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MonkeyNotes-Steppenwolf by Hermann Hesse
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LITERARY/HISTORICAL INFORMATION

Herman Hesse's life during the winter of 1925 - 1926 and his novel Steppenwolf evolved together toward an inevitable climax. Living in a small flat in Zurich, Hesse began to feel like and write about Steppenwolf, the outsider who howls on the fringes of society.

At first he published a collection of poems called "Steppenwolf : A Piece of Diary in Verse." The poems are sentimental and self- pitying, much like the psyche of Harry Haller in the beginning of the novel. It was in February of 1926 that the idea for the Steppenwolf novel took concrete shape. As he began to write, Hesse included some events that he had actually experienced in Switzerland. Like Haller, Hesse, frustrated and middle-aged, was searching for himself. Haller found himself in the Magic Theater; Hesse found himself in a Zurich night spot.


In the early stages of his self-realization, Haller seeks solace in despair. Three illusory characters help him navigate towards wholeness. The first is Hermine, who is his spiritual guide and a feminine version of Hesse, as her name 'Hermine' suggests. Then he meets Maria, who becomes his physical mistress; her name alludes to the Virgin Mary and to Hesse's wife, Maria. The third character is Pablo, a mysterious magician and a saxophone player. From these three characters, Haller learns to shed his inhibitions, just as Hesse sheds his own.

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