But still, as Mozart explains to Harry, the spirit of the music survives such a negligence, and we are to laugh off the screetches of the poor device, and to grasp the spirit behind. The same is with the books: they are, for me, always a conversation with the writer, or with his digestion of the world into the novel. If it is given to me in an expensive hardcover, or in cheap, rugged paperback, or a virtual, nonexistant format of an e-book, what does it have to do with the spirit conveyed? Nothing, perfectly nothing.
When I finished this reading, I did the same as I probably did 30 years ago: went back to the start, to read the "Preface" where is explained what was the condition of the imagined writer of the text. He disappeared from his lodgings to never return, leaving the text behind him.
What could happen to him, indeed? What is the meaning of a big quarrel (with Hermine?) soon after which he left the place? Who quarrels is not idle, has some passion for life... (s)he also laughs, loves, hates... so I assume he went on living some more passionate life than the scholar's death mask of a life which almost brought him to suicide.
I have read this book many times through my life. It would usually bring a somewhat nostalgic memory of myself as a youth, walking the streets of my Baroque city, with heavy thoughts resembling those described in Harry Haller's memoir. Now, when I am of almost his age in the book, I must say I did pretty much of what he needed to catch-up...from both sides. I was a scholar, literally, and I also learned the other ways. Now I see the text as a quite true image of the lively spirit of life. Kind of a shrugging-off of the dust of the "learned" spirit. Always a healthy thing to do.
What, then, was Hesse telling us with this book? That Life is not to be wasted, it is to be lived. Obvious, for us today, but for him (and others) then, it was not at all obvious, it needed a positive confirmation in idea and art. Hesse gave it in Steppenwolf.
There are opinions that Hesse is... simple, primitive. Compared to types of H. Miller, Sartre or Camus, Celine or succh he might be. But, dear fellow readers, put yourself in his shoes, at his time. Go into those mountains of his from which he came, see the average family, and even today you will find so similar to his time narrow-mindedness and limited scope of life, that he should be reborn again and again and write his "simple" books again and again, to light some light in minds of the lost souls of children in the forests. And, before we would think we are so advanced...there is a danger in "living" to forget about the motivation below. It comes from the spirit of music, art, science, which are all just a conveyed spirit of Nature itself. There is no "high" and "low" Nature. It is one of non-divisible entities in our experience. Like the number PI, if you approximate it, it will always come out with sharp edges, construction of the approximation visible below, never smooth as a circle of PI is.