on 6 November 2001
In Ecce Homo, Nietzsche writes: "...It seems to me that to take a book of mine into his hands is one of the rarest distinctions anyone can confer upon himself - I even assume he removes his shoes when he does so."
The words in the review summary, and also immediately above, demonstrate both the impact Nietzsche believed his writings would come to have, and the wonderfully sarcastic tone evident in much of his work.
Walter Kaufmann included some inspiring sections from Ecce Homo, as indeed he has done with many of Nietzsche's most valuable published works and unpublished notes and letters etc. This is, of course, in addition to the complete and unabridged texts of Nietzsche's four major works.
Kaufmann's introduction provides much welcome biographical information on Nietzsche; in addition, a preface to each of the major chapters is included. I felt that Kaufmann's contribution substantially added to my experience of the book. He seemed always to be close to hand when difficult terminology was encountered. As a result of this positive experience, I have gone on to buy a further two books edited by Walter Kaufmann.
If you buy this book, I am convinced you will agree that almost every page exposes the reader to challenging, inspirational and (at least upon first encountering it) harrowing material. If one should happen upon a page of relative calm, why not linger awhile and enjoy the poetic brilliance of Nietzsche's rhapsodic writing, his cutting humour and that wonderful, wonderful sarcasm!...
on 28 July 2011
Please note this review refers to the KINDLE EDITION ONLY.
The Portable Nietzsche is an excellent book, providing a superb translation of the very best of Nietzsche's works by the greatest translator of Nietzsche there has ever been: Walter Kaufmann.
However! Kindle users beware. Not for the first time, this is a Kindle edition that has been thrown together without any care at all. It is painfully obvious that the publisher has simply taken a paperback version and scanned it through OCR (optical character recognition) software without bothering to check the results. There are so many typos that I can't even believe they ran the thing through a spellchecker! Exclamation marks become rendered as the number 1, "m" becomes "n" and words run into one another frequently. This distracts from the enjoyment of Nietzsche's words and there really is no excuse for the publisher to hide behind. They are charging top price for this Kindle edition and the very least one could expect in return would be for it to have been proofread.
Overall, whilst I enjoy the convenience of the Kindle itself, I would urge Kindle owners to boycott buying the Kindle edition of this book until or unless the publishers see fit to correct the gross number of mistakes with which it is riddled.
on 24 November 2001
Only 2 points need to be made about this book:
1. It contains full texts of Thus Spoke Zarathustra, Twilight of the Idols, and The Antichrist, and Nietzsche contra Wagner, plus all the greatest passsages from his other books.
2. It is translated by Kaufmann, and Kaufmann tranlsations are the best
Simple, if you love Nietzsche and your collections do not comply with points 1 or 2, then you need this book.
This anthology of Nietzsche's writing is a marvelous work - Kaufmann's translations make the philosopher's unique style accessible and interesting to the English reader; it doesn't resort to false formality or dry academic prose as is often the case in translation of such material, but rather sets things in lively and dynamic tones, much as Nietzsche's own writing and tendency toward the dramatic was noted by his contemporaries.
Nietzsche's father was a Lutheran minister, but he died five years after Nietzsche's birth in 1844. Nietzsche was raised by his mother, grandmother and aunts; later in his life, his sister would become executor of his estate (after Nietzsche had become incapable of managing his own affairs) and reshape his philosophy and writings in her own idea - this becomes a running motif in later anthologies of Nietzsche; editors can quote and clip to fit their own agendas. In some ways, that is true of Kaufmann's text here, but in much less inappropriate ways than others, particularly Nietzsche's first editor, his sister.
Nietzsche was a star pupil from his earliest days at university in Bonn and Leipzig. His formal study was in classical philology, but his attentions turned in various directions quickly during his writing and professional life - he had an intense interest in drama and the arts, with Wagner's music and Greek drama in principal interest. His first book was devoted to these topics - 'The Birth of Tragedy'. It was not highly regarded at the time, but has since become much more appreciated as an anticipation of later developments in philosophy and aesthetics.
Nietzsche's life after this period was a very choppy one - he left the university, claiming illness, and while this developed later to be a true situation, at the time is was probably academic politics and difficulties fitting in with the establishment he was trying to break. He had a formal falling-out with Wagner, even writing later a piece entitled ' Nietzsche contra Wagner', finished just a few week prior to his going insane.
Kaufmann states in the introduction that Nietzsche's real career took off after his active life was over; under his sister's direction, many of the writings Nietzsche had managed to do and not get published, or which were published but forgotten, really took off in major directions. While his major works of Zarathustra, Ecce Homo, Will to Power and Genealogy of Morals were in various editions of disrepair (inded, the Will to Power was never more complete than a series of notes), Nietzsche had a knack for language that made him very quotable, and his influence continued to grow well into the first half of the twentieth century, influencing art, philosophy, history, and politics in dramatic ways, if not always the ways in which Nietzsche envisioned.
For example, Nietzsche was not particularly impressed with the 'typical' German anti-semitism, which later erupted into the Nazi movement. He considered it rather bourgeois, and while he undoubted had his own issues with Jews (Nietzsche had issues with almost everyone, particularly any group, Christians included, who had a religious connection), the Nazi use of Nietzsche's work owes more to Nietzsche's sister's influence than anyone else.
Kaufmann here presents a chronology of Nietzsche (his life and his publications after his death); a brief bibliography, excerpts from correspondence and essays, and major selections from 'Thus Spake Zarathustra', 'Twilight of the Idols', 'The Antichrist', and other major works. Almost all of the writings are presented in new translations by Kaufmann.
This is one of the best single-volumes of Nietzsche available, reprinted dozens of times since its original publication.
This collection contains all Nietzsche's most important texts, except `Beyond Good and Evil'.
In those texts, Nietzsche shouts, exhorts, explains or translates via metaphors, poems, pastiches, maxims and aphorisms in a manic delirious style his vision on life, man and woman, good and evil, freedom, `natural' laws and abject institutions (State and Church).
Extreme disappointment in mankind
In `Thus spoke Zarathustra', Nietzsche clamors, that `God died, and that now we want the `Ûbermensch' to live.' But, why not man?
Nietzsche is extremely disappointed by man's refusal to live a `natural' life, instead of that of a slave: `I walk among men as among the fragments and limbs of men - but no human beings.'
`Man is something that must be overcome.' We must prepare the emergence of `Ûbermenschen'.
One of the few `Ûbermenschen' he saw around him (Richard Wagner) turned at the end of his life with his opera `Parsifal' into an `Orpheus of secret misery', defending `Rome's faith without the text'.
What is this `natural' life?
`Natural' life is unfettered freedom. Man should create his own laws of good and evil: `Can you be your own judge and avenger of your law?'
Life is selfishness, the will to assume responsibility for oneself, the lust to rule, to live `with the manly instincts which delight in war and victory.' To be one who is prepared to sacrifice human beings for one's own cause.(!)
The culprits of the fact, that mankind lives in fetters, are Christianity, the philosophers of reason, the defenders of equal rights for everyman and the State.
The Christian morality is anti-natural, because it is against the body, the senses, the instincts. It is the negation of the will to live, reducing mankind to a kind of self-violation.
The doctrine of personal immortality places life`s centre of gravity not in life, but in the `beyond'. One should strangle the `strangler that is called `sin'. Christianity turns man into a domestic sick animal.
The morality of reason (rationality at any price) suppresses the dark appetite, the instincts, the unconscious. Nietzsche shouts against Kant that `every man has to invent his own categorical imperative'. The world doesn't form a unity, a `spirit' (Hegel), so that nobody is held responsible any longer.
Against the French revolutionaries, `preachers of equality, the tyrannomania of impotence', he clamors: `Men are not equal. Nor shall they become equal! And they should have no right to want to be equal.' `The inequality of rights is the first condition for the existence of any rights at all.'
`State is the name of the coldest of all cold monsters, a hypocritical hound.'
Misogyny, eternal recurrence
Women are still cats and birds, or at best, cows. They should be educated for the recreation of the warriors.
Nietzsche's theory of eternal recurrence is in contradiction with his wish of the emergence of the `Ûbermensch'.
Nietzsche was a fundamental anti-democrat. His eugenic propositions (extermination of the weak) are a slap in the face of mankind.
His admiration of war is, today more than ever, an insult of humanity. His heroes, Napoleon and Julius Caesar, were two war criminals.
His misogyny is abject: `the agony of women giving birth must be there eternally'.
The Nazis adopted his racist (`if one wants slaves, then one is a fool to educate them to be masters') and eugenic views.
Carl Schmitt founded his theory of nation building on Nietzsche precept that a `Reich needs enemies'.
His influence on world literature cannot be underestimated (a few names: D.H. Lawrence, E. Jünger, G. Benn, G. d'Annunzio, K. Hamsun).
With his exceptional polemic talent (`Seneca, the toreador of virtue') and a sometimes unforgiving, arrogant, haughty, foaming and aggressive voice, Nietzsche wrote a formidable Homeric battle for the freedom of man against those who (continue to try to) put him in fetters. Of course, some of his viewpoints are unacceptable. But, all in all, these are still profoundly disturbing texts.
A must read.