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An eye-opening read, but a masterpiece? Unfortunately not.
on 19 May 2016
Shortly after reading ‘The Red Book’ I decided to look into the philosophy of Nietzsche, whom Jung quite often referred to during his work. The first book of Nietzsche’s that stood out was Thus Spoke Zarathustra, I had done a little research, plus a few friends of mine had already read some of his work (‘Beyond Good and Evil’ mainly) and I understood that this was what the philosopher himself called his ‘Masterpiece’.
As you can see I use quotation marks here, this was not one of the easier reads I have had of late. Its ‘narrative’ is not one within the literal sense but more of a shifting of a state of mind as the story progresses, which was most likely Nietzsche’s intentions. The imagery he concocted within it though, left an impression as did many of the characters (The Ugliest Man, the leech, the sorcerer etc.) which were quite enjoyable/disturbing visions to have in my head and as it was a philosophy book, to mark it down on its ‘narrative’ seems slightly unfair.
You read these sort of books to try to expand your mental or spiritual horizons so the question is, did it expand my horizons, even if it was a tough read? The answer is yes, but indirectly. Nietzsche’s philosophy is that the ‘Ubermensch’ (Superman) is the next step up of evolution from man and the only way we can achieve this is by releasing ourselves of shame and pity, embracing envy- to help progress ourselves further, and that religion, mostly Christianity and Judaism, virtues and morals have held back man from his true nature, his ideal state- that of the ‘Superman’. He is not a religious person’s best friend to put it lightly- but this is concept is explained further in the books ‘Beyond Good and Evil’ and ‘Twilight of the Idols and the Anti-Christ’.
The character, Zarathustra plays the role of the prophet who is trying to lead humankind to build the bridge to allow the next generation to gain its enlightened state of existence, though they believe they are destined to be the first ‘Supermen’ Zarathustra explains that they cannot be, but can only become the bridge to lead others towards their goal. They don’t like it but Zarathustra doesn’t care. He just likes to dance and question everything- such is his way.
Now to conclude, ‘Thus Spoke Zarathustra’ is a unique piece that I think people will certainly struggle to grasp hold of if they lack patience or demand a literate masterpiece. It is longer than necessary in my opinion. That being said, the ideas were indeed revolutionary and the book is a good lead in to the more Factual/Intellectual (and slightly shorter) books of his, already mentioned above, and his entire way of thinking.
Zarathustra was an eye opening read and I would recommend it to anyone who wants a book that makes you think hard about existence and allows you to question the right way of living, yet a masterpiece, unfortunately not. Three and a half stars.