls that dwell in it are not two, nor five, but countless in number. Man is an onion made up of a hundred integuments, a texture made up of many threads. The ancient Asiatics knew this well enough, and in the Buddhist Yoga an exact technique was devised for unmasking the illusion of the personality. The human merry-go-round sees many changes: the illusion that cost India the efforts of thousands of years to unmask is the same illusion that the West has labored just as hard to maintain and strengthen.

If we consider the Steppenwolf from this standpoint it will be clear to us why he suffered so much under his ludicrous dual personality. He believes, like Faust, that two souls are far too many for a single breast and must tear the breast asunder. They are on the contrary far too few, and Harry does shocking violence to his poor soul when he endeavors to apprehend it by means of so primitive an image. Although he is a most cultivated person, he proceeds like a savage that cannot count further than two. He calls himself part wolf, part man, and with that he thinks he has come to an end and exhausted the matter. With the "man" he packs in everything spiritual and sublimated or even cultivated to be found in himself, and with the wolf all that is instinctive, savage and chaotic. But things are not so simple in life as in our thoughts, nor so rough and ready as in our poor idiotic language; and Harry lies about himself twice over when he employs this niggardly wolf-theory. He assigns, we fear, whole provinces of his soul to the "man" which are a long way from being human, and parts of his being to the wolf that long ago have left the wolf behind.

Like all men Harry believes that he knows very well what man is and yet does not know at all, although in dreams and other states not subject to control he often has his suspicions. If only he might not forget them, but keep them, as far as possible at least, for his own. Man is not by any means of fixed and enduring form (this, in spite of suspicions to the contrary on the part of their wise men, was the ideal of the ancients). He is much more an experiment and a transition. He is nothing else than the narrow and perilous bridge between nature and spirit. His innermost destiny drives him on to the spirit and to God. His innermost longing draws him back to nature, the mother. Between the two forces his life hangs tremulous and irresolute. "Man," whatever people think of him, is never anything more than a temporary bourgeois compromise. Convention rejects and bans certain of the more naked instincts, a little consciousness, morality and debestialization is called for, and a modicum of spirit is not only permitted but even thought necessary. The "man" of this concordat, like every other bourgeois ideal, is a compromise, a timid and artlessly sly experiment, with the aim of cheating both the angry primal mother Nature and the troublesome primal father Spirit of their pressing claims, and of living in a temperate zone between the two of them. For this reason the bourgeois today burns as heretics and hangs as criminals those to whom he erects monuments tomorrow.

That man is not yet a finished creation but rather a challenge of the spirit; a distant possibility dreaded as much as it is desired; that the way towards it has only been covered for a very short distance and with terrible agonies and ecstasies even by those few for whom it is the scaffold today and the monument tomorrow -- all this the Steppenwolf, too, suspected. What, however, he calls the "man" in himself, as opposed to the wolf, is to a great extent nothing else than this very same average man of the bourgeois convention.

As for the way to true manhood, the way to the immortals, he has, it is true, an inkling of it and starts upon it now and then for a few hesitating steps and pays for them with much suffering and many pangs of loneliness. But as for striving with assurance, in response to that supreme demand, towards the genuine manhood of the spirit, and going the one narrow way to immortality, he is deeply afraid of it. He knows too well that it leads to still greater sufferings, to proscription, to the last renunciation, perhaps to the scaffold, and even though the enticement of immortality lies at the journey's end, he is still unwilling to suffer all these sufferings and to die all these deaths. Though the goal of manhood is better known to him than to the bourgeois, still he shuts his eyes. He is resolved to forget that the desperate clinging to the self and the desperate clinging to life are the surest way to eternal death, while the power to die, to strip one's self naked, and the eternal surrender of the self bring immortality with them. When he worships his favorites among the immortals, Mozart, perchance, he always looks at him in the long run through bourgeois eyes. His tendency is to explain Mozart's perfected being, just as a schoolmaster would, as a supreme and special gift rather than as the outcome of his immense powers of surrender and suffering, of his indifference to the ideals of the bourgeois, and of his patience under that last extremity of loneliness which rarefies the atmosphere of the bourgeois world to an ice-cold ether, around those who suffer to become men, that loneliness of the Garden of Gethsemane.

This Steppenwolf of ours has always been aware of at least the Faustian two-fold nature within him. He has discovered that the one-fold of the body is not inhabited by a one-fold of the soul, and that at best he is only at the beginning of a long pilgrimage towards this ideal harmony. He would like either to overcome the wolf and become wholly man or to renounce mankind and at last to live wholly a wolf's life. It may be presumed that he has never carefully watched a real wolf. Had he done so he would have seen, perhaps, that even animals are not undivided in spirit. With them, too, the well-knit beauty of the body hides a being of manifold states and strivings. The wolf, too, has his abysses. The wolf, too, suffers. No, back to nature is a false track that leads nowhere but to suffering and despair. Harry can never turn back again and become wholly wolf, and could he do so he would find that even the wolf is not of primeval simplicity, but already a creature of manifold complexity. Even the wolf has two, and more than two, souls in his wolf's breast, and he who desires to be a wolf falls into the same forgetfulness as the man who sings: "If I could be a child once more!" He who sentimentally sings of blessed childhood is thinking of the return to nature and innocence and the origin of things, and has quite forgotten that these blessed children are beset with conflict and complexities and capable of all suffering.

There is, in fact, no way back either to the wolf or to the child. From the very start there is no innocence and no singleness. Every created thing, even the simplest, is already guilty, already multiple. It has been thrown into the muddy stream of being and may never more swim back again to its source. The way to innocence, to the uncreated and to God leads on, not back, not back to the wolf or to the child, but ever further into sin, ever deeper into human life. Nor will suicide really solve our problem, unhappy Steppenwolf. You will, instead, embark on the longer and wearier and harder road of life. You will have to multiply many times your two-fold being and complicate your complexities still further. Instead of narrowing your world and simplifying your soul, you will have to absorb more and more of the world and at last take all of it up in your painfully expanded soul, if you are ever to find peace. This is the road that Buddha and every great man has gone, whether consciously or not, insofar as fortune favored his quest. All births mean separation from the All, the confinement within limitation, the separation from God, the pangs of being born ever anew. The return into the All, the dissolution of painful individuation, the reunion with God means the expansion of the soul until it is able once more to embrace the All.

We are not dealing here with man as he is known to economics and statistics, as he is seen thronging the streets by the million, and of whom no more account can be made than of the sand of the sea or the spray of its waves. We are not concerned with the few millions less or more. They are a stock-in-trade, nothing else. No, we are speaking of man in the highest sense, of the end of the long road to true manhood, of kingly men, of the immortals. Genius is not so rare as we sometimes think; nor, certainly, so frequent as may appear from history books or, indeed, from the newspapers. Harry has, we should say, genius enough to attempt the quest of true manhood instead of discoursing pitifully about his stupid Steppenwolf at every difficulty encountered.

It is as much a matter for surprise and sorrow that men of such possibilities should fall back on Steppenwolves and "Two souls, alas!" as that they reveal so often that pitiful love for the bourgeoisie. A man who can understand Buddha and has an intuition of the heaven and hell of humanity ought not to live in a world ruled by "common sense" and democracy and bourgeois standards. It is only from cowardice that he lives in it; and when its dimensions are too cramping for him and the bourgeois parlor too confining, he lays it at the wolf's door, and refuses to see that the wolf is as often as not the best part of him. All that is wild in himself he calls wolf and considers it wicked and dangerous and the bugbear of all decent life. He cannot see, even though he thinks himself an artist and possessed of delicate perceptions, that a great deal else exists in him besides and behind the wolf. He cannot see that not all that bites is wolf and that fox, dragon, tiger, ape and bird of paradise are there also. And he cannot see that this whole world, this Eden and its manifestations of beauty and terror, of greatness and meanness, of strength and tenderness is crushed and imprisoned by the wolf legend just as the real man in him is crushed and imprisoned by that sham existence, the bourgeois.

Man designs for himself a garden with a hundred kinds of trees, a thousand kinds of flowers, a hundred kinds of fruit and vegetables. Suppose, then, that the gardener of this garden knew no other distinction than between edible and inedible, nine-tenths of this garden would be useless to him. He would pull up the most enchanting flowers and hew down the noblest trees and even regard them with a loathing and envious eye. This is what the Steppenwolf does with the thousand flowers of his soul. What does not stand classified as either man or wolf he does not see at all. And consider all that he imputes to "man"! All that is cowardly and apish, stupid and meanwhile to the wolf, only because he has not succeeded in making himself its master, is set down all that is strong and noble. Now we bid Harry good-bye and leave him to go on his way alone. Were he already among the immortals -- were he already there at the goal to which his difficult path seems to be taking him, with what amazement he would look back to all this coming and going, all this indecision and wild zig-zag trail. With what a mixture of encouragement and blame, pity and joy, he would smile at this Steppenwolf.


When I had read to the end it came to my mind that some weeks before I had written one night a rather peculiar poem, likewise about the Steppenwolf. I looked for it in the pile of papers on my cluttered writing table, found it, and read:

The Wolf trots to and fro,
The world lies deep in snow,
The raven from the birch tree flies,
But nowhere a hare, nowhere a roe.
The roe -- she is so dear, so sweet
If such a thing I might surprise
In my embrace, my teeth would meet,
What else is there beneath the skies?
The lovely creature I would so treasure,
And feast myself deep on her tender thigh,
I would drink of her red blood full measure,
Then howl till the night went by.
Even a hare I would not despise;
Sweet enough its warm flesh in the night.
Is everything to be denied
That could make life a little bright?
The hair on my brush is getting grey.
The sight is failing from my eyes.
Years ago my dear mate died.
And now I trot and dream of a roe.
I trot and dream of a hare.
I hear the wind of midnight howl.
I cool with the snow my burning jowl,
And on to the devil my wretched soul I bear.

So now I had two portraits of myself before me, one a self-portrait in doggerel verse, as sad and sorry as myself; the other painted with the air of a lofty impartiality by one who stood outside and who knew more and yet less of me than I did myself. And both these pictures of myself, my dispirited and halting poem and the clever study by an unknown hand, equally afflicted me. Both were right. Both gave the unvarnished truth about my shiftless existence. Both showed clearly how unbearable and untenable my situation was. Death was decreed for this Steppenwolf. He must with his own hand make an end of his detested existence -- unless, molten in the fire of a renewed self-knowledge, he underwent a change and passed over to a self, new and undisguised. Alas! this transition was not unknown to me. I had already experienced it several times, and always in periods of utmost despair. On each occasion of this terribly uprooting experience, my self, as it then was, was shattered to fragments. Each time deep-seated powers had shaken and destroyed it; each time there had followed the loss of a cherished and particularly beloved part of my life that was true to me no more. Once, I had lost my profession and livelihood. I had had to forfeit the esteem of those who before had touched their caps to me. Next, my family life fell in ruins over night, when my wife, whose mind was disordered, drove me from house and home. Love and confidence had changed of a sudden to hate and deadly enmity and the neighbors saw me go with pitying scorn. It was then that my solitude had its beginning. Years of hardship and bitterness went by. I had built up the ideal of a new life, inspired by the asceticism of the intellect. I had attained a certain serenity and elevation of life once more, submitting myself to the practice of abstract thought and to a rule of austere meditation. But this mold, too, was broken and lost at one blow all its exalted and noble intent. A whirl of travel drove me afresh over the earth; fresh sufferings were heaped up, and fresh guilt. And every occasion when a mask was torn off, an ideal broken, was preceded by this hateful vacancy and stillness, this deathly constriction and loneliness and unrelatedness, this waste and empty hell of lovelessness and despair, such as I had now to pass through once more.

It is true that every time my life was shattered in this way I had in the end gained something, some increase in liberty and in spiritual growth and depth, but with it went an increased loneliness, an increasing chill of severance and estrangement. Looked at with the bourgeois eye, my life had been a continuous descent from one shattering to the next that left me more remote at every step from all that was normal, permissible and healthful. The passing years had stripped me of my calling, my family, my home. I stood outside all social circles, alone, beloved by none, mistrusted by many, in unceasing and bitter conflict with public opinion and morality; and though I lived in a bourgeois setting, I was all the same an utter stranger to this world in all I thought and felt. Religion, country, family, state, all lost their value and meant nothing to me any more. The pomposity of the sciences, societies, and arts disgusted me. My views and tastes and all that I thought, once the shining adornments of a gifted and sought-after person, had run to seed in neglect and were looked at askance. Granting that I had in the course of all my painful transmutations made some invisible and unaccountable gain, I had had to pay dearly for it; and at every turn my life was harsher, more difficult, lonely and perilous. In truth, I had little cause to wish to continue in that way which led on into ever thinner air, like the smoke in Nietzsche's harvest song.

Oh, yes, I had experienced all these changes and transmutations that fate reserves for her difficult children, her ticklish customers. I knew them only too well. I knew them as well as a zealous but unsuccessful sportsman knows the stands at a shoot; as an old gambler on the Exchange knows each stage of speculation, the scoop, the weakening market, the break and bankruptcy. Was I really to live through all this again? All this torture, all this pressing need, all these glimpses into the paltriness and worthlessness of my own self, the frightful dread lest I succumb, and the fear of death. Wasn't it better and simpler to prevent a repetition of so many sufferings and to quit the stage? Certainly, it was simpler and better. Whatever the truth of all that was said in the little book on the Steppenwolf about "suicides," no one could forbid me the satisfaction of invoking the aid of coal gas or a razor or revolver, and so sparing myself this repetition of a process whose bitter agony I had had to drink often enough, surely, and to the dregs. No, in all conscience, there was no power in the world that could prevail with me to go through the mortal terror of another encounter with myself, to face another reorganization, a new incarnation, when at the end of the road there was no peace or quiet -- but forever destroying the self, in order to renew the self. Let suicide be as stupid, cowardly, shabby as you please, call it an infamous and ignominious escape; still, any escape, even the most ignominious, from this treadmill of suffering was the only thing to wish for. No stage was left for the noble and heroic heart. Nothing was left but the simple choice between a slight and swift pang and an unthinkable, a devouring and endless suffering. I had played Don Quixote often enough in my difficult, crazed life, had put honor before comfort, and heroism before reason. There was an end of it!

Daylight was dawning through the window panes, the leaden, infernal daylight of a rainy winter's day, when at last I got to bed. I took my resolution to bed with me. At the very last, however, on the last verge of consciousness in the moment of falling asleep, the remarkable passage in the Steppenwolf pamphlet which deals with the immortals flashed through me. With it came the enchanting recollection that several times, the last quite recently, I had felt near enough to the immortals to share in one measure of old music their cool, bright, austere and yet smiling wisdom. The memory of it soared, shone out, then died away; and heavy as a mountain, sleep descended on my brain.

I woke about midday, and at once the situation, as I had disentangled it, came back to me. There lay the little book on my night stand, and my poem. My resolution, too, was there. After the night's sleep it had taken shape and looked at me out of the confusion of my youth with a calm and friendly greeting. Haste makes no speed. My resolve to die was not the whim of an hour. It was the ripe, sound fruit that had grown slowly to full size, lightly rocked by the winds of fate whose next breath would bring it to the ground.

I had in my medicine chest an excellent means of stilling pain -- an unusually strong tincture of laudanum. I indulged very rarely in it and often refrained from using it for months at a time. I had recourse to the drug only when physical pain plagued me beyond endurance. Unfortunately, it was of no use in putting an end to myself. I had proved this some years before. Once when despair had again got the better of me I had swallowed a big dose of it -- enough to kill six men, and yet it had not killed me. I fell asleep, it is true, and lay for several hours completely stupefied; but then to my frightful disappointment I was half awakened by violent convulsions of the stomach and fell asleep once more. It was the middle of the next day when I woke up in earnest in a state of dismal sobriety. My empty brain was burning and I had almost lost my memory. Apart from a spell of insomnia and severe pains in the stomach no trace of the poison was left.

This expedient, then, was no good. But I put my resolution in this way: the next time I felt that I must have recourse to the opium, I might allow myself to use big means instead of small, that is, a death of absolute certainty with a bullet or a razor. Then I could be sure. As for waiting till my fiftieth birthday, as the little book wittily prescribed -- this seemed to me much too long a delay. There were still two years till then. Whether it were a year hence or a month, were it even the following day, the door stood open.

I cannot say that the resolution altered my life very profoundly. It made me a little more indifferent to my afflictions, a little freer in the use of opium and wine, a little more inquisitive to know the limits of endurance, but that was all. The other experiences of that evening had a stronger after-effect. I read the Steppenwolf treatise through again many times, now submitting gratefully to an invisible magician because of his wise conduct of my destiny, now with scorn and contempt for its futility, and the little understanding it showed of my actual disposition and predicament. All that was written there of Steppenwolves and suicides was very good, no doubt, and very clever. It might do for the species, the type; but it was too wide a mesh to catch my own individual soul, my unique and unexampled destiny.

What, however, occupied my thoughts more than all else was the hallucination, or vision, of the church wall. The announcement made by the dancing illuminated letters promised much that was hinted at in the treatise, and the voices of that strange world had powerfully aroused my curiosity. For hours I pondered deeply over them. On these occasions I was more and more impressed by the warning of that inscription -- "Not for everybody!" and "For madmen only!" Madman, then, I must certainly be and far from the mold of "everybody" if those voices reached me and that world spoke to me. In heaven's name, had I not long ago been remote from the life of everybody and from normal thinking and normal existence? Had I not long ago given ample margin to isolation and madness? All the same, I understood the summons well enough in my innermost heart. Yes, I understood the invitation to madness and the jettison of reason and the escape from the clogs of convention in surrender to the unbridled surge of spirit and fantasy.

One day after I had made one more vain search through streets and squares for the man with the signboard and prowled several times past the wall of the invisible door with watchful eye, I met a funeral procession in St. Martin's. While I was contemplating the faces of the mourners who followed the hearse with halting step, I thought to myself, "Where in this town or in the whole world is the man whose death would be a loss to me? And where is the man to whom my death would mean anything?" There was Erica, it is true, but for a long while we had lived apart. We rarely saw one another without quarreling and at the moment I did not even know her address. She came to see me now and then, or I made the journey to her, and since both of us were lonely, difficult people related somehow to one another in soul, and sickness of soul, there was a link between us that held in spite of all. But would she not perhaps breathe more freely if she heard of my death? I did not know. I did not know either how far my own feeling for her was to be relied upon. To know anything of such matters one needs to live in a world of practical possibilities.

Meanwhile, obeying my fancy, I had fallen in at the rear of the funeral procession and jogged along behind the mourners to the cemetery, an up-to-date set-up all of concrete, complete with crematorium and what not. The deceased in question was not however to be cremated. His coffin was set down before a simple hole in the ground, and I saw the clergyman and the other vultures and functionaries of a burial establishment going through their performances, to which they endeavored to give all the appearance of great ceremony and sorrow and with such effect that they outdid themselves and from pure acting they got caught in their own lies and ended by being comic. I saw how their black professional robes fell in folds, and what pains they took to work up the company of mourners and to force them to bend the knee before the majesty of death. It was labor in vain. Nobody wept. The deceased did not appear to have been indispensable. Nor could anyone be talked into a pious frame of mind; and when the clergyman addressed the company repeatedly as "dear fellow-Christians," all the silent faces of these shop people and master bakers and their wives were turned down in embarrassment and expressed nothing but the wish that this uncomfortable function might soon be over. When the end came, the two foremost of the fellow-Christians shook the clergyman's hand, scraped the moist clay in which the dead had been laid from their shoes at the next scraper and without hesitation their faces again showed their natural expression; and then it was that one of them seemed suddenly familiar. It was, so it seemed to me, the man who had carried the signboard and thrust the little book into my hands.

At the moment when I thought I recognized him he stopped and, stooping down, carefully turned up his black trousers, and then walked away at a smart pace with his umbrella clipped under his arm. I walked after him, but when I overtook him and gave him a nod, he did not appear to recognize me.

"Is there no show tonight?" I asked with an attempt at a wink such as two conspirators give each other. But it was long ago that such pantomime was familiar to me. Indeed, living as I did, I had almost lost the habit of speech, and I felt myself that I only made a silly grimace.

"Show tonight?" he growled, and looked at me as though he had never set eyes on me before. "Go to the Black Eagle, man, if that's what you want."

And, in fact, I was no longer certain it was he. I was disappointed and feeling the disappointment I walked on aimlessly. I had no motives, no incentives to exert myself, no duties. Life tasted horribly bitter. I felt that the long-standing disgust was coming to a crisis and that life pushed me out and cast me aside. I walked through the grey streets in a rage and everything smelt of moist earth and burial. I swore that none of these death-vultures should stand at my grave, with cassock and sentimental Christian murmurings. Ah, look where I might and think what I might, there was no cause for rejoicing and nothing beckoned me. There was nothing to charm me or tempt me. Everything was old, withered, grey, limp and spent, and stank of staleness and decay. Dear God, how was it possible? How had I, with the wings of youth and poetry, come to this? Art and travel and the glow of ideals -- and now this! How had this paralysis crept over me so slowly and furtively, this hatred against myself and everybody, this deep-seated anger and obstruction of all feelings, this filthy hell of emptiness and despair.

Passing by the Library I met a young professor of whom in earlier years I used occasionally to see a good deal. When I last stayed in the town, some years before, I had even been several times to his house to talk Oriental mythology, a study in which I was then very much interested. He came in my direction walking stiffly and with a short-sighted air and only recognized me at the last moment as I was passing by. In my lamentable state I was half-thankful for the cordiality with which he threw himself on me. His pleasure in seeing me became quite lively as he recalled the talks we had had together and assured me that he owed a great deal to the stimulus they had given him and that he often thought of me. He had rarely had such stimulating and productive discussions with any colleague since. He asked how long I had been in the town (I lied and said "a few days") and why I had not looked him up. The learned man held me with his friendly eye and, though I really found it all ridiculous, I could not help enjoying these crumbs of warmth and kindliness, and was lapping them up like a starved dog. Harry, the Steppenwolf, was moved to a grin. Saliva collected in his parched throat and against his will he bowed down to sentiment. Yes, zealously piling lie upon lie, I said that I was only here in passing, for the purpose of research, and should of course have paid him a visit but that I had not been feeling very fit. And when he went on to invite me very heartily to spend the evening with him, I accepted with thanks and sent my greetings to his wife, until my cheeks fairly ached with the unaccustomed efforts of all these forced smiles and speeches. And while I, Harry Haller, stood there in the street, flattered and surprised and studiously polite and smiling into the good fellow's kindly, short-sighted face, there stood the other Harry, too, at my elbow and grinned likewise. He stood there and grinned as he thought what a funny, crazy, dishonest fellow I was to show my teeth in rage and curse the whole world one moment and, the next, to be falling all over myself in the eagerness of my response to the first amiable greeting of the first good honest fellow who came my way, to be wallowing like a suckling-pig in the luxury of a little pleasant feeling and friendly esteem. Thus stood the two Harrys, neither playing a very pretty part, over against the worthy professor, mocking one another, watching one another, and spitting at one another, while as always in such predicaments, the eternal question presented itself whether all this was simple stupidity and human frailty, a common depravity, or whether this sentimental egoism and perversity, this slovenliness and two-facedness of feeling was merely a personal idiosyncrasy of the Steppenwolves. And if this nastiness was common to men in general, I could rebound from it with renewed energy into hatred of all the world, but if it was a personal frailty, it was good occasion for an orgy of hatred of myself.

While my two selves were thus locked in conflict, the professor was almost forgotten; and when the oppressiveness of his presence came suddenly back to me, I made haste to be relieved of it. I looked after him for a long while as he disappeared into the distance along the leafless avenue with the good-natured and slightly comic gait of an ingenuous idealist. Within me, the battle raged furiously. Mechanically I bent and unbent my stiffened fingers as though to fight the ravages of a secret poison, and at the same time had to realize that I had been nicely framed. Round my neck was the invitation for 8:30, with all its obligations of politeness, of talking shop and of contemplating another's domestic bliss. And so home -- in wrath. Once there, I poured myself out some brandy and water, swallowed some of my gout pills with it, and, lying on the sofa, tried to read. No sooner had I succeeded in losing myself for a moment in Sophia's Journey from Memel to Saxony, a delightful old book of the eighteenth century, than the invitation came over me of a sudden and reminded me that I was neither shaved nor dressed. Why, in heaven's name, had I brought all this on myself? Well, get up, so I told myself, lather yourself, scrape your chin till it bleeds, dress and show an amiable disposition towards your fellow-men. And while I lathered my face, I thought of that sordid hole in the clay of the cemetery into which some unknown person had been lowered that day. I thought of the pinched faces of the bored fellow-Christians and I could not even laugh. There in that sordid hole in the clay, I thought, to the accompaniment of stupid and insincere ministrations and the no less stupid and insincere demeanor of the group of mourners, in the discomforting sight of all the metal crosses and marble slabs and artificial flowers of wire and glass, ended not only that unknown man, and, tomorrow or the day after, myself as well, buried in the soil with a hypocritical show of sorrow -- no, there and so ended everything; all our striving, all our culture, all our beliefs, all our joy and pleasure in life -- already sick and soon to be buried there too. Our whole civilization was a cemetery where Jesus Christ and Socrates, Mozart and Haydn, Dante and Goethe were but the indecipherable names on moldering stones; and the mourners who stood round affecting a pretence of sorrow would give much to believe in these inscriptions which once were holy, or at least to utter one heartfelt word of grief and despair about this world that is no more. And nothing was left them but the embarrassed grimaces of a company round a grave. As I raged on like this I cut my chin in the usual place and had to apply a caustic to the wound; and even so there was my clean collar, scarce put on, to change again, and all this for an invitation that did not give me the slightest pleasure. And yet a part of me began play-acting again, calling the professor a sympathetic fellow, yearning after a little talk and intercourse with my fellow men, reminding me of the professor's pretty wife, prompting me to believe that an evening spent with my pleasant host and hostess would be in reality positively cheering, helping me to clap some court plaster to my chin, to put on my clothes and tie my tie well, and gently putting me, in fact, far from my genuine desire of staying at home. Whereupon it occurred to me -- so it is with everyone. Just as I dress and go out to visit the professor and exchange a few more or less insincere compliments with him, without really wanting to at all, so it is with the majority of men day by day and hour by hour in their daily lives and affairs. Without really wanting to at all, they pay calls and carry on conversations, sit out their hours at desks and on office chairs; and it is all compulsory, mechanical and against the grain, and it could all be done or left undone just as well by machines; and indeed it is this never-ceasing machinery that prevents their being, like me, the critics of their own lives and recognizing the stupidity and shallowness, the hopeless tragedy and waste of the lives they lead, and the awful ambiguity grinning over it all. And they are right, right a thousand times to live as they do, playing their games and pursuing their business, instead of resisting the dreary machine and staring into the void as I do, who have left the track. Let no one think that I blame other men, though now and then in these pages I scorn and even deride them, or that I accuse them of the responsibility of my personal misery. But now that I have come so far, and standing as I do on the extreme verge of life where the ground falls away before me into bottomless darkness, I should do wrong and I should lie if I pretended to myself or to others that that machine still revolved for me and that I was still obedient to the eternal child's play of that charming world.
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Re: Steppenwolf, by Hermann Hesse

Postby admin » Sun Jan 31, 2016 9:00 pm

Part 2 of 2

On all this the evening before me afforded a remarkable commentary. I paused a moment in front of the house and looked up at the windows. There he lives, I thought, and carries on his labors year by year, reads and annotates texts, seeks for analogies between western Asiatic and Indian mythologies, and it satisfies him, because he believes in the value of it all. He believes in the studies whose servant he is; he believes in the value of mere knowledge and its acquisition, because he believes in progress and evolution. He has not been through the war, nor is he acquainted with the shattering of the foundations of thought by Einstein (that, thinks he, only concerns the mathematicians). He sees nothing of the preparations for the next war that are going on all round him. He hates Jews and Communists. He is a good, unthinking, happy child, who takes himself seriously; and, in fact, he is much to be envied. And so, pulling myself together, I entered the house. A maid in cap and apron opened the door. Warned by some premonition, I noticed with care where she laid my hat and coat, and was then shown into a warm and well-lighted room and requested to wait. Instead of saying a prayer or taking a nap, I followed a wayward impulse and picked up the first thing I saw. It chanced to be a small picture in a frame that stood on the round table leaning back on its paste-board support. It was an engraving and it represented the poet Goethe as an old man full of character, with a finely chiseled face and a genius' mane. Neither the renowned fire of his eyes nor the lonely and tragic expression beneath the courtly whitewash was lacking. To this the artist had given special care, and he had succeeded in combining the elemental force of the old man with a somewhat professional make-up of self-discipline and righteousness, without prejudice to his profundity; and had made of him, all in all, a really charming old gentleman, fit to adorn any drawing room. No doubt this portrait was no worse than others of its description. It was much the same as all those representations by careful craftsmen of saviors, apostles, heroes, thinkers and statesmen. Perhaps I found it exasperating only because of a certain pretentious virtuosity. In any case, and whatever the cause, this empty and self-satisfied presentation of the aged Goethe shrieked at me at once as a fatal discord, exasperated and oppressed as I was already. It told me that I ought never to have come. Here fine Old Masters and the Nation's Great Ones were at home, not Steppenwolves.

If only the master of the house had come in now, I might have had the luck to find some favorable opportunity for finding my way out. As it was, his wife came in, and I surrendered to fate though I scented danger. We shook hands and to the first discord there succeeded nothing but new ones. The lady complimented me on my looks, though I knew only too well how sadly the years had aged me since our last meeting. The clasp of her hand on my gouty fingers had reminded me of it already. Then she went on to ask after my dear wife, and I had to say that my wife had left me and that we were divorced. We were glad enough when the professor came in. He too gave me a hearty welcome and the awkward comedy came to a beautiful climax. He was holding a newspaper to which he subscribed, an organ of the militarist and jingoist party, and after shaking hands he pointed to it and commented on a paragraph about a namesake of mine-a publicist called Haller, a bad fellow and a rotten patriot -- who had been making fun of the Kaiser and expressing the view that his own country was no less responsible for the outbreak of war than the enemy nations. There was a man for you! The editor had given him his deserts and put him in the pillory. However, when the professor saw that I was not interested, he passed to other topics, and the possibility that this horrid fellow might be sitting in front of them did not even remotely occur to either of them. Yet so it was, I myself was that horrid fellow. Well, why make a fuss and upset people? I laughed to myself, but gave up all hope now of a pleasant evening.

I have a clear recollection of the moment when the professor spoke of Haller as a traitor to his country. It was then that the horrid feeling of depression and despair which had been mounting in me and growing stronger and stronger ever since the burial scene condensed to a dreary dejection. It rose to the pitch of a bodily anguish, arousing within me a dread and suffocating foreboding. I had the feeling that something lay in wait for me, that a danger stalked me from behind. Fortunately the announcement that dinner was on the table supervened. We went into the dining room, and while I racked my brains again and again for something harmless to say, I ate more than I was accustomed to do and felt myself growing more wretched with every moment. Good heavens, I thought all the while, why do we put ourselves to such exertions? I felt distinctly that my hosts were not at their ease either and that their liveliness was forced, whether it was that I had a paralyzing effect on them or because of some other and domestic embarrassment. There was not a question they put to me that I could answer frankly, and I was soon fairly entangled in my lies and wrestling with my nausea at every word. At last, for the sake of changing the subject, I began to tell them of the funeral which I had witnessed earlier in the day. But I could not hit the right note. My efforts at humor fell entirely flat and we were more than ever at odds. Within me the Steppenwolf bared his teeth in a grin. By the time we had reached dessert, silence had descended on all three of us.

We went back to the room we had come from to invoke the aid of coffee and cognac. There, however, my eye fell once more on the magnate of poetry, although he had been put on a chest of drawers at one side of the room. Unable to get away from him, I took him once more in my hands, though warning voices were plainly audible, and proceeded to attack him. I was as though obsessed by the feeling that the situation was intolerable and that the time had come either to warm my hosts up, to carry them off their feet and put them in tune with myself, or else to bring about a final explosion.

"Let us hope," said I, "that Goethe did not really look like this. This conceited air of nobility, the great man ogling the distinguished company, and beneath the manly exterior what a world of charming sentimentality! Certainly, there is much to be said against him. I have a good deal against his venerable pomposity myself. But to represent him like this -- no, that is going too far."

The lady of the house finished pouring out the coffee with a deeply wounded expression and then hurriedly left the room; and her husband explained to me with mingled embarrassment and reproach that the picture of Goethe belonged to his wife and was one of her dearest possessions. "And even if, objectively speaking, you are right, though I don't agree with you, you need not have been so outspoken."

"There you are right," I admitted. "Unfortunately it is a habit, a vice of mine, always to speak my mind as much as possible, as indeed Goethe did, too, in his better moments. In his chaste drawing-room Goethe would certainly never have allowed himself to use an outrageous, a genuine and unqualified expression. I sincerely beg your wife's pardon and your own. Tell her, please, that I am a schizomaniac. And now, if you will allow me, I will take my leave."

To this he made objections in spite of his perplexity. He even went back to the subject of our former discussions and said once more how interesting and stimulating they had been and how deep an impression my theories about Mithras and Krishna had made on him at the time. He had hoped that the present occasion would have been an opportunity to renew these discussions. I thanked him for speaking as he did. Unfortunately, my interest in Krishna had vanished and also my pleasure in learned discussions. Further, I had told him several lies that day. For example, I had been many months in the town, and not a few days, as I had said. I lived, however, quite by myself, and was no longer fit for decent society; for in the first place, I was nearly always in a bad temper and afflicted with the gout, and in the second place, usually drunk. Lastly, to make a clean slate, and not to go away, at least, as a liar, it was my duty to inform him that he had grievously insulted me that evening. He had endorsed the attitude taken up by a reactionary paper towards Haller's opinions; a stupid bull-necked paper, fit for an officer on half-pay, not for a man of learning. This bad fellow and rotten patriot, Haller, however, and myself were one and the same person, and it would be better for our country and the world in general, if at least the few people who were capable of thought stood for reason and the love of peace instead of heading wildly with a blind obsession for a new war. And so I would bid him good-bye.

With that I got up and took leave of Goethe and of the professor. I seized my hat and coat from the rack outside and left the house. The wolf in me howled in gleeful triumph, and a dramatic struggle between my two selves followed. For it was at once clear to me that this disagreeable evening had much more significance for me than for the indignant professor. For him, it was a disillusionment and a petty outrage. For me, it was a final failure and flight. It was my leave-taking from the respectable, moral and learned world, and a complete triumph for the Steppenwolf. I was sent flying and beaten from the field, bankrupt in my own eyes, dismissed without a shred of credit or a ray of humor to comfort me. I had taken leave of the world in which I had once found a home, the world of convention and culture, in the manner of the man with a weak stomach who has given up pork. In a rage I went on my way beneath the street lamps, in a rage and sick unto death. What a hideous day of shame and wretchedness it had been from morning to night, from the cemetery to the scene with the professor. For what? And why ? Was there any sense in taking up the burden of more such days as this or of sitting out any more such suppers? There was not. This very night I would make an end of the comedy, go home and cut my throat. No more tarrying.

I paced the streets in all directions, driven on by wretchedness. Naturally it was stupid of me to bespatter the drawing-room ornaments of the worthy folk, stupid and ill-mannered, but I could not help it; and even now I could not help it. I could not bear this tame, lying, well-mannered life any longer. And since it appeared that I could not bear my loneliness any longer either, since my own company had become so unspeakably hateful and nauseous, since I struggled for breath in a vacuum and suffocated in hell, what way out was left me? There was none. I thought of my father and mother, of the sacred flame of my youth long extinct, of the thousand joys and labors and aims of my life. Nothing of them all was left me, not even repentance, nothing but agony and nausea. Never had the clinging to mere life seemed so grievous as now.

I rested a moment in a tavern in an outlying part of the town and drank some brandy and water; then to the streets once more, with the devil at my heels, up and down the steep and winding streets of the Old Town, along the avenues, across the station square. The thought of going somewhere took me into the station. I scanned the time tables on the walls; drank some wine and tried to come to my senses. Then the specter that I went in dread of came nearer, till I saw it plain. It was the dread of returning to my room and coming to a halt there, faced by my despair. There was no escape from this moment though I walked the streets for hours. Sooner or later I should be at my door, at the table with my books, on the sofa with the photograph of Erica above it. Sooner or later the moment would come to take out my razor and cut my throat. More and more plainly the picture rose before me. More and more plainly, with a wildly beating heart, I felt the dread of all dreads, the fear of death. Yes, I was horribly afraid of death. Although I saw no other way out, although nausea, agony and despair threatened to engulf me; although life had no allurement and nothing to give me either of joy or hope, I shuddered all the same with an unspeakable horror of a gaping wound in a condemned man's flesh.

I saw no other way of escape from this dreadful specter. Suppose that today cowardice won a victory over despair, tomorrow and each succeeding day I would again face despair heightened by self-contempt. It was merely taking up and throwing down the knife till at last it was done. Better today then. I reasoned with myself as though with a frightened child. But the child would not listen. It ran away. It wanted to live. I renewed my fitful wanderings through the town, making many detours not to return to the house which I had always in my mind and always deferred. Here and there I came to a stop and lingered, drinking a glass or two, and then, as if pursued, ran around in a circle whose center had the razor as a goal, and meant death. Sometimes from utter weariness I sat on a bench, on a fountain's rim, or a curbstone and wiped the sweat from my forehead and listened to the beating of my heart. Then on again in mortal dread and an intense yearning for life.

Thus it was I found myself late at night in a distant and unfamiliar part of the town; and there I went into a public house from which there came the lively sound of dance music. Over the entrance as I went in I read "The Black Eagle" on the old signboard. Within I found it was a free night -- crowds, smoke, the smell of wine, and the clamor of voices, with dancing in a room at the back, whence issued the frenzy of music. I stayed in the nearer room where there were none but simple folk, some of them poorly dressed, whereas behind in the dance hall fashionable people were also to be seen. Carried forward by the crowd, I soon found myself near the bar, wedged against a table at which sat a pale and pretty girl against the wall. She wore a thin dance-frock cut very low and a withered flower in her hair. She gave me a friendly and observant look as I came up and with a smile moved to one side to make room for me.

"May I?" I asked and sat down beside her.

"Of course, you may," she said. "But who are you?"

"Thanks," I replied. "I cannot possibly go home, cannot, cannot. I'll stay here with you if you'll let me. No, I can't go back home."

She nodded as though to humor me, and as she nodded I observed the curl that fell from her temple to her ear, and I saw that the withered flower was a camellia. From within crashed the music and at the buffet the waitresses hurriedly shouted their orders.

"Well, stay here then," she said with a voice that comforted me. "Why can't you go home?"

"I can't. There's something waiting for me there. No, I can't -- it's too frightful."

"Let it wait then and stay here. First wipe your glasses. You can see nothing like that. Give me your handkerchief. What shall we drink? Burgundy?"

While she wiped my glasses, I had the first clear impression of her pale, firm face, with its clear grey eyes and smooth forehead, and the short, tight curl in front of her ear. Good-naturedly and with a touch of mockery she began to take me in hand. She ordered the wine, and as she clinked her glass with mine, her eyes fell on my shoes.

"Good Lord, wherever have you come from? You look as though you had come from Paris on foot. That's no state to come to a dance in."

I answered "yes" and "no," laughed now and then, and let her talk. I found her charming, very much to my surprise, for I had always avoided girls of her kind and regarded them with suspicion. And she treated me exactly in the way that was best for me at that moment, and so she has since without an exception. She took me under her wing just as I needed, and mocked me, too, just as I needed. She ordered me a sandwich and told me to eat it. She filled my glass and bade me sip it and not drink too fast. Then she commended my docility.

"That's fine," she said to encourage me. "You 're not difficult. I wouldn't mind betting it's a long while since you have had to obey anyone."

"You'd win the bet. How did you know it?"

"Nothing in that. Obeying is like eating and drinking. There's nothing like it if you've been without it too long. Isn't it so, you're glad to do as I tell you?"

"Very glad. You know everything."

"You make it easy to. Perhaps, my friend, I could tell you, too, what it is that's waiting for you at home and what you dread so much. But you know that for yourself. We needn't talk about it, eh? Silly business! Either a man goes and hangs himself, and then he hangs sure enough, and he'll have his reasons for it, or else he goes on living and then he has only living to bother himself with. Simple enough."

"Oh," I cried, "if only it were so simple. I've bothered myself enough with life, God knows, and little use it has been to me. To hang oneself is hard, perhaps. I don't know. But to live is far, far harder. God, how hard it is!"

"You'll see it's child's play. We've made a start already. You've polished your glasses, eaten something and had a drink. Now we'll go and give your shoes and trousers a brush and then you'll dance a shimmy with me."

"Now that shows," I cried in a fluster, "that I was right! Nothing could grieve me more than not to be able to carry out any command of yours, but I can dance no shimmy, nor waltz, nor polka, nor any of the rest of them. I've never danced in my life. Now you can see it isn't all as easy as you think."

Her bright red lips smiled and she firmly shook her waved and shingled head; and as I looked at her, I thought I could see a resemblance to Rosa Kreisler, with whom I had been in love as a boy. But she had a dark complexion and dark hair. I could not tell of whom it was she reminded me. I knew only that it was of someone in my early youth and boyhood.

"Wait a bit," she cried. "So you can't dance? Not at all? Not even a one step? And yet you talk of the trouble you've taken to live? You told a fib there, my boy, and you shouldn't do that at your age. How can you say that you've taken any trouble to live when you won't even dance?"

"But if I can't -- I've never learned!"

She laughed.

"But you learned reading and writing and arithmetic, I suppose, and French and Latin and a lot of other things? I don't mind betting you were ten or twelve years at school and studied whatever else you could as well. Perhaps you've even got your doctor's degree and know Chinese or Spanish. Am I right ? Very well then. But you couldn't find the time and money for a few dancing lessons! No, indeed!"

"It was my parents," I said to justify myself. "They let me learn Latin and Greek and all the rest of it. But they didn't let me learn to dance. It wasn't the thing with us. My parents had never danced themselves."

She looked at me quite coldly, with real contempt, and again something in her face reminded me of my youth.

"So your parents must take the blame then. Did you ask them whether you might spend the evening at the Black Eagle? Did you? They're dead a long while ago, you say? So much for that. And now supposing you were too obedient to learn to dance when you were young (though I don't believe you were such a model child), what have you been doing with yourself all these years?"

"Well," I confessed, "I scarcely know myself -- studied, played music, read books, written books, traveled -- "

"Fine views of life, you have. You have always done the difficult and complicated things and the simple ones you haven't even learned. No time, of course. More amusing things to do. Well, thank God, I'm not your mother. But to do as you do and then say you've tested life to the bottom and found nothing in it is going a bit too far."

"Don't scold me," I implored. "It isn't as if I didn't know I was mad."

"Oh, don't make a song of your sufferings. You are no madman, Professor. You're not half mad enough to please me. It seems to me you're much too clever in a silly way, just like a professor. Have another roll. You can tell me some more later."

She got another roll for me, put a little salt and mustard on it, cut a piece for herself and told me to eat it. I did all she told me except dance. It did me a prodigious lot of good to do as I was told and to have some one sitting by me who asked me things and ordered me about and scolded me. If the professor or his wife had done so an hour or two earlier, it would have spared me a lot. But no, it was well as it was. I should have missed much.

"What's your name? " she asked suddenly.


"Harry? A babyish sort of name. And a baby you are, Harry, in spite of your few grey hairs. You're a baby and you need some one to look after you. I'll say no more of dancing. But look at your hair! Have you no wife, no sweetheart?"

"I haven't a wife any longer. We are divorced. A sweetheart, yes, but she doesn't live here. I don't see her very often. We don't get on very well."

She whistled softly.

"You must be difficult if nobody sticks to you. But now tell me what was up in particular this evening? What sent you chasing round out of your wits? Down on your luck? Lost at cards?"

This was not easy to explain.

"Well," I began, "you see, it was really a small matter. I had an invitation to dinner with a professor -- I'm not one myself, by the way -- and really I ought not to have gone. I've lost the habit of being in company and making conversation. I've forgotten how it's done. As soon as I entered the house I had the feeling something would go wrong, and when I hung my hat on the peg I thought to myself that perhaps I should want it sooner than I expected. Well, at the professor's there was a picture that stood on the table, a stupid picture. It annoyed me -- "

"What sort of picture? Annoyed you -- why?" she broke in.

"Well, it was a picture representing Goethe, the poet Goethe, you know. But it was not in the least as he really looked. That, of course, nobody can know exactly. He has been dead a hundred years. However, some artist of today had painted his portrait as he imagined him to have been and prettified him, and this picture annoyed me. It made me perfectly sick. I don't know whether you can understand that."

"I understand all right. Don't you worry. Go on."

"Before this in any case I didn't see eye to eye with the professor. Like nearly all professors, he is a great patriot, and during the war did his bit in the way of deceiving the public, with the best intentions, of course. I, however, am opposed to war. But that's all one. To continue my story, there was not the least need for me to look at the picture -- "

"Certainly not."

"But in the first place it made me sorry because of Goethe, whom I love very dearly, and then, besides, I thought -- well, I had better say just how I thought, or felt. There I was, sitting with people as one of themselves and believing that they thought of Goethe as I did and had the same picture of him in their minds as I, and there stood that tasteless, false and sickly affair and they thought it lovely and had not the least idea that the spirit of that picture and the spirit of Goethe were exact opposites. They thought the picture splendid, and so they might for all I cared, but for me it ended, once and for all, any confidence, any friendship, any feeling of affinity I could have for these people. In any case, my friendship with them did not amount to very much. And so I got furious, and sad, too, when I saw that I was quite alone with no one to understand me. Do you see what I mean?"

"It is very easy to see. And next? Did you throw the picture at them?"

"No, but I was rather insulting and left the house. I wanted to go home, but -- "

"But you'd have found no mummy there to comfort the silly baby or scold it. I must say, Harry, you make me almost sorry for you. I never knew such a baby."

So it seemed to me, I must own. She gave me a glass of wine to drink. In fact, she was like a mother to me. In a glimpse, though, now and then I saw how young and beautiful she was.

"And so," she began again, "Goethe has been dead a hundred years, and you're very fond of him, and you have a wonderful picture in your head of what he must have looked like, and you have the right to, I suppose. But the artist who adores Goethe too, and makes a picture of him, has no right to do it, nor the professor either, nor anybody else -- because you don't like it. You find it intolerable. You have to be insulting and leave the house. If you had sense, you would laugh at the artist and the professor -- laugh and be done with it. If you were out of your senses, you'd smash the picture in their faces. But as you're only a little baby, you run home and want to hang yourself. I've understood your story very well, Harry. It's a funny story. You make me laugh. But don't drink so fast. Burgundy should be sipped. Otherwise you'll get hot. But you have to be told everything -- like a little child."

She admonished me with the look of a severe governess of sixty.

"Oh, I know," I said contentedly. "Only tell me everything."

"What shall I tell you?"

"Whatever you feel like telling me."

"Good. Then I'll tell you something. For an hour I've been saying 'thou' to you, and you have been saying 'you' to me. Always Latin and Greek, always as complicated as possible. When a girl addresses you intimately and she isn't disagreeable to you, then you should address her in the same way. So now you've learned something. And secondly -- for half an hour I've known that you're called Harry. I know it because I asked you. But you don't care to know my name."

"Oh, but indeed -- I'd like to know very much."

"You're too late! If we meet again, you can ask me again. Today I shan't tell you. And now I'm going to dance."

At the first sign she made of getting up, my heart sank like lead. I dreaded her going and leaving me alone, for then it would all come back as it was before. In a moment, the old dread and wretchedness look hold of me like a toothache that has passed off and then comes back of a sudden and burns like fire. Oh, God, had I forgotten, then, what was waiting for me? Had anything altered?

"Stop," I implored," don't go. You can dance of course, as much as you please, but don't stay away too long. Come back again, come back again."

She laughed as she got up. I expected her to be taller. She was slender, but not tall. Again I was reminded of some one. Of whom? I could not make out.

"You're coming back?"

"I'm coming back, but it may be half an hour or an hour, perhaps. I want to tell you something. Shut your eyes and sleep for a little. That's what you need."

I made room for her to pass. Her skirt brushed my knees and she looked, as she went, in a little pocket mirror, lifted her eyebrows, and powdered her chin; then she disappeared into the dance hall. I looked round me; strange faces, smoking men, spilled beer on marble-tops, clatter and clamor everywhere, the dance music in my ear. I was to sleep, she had said. Ah, my good child, you know a lot about my sleep that is shyer than a weasel! Sleep in this hurly-burly, sitting at a table, amidst the clatter of beer steins! I sipped the wine and, taking out a cigar, looked round for matches, but as I had after all no inclination to smoke, I put down the cigar on the table in front of me. "Shut your eyes," she had said. God knows where the girl got her voice; it was so deep and good and maternal. It was good to obey such a voice, I had found that out already. Obediently I shut my eyes, leaned my head against the wall and heard the roar of a hundred mingled noises surge around me and smiled at the idea of sleep in such a place. I made up my mind to go to the door of the dance hall and from there catch a glimpse of my beautiful girl as she danced. I made a movement to go, then felt at last how unutterably tired out I was from my hours of wandering and remained seated; and, thereupon I fell asleep as I had been told. I slept greedily, thankfully, and dreamed more lightly and pleasantly than I had for a long while.
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Re: Steppenwolf, by Hermann Hesse

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

Part 1 of 2


I dreamed that I was waiting in an old-fashioned anteroom. At first I knew no more than that my audience was with some Excellency or other. Then it came to me that it was Goethe who was to receive me. Unfortunately I was not there quite on a personal call. I was a reporter, and this worried me a great deal and I could not understand how the devil I had got into such a fix. Besides this, I was upset by a scorpion that I had seen a moment before trying to climb up my leg. I had shaken myself free of the black crawling beast, but I did not know where it had got to next and did not dare make a grab after it.

Also I was not very sure whether I had been announced by a mistake to Matthisson instead of to Goethe, and him again I mixed up in my dream with Burger, for I took him for the author of the poem to Molly. Moreover I would have liked extremely to meet Molly. I imagined her wonderful, tender, musical. If only I were not here at the orders of that cursed newspaper office. My ill-humor over this increased until by degrees it extended even to Goethe, whom I suddenly treated to all manner of reflections and reproaches. It was going to be a lively interview. The scorpion, however, dangerous though he was and hidden no doubt somewhere within an inch of me, was all the same not so bad perhaps. Possibly he might even betoken something friendly. It seemed to me extremely likely that he had something to do with Molly. He might be a kind of messenger from her -- or an heraldic beast, dangerously and beautifully emblematic of woman and sin. Might not his name perhaps be Vulpius? But at that moment a flunkey threw open the door. I rose and went in.

There stood old Goethe, short and very erect, and on his classic breast, sure enough, was the corpulent star of some Order. Not for a moment did he relax his commanding attitude, his air of giving audience, and of controlling the world from that museum of his at Weimar. Indeed, he had scarcely looked at me before with a nod and a jerk like an old raven he began pompously: "Now, you young people have, I believe, very little appreciation of us and our efforts."

"You are quite right," said I, chilled by his ministerial glance. "We young people have, indeed, very little appreciation of you. You are too pompous for us, Excellency, too vain and pompous, and not outright enough. That is, no doubt, at the bottom of it -- not outright enough."

The little old man bent his erect head forward, and as his hard mouth with its official folds relaxed in a little smile and became enchantingly alive, my heart gave a sudden bound; for all at once the poem came to my mind -- "The dusk with folding wing" -- and I remembered that it was from the lips of this man that the poem came. Indeed, at this moment I was entirely disarmed and overwhelmed and would have chosen of all things to kneel before him. But I held myself erect and heard him say with a smile: "Oh, so you accuse me of not being outright? What a thing to say! Will you explain yourself a little more fully?"

I was very glad indeed to do so.

"Like all great spirits, Herr von Goethe, you have clearly recognized and felt the riddle and the hopelessness of human life, with its moments of transcendence that sink again to wretchedness, and the impossibility of rising to one fair peak of feeling except at the cost of many days' enslavement to the daily round; and, then, the ardent longing for the realm of the spirit in eternal and deadly war with the equally ardent and holy love of the lost innocence of nature, the whole frightful suspense in vacancy and uncertainty, this condemnation to the transient that can never be valid, that is ever experimental and dilettantish; in short, the utter lack of purpose to which the human state is condemned -- to its consuming despair. You have known all this, yes, and said as much over and over again; yet you gave up your whole life to preaching its opposite, giving utterance to faith and optimism and spreading before yourself and others the illusion that our spiritual strivings mean something and endure. You have lent a deaf ear to those that plumbed the depths and suppressed the voices that told the truth of despair, and not in yourself only, but also in Kleist and Beethoven. Year after year you lived on at Weimar accumulating knowledge and collecting objects, writing letters and gathering them in, as though in your old age you had found the real way to discover the eternal in the momentary, though you could only mummify it, and to spiritualize nature though you could only hide it with a pretty mask. This is why we reproach you with insincerity."

The old bigwig kept his eyes musingly on mine, smiling as before.

Then to my surprise, he asked, "You must have a strong objection, then, to the Magic Flute of Mozart?"

And before I could protest, he went on:

"The Magic Flute presents life to us as a wondrous song. It honors our feelings, transient, as they are, as something eternal and divine. It agrees neither with Herr von Kleist nor with Herr Beethoven. It preaches optimism and faith."

"I know, I know," I cried in a rage. "God knows why you hit of all things on the Magic Flute that is dearer to me than anything else in the world. But Mozart did not live to be eighty-two. He did not make pretensions in his own life to the enduring and the orderly and to exalted dignity as you did. He did not think himself so important! He sang his divine melodies and died. He died young -- poor and misunderstood -- "

I lost my breath. A thousand things ought to have been said in ten words. My forehead began to sweat.

Goethe, however, said very amiably: "It may be unforgivable that I lived to be eighty-two. My satisfaction on that account was, however, less than you may think. You are right that a great longing for survival possessed me continually. I was in continual fear of death and continually struggling with it. I believe that the struggle against death, the unconditional and self-willed determination to live, is the motive power behind the lives and activities of all outstanding men. My eighty-two years showed just as conclusively that we must all die in the end as if I had died as a schoolboy. If it helps to justify me I should like to say this too: my nature had much of the child in it, its curiosity and love for idleness and play. Well, and so it went on and on, till I saw that sooner or later there must be enough of play."

As he said this, his smile was quite cunning -- a downright roguish leer. He had grown taller and his erect bearing and the constrained dignity of his face had disappeared. The air, too, around us was now ringing with melodies, all of them songs of Goethe's. I heard Mozart's "Violets" and Schubert's "Again thou fillest brake and vale" quite distinctly. And Goethe's face was rosy and youthful, and he laughed; and now he resembled Mozart like a brother, now Schubert, and the star on his breast was composed entirely of wild flowers. A yellow primrose blossomed luxuriantly in the middle of it.

It did not altogether suit me to have the old gentleman avoid my questions and accusations in this sportive manner, and I looked at him reproachfully. At that he bent forward and brought his mouth, which had now become quite like a child's, close to my ear and whispered softly into it: "You take the old Goethe much too seriously, my young friend. You should not take old people who are already dead seriously. It does them injustice. We immortals do not like things to be taken seriously. We like joking. Seriousness, young man. is an accident of time. It consists, I don't mind telling you in confidence, in putting too high a value on time. I, too, once put too high a value on time. For that reason I wished to be a hundred years old. In eternity, however, there is no time, you see. Eternity is a mere moment, just long enough for a joke."

And indeed there was no saying another serious word to the man. He capered joyfully and nimbly up and down and made the primrose shoot out from his star like a rocket and then he made it shrink and disappear. While he flickered to and fro with his dance steps and figures, it was borne in upon me that he at least had not neglected learning to dance. He could do it wonderfully. Then I remembered the scorpion, or Molly, rather, and I called out to Goethe: "Tell me, is Molly there?"

Goethe laughed aloud. He went to his table and opened a drawer; took out a handsome leather or velvet box, and held it open under my eyes. There, small, faultless, and gleaming, lay a diminutive effigy of a woman's leg on the dark velvet, an enchanting leg, with the knee a little bent and the foot pointing downwards to end in the daintiest of toes.

I stretched out my hand, for I had quite fallen in love with the little leg and I wanted to have it, but just as I was going to take hold of it with my finger and thumb, the little toy seemed to move with a tiny start and it occurred to me suddenly that this might be the scorpion. Goethe seemed to read my thought, and even to have wanted to cause this deep timidity, this hectic struggle between desire and dread. He held the provoking little scorpion close to my face and watched me start forward with desire, then start back with dread; and this seemed to divert him exceedingly. While he was teasing me with the charming, dangerous thing, he became quite old once more, very, very old, a thousand years old, with hair as white as snow, and his withered graybeard's face laughed a still and soundless laughter that shook him to the depths with abysmal old-man's humor.

When I woke I had forgotten the dream; it did not come back to me till later. I had slept for nearly an hour, as I never thought I could possibly have done at a cafe table with the music and the bustle all round me. The dear girl stood in front of me with one hand on my shoulder.

"Give me two or three marks," she said. "I've spent something in there."

I gave her my purse. She took it and was soon back again.

"Well, now I can sit with you for a little and then I have to go. I have an engagement."

I was alarmed.

"With whom?" I asked quickly.

"With a man, my dear Harry. He has invited me to the Odeon Bar."

"Oh! I didn't think you would leave me alone."

"Then you should have invited me yourself. Someone has got in before you. Well, there's good money saved. Do you know the Odeon? Nothing but champagne after midnight. Armchairs like at a club, Negro band, very smart."

I had never considered all this.

"But let me invite you," I entreated her. "I thought it was an understood thing, now that we've made friends. Invite yourself wherever you like. Do, please, I beg you."

"That is nice of you. But, you see, a promise is a promise, and I've given my word and I shall keep it and go. Don't worry any more over that. Have another drink of wine. There's still some in the bottle. Drink it up and then go comfortably home and sleep. Promise me."

"No, you know that's just what I can't do -- go home."

"Oh -- you -- with your tales! Will you never be done with your Goethe?" (The dream about Goethe came back to me at that moment.) "But if you really can't go home, stay here. There are bedrooms. Shall I see about one for you?"

I was satisfied with that and asked where I could find her again? Where did she live? She would not tell me. I should find her in one place or another if I looked.

"Mayn't I invite you somewhere?" "Where?"

"Where and when you like."

"Good. Tuesday for dinner at the old Franciscan. First floor. Good-bye."

She gave me her hand. I noticed for the first time how well it matched her voice -- a beautiful hand, firm and intelligent and good-natured. She laughed at me when I kissed it.

Then at the last moment she turned once more and said: "I'll tell you something else -- about Goethe. What you felt about him and finding the picture of him more than you could put up with, I often feel about the saints."

"The saints ? Are you so religious?"

"No, I'm not religious, I'm sorry to say. But I was once and shall be again. There is no time now to be religious."

"No time. Does it need time to be religious?"

"Oh, yes. To be religious you must have time and, even more, independence of time. You can't be religious in earnest and at the same time live in actual things and still take them seriously, time and money and the Odeon Bar and all that."

"Yes, I understand. But what was that you said about the saints?"

"Well, there are many saints I'm particularly fond of -- Stephen, St. Francis and others. I often see pictures of them and of the Savior and the Virgin -- such utterly lying and false and silly pictures -- and I can put up with them just as little as you could with that picture of Goethe. When I see one of those sweet and silly Saviors or St. Francises and see how other people find them beautiful and edifying, I feel it is an insult to the real Savior and it makes me think: Why did He live and suffer so terribly if people find a picture as silly as that satisfactory to them! But in spite of this I know that my own picture of the Savior or St. Francis is only a human picture and falls short of the original, and that the Savior Himself would find the picture I have of Him within me just as stupid as I do those sickly reproductions. I don't say this to justify you in your ill temper and rage with the picture of Goethe. There's no justification. I say it simply to show you that I can understand you. You learned people and artists have, no doubt, all sorts of superior things in your heads; but you're human beings like the rest of us, and we, too, have our dreams and fancies. I noticed, for example, learned sir, that you felt a slight embarrassment when it came to telling me your Goethe story. You had to make a great effort to make your ideas comprehensible to a simple girl like me. Well, and so I wanted to show you that you needn't have made such an effort. I understand you all right. And now I've finished and your place is in bed."

She went away and an old house porter took me up two flights of stairs. But first he asked me where my luggage was, and when he heard that I hadn't any, I had to pay down what he called "sleep money." Then he took me up an old dark staircase to a room upstairs and left me alone. There was a bleak wooden bedstead, and on the wall hung a saber and a colored print of Garibaldi and also a withered wreath that had once figured in a club festival. I would have given much for pajamas. At any rate there was water and a small towel and I could wash. Then I lay down on the bed in my clothes, and leaving the light on, gave myself up to my reflections. So I had settled accounts with Goethe. It was splendid that he had come to me in a dream. And this wonderful girl -- if only I had known her name! All of a sudden there was a human being, a living human being, to shatter the death that had come down over me like a glass case, and to put out a hand to me, a good and beautiful and warm hand. All of a sudden there were things that concerned me again, which I could think of with joy and eagerness. All of a sudden a door was thrown open through which life came in. Perhaps I could live once more and once more be a human being. My soul that had fallen asleep in the cold and nearly frozen breathed once more, and sleepily spread its weak and tiny wings. Goethe had been with me. A girl had bidden me eat and drink and sleep, and had shown me friendship and had laughed at me and had called me a silly little boy. And this wonderful friend had talked to me of the saints and shown me that even when I had outdone myself in absurdity I was not alone. I was not an incomprehensible and ailing exception. There were people akin to me. I was understood. Should I see her again? Yes, for certain. She could be relied upon. "A promise is a promise."

And before I knew, I was asleep once more and slept four or five hours. It had gone ten when I woke. My clothes were all creases. I felt utterly exhausted. And in my head was the memory of yesterday's half-forgotten horror; but I had life, hope and happy thoughts. As I returned to my room I experienced nothing of that terror that this return had had for me the day before. On the stairs above the araucaria I met the "aunt," my landlady. I saw her seldom but her kindly nature always delighted me. The meeting was not very propitious, for I was still unkempt and uncombed after my night out, and I had not shaved. I greeted her and would have passed on. As a rule, she always respected my desire to live alone and unobserved. Today, however, as it turned out, a veil between me and the outer world seemed to be torn aside, a barrier fallen. She laughed and stopped.

"You have been on a spree, Mr. Haller. You were not in bed last night. You must be pretty tired!"

"Yes," I said, and was forced to laugh too. "There was something lively going on last night, and as I did not like to shock you, I slept at an hotel. My respect for the repose and dignity of your house is great. I sometimes feel like a foreign body in it."

"You are poking fun, Mr. Haller."

"Only at myself."

"You ought not to do that even. You ought not to feel like a 'foreign body' in my house. You should live as best pleases you and do as best you can. I have had before now many exceedingly respectable tenants, jewels of respectability, but not one has been quieter or disturbed us less than you. And now -- would you like some tea?"

I did not refuse. Tea was brought me in her drawing room with the old-fashioned pictures and furniture, and we had a little talk. In her friendly way she elicited this and that about my life and thoughts without actually asking questions and listened attentively to my confessions, while at the same time she did not give them more importance than an intelligent and motherly woman would to the peccadilloes of men. We talked, too, of her nephew and she showed me in a neighboring room his latest hobby, a wireless set. There the industrious young man spent his evenings, fitting together the apparatus, a victim to the charms of wireless, and kneeling on pious knees before the god of applied science whose might had made it possible to discover after thousands of years a fact which every thinker has always known and put to better use than in this recent and very imperfect development. We spoke about this, for the aunt had a slight leaning to piety and religious topics were not unwelcome to her. I told her that the omnipresence of all forces and facts was well known to ancient India, and that science had merely brought a small fraction of this fact into general use by devising for it, that is, for sound waves, a receiver and transmitter which were still in their first stages and miserably defective. The principal fact known to that ancient knowledge was, I said, the unreality of time. This science had not yet observed. Finally, it would, of course, make this "discovery," also, and then the inventors would get busy over it. The discovery would be made -- and perhaps very soon-that there were floating round us not only the pictures and events of the transient present in the same way that music from Paris or Berlin was now heard in Frankfurt or Zurich, but that all that had ever happened in the past could be registered and brought back likewise. We might well look for the day when, with wires or without, with or without the disturbance of other sounds, we should hear King Solomon speaking, or Walter von der Vogelweide. And all this, I said, just as today was the case with the beginnings of wireless, would be of no more service to man than as an escape from himself and his true aims, and a means of surrounding himself with an ever closer mesh of distractions and useless activities. But instead of embarking on these familiar topics with my customary bitterness and scorn for the times and for science, I made a joke of them; and the aunt smiled, and we sat together for an hour or so and drank our tea with much content.

It was for Tuesday evening that I had invited the charming and remarkable girl of the Black Eagle, and I was a good deal put to it to know how to pass the time till then; and when at last Tuesday came, the importance of my relation to this unknown girl had become alarmingly clear to me. I thought of nothing but her. I expected everything from her. I was ready to lay everything at her feet. I was not in the least in love with her. Yet I had only to imagine that she might fail to keep the appointment, or forget it, to see where I stood. Then the world would be a desert once more, one day as dreary and worthless as the last, and the deathly stillness and wretchedness would surround me once more on all sides with no way out from this hell of silence except the razor. And these few days had not made me think any the more fondly of the razor. It had lost none of its terror. This was indeed the hateful truth: I dreaded to cut my throat with a dread that crushed my heart. My fear was as wild and obstinate as though I were the healthiest of men and my life a paradise. I realized my situation recklessly and without a single illusion. I realized that it was the unendurable tension between inability to live and inability to die that made the unknown girl, the pretty dancer of the Black Eagle, so important to me. She was the one window, the one tiny crack of light in my black hole of dread. She was my release and my way to freedom. She had to teach me to live or teach me to die. She had to touch my deadened heart with her firm and pretty hand, and at the touch of life it would either leap again to flame or subside in ashes. I could not imagine whence she derived these powers, what the source of her magic was, in what secret soil this deep meaning she had for me had grown up; nor did it matter. I did not care to know. There was no longer the least importance for me in any knowledge or perception I might have. Indeed it was just in that line that I was overstocked, for the ignominy under which I suffered lay just in this -- that I saw my own situation so clearly and was so very conscious, too, of hers. I saw this wretch, this brute beast of a Steppenwolf as a fly in a web, and saw too the approaching decision of his fate. Entangled and defenseless he hung in the web. The spider was ready to devour him, and further off was the rescuing hand. I might have made the most intelligent and penetrating remarks about the ramifications and the causes of my sufferings, my sickness of soul, my general bedevilment of neurosis. The mechanism was transparent to me. But what I needed was not knowledge and understanding. What I longed for in my despair was life and resolution, action and reaction, impulse and impetus.

Although during the few days of waiting I never despaired of my friend keeping her word, this did not prevent my being in a state of acute suspense when the day arrived. Never in my life have I waited more impatiently for a day to end. And while the suspense and impatience were almost in-tolerable, they were at the same time of wonderful benefit to me. It was unimaginably beautiful and new for me who for a long while had been too listless to await anything or to find joy in anything -- yes, it was wonderful to be running here and there all day long in restless anxiety and intense expectation, to be anticipating the meeting and the talk and the outcome that the evening had in store, to be shaving and dressing with peculiar care (new linen, new tie, new laces in my shoes). Whoever this intelligent and mysterious girl might be and however she got into this relation to myself was all one. She was there. The miracle had happened. I had found a human being once more and a new interest in life. All that mattered was that the miracle should go on, that I should surrender myself to this magnetic power and follow this star.

Unforgettable moment when I saw her once more! I sat in the old-fashioned and comfortable restaurant at a small table that I had quite unnecessarily engaged by telephone, and studied the menu. In a tumbler were two orchids I had bought for my new acquaintance. I had a good while to wait, but I was sure she would come and was no longer agitated. And then she came. She stopped for a moment at the cloakroom and greeted me only by an observant and rather quizzical glance from her clear gray eyes. Distrustful, I took care to see how the waiter behaved towards her. No, there was nothing confidential, no lack of distance. He was scrupulously respectful. And yet they knew each other. She called him Emil.

She laughed with pleasure when I gave her the orchids.

"That's sweet of you, Harry. You wanted to make me a present, didn't you, and weren't sure what to choose. You weren't quite sure you would be right in making me a present. I might be insulted, and so you chose orchids, and though they're only flowers, they're dear enough. So I thank you ever so much. And by the way I'll tell you now that I won't take presents from you. I live on men, but I won't live on you. But how you have altered! No one would know you. The other day you looked as if you had been cut down from a gallows, and now you're very nearly a man again. And now -- have you carried out my orders?"

"What orders? "

"You've never forgotten? I mean, have you learned the fox trot ? You said you wished nothing better than to obey my commands, that nothing was dearer to you than obeying me. Do you remember?"

"Indeed I do, and so it shall be. I meant it."

"And yet you haven't learned to dance yet?"

"Can that be done so quickly -- in a day or two?"

"Of course. The fox trot you can learn in all hour. The Boston in two. The tango takes longer, but that you don't need."

"But now I really must know your name."

She looked at me for a moment without speaking.

"Perhaps you can guess it. I should be so glad if you did. Pull yourself together and take a good look at me. Hasn't it ever occurred to you that sometimes my face is just like a boy's? Now, for example."

Yes, now that I looked at her face carefully, I had to admit she was right. It was a boy's face. And after a moment I saw something in her face that reminded me of my own boyhood and of my friend of those days. His name was Herman. For a moment it seemed that she had turned into this Herman.

"If you were a boy," said I in amazement, "I should say your name was Herman."

"Who knows, perhaps I am one and am simply in woman's clothing," she said, joking.

"Is your name Hermine?"

She nodded, beaming, delighted at my guess. At that moment the waiter brought the food and we began to eat. She was as happy as a child. Of all the things that pleased and charmed me about her, the prettiest and most characteristic was her rapid changes from the deepest seriousness to the drollest merriment, and this without doing herself the least violence, with the facility of a gifted child. Now for a while she was merry and chaffed me about the fox trot, trod on my feet under the table, enthusiastically praised the meal, remarked on the care I had taken dressing, though she also had many criticisms to make on my appearance.

Meanwhile I asked her: "How did you manage to look like a boy and make me guess your name? "

"Oh, you did all that yourself. Doesn't your learning reveal to you that the reason why I please you and mean so much to you is because I am a kind of looking glass for you, because there's something in me that answers you and understands you? Really, we ought all to be such looking glasses to each other and answer and correspond to each other, but such owls as you are a bit peculiar. On the slightest provocation they give themselves over to the strangest notions that they can see nothing and read nothing any longer in the eyes of other men and then nothing seems right to them. And then when an owl like that after all finds a face that looks back into his and gives him a glimpse of understanding -- well, then he's pleased, naturally."

"There's nothing you don't know, Hermine," I cried in amazement. "It's exactly as you say. And yet you're so entirely different from me. Why, you're my opposite. You have all that I lack."

"So you think," she said shortly, "and it's well you should."

And now a dark cloud of seriousness spread over her face. It was indeed like a magic mirror to me. Of a sudden her face bespoke seriousness and tragedy and it looked as fathomless as the hollow eyes of a mask. Slowly, as though it were dragged from her word for word, she said:

"Mind, don't forget what you said to me. You said that I was to command you and that it would be a joy to you to obey my commands. Don't forget that. You must know this, my little Harry -- just as something in me corresponds to you and gives you confidence, so it is with me. The other day when I saw you come in to the Black Eagle, exhausted and beside yourself and scarcely in this world any longer, it came to me at once: This man will obey me. All he wants is that I should command him. And that's what I'm going to do. That's why I spoke to you and why we made friends."

She spoke so seriously from a deep impulse of her very soul that I scarcely liked to encourage her. I tried to calm her down. She shook her head with a frown and with a compelling look went on: "I tell you, you must keep your word, my boy. If you don't you'll regret it. You will have many commands from me and you will carry them out. Nice ones and agreeable ones that it will be a pleasure to you to obey. And at the last you will fulfill my last command as well, Harry."

"I will," I said, half giving in. "What will your last command be?"

I guessed it already -- God knows why.

She shivered as though a passing chill went through her and seemed to be waking slowly from her trance. Her eyes did not release me. Suddenly she became still more sinister.

"If I were wise, I shouldn't tell you. But I won't be wise, Harry, not for this time. I'll be just the opposite. So now mind what I say! You will hear it and forget it again. You will laugh over it, and you will weep over it. So look out! I am going to play with you for life and death, little brother, and before we begin the game I'm going to lay my cards on the table."

How beautiful she looked, how unearthly, when she said that! Cool and clear, there swam in her eyes a conscious sadness. These eyes of hers seemed to have suffered all imaginable suffering and to have acquiesced in it. Her lips spoke with difficulty and as though something hindered them, as though a keen frost had numbed her face; but between her lips at the corners of her mouth where the tip of her tongue showed at rare intervals, there was but sweet sensuality and inward delight that contradicted the expression of her face and the tone of her voice. A short lock hung down over the smooth expanse of her forehead, and from this corner of her forehead whence fell the lock of hair, her boyishness welled up from time to time like a breath of life and cast the spell of a hermaphrodite. I listened with an eager anxiety and yet as though dazed and only half aware.

"You like me," she went on, "for the reason I said before, because I have broken through your isolation. I have caught you from the very gates of hell and wakened you to new life. But I want more from you -- much more. I want to make you fall in love with me. No, don't interrupt me. Let me speak. You like me very much. I can see that. And you're grateful to me. But you're not in love with me. I mean to make you fall in love with me, and it is part of my calling. It is my living to be able to make men fall in love with me. But mind this, I don't do it because I find you exactly captivating. I'm as little in love with you as you with me. But I need you as you do me. You need me now, for the moment, because you're desperate. You're dying just for the lack of a push to throw you into the water and bring you to life again. You need me to teach you to dance and to laugh and to live. But I need you, not today -- later, for something very important and beautiful too. When you are in love with me I will give you my last command and you will obey it, and it will be the better for both of us."

She pulled one of the brown and purple green-veined orchids up a little in the glass and bending over stared a moment at the bloom.

"You won't find it easy, but you will do it. You will carry out my command and -- kill me. There -- ask no more."

When she came to the end her eyes were still on the orchid, and her face relaxed, losing its strain like a flower bud unfolding its petals. In an instant there was an enchanting smile on her lips while her eyes for a moment were still fixed and spellbound. Then she gave a shake of her head with its little boyish lock, took a sip of water, and realizing of a sudden that we were at a meal fell to eating again with appetite and enjoyment.

I had heard her uncanny communication clearly word for word. I had even guessed what her last command was before she said it and was horrified no longer. All that she said sounded as convincing to me as a decree of fate. I accepted it without protest. And yet in spite of the terrifying seriousness with which she had spoken I did not take it all as fully real and serious. While part of my soul drank in her words and believed in them, another part appeased me with a nod and took note that Hermine too, for all her wisdom and health and assurance, had her fantasies and twilight states. Scarcely was her last word spoken before a layer of unreality and ineffectuality settled over the whole scene.

All the same I could not get back to realities and probabilities with the same lightness as Hermine.

"And so I shall kill you one day?" I asked, still half in a dream while she laughed, and attacked her fowl with great relish.

"Of course," she nodded lightly. "Enough of that. It is time to eat. Harry, be an angel and order me a little more salad. Haven't you any appetite? It seems to me you've still to learn all the things that come naturally to other people, even the pleasure of eating. So look, my boy, I must tell you that this is the celebration of the duck, and when you pick the tender flesh from the bone it's a festal occasion and you must be just as eager and glad at heart and delighted as a lover when he unhooks his lady love for the first time. Don't you understand? Oh, you're a sheep! Are you ready? I'm going to give you a piece off the little bone. So open your mouth. Oh, what a fright you are! There he goes, squinting round the room in case anyone sees him taking a bite from my fork. Don't be afraid, you prodigal son, I won't make a scandal. But it's a poor fellow who can't take his pleasure without asking other people's permission."

The scene that had gone before became more and more unreal. I was less and less able to believe that these were the same eyes that a moment before had been fixed in a dread obsession. But in this Hermine was like life itself, one moment succeeding to the next and not one to be foreseen. Now she was eating, and the duck and the salad, the sweet and the liqueur were the important thing, and each time the plates were changed a new chapter began. Yet though she played at being a child she had seen through me completely, and though she made me her pupil there and then in the game of living for each fleeting moment, she seemed to know more of life than is known to the wisest of the wise. It might be the highest wisdom or the merest artlessness. It is certain in any case that life is quite disarmed by the gift to live so entirely in the present, to treasure with such eager care every flower by the wayside and the light that plays on every passing moment. Was I to believe that this happy child with her hearty appetite and the air of a gourmet was at the same time a victim of hysterical visions who wished to die? or a careful calculating woman who, unmoved herself, had the conscious intention of making me her lover and her slave? I could not believe it. No, her surrender to the moment was so simple and complete that the fleeting shadows and agitation to the very depths of the soul came to her no less than every pleasurable impulse and were lived as fully.
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