• “Beneath the Wheel” Book

    Posted on September 6, 2012 by in Literature

    A few weeks ago I finished the book “Beneath the Wheel” by Hermann Hesse; translated by Michael Roloff.

    There were some really interesting passages in the book that I wanted to share.  The overall theme of the book was about youth being crushed under a demanding, totalitarian academic environment.  I somewhat agree with the theme and moral of the story, but the book itself was not very driven towards punching in an emotional or philosophical point; but more in conveying a sense of time and memory.  I thoroughly enjoyed this conveyance, and felt it was much stronger than other books by Hermann Hesse, such as “Steppenwulf;” but I don’t identify as strongly.

    I am curious though, is the setting of this book part of Hesse’s actual childhood, or is it an ideal creation that is meant to illicit a somewhat surreal and perfect idea of childhood?  This book is not long, and I would suggest it to anyone who is visually inclined 😉

    I wanted to share these passages because they reminded me specifically of imagery Jeeves and I made for our Senior Thesis, “The Mistake,” at SIUC.  This film is not online now, but when it is hopefully I will remember to add it to this post.  The idea of youth falling in love and losing all sense or reality and space around them interests me, and I’ve often reflected upon these moments of life were time stops and there is an inkling in the back of your mind that tells you that this moment will be one remembered for all of afterwords.  In the film, I use a 25 year old protagonist who falls in love with a younger woman against all the best judgement.  I try to visually show his obsession and the idealism he places on her within his own mind and memories.  The quality of it is supposed to be picturesque, while true reality is dull and unmemorable.  I feel film is deeply connected to memory much more than actual experience.  Georges Méliès fan.  Enjoy the following excerpts and try to check out this book if you can.

    “Emma also looked different.  He no longer saw her entire face- just her dark happy eyes and her red mouth, sharp white teeth; a slipper with a black stocking above it, then a handful of curls dangling loosely in the back of her neck; a round tanned neck gliding into a blue bodice, the firm shoulders and the heaving breasts underneath, a pink translucent ear.”
    “It was remarkable how everything had changed, how beautiful and exciting it had become.  The starlings which had fattened up on the apple-pulp shot noisily through a sky that had never looked as high and beautiful, as blue and yearning.  Never had the river looked like such a pure, blue-green mirror, nor had it held such a blindingly white roaring weir.  All this seemed a decorative newly painted picture behind clear new glass.  Everything seemed to await the beginning of a great feast.  He himself felt a strong, sweet seething of brilliant expectations, but felt also that it was all a dream which would never come true.  As they intensified, these two0edged feeling became a dark compulsion, a feeling as though something powerful wanted to tear free within hi and come into the open — perhaps a sob, perhaps a song, a scream or a a loud laugh.  Only at home did he calm down a little.  Everything there, naturally, was a usual.”
    “Only her face he could not imagine, hover hard he tried.”
    “She stretched her hand across the fence.  He held it timidly and tenderly and pressed it a little.  When he realized that it was not being withdrawn, he took heart and stroked the warm hand.  And when it was still left to him to hold, he placed it against his cheek.  A flood of desire, peculiar warmth and blissful weariness coursed through him.  The air seemed lukewarm and moist.  The street and garden became invisible  All he saw was a close bright face and a tangle of dark hair.”

    The beginning of the book is also good, with the character describing a rural German village in the pre-industrial age.  Very Kurosawa idealistic.  Also, his constant falling into madness at times is reflected deeply in a rich tapestry of changing seasons.  Fun.


    Vocab-  Check out these words if you don’t know them.  You should know them, but maybe you haven’t seen them in a while:



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2 Responses so far.

  1. Sean says:

    Thomas Mann was also really opposed to the German education system. From the passages you posted their writing styles seems pretty similar, especially when describing women. They both approach women as unattainable, almost spiritual, transformative objects, but maybe I’m reading too deeply into it.

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