Just as gripping and as soul-wrenching as Narsissus and Goldmund. Luckily I was (somehow) able to catch some sleep between readings of this one. Hesse has such a way of reflecting the soul back to the reader. Steppenwolf forced me to look at the ugly underbelly of humanity. He's relentless, too. Hesse's writing attaches an eye speculum which prevented any observable diversion from the theme. I felt trapped and oppressed, free, or emotional at his whim. Mostly, I felt torn, just like Harry. And just like Harry, I was wrapped in a flurry of intention, illusion, action and fantasy.
I particularly liked how humour was defined and introduced through the magic theatre. It paired well with a book I read today -- which was not quite worth its own entry, unfortunately -- Social Anxiety, by Alain de Botton*. Humour provides a release from the perpetual fear of failure. Finding folly in the rediculousness of man and his society protects us from the agony of their rejection. Maybe it's Pablo's sanguine nature which repulses Harry most of all. In the final pages, the Steppenwolf is able to look at his geminist soul and laugh. The novel ends (and Hesse stressed this to his critics) with a hopeful note. Man can raise himself above the level of the wolf, and see joy.
*Darn it. After On Love, I had such high hopes for this new one by Botton. Evidently, he knows more about romantic love than 'love from the world' (his term).