1906, Books, Fiction

The Prodigy aka Beneath the Wheel (1906) by Hermann Hesse

This coming of age story is quite affecting and feels like a much better glimpse into the youth of a German male of the era than I am used to, either from Hesse himself or from someone like Thomas Mann.

Hesse succeeds in showing how inflexible institutions can slowly damage a child. Though I don’t agree with Hesse about the things which are more important than what these institutions teach, I understand where he’s coming from and I believe that he probably had a strong case back then.
The best parts of the novel involve the protagonist’s first love – very, very well done – and the protagonist’s first drinking bout. Both feel really, really real and are so well done that the rest of the novel pales in comparison.
Unfortunately, the novel is pretty uneven. The worst moment is a nearly chapter-long digression into a world that the protagonist supposedly used to experience, but is never mentioned previously or ever again. It feels like it was written separately (or, perhaps, written for a different novel or story) and then inserted in the middle. It’s pretty awkward. Also, I don’t like the ending as it makes Hesse’s moral (which I don’t necessarily agree with completely) really heavy handed.
Still, I’d highly recommend it to anyone who dropped out of high school or university.
  • Author: Hermann Hesse
  • Original title: Unterm Rad
  • Country: Germany
  • Language: German
  • Genre: Novel
  • Publisher: S. Fisherman
  • Publication date: 1906
  • Media type: Print (hardcover)
  • Pages: 192 pp
  • OCLC: 9488637

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