Published in 1930 this is set in Medieval times and is about two men, Narcissus and Goldmund. Narcissus struggles with becoming a monk and Goldmund starts off as his pupil but leaves to become what's termed as a wayfarer - someone who is homeless and travels a lot.
Both men come to terms with their chosen way of life and meet again, seeing much change in each other. Narcissus does not regret his life but Goldmund regrets his.
This is beautifully written and absolutely absorbing.
I bought this book with some birthday book tokens - looking for some big, fat novels that would take ages to read, and that would be different from anything I'd read before (no point spending tokens on something I'll finish in a day or two - I'll buy those sort of books second hand!)
It worked on both counts - a really strange book, and rather densely written, so 10 or so pages at a time was plenty, especially at the start while I was figuring out what was going on.
It's set a few centuries in the future, although there is no advanced technology at all, so it's certainly doesn't feel like sci-fi. It tells of a culture dedicated to the playing of "The Glass Bead Game" which is a kind of weird abstraction of all the arts and sciences, reduced to their essential patterns (yeah, I had to work hard to get a grip on that) We follow one extremely talented boy as he progresses up the hierarchy to the very top of this introverted, sheltered society, and what he finds when he got there.
I'd never even heard of this book, until I saw it in Waterstones, but a few days after I started reading it, I turned Radio 4 on and was surprised to find the very same book was being dramatised as the Classic Serial. (The first episode is still available on Listen Again for three more days...Classic Serial: The Glass Bead Game
Very strange, but rather readable and some very interesting ideas about how societies develop and interact with each other!
It was written in Germany, in the 1950s, and I'm just starting to wonder how that context shaped what was written.
Anyone else even heard of this, never mind read it!?
From Amazon : At first sight Harry Haller seems a respectable, educated man. In reality he is the Steppenwolf: wild, strange, alienated from society and repulsed by the modern age. But as he is drawn into a series of dreamlike and sometimes savage encounters - accompanied by, among others, Mozart, Goethe and the bewitching Hermione - the misanthropic Haller discovers a higher truth, and the possibility of happiness. This blistering portrayal of a man who feels himself to be half-human and half-wolf was the bible of the 1960s counterculture, capturing the mood of a disaffected generation, and remains a haunting story of estrangement and redemption.
Could not have said it better myself. I did feel the profundity in this book and very powerful it is too. Beware though, the book makes clear that Haller is seriously considering suicide so if that could upset you don't read it. Other than that, highly recommended.