viernes, 30 de diciembre de 2011

Synthesis and phrases of the book Steppenwolf by Herman Hess

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Steppenwolf - Hermann Hess

"It is now time, however, to put my own thoughts aside and to get to facts"

"It is true that I live myself in another world, and perhaps I could not endure to live a single day in a house with araucarias. But though I am a shabby old Steppenwolf, still I'm the son of a mother, and my mother too was a middle-class man's wife and raised plants and took care to have her house and home as clean and neat and tidy as ever she could make it. All that is brought back to me by this breath of turpentine and by the araucaria, and so I sit down here every now and again; and I look into this quiet little garden of order and rejoice that such things still are"

"'Most men will not swim before they are able to.' Is not that witty? Naturally, they won't swim! They are born for the solid earth, not for the water. And naturally they won't think. They are made for life, not for thought. Yes, and he who thinks, what's more, he who makes thought his business, he may go far in it, but he has bartered the solid earth for the water all the same, and one day he will drown"

"But I came to see more and more that from the empty spaces of his lone wolfishness he actually really admired and loved our little bourgeois world as something solid and secure, as the home and peace which must ever remain far and unattainable, with no road leading from him to them"

"He has not made life lighter for me. He had not the gift of fostering strength and joy in me. Oh, on the contrary! But I am not he, and I live my own life, a narrow, middle-class life, but a solid one, filled with duties. And so we can think of him peacefully and affectionately, my aunt and I. She would have more to say of him than I have, but that lies buried in her good heart"

"And now that we come to these records of Haller's, these partly diseased, partly beautiful, and thoughtful fantasies, I must confess that if they had fallen into my hands by chance and if I had not known their author, I should most certainly have thrown them away in disgust. But owing to my acquaintance with Haller I have been able, to some extent, to understand them, and even to appreciate them. I should hesitate to share them with others if I saw in them nothing but the pathological fancies of a single and isolated case of a diseased temperament. But I see something more in them. I see them as a document of the times, for Haller's sickness of the soul, as I now know, is not the eccentricity of a single individual, but the sickness of the times themselves, the neurosis of that generation to which Haller belongs, a sickness, it seems, that by no means attacks the weak and worthless only but, rather, precisely those who are strongest in spirit and richest in gifts"

"They mean, literally, a journey through hell, a sometimes fearful, sometimes courageous journey through the chaos of a world whose souls dwell in darkness, a journey undertaken with the determination to go through hell from one end to the other, to give battle to chaos, and to suffer torture to the full"

"Then again, I like the contrast between my lonely, loveless, hunted, and thoroughly disorderly existence and this middle-class family life. I like to breathe in on the stairs this odor of quiet and order, of cleanliness and respectable domesticity. There is something in it that touches me in spite of my hatred for all it stands for. I like to step across the threshold of my room where all this suddenly stops; where, instead, cigar ash and wine bottles lie among the heaped-up books and there is nothing but disorder and neglect; and where everything--books, manuscript, thoughts--is marked and saturated with the plight of lonely men, with the problem of existence and with the yearning after a new orientation for an age that has lost its bearings"

"Was that a matter for regret? No, I did not regret the past. My regret was for the present day, for all the countless hours and days that I lost in mere passivity and that brought me nothing, not even the shocks of awakening"

"Was all that we called culture, spirit, soul, all that we called beautiful and sacred, nothing but a ghost long dead, which only a few fools like us took for true and living? Had it perhaps indeed never been true and living? Had all that we poor fools bothered our heads about never been anything but a phantom?"

"Sleep well. I will not awake you. The time will come when you will be pulled down or plastered with covetous advertisements. But for the present, there you stand, beautiful and quiet as ever, and I love you for it"

"There are a good many people of the same kind as Harry. Many artists are of his kind. These persons all have two souls, two beings within them. There is God and the devil in them; the mother's blood and the father's; the capacity for happiness and the capacity for suffering; and in just such a state of enmity and entanglement towards and within each other as were the wolf and man in Harry. And these men, for whom life has no repose, live at times in their rare moments of happiness with such strength and indescribable beauty, the spray of their moment's happiness is flung so high and dazzlingly over the wide sea of suffering, that the light of it, spreading its radiance, touches others too with its enchantment"

"A man cannot live intensely except at the cost of the self"

"To attain to this, or, perhaps it may be, to be able at least to dare the leap into the unknown, a Steppenwolf must once have a good look at himself. He must look deeply into the chaos of his own soul and plumb its depths. The riddle of his existence would then be revealed to him at once in all its changelessness, and it would be impossible for him ever after to escape first from the hell of the flesh to the comforts of a sentimental philosophy and then back to the blind orgy of his wolfishness"

"Man and wolf would then be compelled to recognise one another without the masks of false feeling and to look one another straight in the eye. Then they would either explode and separate forever, and there would be no more Steppenwolf, or else they would come to terms in the dawning light of humor"

"If I say above or below, that is already a statement that requires explanation, since an above and a below exist only in thought, only as abstractions. The world itself knows nothing of above or below"

"I answered yes and no, laughed now and then, and let her talk. I found her charming, very much to my surprise, for I had always avoided girls of her kind and regarded them with suspicion. And she treated me exactly in the way that was best for me at that moment, and so she has since without an exception. She took me under her wing just as I needed, and mocked me, too, just as I needed. She ordered me a sandwich and told me to eat it. She filled my glass and bade me sip it and not drink too fast. Then she commended my docility"

"Wait a bit, she cried. So you can't dance? Not at all? Not even a one step? And yet you talk of the trouble you've taken to live? You told a fib there, my boy, and you shouldn't do that at your age. How can you say that you've taken any trouble to live when you won't even dance? But if I can't--I've never learned! She laughed"

"But you learned reading and writing and arithmetic, I suppose, and French and Latin and a lot of other things? I don't mind betting you were ten or twelve years at school and studied whatever else you could as well. Perhaps you've even got your doctor's degree and know Chinese or Spanish. Am I right? Very well then. But you couldn't find the time and money for a few dancing lessons! No, indeed!"

"It was my parents, I said to justify myself. They let me learn Latin and Greek and all the rest of it. But they didn't let me learn to dance. It wasn't the thing with us. My parents had never danced themselves. She looked at me quite coldly, with real contempt, and again something in her face reminded me of my youth"

"So your parents must take the blame then. Did you ask them whether you might spend the evening at the Black Eagle? Did you? They're dead a long while ago, you say? So much for that. And now supposing you were too obedient to learn to dance when you were young (though I don't believe you were such a model child), what have you been doing with yourself all these years? Well, I confessed, I scarcely know myself--studied, played music, read books, written books, traveled--"

"Fine views of life, you have. You have always done the difficult and complicated things and the simple ones you haven't even learned. No time, of course. More amusing things to do. Well, thank God, I'm not your mother. But to do as you do and then say you've tested life to the bottom and found nothing in it is going a bit too far"

"Don't scold me, I implored. It isn't as if I didn't know I was mad. Oh, don't make a song of your sufferings. You are no madman, Professor. You're not half mad enough to please me. It seems to me you're much too clever in a silly way, just like a professor. Have another roll. You can tell me some more later"

"You should not take old people who are already dead seriously. It does them injustice. We immortals do not like things to be taken seriously. We like joking. Seriousness, young man, is an accident of time. It consists, I don't mind telling you in confidence, in putting too high a value on time. I, too, once put too high a value on time. For that reason I wished to be a hundred years old. In eternity, however, there is no time, you see. Eternity is a mere moment, just long enough for a joke"

She was the one window, the one tiny crack of light in my black hole of dread. She was my release and my way to freedom. She had to teach me to live or teach me to die. She had to touch my deadened heart with her firm and pretty hand, and at the touch of life it would either leap again to flame or subside in ashes

"Your life will not be flat and dull even though you know that your war will never be victorious. It is far flatter, Harry, to fight for something good and ideal and to know all the time that you are bound to attain it"

"Are ideals attainable? Do we live to abolish death? No--we live to fear it and then again to love it, and just for death's sake it is that our spark of life glows for an hour now and then so brightly. You're a child, Harry. Now, do as I tell you and come along. We've a lot to get done today. I am not going to bother myself any more today about the war or the papers either"

"Indeed, I cannot do it, I said in my misery. Of course, if I were young and good-looking--but for a stiff old hack like me who can't dance for the life of him--she would laugh at me!"

"She danced wonderfully and I caught the infection. I forgot for the moment all the rules I had conscientiously learned and simply floated along. I felt my partner's taut hips, her quick and pliant knees, and looking in her young and radiant face I owned to her that this was the first time in my life that I had ever really danced. She smiled encouragement and replied to my enchanted gaze and flattering words with a wonderful compliance, not of words, but of movements whose soft enchantment brought us more closely and delightfully in touch"

"His dark and beautiful Creole eyes and his black locks hid no romance, no problems, no thoughts. Closely looked at, this beautiful demigod of love was no more than a complacent and rather spoiled young man with pleasant manners. I talked to him about his instrument and about tone colors in jazz music, and he must have seen that he was confronted by one who had the enjoyment of a connoisseur for all that touched on music"

"Poor, poor fellow. Look at his eyes. Doesn't know how to laugh"

"There's little there to show you, Hermine, I'm afraid. You know far more than I do. You're a most remarkable person--and a woman. But do I mean anything to you? Don't I bore you?"

"There are always a few such people who demand the utmost of life and yet cannot come to terms with its stupidity and crudeness"

"I am going to teach you to dance and play and smile, and still not be happy. And you are going to teach me to think and to know and yet not be happy. Do you know that we are both children of the devil?"

"Every human being, it says, consists of ten, or a hundred, or a thousand souls"

"That is your own affair. You can love as much as you like in your ideal fashion, for all I care. All I have to worry about is that you should learn to know a little more of the little arts and lighter sides of life. In this sphere, I am your teacher, and I shall be a better one than your ideal love ever was, you may be sure of that! It's high time you slept with a pretty girl again, Steppenwolf"

"You're a child. You were too lazy to learn to dance till it was nearly too late, and in the same way you were too lazy to learn to love. As for ideal and tragic love, that, I don't doubt, you can do marvellously--and all honor to you. Now you will learn to love a little in an ordinary human way. We have made a start. You will soon be fit to go to a ball, but you must know the Boston first, and we'll begin on that tomorrow. I'll come at three. How did you like the music, by the way?"

"Well, there's another step forward, you see. Up to now you couldn't stand all this dance and jazz music. It was too superficial and frivolous for you. Now you have seen that there's no need to take it seriously and that it can all the same be very agreeable and delightful. And, by the way, the whole orchestra would be nothing without Pablo. He conducts it and puts fire into it"

"He had drugs for stilling pain, for inducing sleep, for begetting beautiful dreams, lively spirits and the passion of love"

"Well, he said with equanimity, you see, in my opinion there is no point at all in talking about music. I never talk about music. What reply, then, was I to make to your very able and just remarks? You were perfectly right in all you said. But, you see, I am a musician, not a professor, and I don't believe that, as regards music, there is the least point in being right. Music does not depend on being right, on having good taste and education and all that"

"Indeed. Then what does it depend on?"

"On making music, Herr Haller, on making music as well and as much as possible and with all the intensity of which one is capable. That is the point, Monsieur. Though I carried the complete works of Bach and Haydn in my head and could say the cleverest things about them, not a soul would be the better for it. But when I take hold of my mouthpiece and play a lively shimmy, whether the shimmy be good or bad, it will give people pleasure. It gets into their legs and into their blood. That's the point and that alone. Look at the faces in a dance hall at the moment when the music strikes up after a longish pause, how eyes sparkle, legs twitch and faces begin to laugh.That is why one makes music"

"We musicians, however, we must play our parts according to our duties and our gifts. We have to play what is actually in demand, and we have to play it as well and as beautifully and as expressively as ever we can"

"She taught me the charming play and delights of the senses, but she gave me, also, new understanding, new insight, new love. The world of the dance and pleasure resorts, the cinemas, bars and hotel lounges that for me, the hermit and esthete, had always about it something trivial, forbidden, and degrading, was for Maria and Hermine and their companions the world pure and simple"

"He looked at me with pity. You don't want to, Herr Harry. Very good. You're always making difficulties for yourself. Don't sleep tonight with Maria if you would rather not. But give me the money all the same"

"You're really doing splendidly, she said. Dancing suits you. Anyone who hadn't seen you for the last four weeks would scarcely know you"

"I do want more. I am not content with being happy. I was not made for it. It is not my destiny. My destiny is the opposite"

"Perhaps the trouble with me was more material and moral and with you more spiritual--but it was the same road"


"All the other women who were dancing in the same room and the same dance and to the same music, and whose radiant faces floated past me like fantastic flowers, belonged to me, and I to them. All of us had a part in one another. And the men too. I was with them also. They, too, were no strangers to me. Their smile was mine, and mine their wooing and theirs mine"

"At this moment Pablo appeared in the doorway and beamed on us out of his jolly eyes that really were animal's eyes except that animal's eyes are always serious, while his always laughed, and this laughter turned them into human eyes"

"This, explained Pablo, is our theater, and a jolly one it is. I hope you'll find lots to laugh at. He laughed aloud as he spoke, a short laugh, but it went through me like a shot. It was the same bright and peculiar laugh that I had heard before from below"

"You have no doubt guessed long since that the conquest of time and the escape from reality, or however else it may be that you choose to describe your longing, means simply the wish to be relieved of your so-called personality. That is the prison where you lie. And if you were to enter the theater as you are, you would see everything through the eyes of Harry and the old spectacles of the Steppenwolf. You are therefore requested to lay these spectacles aside and to be so kind as to leave your highly esteemed personality here in the cloakroom where you will find it again when you wish"

"You are here in a school of humor. You are to learn to laugh. Now, true humor begins when a man ceases to take himself seriously"

"What was normal yesterday is no longer normal today"

"Certainly. Life is always frightful. We cannot help it and we are responsible all the same. One's born and at once one is guilty"

"We above you ever more residing In the ether's star translumined ice Know nor day nor night nor time's dividing, Wear nor age nor sex as our device. Cool and unchanging is our eternal being, Cool and star bright is our eternal laughter"

"Pay attention and you will learn something"

"When you listen to radio you are a witness of the everlasting war between idea and appearance, between time and eternity, between the human and the divine"

"All life is so, my child, and we must let it be so; and, if we are not asses, laugh at it. It little becomes people like you to be critics of radio or of life either. Better learn to listen first!"

"Learn what is to be taken seriously and laugh at the rest"

"How pathetic you always are. But you will learn humor yet, Harry. Humor is always gallows-humor, and it is on the gallows you are now constrained to learn it. You are ready?"

"Gentlemen, there stands before you Harry Haller, accused and found guilty of the willful misuse of our Magic Theater. Haller has not alone insulted the majesty of art in that he confounded our beautiful picture gallery with so-called reality and stabbed to death the reflection of a girl with the reflection of a knife; he has in addition displayed the intention of using our theater as a mechanism of suicide and shown himself devoid of humor. Wherefore we condemn Haller to eternal life and we suspend for twelve hours his permit to enter our theater. The penalty also of being laughed out of court may not be remitted. Gentlemen, all together, one-two-three!"

"So, you see, you will have to learn to listen to more of the radio music of life. It'll do you good. You are uncommonly poor in gifts, a poor blockhead, but by degrees you will come to grasp what is required of you. You have got to learn to laugh. That will be required of you. You must apprehend the humor of life, its gallows-humor. But of course you are ready for everything in the world except what will be required of you. You are ready to stab girls to death. You are ready to be executed with all solemnity. You would be ready, no doubt, to mortify and scourge yourself for centuries together. Wouldn't you?"

"It is time to come to your senses. You are to live and to learn to laugh. You are to learn to listen to the cursed radio music of life and to reverence the spirit behind it and to laugh at its distortions. So there you are. More will not be asked of you"

"I hope, at least, you did it from jealousy when you saw Hermine and me lying there. Unfortunately, you did not know what to do with this figure. I thought you had learned the game better. Well, you will do better next time"

"One day I would be a better hand at the game. One day I would learn how to laugh. Pablo was waiting for me, and Mozart too"

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