Joy (cithra) wrote,
Joy
cithra

Hesse fails me

Or perhaps his translators fail me - but as I progress, I think not. [Note: this is not my intellectual reaction, and if I were analyzing the book for some reason what I describe probably wouldn't have bothered me nearly as much. But I was reading for pleasure, alas, and this is very much my emotional response.]

Steppenwolfe was one of the things that kept me alive in high school, knowing that I wasn't the only one whose interior self and exterior veneer were profoundly opposite. I identified very strongly with the main character, and for whatever reason the difference in gender never occurred.

I'm currently reading the Glass Bead Game, and he's going along describing the life of the intellectual elite the protagonist belongs to, very strict, very austere. Kind of monastic in many ways - the translator's adjective - and I'm still immersed in the thread of the novel. Then we come to where these scholars are so devoted to their Order that to remain part of the system is to pass by worldly pleasures and resign themselves to poverty and bachelorhood, foregoing the pleasures of wife and family. And with an synesthetic slam I am knocked out of the novel and back into my physical surroundings. No use for me to imagine myself in the protagonist's shoes - they don't even let your kind in the store.

I had wondered once or twice about the school system he is described as attending, but the use of "child" instead of "boy" (or "girl") made me think that this utopia (as it is named by the narrator) was a state where men and women were equal. After all, no particular division or differences in society based on sex had been described. More fool I - it's not that men and women held equal place in society, it's that the women were not even on stage at all! I'd forgotten that German runs to neuter words like 'child' and 'youth' where English might use a gendered alternative. I'd forgotten the novel was published in 1953. I'd forgotten that the school systems were so profoundly sex-segregated in the past.

I wouldn't mention it except it has made me disinclined to pick the book back up and continue reading. Which is frustrating, because I'm still engaged enough to want to know what is going on. But all the time I was reading about this wonderful life of scholarship and possibilities for the best and brightest students the refrain "but not you, not for you, none of this is remotely for you" would be whispering in my inner ear. I'm not up to that right now, in terms of my mental-health.

So I'm feeling pretty profoundly disappointed in Mr. Hesse, with the realization that if I went back and examined Steppenwolfe a little closer today it might be just as closed to me in terms of identification. I've never thought I was born into the wrong body, I've just been pissed of all my life that it fucking matters in things. All things, but especially intellectual matters - I'm still furious, furious over being expected to back off in an argument or follow someone's lackwit notions of how to do things because they were a boy and I was a girl. Granted, if it happens now it isn't nearly as open acknowledged - it's usually something like saying something in a group discussion, being ignored, then having someone else (male) a moment later say the exact same thing and having it be lauded as a great idea. There are times I'm sure it isn't even deliberate - I've been heard, or subconsciously heard, but as fodder for the mill I don't need credit or acknowledgment any more than the grain is acknowledged for being flour - it's the miller who gets the credit.

It's very tiring to be constantly told things are not for you. I think a lot of my discontent with the culture right now is not only are the people in charge interested only in the welfare of the haves and the have-mores, an important part of that is making sure the have-nots are aware of the haves utter indifference to them. There is a bizarre and casual cruelty to it that puzzles me - unless they really don't consider people without money to be anything but animals. And if that is the actual case - as opposed to a satirical exaggeration - we are in and in for worse trouble than I've thought.
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