Wolf of the Steppes – For Madmen Only

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“There once was a man….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…”

I am not quite sure what to feel about Hermann Hesse’s Der Steppenwolf (“the wolf of the steppes”). The language is beautiful, without a doubt, but it sometimes reeks of self-absorption. It’s very solipsistic and masturbatory and further reading into the author’s background while he was writing the book tells so much about his life crisis during that time.

Der Steppenwolf was the last book I read for 2013  in my fortress of solitude and while I was deeply enamored of the whole thing while reading it, it is a bit pretentious in retrospect.  Pretentious, not because it is elitist by nature, but because the character is too focused on identities – a very first world problem. No wonder kids fall over themselves for this book. Identity crises are issues of either teenagers or the privileged – something I find annoying now that I’m entering my late twenties and have no qualms rubbing my “wisdom” in other people’s faces. Oh, you’re not content with your life? Try not having enough money to buy food for you and your six children! Oh, having dejection issues? Try losing your home in a flood and seeing the rest of your family die a watery death!

I know, I know. Depression is a serious mental health illness but to read a fantastical book and identify yourself with a character that incessantly questions the meaning of life because he gets a weekly allowance and doesn’t have to think about his next meal is clearly teenage.  Oh so you’re destined to be alone? Nobody understands you? Nothing in this world interests you and you’d be better off dead? GET A BLOODY GRIP, STEPPENWOLF!

BLEAARGGGHH.

I know I am waving my prejudices out in the open, my ageism especially, but this book gets really rambly for so many pages and for so long. It was beautiful rambling, mind you, but rambling is rambling. Shit also gets weird towards the end, especially the bit on the Magic Theater (For Madmen Only) where everything suddenly becomes trippy, Burtonian. I expected Johnny Depp in a funny hat to appear any second. This is a huge contrast to the wallowing, maudlin ramblings of yester-chapters so I don’t know what to make of the whole thing apart from Hesse’s interpretation of Harry Haller (der Steppenwolf) descending from mild depression masquerading as identity crisis to a full-blown mental breakdown.

Hesse did commented on hope – that this book has been misinterpreted by many and while agonizing, this book should ultimately give us hope. Hmm. Hope for… misanthropes? For suicides? For killing beautiful things? For dancing? For people who wish to find their inner woman?

Bah, I wish I was 16 again. Or maybe 55.

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by Dem Iam
by De Gust
by De Gust

“The banished sun circles the earth, like a grieving mother with a lamp.”

The Road
Photo by beeeezer

The Road is a profoundly moving story of a post-apocalyptic journey to a desecrated future where no hope remains, but in which a father and his son, “each the other’s world entire,” are sustained by love, by their own versions of faith in a greater good.  And in a fire that keeps burning amidst the dark, gray, and dreary earth.  The Road is a harrowing story about fatherhood, love, and hope, and everything is sad and beautiful, and everything hurts.

This is my first Cormac McCarthy and his literary style of reductive sentences and sparse vocabulary best suits his philosophical pessimism and the thin plot he lays out. The story is single-layered and it is McCarthy’s beautiful writing that carries the novel through the bleakness and despair. The scant sentence fragments strung together create a sense of danger and desperation that the Father and the Son live through everyday – a life so devoid of simple human pleasures that only the perpetuation of self and human goodness defines them as being alive.

Their conversations have a silence to it – a silence especially boosted by the lack of marks that evokes the lullness of the world itself.

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I am very sad after reading the book, and the gloomy weather compounded my feeling of desolation but  ultimately, as with all books I’ve read, I am glad that I found the courage to read it.  It is dismal, yes, but it is also filled with hope and the contrast of the ashen Earth of The Road made me grateful for this tiny island that I live in, for the love of family I enjoyed all through the years, for what I am, and for what I have to give.

Absolutely sparse and bleak and beautiful, I recommend this book to everyone.

Do you think I should watch the movie?

THE ROAD