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Lost in Translation?
on 17 October 2013
On the Genealogy of Morals
Lost in Translation?
I don't read German but I am sometimes tempted to learn if only to read this work in it's original language. And after reading this translation, I am more than ever reminded of that desire.
I own a Dover Thrift edition of this work, which I annotated and highlighted to death, and which is sadly printed on such dreadful quality stock (one rank above toilet paper), that I recently decided to try and get a new copy; which is what this translation is and is. Sadly I don't currently have the other here to compare but I sincerely wish I did because when I read through Smith's translation I highlighted very little of interest. Now It could be that I have grown since first reading and that the ideas herein have assimilated to my weltanschauung, but I think that those might be slightly ambitious claims - even if that was the desirous outcome of all good reading.
It seems to me that a lot of `claims' about what Nietzsche was and stood for - a lot of which are eluded to in the secondary data of the introduction are not in fact there in this primary source. Lots of the inferences and ideas which are routinely attributed to Herr Nietzsche are in fact either generous translations, utter fabrications or simply misplaced to other texts.
In this version he spends an awful lot of time deriding Wagner and the Jews (although according to the commentaries included in both the introduction and the notes Nietzsche has apparently been absolved of being an anti-Semite - whatever that term now means). He does, however, provide little or no Lyotardian postmodern rhetoric on the the Judaeo-Christian mafia and the meta narrative (grand récit). Nor the post-Enlightenment shattering of god and the resulting shards of truths that scatter the ontological floor (Lyotard's petit récit). Nor does this translation really plant the seed of morality firmly in the flowerbed of organised monolithic theology of the Abrahamic tradition and there lay all responsibility for that which blooms from such source.
So, all in all, I'm a bit lost. Maybe I just didn't read this text very well, maybe I passed the signposts and forgot to grab my highlighter, maybe I am slipping, maybe. Or maybe Herr Nietzsche's philosophical and epistemological musings have become like his actual later works, collected and re-edited to produce a kind of Nietzsche-by-numbers, a Nietzsche-for-dummies that is liberally carved off the bone of the primary sources to give a body of secondary musings, interpretations and assumptions that were not actually there. the ghost of Nietzsche haunts the present shouting `I don't say that!' who knows?