BOOK 140: STEPPENWOLF: HERMANN HESSE
Steppenwolf (orig. German Der Steppenwolf) is the tenth novel by German-Swiss author Hermann Hesse. Originally published in Germany in 1927, it was first translated into English in 1929. Combining autobiographical and psychoanalytic elements, the novel was named after the lonesome wolf of the steppes. The story in large part reflects a profound crisis in Hesse's spiritual world during the 1920s while memorably portraying the protagonist's split between his humanity and his wolf-like aggression and homelessness. Hesse would later assert that the book was largely misunderstood.
From the very beginning, reception was harsh. American novelist Jack Kerouac dismissed it in Big Sur (1962) and it has had a long history of mixed critical reception and opinion at large, Already upset with Hesse's novel Siddhartha, political activists and patriots railed against him, and against the book, seeing an opportunity to discredit Hesse. Even close friends and longtime readers criticized the novel for its perceived lack of morality in its open depiction of sex and drug use, a criticism that indeed remained the primary rebuff of the novel for many years. However as society changed and formerly taboo topics such as sex and drugs became more openly discussed, critics came to attack the book for other reasons; mainly that it was too pessimistic, and that it was a journey in the footsteps of a psychotic and showed humanity through his warped and unstable viewpoint, a fact that Hesse did not dispute, although he did respond to critics by noting the novel ends on a theme of new hope.
Popular interest in the novel was renewed in the 1960s – specifically in the psychedelic movement – primarily because it was seen as a counterculture book, and because of its depiction of free love and explicit drug usage. It was also introduced in many new colleges for study, and interest in the book and in Hermann Hesse was feted in America for more than a decade afterwards.
Hesse's 1928 short story "Harry, the Steppenwolf" forms a companion piece to the novel. It is about a wolf named Harry who is kept in a zoo, and who entertains crowds by destroying images of German cultural icons like Goethe and Mozart.
The name Steppenwolf has become notable in popular culture for various organizations and establishments. In 1967, the band Steppenwolf, headed by German-born singer John Kay, took their name from the novel. The Belgian band DAAU (Die Anarchistische Abendunterhaltung) is named after one of the advertising slogans of the novel's magical theatre. The innovative Magic Theatre Company, founded in 1967 in Berkeley and which later became resident in San Francisco, takes its name from the "Magic Theatre" of the novel, and the Steppenwolf Theatre Company in Chicago, founded in 1974 by actors Terry Kinney, Jeff Perry, and Gary Sinise, took its name from the novel. The lengthy track "Steppenwolf" appears on English rock band Hawkwind's album Astounding Sounds, Amazing Music and is directly inspired by the novel, including references to the magic theatre and the dual nature of the wolfman-manwolf (lutocost). Robert Calvert had initially written and performed the lyrics on 'Distances Between Us' by Adrian Wagner in 1974. The song also appears on later, live Hawkwind CD's and DVDs. Danish acid rock band Steppeulvene (1967-68) also took their name from this novel.
"Be Here Now"(1971), by author and spiritual teacher Richard Alpert (Ram Dass) contains an illustration of a door bearing a sign that reads "Magic Theatre - For Madmen Only - Price of Admission - Your Mind." This references an invitation that Steppenwolf's Harry Haller receives to attend an "Anarchist Evening at the Magic Theatre, For Madmen Only, Price of Admission Your Mind."
The Black Ice, by Michael Connelly, has J. Michael Haller making a reference to the author when he mentioned that, if his illegitimate son took his surname, he'd be "Harry Haller" instead of Harry Bosch.
Steppenwolf was also referenced in the film Mall (2014).
Lobo da Estepe by the brazilian band Os Cascavelletes was also inspired by the book.
(Information taken from Wikipedia)