The easy explanation for the enduring appeal of Herman Hesse is that he offers hope and romance.There is a pushing back against the seduction of acquisition and competition; the wrestling over scarce resources and the Cain and Abel scenario. Also there is a hostility to technological progress, that sidesteps the pitfalls of romanticism and an affirmation of the power of tuition which meanders towards a de-nationalization of identity and its relief of the burden of partisanship, conformity and patriotism.War is seen as being the culmination of the surrender of the European spirit to the myth of technological progress and there is a deep unease with the bourgeois world but not traumatic enough to withdraw completely from it.
But, there are darker, deeper explanations of which the clues are oddly enough, mostly found in the wholly Germanic, hopelessly dated mass called Steppenwolf. Oddly, two of the leading characters in Steppenwolf are Johann Wolfgang von Goethe and Mozart who appear as ghosts in dreams. The rejection of a communal life based on anxiety, fear and opportunism is reiterated through the character of Haller in Steppenwolf, in which his outsider status is confirmed when a young professor describes Haller as a traitor to his country because he had argued that Germany was just as much to blame as the other countries for the First World War. The professor is characterized by his ignorance of social affairs, his uncritical acceptance of jingoism, and his dislike and racism towards communists and Jews
In his last novel, The Glass Bead Game, Hesse created alternative enlightened communities and dealt with the question of how they might relate to the world at large. His novels retain his well known rejection of the spiritual vacuity of modern life, but overcome the individualistic disengagement implicit in his earlier work. The appeal is on the utopian elements of his work on alternative community in particularly The Glass Bead Game, set in the monasticlike society of Castalia in the twenty-third century.
Though he deliberately creates a dysfunctional utopia, he retains a utopian striving for the creation of a society embodying ideals of intellectual, aesthetic and spiritual refinement, while avoiding the concept that it can be pre-ordained to assume a particular form.Its always hard to determine whether this is a pessimistic utopia or not.There is an inner tensions between two tendencies: a positive optimistic utopianism and a negative utopian pessimism with redemption as a wild card in between. Hesse presents an open dialectic which recoils from identifying the necessary structures of an ideal ethical community but emphasizes the need to continue the struggle for the transformation of values. His ideas on alternative community have a strong affinity with the ethos of much of the new social movement activity which developed at the time when his work achieved cult status in the mid to late 1960’s.
The title, Steppenwolf had a certain magic. It is about a middle aged man in a dismal room, far from home and mother. He has decent clothes and a little money, but he is depressed and leery of women. It seemed to resonate with the 60’s culture since America teemed with people who were homesick in bittersweet ways , and Steppenwolf was one of the most profound books about homesickness ever written. He was a bit of a freak for acknowledging modern technology and hating it. There is a fantasy about two men who climb a tree by a road. They have a rifle. They declare war on all automobiles and shoot them as they come by.
Nobody in Steppenwolf has a telephone, although the cast is in a rich city after the war, doing the shimmy to jazz. The hero has no radio in his room, despite the swooning loneliness, but there are radios around, because he dreams of listening to one in the company of Mozart. The Concerto Grosso in F Major, by Handel, is being broadcast from Munich. The hero says this about it, marvelously: “the devlish tin trumpet spat out, without more ado, a mixture of bronchial slime and chewed rubber; that noise that owners of gramophones and radios have agreed to call music.”
“In many respects Hesse appears to be a romantic writer pining for a lost age of purity and excellence. This is expressed in his celebration of natural beauty and rural tranquility, his attachment to eighteenth century literature and music, and his hostility to technological `progress’. It is no surprise that in the futuristic society described in The Glass Bead Game there appears to have been no significant technological advance from our period, with only the occasional mention of a car or train . But Hesse was also a nonconformist rebel concerned for the fate of those who did not comply with the prescribed values of the society they inhabited. He bemoaned the pressures generated by life in modern capitalist society and the instrumental and often callous behavior which threatened to engulf the world. In response he espoused the pursuit of self-understanding through grasping the spiritual insights offered to us in tragedy and the illusory nature of prestige and wealth. Occasionally he expressed sympathy with the ideal of socialism and even admired Marx, considering his critique of capitalism `essentially incontrovertible’ .” Read More:http://www.questia.com/googleScholar.qst?docId=5001312061
Martin Buber: …”the realization of the divine on earth is fulfilled not within man but between man and man… it is consummated only in the life of true community…the true place of realization is community, and true community is that relationship in which the divine comes to its realization between man and man…” .it is important to understand that for buber, relationships went beyond the realm of the personal encounter. relationships encompass the manner in which we live within the social and economic structure of society, and it includes and extends towards the realm of nature. for buber, the actualization of dialogical relationships in society is manifested through communities organized along the lines of religious libertarian socialism.( hune margulies)Read More: http://dialogicalecology.blogspot.com/
We learn from the second part of the book that Haller feels a duality of personality. There is the man, who craves the comfort of a bourgeois existence, and the wolf, who threatens to predominate and must constantly be held in check, who despises the petty pleasures of the world, and the stilted civility of a middle class household. This duality surely mirrors Jung’s division of the self into the conscious and the unconscious, one manifestation of which represents the primitive man (the wolf / unconscious mind), who is driven by strong instincts, and the modern man (the man / conscious mind) who has learned to control those instincts in the interests of social inter-action, but who has also lost something in the process. Read More: http://pursewardenblog.blogspot.com/2008/08/steppenwolf-by-hermann-hesse_10.html
As Jung says in Man and his symbols:
“I am not denying that great gains have resulted from the evolution of civilized society. But these gains have been made at the price of enormous losses, whose extent we have scarcely begun to estimate.”
The third part of the book increasingly makes clear that Haller’s obsession with this duality is both irrelevant and rather laughable. Rather than being composed of two separate factors, his mind and personality are in fact a complex assembly of a large number, later visualised as a mirror breaking into many shards of glass. Could he but come to recognize and accept this, he would be happy but, as the ending makes clear, he cannot, and that is his real tragedy. Read More: http://pursewardenblog.blogspot.com/2008/08/steppenwolf-by-hermann-hesse_10.html