Harry Haller believes he is a wolf inside, a wolf of the Steppes. Unable to reconcile his human half with his wolf nature, he stumbles around town searching for meaning and his own identity. He meets a beautiful siren who demands his obedience and introduces him to a counterculture full of musicians and mistresses and other social outsiders, leading eventually to a Magic Theater where he enters a hallucinatory dreamworld and confronts himself.
What a lot of highbrow wangsting. Okay, Hermann Hesse was great and all that, but 85 years ago, it was a sign of literary genius for aging pale male writers to write about an aging pale male writer who's sad because life isn't exciting or stimulating and he's not getting laid enough anymore. Oh wait
-- that's still literary genius, isn't it? I could not really get into this book, even though I am about the right age that I'm supposed to identify with Harry "I am a Steppenwolf" Haller. Maybe I don't need the message that Harry does, or maybe I just missed it.
This was a great literary novel with lots of deep thinky thoughts, but one man's introspective journey through his own navel to extract his head from his arse (with the help of no small amount of sex and drugs) is not exactly a compelling story, so if it doesn't speak to you, you're not Hesse's audience. Worth reading to experience Hermann Hesse and expose yourself to some high-falutin' German literature, but high entertainment it is not. I think it's one of those cult things; either you fall in love with books like this and carry them around in your back pocket until they're falling apart, or you put it back on the shelf and say, "Yup, now I can say that I've read me some Hermann Hesse."