Steppenwolf by Herman Hesse
By far, this would be one of the best works I’ve read this year. Where have I been ? Indeed, I went as far as stating in Twitter that “my life reads like a bastard child of Dumas’ Count of Monte Cristo and Hesse’s Steppenwolf”. In the word of a good online friend of mine, this one definitely is a “mindfuck”.
The book deals with the most profound issue of mankind : the self. It painstakingly describes the state where the self is torn by conflicting desire between its higher order and lower desires of the proverbial Steppenwolf ( Wolf of the steppes or a coyote ). Definitely Freudian in its basic idea, Hesse elaborated this further by bringing forth the idea that a soul comprises of several other “selves” than just the ordinarily-known ego, superego and id. Thus, a self is a kaleidoscope of different beings which in the case of Harry Haller ( the main character ), completely torn him asunder and trying in futility to “get a grip”.
It also employed a surreal fantastic story-telling method, especially in later parts when Harry underwent a painful experience in Theatre of Dreams. We never know for certain whether Harry actually kill Hermine, for instance; hence the term “surreal” for its merging of fantasy and reality. The good news is, it works. Which is more than can be said of a writer who attempted this method at all. Only great ones succeed, reminiscent of John Fowles’ “The Magus”.
I tell you one thing : if you plan only to read one book this year, this is the book that I will recommend.
For those who don’t know it yet, Steppenwolf and other great works of all time can be downloaded from a free, fantastic library here.