“In eternity there is no time, only an instant long enough for a joke.” ― Hermann Hesse, Steppenwolf

Lately, as the weather warmed up in Yerevan I started to pass through the parks more frequently. People walk their dogs, children play football, others simply sit and have a chat, but one scene stood out for me particularly. A young man sitting under the tree was holding the book Steppenwolf in his hands with his eyes shut fiercely, his eyelids were vibrating intensely. Did the sun engender strain in his eye muscles or was it Hermann Hesse’s influence swaying the whole nervous system of this man?

The book played a symbolic role in this scene, connecting my Hesse-built mentality to the man’s character. As I continued my way I started to think about what this man will get out of the book, because Steppenwolf is one of the most misunderstood novels ever written. With weaving human estrangement with the necessity of society integration, Hesse creates an antagonism inside the main protagonist Harry Haller: Steppenwolf as Harry calls himself. He was a man who could not understand people that enjoyed the overcrowded cafes and oppressive music, he could not perceive the pleasure that the “Americanised” world gave them, where jazz was the pearl and the music of Mozart and Handel was forgotten. What pleased him was nothing to the human imagination and if the majority was right then he was a Steppenwolf: a man for whom the world where he lived was incomprehensible. He believed to be the combination of a high temperament of a spirited man and the animalistic creature, who could not keep up with the human satisfactions. 

Throughout the book Harry Haller struggled between his inner world and the outer space, where he was bound to live. Depression, bipolar disorder and impasse followed the man as the actions developed. In contrast to the other books known in the Western world, Hesse showed a way to his protagonist to overcome this disorder and to fight against his perturbations. Although Hesse came all the way to show a steady conclusion, many people misunderstood the work. Once Hesse said Steppenwolf was “more often and more violently misunderstood” than any of his other books, as many readers penetrated more into the depression than its solution.

Hence, the experience of reading Steppenwolf  under the blossomed tree would either enrich the innermost self of the young man or it would destroy his dreams.

-Anush Petrosyan

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