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Ecce Homo: How To Become What You Are (Oxford World's Classics) Paperback – 10 May 2007
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About the Author
Formerly Chairman of the Friedrich Nietzsche Society, Duncan Large is currently Joint Secretary of the Conference of University Teachers of German in Great Britain and Ireland. His forthcoming books include The Nietzsche Reader (Blackwell, 2003), ed. with Keith Ansell-Pearson.
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Nietzsche suggests to most "The Death of God", by which he mean the death of a belief, not the death of a being. This work is his very self-regarding philosophical autobiography - there is not much content about his life - (for that read Hollingdale.) If you are interested in reading any of Nietzsche's works co-textually this is an essential work. His perspectives are often enigmatic. but give insight into his method - the use of every rhetorical device in the Thesaurus, including self-contradiction. For example if you have read Thus Spoke Zarathustra and been mystified, in this work you will find much to help - that it was intended above all as music - an attempt to convey the indescribable, namely what some would call, and what he regarded (though not in such language) as a spiritual experience 6,000 feet in the Alps at Sils-Maria while suffering from unrequited love.
Nietzsche was not, in the usual sense ultimately nihilistic (as so often perceived.) As a cultural critique and psychologist he was wonderful. (Freud thought him the most insightful of all people about themselves.) Ignore his arrogance, and the bad reputation he got from his sister's agency in persuading the Nazi's to adopt a caricature of his philosophy after his death (in fact he liked Jews) - immerse yourself, and you will encounter an intriguing and courageous mind. But if you want to know what philosophy as an academic subject is in the UK and the USA is all about - ignore Nietzsche.
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The biggest change Large adopted was to use the second person singular pronoun much more for the German "Man." Thus, for "Wie man wird, was man ist," the famous subtitle of the little volume, we do not get the more traditional translation with the impersonal "one," as in Hollingdale's rendition "How One Becomes What One Is," but the much more interesting and simple "How To Become What You Are."
The effect is remarkable when it is dispersed across the entire book. It is an entirely different--and I think more interesting--experience of reading.
Though some crucial things are lost (and every version, Kaufmann's especially does this), Large's translation, I think, benefits in the end for being so very bold. Hollingdale saves some key words better perhaps than Large, who interprets them more, it could be said--and interprets them precisely by going back to the roots of the German words, which should not in itself be seen as an act of fidelity to the source text's meaning, as is so often taken to be the case in philosophical translations of German (though this allows you, the reader, to reinterpret them more easily). But it should be noted that Large is *much* more close to the sentence structure than Hollingdale, which, in Nietzsche, as well as in most German and French, is often much much more crucial than we think it is (just pick up Barbara Harlow's unbelievably horrible rendering of Derrida's *Spurs*, which absolutely decimates this fact about Derrida's text, if you want a good example of what this produces: a translation that is nearly unreadable and extremely misleading at times).
Usually, though, any of these deviations with respect to the accepted translation as represented by Kaufmann and Hollingdale is done with a lot of thought on Large's part--it is only thus that it could be so bold in the first place. Take, for example, his refusal to leave Nietzsche's "Ressentiment" in the French--that is, translate it by "resentment:" at its first appearance he appends a note, saying
The standard English translation "ressentiment," characterizes it as a loan-word from the French, but Nietzsche spells it with an initial capital [this is true in fact always, mj], stressing that he considers it to have been successfully adopted into the German language (which gives all nouns initial capitals)--by contrast with "décadence," [another frequent word that is French in origin], for instance.
-Note to page 13, p. 101.
Few would have the guts, I think, to do this to such a well known and oft quoted concept, but Large both does it and shows that it is right.
The fundamental boldness of this translation, though, lies in that basic gesture I am circling around above, which uses "you" instead of "one." Why this is so bold is that it fundamentally increases the danger of intimacy, of the cancellation of distance--which anyone who knows Nietzsche will tell you is absolutely crucial to him (cf. the famous passages on the "pathos of distance" in the Genealogy). Not only does it increase the danger for us, but also for Nietzsche himself: if it is true that this book is Nietzsche telling himself his life--the various "you's" in the text, which can be interpreted as Nietzsche somewhat referring to himself, show how constantly the pressure is there to maintain some coherence, to will the relation of himself into some economy, some shape, and yet at the same time not have it collapse into self-identification. Giving us some sense of this danger might, by itself, be Large's translation's greatest triumph.