As readers of this blog will know, I recently rediscovered one of my favorite books: Narziss and Goldmund by Herman Hesse.
After fitting in a few other writers in the meantime, I just decided to revisit another Hesse masterpiece: Steppenwolf.
All I can say is what a difference thirty years makes. I knew the book was great when I read it in my twenties but only now does it truly come alive in all it's amazing strength. It was first published in 1927 and was triggered by Hesse's internal struggles as he turned 50. So it makes perfect sense that it would impact me more now than then.
It is remarkable. Here's just a taste:
But the worst of it is that it is just this contentment that I cannot endure. After a short time it fills me with irrepressible loathing and nausea. Then, in desperation, I have to escape into other regions, if possible on the road to pleasure, or, if that cannot be, on the road to pain. When I have neither pleasure nor pain and have been breathing for a while the lukewarm insipid air of these so-called good and tolerable days, I feel so bad in my childish soul that I smash my rusty lyre of thanksgiving in the face of the slumbering god of contentment and would rather feel the most devilish pain burn in me than this warmth of a well-heated room. A wild longing for strong emotions and sensations seethes in me, a rage against this toneless, flat, normal and sterile life. I have a mad impulse to smash something, a warehouse perhaps, or a cathedral, or myself, to commit outrages, to pull off the wigs of a few revered idols, to provide rebellious schoolboys with the longed-for ticket to Hamburg, to seduce a little girl, or to stand one or two representatives of the established order on their heads. For what I always hated and detested and cursed above all things was this contentment, this healthiness and comfort, this carefully preserved optimism of the middle classes, this fat and prosperous brood of mediocrity.