Wednesday, July 05, 2006

Some thoughts on accidentally stepping into a Hermann Hesse novel

The novel in question is Steppenwolf. I read it about twenty years* ago so some of the details are a little fuzzy.

I wish I could remember the last line** - I think it's significant to what may or may not be my situation of the moment. I'll have to see if I can locate my copy, or see if any local bookstores have a copy I could peruse.

If you have no idea what I'm talking about, pick up a copy and read it.

*Ha. Twenty years.

**I think it's "I would learn to play better", but I'm not sure.


Jennifer said...

It's may day off and I'm waiting for the electrician, so....

I Didn't read "Steppenwolf" in any of my lit classes, but an internet search turned up the following, the supposedly last lines of the novel. Maybe it will sound familiar? It's a dialogue between Mozart and the protagonist, Harry, beginning with Mozart:

" 'Enough of pathos and death-dealing. It is time to come to your senses. You are to live and to learn to laugh. You are to learn to listen to the cursed radio music of life and to reverence the spirit behind it and to laugh at its distortions. So there you are. More will not be asked of you.'"

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

"'Then,' said Mozart calmly, 'I should invite you to smoke another of my charming cigarettes.'"

Anonymous said...

Oh yes, Steppenwolf. It's a little preachy, but oh, did I have a serious-ass Hermann Hesse phase about 20 years ago. I read Beneath the Wheel, Steppenwolf, Siddhartha, Magister Ludi ... heck, I became an obsessed German for a while.

Bill @ IB

D.B. Echo said...

The "last line" that I remember is actually spread out over several lines in the copy that I just bought at Borders.

'"...I thought you had learned the game better. Well, you will do better next time."' (Last sentences of fifth-from-last paragraph, Pablo speaking to Harry)

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

None of this makes any sense without understanding the context- a bizarre, harmless, transient, and fascinating context. The sort of thing I need to knock my head around once in a while, shock me out of complacency, and make me look at the world with a fresh perspective.

It will pass, soon, and hopefully I will have learned to play the game a little bit better.