Books

Making Nietzsche New

A lacklustre new biography does at least help rescue Nietzsche’s reputation from the pernicious meddling of his anti-Semitic sister

30 April 2016

9:00 AM

30 April 2016

9:00 AM

The Making of Friedrich Nietzsche: The Quest for Identity, 1844–1869 Daniel Blue

CUP, pp.344, £29.99, ISBN: 9781107134867

Had you been down at Naumburg barracks early in March 1867, you might have seen a figure take a running jump at a horse and thud down front first on the pommel with a yelp. This was Friedrich Nietzsche, midway through his 23rd year and, thanks to a sickly childhood, no stranger to hospitals. Nietzsche lost part of his sternum, leaving him not so much pigeon-chested as angle-grinded. Once recovered, he celebrated by having his picture taken in full uniform, sabre at the ready, glaring at the ‘miserable photographer’ like a warrior set for battle.

Daniel Blue regards the photo as ‘unflattering’ — though it’s nowhere near as unflattering as the picture Elisabeth Förster-Nietzsche painted of her brother after his death in 1900. Rabidly anti-Semitic (in later years she would support Hitler), Elisabeth rewrote and restructured Nietzsche’s unpublished manuscripts so as to make this anti-racist internationalist read like a Nazi before the fact. Blue doesn’t mention that, but he does cite some of Elisabeth’s other misrepresentations and believes that most of Nietzsche’s biographers have erred through their unthinking acceptance of Elisabeth’s ‘statements and stories as uncontroversial facts’. Hence The Making of Friedrich Nietzsche, a volume which ‘aspires to be the biography that Nietzsche himself might have composed if he had possessed the inclination and the time’.

In fact, Nietzsche spent a good deal of his early years composing just such books. He completed his first memoir when he was just 13, and wrote another five over the next decade. They weren’t written to record his academic achievements (negligible, at least until his mid-teens), much less his prowess on field or track (non-existent), but, rather, according to Blue, as a ‘mirror’ in which, abstracted from history and environment, his ‘latent self’ would come into focus. ‘Autobiography’ was what Nietzsche wrote ‘in order to see who he was’.


On the evidence adduced here, what he was was a mummy’s boy. As late as her son’s undergraduate days, Franziska Nietzsche was still doing her son’s laundry. And whenever a more metaphysical storm broke, mum was always Nietzsche’s first port of call. Even when he was called away from his studies for military service, he was granted a dispensation that posted him in his hometown — and allowed him not only to live at home with Mum, but to lunch and dine with her every day of the week. Blue, who seems to have read everything ever published on Nietzsche (and translated much new material hitherto available only in the German), doesn’t mention Joachim Köhler’s Zarathustra’s Secret: The Interior Life of Friedrich Nietzsche. Nonetheless, he does an awful lot to endorse Köhler’s suggestion that Nietzsche was a repressed homosexual.

But does Blue offer as radically new a portrait of Nietzsche as he claims? On the whole, I’m afraid, no. In essence, what this book does is translate into biographical terms the more analytical findings of Walter Kaufmann’s still groundbreaking study Nietzsche: Philosopher, Psychologist, Antichrist. Prior to the publication of that book in 1950, it was a critical commonplace that Nietzsche was a crazed Teutonic supremacist whose poetic ranting was of no philosophical worth. Kaufmann went back to the original texts to show how, far from being a proto-dictator, Nietzsche (who once called himself the ‘last anti-political German’) was in fact a proto-existentialist — a rationalist moralist who believed that the only thing worth conquering was the self.

Subsequently, of course, Nietzsche has gone on to conquer legions of readers. Who doesn’t love a writer who stops being apophthegmatic only in order to be aphoristic? Nietzsche isn’t just the greatest stylist in the history of philosophy. He’s one of the greatest stylists in the history of the written word. As with Shakespeare, reading Nietzsche is like reading a dictionary of quotations: practically every line seems both familiar and startling.

Which means that the big drawback of Blue’s impressively researched book is its prose. Though he calls himself an ‘independent scholar’, Blue writes the purest acadamese — a stodgy slurry in which nothing goes without saying and, as if in homage to Nietzsche’s notion of eternal recurrence, many things are said more than once. ‘Without music,’ remarked Nietzsche, ‘life would be a mistake.’ Daniel Blue’s book is without music. Even though it sets his record straight, Nietzsche wouldn’t have approved.

Got something to add? Join the discussion and comment below.

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  • Fyodor Destroyevski

    “Nietzsche isn’t just the greatest stylist in the history of philosophy.
    He’s one of the greatest stylists in the history of the written word.” I agree, but one must know German, to know for sure, still. Kaufmann’s translation of Goethe is also superlative.

    • Sean L

      But if he’s a brilliant stylist in translation, which he surely is, as well as a great philosopher, which he also is, those facts stand irrespective of how he reads in German.

      • Jack Rocks

        I don’t agree he was a “great philosopher”. Most of what he wrote (like most philosophers) was nonsense. A few gems can be found, again as with any philosopher. But this is purely a monkeys and keyboards exercise (not my comment, Nietzsche).

        • Sean L

          But it’s not “great” in the sense of one’s opinion but great in his standing. Any standard university reading list includes a number of books on “the great philosophers”. You won’t find one that doesn’t include N. Even Russell, who loathed him, devotes a chapter to him in his History of Western Philosophy. That’s more the sense in which I meant “great”, but I also agree with it. However much I disagree with much of it is beside the point. I also disagree with much of Marx, a no less influential and “great” philosopher, at least from the standpoint of his influence. But they’re also the two philosophers I most wish never existed. But that makes little sense when what one thinks is already conditioned by what they thought anyway. How could it be otherwise? N called Christianity “Platonism for the people”. Whitehead said the history of philosophy was a series of “footnotes to Plato”. N loathed Christian but also realised how much he was a product of it, and its genius. In that sense agreement is neither here nor there: what the great philosophers thought is constitutive of how we think. their foundation. It’s not like we have a choice in the matter, anymore than we have a choice as to when and where we happen to come into the world….

          • Bruce Lewis

            We have to read them in order to reject them, granted, but the important thing is to get to the point where we can reject their influence.

          • Sean L

            The point here is more that to the extent that the philosopher is “great”, you *can’t* reject his influence. N “rejected” Christianity but also acknowledged that the Christian religion in its moral values and monotheistic thought already made him and his culture what it is. He wants to reject Platonic idealism in all its forms and seeks a “revaluation of all values”. But in doing so also recognises that his own thinking his conditioned by Platonic categories: if you want to reject ideas of absolute truth and goodness you first have to “believe” them in some degree. We might want to ” reject ” Marx. But every time we use the term “capitalism” we bow to his influence. Ditto existentialism and anything goes post-modernism: footnotes to Nietzsche. But yes you have to read and understand in order to reject their arguments and resist their influence, as far as that’s possible.

          • Sean L

            The point here is more that to the extent that the philosopher is “great”, you *can’t* reject his influence. N “rejected” Christianity but also acknowledged that the Christian religion in its moral values and monotheistic thought already made him and his culture what it is. He wants to reject Platonic idealism in all its forms and seeks a “revaluation of all values”. But in doing so also recognises that his own thinking his conditioned by Platonic categories: if you want to reject ideas of absolute truth and goodness you first have to “believe” them in some degree. We might want to ” reject ” Marx. But every time we use the term “capitalism” we bow to his influence. Ditto existentialism and anything goes post-modernism: footnotes to Nietzsche. But yes you have to read and understand in order to reject their arguments and resist their influence, as far as that’s possible.

        • Al_de_Baran

          ” (not my comment, Nietzsche)”

          Actually, yes, your comment, except that the monkeys would likely have come up with something more intelligent.

  • Dilip Samuel

    It wasn’t Naumburg; in fact, it was Turin where the philosopher had a mental collapse after trying to rescue a horse!

    • Sean L

      That was much later in life.

  • Polly Radical

    Dying of syphilis a sure sign of a great philosopher.

  • Sean L

    There are plenty of things N a z i about Nietzsche, not in the sense of German nationalism but in his glorification of physical health and contempt for the greater mass of humanity, law, democracy, anything remotely sympathetic to egalitarian ideals. He believed that higher types should make their own rules; that the purpose of the average man was to serve great men in their creative purpose. Any number of quotes about the “blond beast” could be used, regardless of how they’re edited. Of course you could also find Nietzsche quotes to use *against* the nationalists. But with a great writer and philosopher like he was there are bound to be contradictory passages. But in his politics he was aristocratic and off the scale right wing. He approved of child labour and even opposed a measure to reduce the working day for children from 12 to 11 hours when he was a professor in Basel.

    • Jojje 3000

      Disdain over self-pity and public whining is not against democracy etc. Nietzsche is not PC and that earns him some credit.

      • Sean L

        I don’t know what your point is but it bears no relation to anything I said.

    • Yazmina Kara

      Let see now, Nietzsche is very borderline when it comes to politics, he saw western democtratic ideals as christian at heart and it would mean that one must bow down to masses that he considered dangerous, since that is were real madness is. He argued that one shouöld in a very existentialist way be an individual. But he was against harsh punishment, against prisons and seemingly against a tyrant in the traditional sense.

      Especially that is what I read from Zarathrustra, The odd part is that he seems to what some sort of ”enlightened” meritocracy. But honestly there is so many intepretations there and to be honest many like myself see him at large as a apolitical philosopher, when he talks of war, he means inner strife.I see him as a psychological philosopher, a proto-psychologist many call him. It is this diffulty which has made both many fascists and anarchsist fans of Nietzsche.
      Also while not being a socialist he also hated capitalism which he saw a cult of objects.

      His hatred of christianity is very much rooted in the fact that if followed to the word people like Goethe and Bach could not exist.

      The blond beast does not refer to an ayran race, but a lion.

      He hated nationalism, constantly attacked Germans and German culture. Constantly attacked anti-semites., He broke off with Wagner because he could not stand his nationalism, nor could he stand his hatred of jews.

      • Sean L

        I don’t know where you get that one about Wagner – who told you that? Of course N was ambivalent about the Jews, their slave revolt in morality and its legacy, Christian ideals, since he recognised them in himself – how could he not? There are any number of passages glorifying war and slaughter, and innumerable examples of language that would be regarded as racist and anti-semitic today. Not least the passages referring to the blond beast in Genealogy of Morals. Of course such views were normal then. That’s beside the point. I’m not opposing N, merely pointing to the fact that plenty of what he wrote can be used to defend aspects of N a z i doctrinet. I know Kaufman says it means a lion but I’m going by what Nietzsche wrote, not Kaufman. “Constantly attacked anti-semites”, that’s just nonsense. And it’s Marx that saw capitalism as a cult of objects: “commodity fetishism”. Nietzsche’s hostility to the world of commerce was on a par with his hatred of mass education and newspapers or any aspect of mass culture inimical to the high culture and aristocratic values he defended. Continuous is his loathing of socialist and liberal ideals which he rightly regarded as Christian values in secular form, i.e. the latest manifestation of the slave revolt begun by the Jewish priestly caste and developed by their Christian successors. He didn’t particularly hate nationalism or Germans as such, only to the extent that he deplored *all* such mass movements as operations of the herd instinct. Yes N is a brilliant psychologist as well as philosopher, and not for the most part explicitly political, though there are plenty of passages that leave one in on doubt where he stood in respect of socialist and liberal values; and examples from his life – I’ve already referred to his opposition to reducing the working day and his support for child labour in Basel. That’s from the Safranski biography. But the idea that his theories of will to power and the overman or superman are without political significance and didn’t profoundly influence H and the N a zi movement is untenable and totally untrue. I don’t wish to be disrespectful but it appears as if you’re judging N by what others have written rather than what he wrote himself. Where you’re absolutely correct is that his work bears varying interpretations: he can certainly be selectively quoted to defend apparently opposing positions. I’m sure he’d willingly concede that, which is entirely consistent with his perspectivism: one is bound to think and act according to one’s actual predicament: it’s all about the context. Where Jews specifically are concerned, he recognised in German anti-semitism the same kind of resentment as the Jews themselves used against the Romans. Ultimately N isn’t concerned with defending Jews or Germans. His concern is with *values* and their realisation in art and culture. The Jews, Christians, anti-Semites represent species of resentment: weaker types, incapable of facing life on its own terms, taking refuge in mass causes or invented spiritual realms, banding together to overcome creative, stronger types, bringing them down to their level, all orchestrated by the intellectuals, the heirs of the Jewish priestly types who began the slave revolt that, together with Platonic philosophy, N saw as the origin of the Western morals metaphysics, science, and democratic values that he both deplored and admired for their ingenuity, which he of course himself embodied.

        • Yazmina Kara

          I wrote something but it was not accepted, maybe to long.Or maybe posted to many messages, I will just quickly say:

          Nietzsches conflict with Wagners is well known from letters, diaries and his own book Nietzsche contra Wagner, Nietzsche was also a composer, he saw Wagner as a father, but could not stand his nationalism and anti-semitism, nor his christianity.

          As said on another recent response to you here, Nietzsches main problem with christianity, and Schopenhauer and even buddhism that he has some respect for is rooted in it’s life denying aspects, instead of saying yes to life. Nietzsche thought that if great people like Bethoven had really followed christianity he could never have becomed great.

          Now I meant “self-interested cattle and mob”. My bad.

  • Burnsy

    I’ve written a “womb to tomb” biopic of Nietzsche, in screenplay format. As you can imagine, Hollywood isn’t exactly beating down my door to get their hands on it. Any indie producers out there with an interest? Perhaps a companion to “A Dangerous Method”. The script made the top 10% of the Nicholl’s screenwriting competition as well.

    • Someone132

      If we assume you’re telling the truth, do you genuinely expect the person with the financial power you seek to suddenly show up here? On one of the dozens of articles posted recently by a website that ranks 16,869 in the wide world, and 1,097
      in UK?

      • Burnsy

        Who lies about writing a (mostly) historically accurate biopic on Nietzsche? That’s not going to get you laid anywhere in the world.

        I live in LA and I was interested in the article because I’m interested in Nietzsche. The same way someone who might be a literary agent or knows someone in the business who is fond of Nietzsche’s work. Who is to say where the connection might come from?

        Better to put it out there, because as I said, Hollywood is busy making super hero movies, not movies about a super man.

        • Gdesilet

          Congrats to you, Burnsy–seriously! I know someone I can ask for advice and/or referral. Visit my website for contact info: http://www.gregorydesilet.com

      • Bruce Lewis

        The only person I could imagine being interested is dead–Derek Jarman, who made a film about Wittgenstein.

    • Jack Rocks

      My advice to you is to get an agent. You may also be able to both write and sing the theme tune too.

  • pobjoy

    A moustache like that must hide something.

    • Maxwell Frere

      I imagine he grew it so that he could mouth obscenities at people, undetected.

      • pobjoy

        🙂 Perhaps, having the misfortune of not being British, he lacked proper control of the upper lip.

    • Fyodor Destroyevski

      He grew it to appear military, thinking it would make people keep their distance.

      • pobjoy

        Why did he want people to keep their distance?

        • Adam Abramowitz

          Because people suck. The first rule of misanthropy: People need to die.

          • pobjoy

            Presumably philosophers lead by example.

        • Fyodor Destroyevski

          He was a HERMIT. “One should leave a hermit alone, He has no one to tell it to”, N. No one is free from the herd, and their meddling. Who knows what might be accomplished, if great minds are left alone? Cure for cancer, Great art, and most importantly, philosophy.

          • pobjoy

            Schopenhauer said that selfhood can be obtained only in solitude; the problem with that is that the light that one uses may be darkness. There are no good tests of the self in solitude, and one ends up with endless circular arguments. One can test one’s philosophy only under the searching light of comparison, contrast and criticism, in society, and without dismissing any point of view as inevitably inadmissible; there is no ‘herd’. Wanting to keep people at bay is not a good sign.

          • Fyodor Destroyevski

            N “tested his self”, with an interlocution with the great minds of the past, and a few current (Paneth and Salome, acolytes/associates of Freud). His erudition was unmatched.

          • pobjoy

            with an interlocution with the great minds of the past

            That does not count; the ‘great minds’ cannot reply, and they might have been fools or rogues, anyway. That is, the light that one uses may be darkness. As in science, peer review is essential.

            His erudition was unmatched.

            Or, he was a fool, whose dementia was of his own making.

          • Fyodor Destroyevski

            Youngest professor in the history of Basel.

          • pobjoy

            Where?

          • Fyodor Destroyevski

            The University of Basel is the oldest university in Switzerland.

          • pobjoy

            Switzerland is a very clean and tidy country, where even the trains run like clockwork. Nietzsche and his philology fitted in very well.

          • Al_de_Baran

            Note to Dostoyevsky and others: Don’t feed the trolls.

          • Fyodor Destroyevski

            he is one well fed troll.

          • saksin

            Schopenhauer also said something to the effect that life itself leads the will to the light. And by will he meant, of course, the full spectrum of our many feelings/emotions, and not “the will to power”. The latter is Nietsche’s unfortunate misreading of Schopenhauer.

          • pobjoy

            Schopenhauer had little use for the power of reason, but it is only through reason that mankind has ever achieved anything; and two highly destructive, self-inflicted world wars in the last century do not mean that mankind has necessarily ever achieved anything worthwhile. Even the full spectrum of our emotions are unlikely to bring us to an objective, therefore useful world view. Emotions are just part of the total equation. It was understandable, after the demise of the ‘certainties’ of medieval religion, and the tumult of revolutionary movements and the Napoleonic Wars, that pessimism about human nature, based on emotion, would arise. The fact that the world had lurched from one corruption to another was disheartening, to say the least of it. But the view that humans have a basic ‘will to live’ seems self-evident, if only because humans, like animals, have a resistance to suicide, irrespective of society, and this need have had no reference to medieval human direction and thought control.

            Whether or not Nietzsche misread Schopenhauer, they both misread the philosophy of morality, that is not based on religion; religion is a consequence of an immutably moral existence, like law courts. N’s Übermensch was aspiration, but quite without precedent or justification. The notion was less important to Nazism than a misinterpretation of Darwin; but the evolution of hominids was crucially unlike most ‘tooth and claw’ genera, because human societies depend on intelligence and co-operation. So both ‘will to live’ and especially ‘will to power’ must be put into that rather limiting context.

    • Oh pullease!!!

      • pobjoy

        Thank you for your heart-felt endorsement.

      • terence patrick hewett

        The British, bless them, believe people with beards have something to hide: they are not too fond of moustaches either: which they regard as a sure sign of vanity or worse.

        Out of Britain’s 71 Prime Ministers only one Prime Minister, Lord Salisbury, had a full set of face furniture. Benjamin Disraeli had a microscopic goatee, but he was a dandy and an exotic and the Queen’s favourite so he was let off. Clement Atlee had a military moustache, but it was 1945 and was forgiven. David Lloyd George had a Ronnie but he knew everybody’s father and their mother as well.

        The very bearded and sanctimonious Martin Schulz of course has confirmed all that the cynical Brits have suspected about the EU and is forever consigned to the nether regions.

    • Sean L

      Herpes mate.

    • Jack Rocks

      Syphilis.

      • pobjoy

        Unlikely, but worth hiding.

  • Sean L

    Internationalist and anti-racist??? Plenty in Genealogy of Morals on inferiority of darker peoples. Academic achievements negligible?? He was made a Professor at twenty-five!! The only thing worth conquering the self!!! N glorified all forms of conquest: from the “blond beast” to Napoleon. Kaufman tries to do a whitewash but you only need read it for yourself.

    • Adam Abramowitz

      And those thoughts were thanks to his sister. By the way, in the 19th century MOST Europeans were racists. This is specifically talking about the anti-Semitism his sister inserted into his writings, and that is why Hitler LOVED Nietzsche.

      • Sean L

        Nietzsche’s theory of the will to power was what attracted H it l er, influencing his language as much as his ideas: “The world is will to power – and nothing besides! ” – that’s N not H, by the way. There are far better sources of anti-Semitism, not least N’s old buddy Wagner, Houston Stewart Chamberlain is another influence, not just for anti-Semitism but racist theory generally.

        • Yazmina Kara

          Sean, Nietzsches definition of will to power was that all that iso rganic has will to power, like we humans. Because we do not only passivly exist in this world, we also try to survive not only by adapting to our enviroment but by changing our enviroment.
          We do not only go from tree to tree to avoid rain, but we also build shelter.
          Like wise the original meaning of übermensch was someone who shaped their own morality and meaning and lived thereafter.

          He also constantly attacks anti-semitism, constantly attacks nationalism, and refused german citizenship because he did nor accept it.
          The one ethnic group he also attacks over and over is germans.
          Other than Goethe and a few others he thought German culture sucked.

          There is no evidence that Hitler or the Nazis read Nietzsche, in fact there some evidence that a few nazis did not like him or did not like large chunks of what he wrote.

          • Sean L

            Your last sentence starts off saying the N a z I s didn’t read him, but concludes that they didn’t like parts of what he wrote?? Yes Nietzsche’s“will to power” as an explanatory principle operates for all forms of life. But in explaining his approach to *morals*, N uses the image of the eagle and the lamb. Surely the lamb as prey is bound to fear and loath the eagle as predator. But why should the life force of this magnificent creature be thwarted by that which it exists to conquer, which it relies upon for its nourishment? Besides, the lamb’s hostility to the eagle isn’t born out of some high flown moral ideal, but arises purely from its inability to kill anything itself. Eagles stand for men capable of dominating others; lambs for the weak mass of men, the slaves. Jews and Romans are historical instances. The world historical significance of the Jews is twofold: the “slave revolt in morality” through which Roman aristocratic values were inverted; a valuation N sought to reverse, which is what he meant by the “revaluation of all values”. And also their monotheism which he sees as the origin of the will to truth, the idea of Truth as a value in and for itself. N regards this ideal as hostile to life, for why should the stronger, warrior type be bound by the same principles as his slave? Clearly the lamb can’t overcome the eagle through physical strength, only through guile and cunning, words and ideas. Thus N identifies these intellectual traits, emanating from the slaves, as instrumental in undermining the warrior caste. In effect the Jewish priestly type has conquered his warrior master through his cleverness. And when Jesus tells his flock that the meek shall inherit the earth, that’s their consolation. Meekness has triumphed over power, the lamb over the eagle. But for N meekness represents a more insidious ‘weak’ form of power. Incapable of exerting themselves over others in this life here on earth as individuals, the slaves take refuge in the idea of another world where lambs will be rewarded with eternal life, and the eagles damned. This ‘decline’ has its counterpart in Greek philosophy in the figure of Socrates, who bamboozled stronger men through his clever words. N sees this dialectical reasoning, and science generally, as a weak form of power. While also recognising that he is heir to its philosophical genius. Of course one can’t attribute to N the symbolic N a z i use of the Roman eagle, any more than to the Hindus the s w a s t ik a beneath the eagle, the formal party symbol. It’s just one of innumerable examples of continuities between Nietzsche’s language and ideals and the N a z i s. And there is far more, particularly N’s emphasis on the physical. All the traits mentioned are qualified by N in terms of physical health and “life”: the warrior type with generosity of spirit and abundance; the slave with guile and resentment. None of that makes N a proto N a z i. As I say, he had no truck with nationalism nor any form of mass movement, and certainly not socialism. But there were other strands to N a z i ideology independently of anti-semitism, however much they fed into it, and that’s where the affinities with N lie; none more so than the numerous passages where he appears to worship power for its own sake, treating the weak with contempt. However he might have been misconstrued, the complexity and nuance of his thought overlooked, there’s no question that N’s language and imagery, together with aspects of his philosophy were used or*misused* by H and the N a z I s.

          • Yazmina Kara

            Some nazis did not like part of what he wrote, though there is low evidence that Hitler read him in any real sense, Mussolini did though.

            Nietzsches main problem with christianity, religous judaism, Schoopenhauer and buddhism was that all of them are life denying, instead of saying YES! To life. Their way of dealing with life is by denial, by completly denying the dionysian side of humanity, like living in a sexless existence becomes ”purity”.

            Even Schopenhauwer who is many ways similear to Nietzsche still promotes life denying to deal with the world, thus he is stuck according in Christian dogma, even though Schop was more buddhist.

            Christianity is worse of all of them, because it also tries to ease peoples pain by hoping for something after this life, ignoring the life of the now, hoping for paradise here after. Christianity is the worse of denial. Same reason Nietzsche did not like alcohol, it too made people flee from their issues and hide into to some fantasy world were pain is numb. Nietzsche meant we should say yes to both the negative and possitive and that life is something to overcome. Selbüberwintung , self-overcoming.

          • Sean L

            Yes he was an Islamophile properly understood.

          • LyovMyshkin

            As was Hitler. 🙂

          • tolpuddle1

            But Nazism was in many ways the fulfilment of Nietzsche’s ideas !

            Even if not in the way he intended.

            Hitler was of course well-versed in Nietzsche’s ideas – they were quite inescapable in the German-speaking world of 1890-1945.

      • Sean L

        Nietzsche’s theory of the will to power was what attracted H it l er, influencing his language as much as his ideas: “The world is will to power – and nothing besides! ” – that’s N not H, by the way. There are far better sources of anti-Semitism, not least N’s old buddy Wagner; Houston Stewart Chamberlain is another influence, not just for anti-Semitism but racist theory generally. His sister wanted to associate N’s reputation with anti-Semitism.

        • Al_de_Baran

          “The N a z is’ misunderstanding of Nietzsche’s idea of the Will to Power is what attracted them to Nietzsche”.

          There, fixed that for you.

          • Sean L

            Their misunderstanding is what attracted them…. Why don’t you learn some English grammar and try again.

          • King Zog

            Why is everybody afraid to say ‘N*zi’?

            And I just discovered why… “Hold on, this is waiting to be approved by The Spectator.”

          • Sean L

            Can you say NSDAP?

          • King Zog

            You may say that, I couldn’t possibly comment.

    • Give our God Immortal Praise

      Exactly.

  • Jackthesmilingblack

    TEST

  • walstir

    “the big drawback of Blue’s impressively researched book is its prose. Though he calls himself an ‘independent scholar’, Blue writes the purest acadamese — a stodgy slurry in which nothing goes without saying and, as if in homage to Nietzsche’s notion of eternal recurrence, many things are said more than once.”

    Friedrich Nietzsche, Twilight of the Idols

    “It is my ambition to say in ten sentences what other men say in whole books—what other men fail to say in whole books.”

  • Sargon the bone crusher

    Man and Superman.
    No National Socialism there then!!!!!
    Personally, I rather admire him.
    An antidote to the intellectual blancmange we swim in nowadays.

  • King Zog

    A veteran of the moustache wars. Hair Hitler nil, Hair Nietzsche (unt Ich spelt dat Mein Selbst) millionen.

  • Stephen Milroy

    This article is a bit like saying Kierkegaard would be horrified if he knew his ideas would create atheist thinkers like Sartre and Heidegger. May be true Nietzsche would have hated Nazism (in fact he probably would have) but his ideas did contribute, whether he liked it or not.

    • Sean L

      Good point, but Heidegger himself is no atheist. For sure, he says there’s no room for God in philosophy. But that doesn’t make it atheistic as such: he’s explicit about this in his Letter on Humanism, which is in part a counter to Sartre’s existentialist interpretation. In effect, in leaving the question of God undecided, he’s leaving room for faith. And to that extent Heidegger is consistent with Kierkegaard, for whom faith must be predicated on rational doubt, otherwise it would be idolatry. Some say that H had absorbed so much Christian theology that he’s reproducing it in philosophical form: thus Being is equivalent to God… But that’s another thing…

  • Nick P.

    I appreciate the reviewer’s attention to the topic, but Blue’s scholarship deserves better recognition than this. Kaufmann’s work was salutary in its time but far from the latest word. I have learned tons about Nietzsche from Daniel Blue. The readers of this biography also will.

  • Hippograd

    Of course Nietzsche contributed to Nazism. So did Darwin and Moses. Nietzsche might have despised antisemitism, but lots of his other ideas fit far more comfortably with Nazism — and Mosaic Judaism — than with communism or Christianity.

    • pobjoy

      Here be demons.

  • edward fincher

    In “Twilight of the Idols” Nietzsche mocks the idea of an aryan race as inherently flawed. He also loathes religion, yet Hitler used christianity to his advantage and got help from the catholic church.

    This reminds me of the Ricky Gervais quote about Nietzsche and Hitler. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8IqQ3UFvIXk

  • CK Dexter

    Well, this is embarrassing. I suspect most of the ignorance is on the part of the author reviewed, but the reviewer seems to have a healthy share, too.

    This quote from the reviewed book, for example, is mind-boggling: “Worse, says Blue, most of Nietzsche’s biographers have written books bent out of shape by their unthinking acceptance of Elisabeth’s ‘statements and stories as uncontroversial facts’.

    A bit late to the party, dude. No writer on Nietzsche–literally, not a single one–has taken Elisabeth’s statements or the Nietzsche as proto-Nazi reading seriously for sixty years. It’s beyond absurd to say that a new biography could “rescue Nietzsche’s reputation” from his sister when that was done definitively in 1950 in Walter Kaufmann’s “Nietzsche: Philosopher, Psychologist, Antichrist.”

    Then there’s this: “Once recovered, he celebrated by having his picture taken in full uniform, sabre at the ready, glaring at the ‘miserable photographer’ like a warrior set for battle. Alas for comedy, this portrait is lost to history.”

    Are you kidding? That portrait isn’t lost. Google “Nietzsche sword.” Have either the book’s author or its reviewer done any research at all?

    • Daniel Blue

      I am the author of this book and I never said such a thing about the sister. The word “anti-Semitic” does not appear once in my book. Nor did I say that one of the most famous photographs ever made of Nietzsche was lost. In fact every clause in this review’s opening paragraph is an invention of the critic. We don’t know that Nietzsche hit the pommel, he never had surgery and so never had ribs removed. (Fragments of his breastbone floated free on their own.) This review is misrepresentative of my book and I hope that those interested will turn to the real thing.

      • Fyodor Destroyevski

        Don’t recall ribs being removed in Ronald Hayman’s biography,”Nietzsche, a critical life”, that I read 28 some odd years ago. He spoke a lot about buckets of pus being drained form the debilitating wound. Immediately thought the reviewer of your book was wrong, on this account. If you put N@zi in the title of an article, you are sure to get a reaction, and might be accused of sensationalism. Surprised no one has mentioned the infamous photograph of Hitler admiring a large bust of Nietzsche’s head.

    • Sean L

      This article from the NYRB, The Gentle Nietzscheans, is an excellent corrective to the untenable Kaufman whitewash, with some choice quotes showing how N’s language and ideas licensed the N a z i killers. He doesn’t quote this from The Gay Science 325. I’m throwing this one in, possibly the most shocking of the lot. But there are plenty more in a similar vein. One for Dr Mengele, this, if ever, perhaps late in the evening after a long day, he doubted his own “greatness”:

      *What Belongs to Greatness. Who can attain to anything great if he does not feel in himself the force and will to inflict great pain? The ability to suffer is a small matter – weak women and even slaves can acheive virtuosity in that. But not to perish from internal distress and doubt when one inflicts great suffering and hears the cry of suffering : that is great, that belongs to greatness.*

      http://www.nybooks.com/articles/1970/11/05/the-gentle-nietzscheans/

      • Fyodor Destroyevski

        Only academics will try someone for crimes committed in their name, by their influence, far into the future. Those who can’t do, teach, or in this case, try.

        • Al_de_Baran

          Sean L doesn’t even rise top the level of “academic”. He is just another ideologue, and endeavoring to reason with such types is futile. One can find elements of N a z i s m in everyone from Plato to Hegel, if one looks (and distorts) hard enough.

          Sean L’s idee fixe reminds me of that small cottage industry of fools who despise Romanticism, and who “argue” that Wordsworth and his daffodils somehow lead straight to Auschwitz and Bergen Belsen.Sean L is a higher quality of troll than that other person below, but it is equally senseless to engage with him

          • Al_de_Baran

            Thanks for the upvote, Sean L. I am glad you agree with me.

      • Fyodor Destroyevski

        You may as well blame Oppenheimer as being the architect for Hiroshima and Nagasaki….. The only thing Kaufmann might be culpable of is dulling Nietzsche’s misanthropy. One can only wonder what the n@zis did use of his, that aided them in their genocidal rage, if not his misanthropy, and his contempt for the untermenschen. A true Nietzschean will admittedly inherit this contempt, but will not turn to genocide. It is suffering at the sight of the small man that we must overcome. Not being fluent in written Deutsch I’ll never know the range of Nietzsche’s misanthropy. Eugenicists are behind the worst of the N@zi atrocities.

  • Mark Laszlo

    Forgive the ignorant, like me. I only read “Thus Spake Zarathustra” in English & seperarely, that Neitzche was Hitler’s favorite philosopher. I could not help wondering if he really meant to fortell of Hitler as a messiah, like John the Baptist did for Jesus. Now i know Nietzche’s sister had something to do with that association. I do not beleive “God is dead”, since logic can neither prove God’s existence nor disprove it. However, i found Neitzche’s mockery of the Christian Devil, as less infernal than any government “In the Cave of the Fire Dog”, delicious.

  • Rógvi Olsen

    Sean L. Mentions things that anyone can read in his writings, it’s a tendency to whitewash N. Because of him being associated with nazism, he criticized Harriet Beecher Stowes book Uncle Toms Cabin – was against the abolition of slavery, criticized Rousseau – French revolution, he spoke highly of Mani in his late Writing the Antichrist – the caste system, he was against womans rights, workers rights, he hated everything that made humans weak: the morality of judaism, christianity, equality, socialism, egalitarism and instead spoke highly of aristocracy, strong “Types”, Pontius Pilate as a hero in the New testament, in his late crazyness he saw himself as Julius Cæsar, he had actually read Gobineau’s writings so it’s not unthinkable that such thoughts are behind ” the blond beast” and there were others at the time with racistic thoughts.

    • Al_de_Baran

      You don’t even seem to know what the “blond beast” is, so I would recommend that you refrain from embarrassing yourself further. Nietzsche’s opposition to anti-Semitism is well established and part of the historical record.

      • Rógvi Olsen

        How could people write this on Nietzsche while commenting on a picture of Hitler looking at a bust of Nietzsche: “The Führer before the bust of the German philosopher whose ideas have fertilized two great popular movements: the National Socialism of Germany and the Fascist movement of Italy.”? Why should’nt his sister have known him better than we today, is it not possible that she knew him better than you and I? Something in his texts fits nicely into nazism and fascism, thats what frightens me, no it was not just his sisters fault in My opinion but his disturbing anti: socialist, feminist, democratic, human rights and antijewish ideas that made him attractive, his sister probably believed that she was continuing his Work after his Death.

        • Al_de_Baran

          And we know from Nietzsche’s correspondence just how well he knew his sister, as well as his utter contempt for her anti-Semitism, among her many low qualities. Her distortion of Nietzsche’s writings is also well known, and a matter of historical record.

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