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  • Writer's pictureMetin Tiryaki

Steppenwolf – Hermann Hesse

Steppenwolf (Der Steppenwolf) is a semi-autobiographical book written by German-Swiss writer Hermann Hesse in 1927. The main character of the book, Harry Haller, is a man who can't keep up with the society, time, or even himself, and has more than one personality in one body. A well-educated, anti-bourgeois intellectual who enjoys music, philosophy and poetry; Although he was wealthy, he chose to live with his books in a small flat, sought freedom all his life, and was not happy when he found it. In his own words, he is a “Steppenwolf” who does not like to be seen in public except for the occasional walks he visits for a drink. The main female character of the book, who changes her life, is Hermine, whom she encounters in a bar one evening, when she wanders aimlessly with the idea of ​​suicide, which is becoming more and more evident in her mind every day. Much like her old friend Hermane, the woman teaches her to dance and asks her to kill herself after falling in love with him. It's simply like this…


The character of Hermine actually represents Harry's female side, who has a positive outlook on life, does not care much about the world, and loves to dance and have fun. Her friend Hermane, who is mentioned frequently in the book, is a man, and even at the end of the book, Hermine becomes Hermane. I know it's a bit confusing but the book is already hard to read, full of imaginary images and events, many people compare the book with Ulysses in this respect. The human Harry encounters and struggles with the steppenwolf inside him many times. While his human side tries to be happy and do something good, the wolf figure with his eyes blazing and grinning – his dark, depressive side – never leaves him alone.

The character of Harry in the book is Hermann Hesse himself. The character of Hermine is just like Harry's self. Hesse gave clues about this with this sentence: “It seemed to me that all these were my own thoughts, not Hermine's. With her strong intuition, Hermine had breathed my thoughts into herself, and then extracted them again and presented them to me. Therefore, the thoughts in question took on a certain form and appeared before me in the guise of new ideas.”


The book was also shot in 1974 as a movie by the same name, directed by Fred Haines and starring Max von Sydow and Dominique Sanda. Talking about classical music a lot was one of the rare places in the book that attracted me. Harry, who is a Mozart fan, at least made me listen to pieces like The Magic Flute, Don Giovanni, Lacrimosa and enjoy them throughout the book.


Although it is a book of 209 pages in total, Steppenwolf was a book that I took a break from a few times and got very bored from time to time. Long, complex and “intellectual-looking” sentences; I think the book, which makes you feel that there are unnecessary and irrelevant events, dialogues, and people, is greatly exaggerated and glorified in the world of literature. All in all, it was a book I didn't like.


“Even in the most miserable life there are moments when the star shines, moments when little flowers bloom among the sand and pebbles.”


“The vast majority of people do not want to swim without learning how to swim. It is natural that they do not want to swim, because they were created to live on land, not in water. And it is natural that they do not want to think, because they were created to live, not to think!”

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