This is the well known novel (and piece of music), philosophy-come propose poem by the German intellectual Nietzsche of 1882-1885. The book is a 306 page fictional repost, as it were, to two prevailing philosophies of the time being 'nihilism' and 'atheism'. If there is no God or afterlife and life is ultimately pointless can there be anything worth living for? Well along comes this guy from the mountains who has famously worked out that 'God is dead' and is armed philosophically with Nietzsche 's 3 atheist ideas being the goal to the 'superman', 'will to power ' and ideas regarding 'beyond good and evil'. He travels and meets life and people such as the higher man, volunteer beggar, convalescent, disciples, priests, drunk, soothsayer, scholars etc. The whole work is told and presented as an authoritative, real work of a much revered, revealed person who genuinely 'knows'. There are a lot of 'thou', 'unto', 'oh my brethren', 'ye ' and sentences of deep ideas. There are 80 short titled chapters in three books, allowing the reader to be able to quote passages authoritatively. It seems to me that the basic thrust is that though ultimately one's life is futile, you can enjoy yourself/struggle, aspire to being a part in the creation of a better humanity and make your own way without religion.
There is an arc to the basic story from mountain to people to doubts to home and finally awakening. This is really a remarkable book and very profound. I found time and again passages of great poignancy and depth. I can now understand on so many levels how religious texts can overtake people, and be used by the knowledgeable and (ir)religious for their own ends picking and choosing what suits. One of the most interesting ideas for me was the one regarding the guy being 'the servant to the last pope' - what to do if your religion has vanished and the people you serve are irrelevant? The work has been much analysed and commented on.
I could easily now list over 20 or so quotes but anyway here are a few:
Everywhere resoundeth the voice of those who preach death; and the earth is full of those to whom death hath to be preached. Or eternal life; it is all the same to me - if only they pass away quickly
Had he but remained in the wilderness, and far from the good and the just! Then, perhaps would he have learned to live, and love the earth- and laughter too.
Thus spake the devil unto me, once on a time: 'even God hath his hell: it is his love of man'. And lately did I hear him say these words 'God is dead: of his pity for man hath God died'.
For all things are baptized at the font of eternity, and beyond good and evil, good and evil themselves, however, are but fugitive shadows and damp afflictions and passing clouds.
And many such good inventions are there, that they are like woman's breast: useful at the same time, and pleasant.
There is also good taste in piety; this is at last said: away with such a God! Better to have no God, better to set up destiny on one's own account, better to be a fool, better to be God oneself!
Go out of the way of all such absolute ones! They are a poor sickly type, a populace-type: they look at this life with ill-will; they have an evil eye for this earth.
Finally I can certainly recommend this book. But certainly not for the story but more for the ideas, depth and I suppose the concepts of godless religion.