Dan Sandman

21: A Nietzche Reader by R. J. Hollingdale

In Books, Non-Fiction, Psychology / Philosophy on 23/05/2014 at 12:00 pm

A Nietzche Reader by R. J. HollingdaleFriedrich Nietzche (rhymes with teacher) was a German philologist, philosopher, cultural critic, poet and composer. From reading this book by R. J. Hollingdale (1930 – 2001), I been given an introduction to Nietzche’s writing. Hollingdale’s skill was to divide Nietzche’s many published works into twelve subheading – for example, Morality, Nihilism, Religion, and so on – and to number each excerpt from one to one hundred and forty. This method works well and presents the reader with a broad overview of the opinionated writer’s work.

And in my opinion, if Nietzche had a favourite colour it would be black, if Nietzche was a film character he’d be Blowfeld, and if he was a politician he’d be Joseph Goebbels. The man clearly doesn’t like ‘weak’ people and thinks that man is only driven by his ‘will to power’. In Nietzche World, love is merely the will to attain sexual power, morality is a Christian conspiracy, happiness is a sign of weakness, and for some reason (or no reason – this is philosophy after all) the French composer Bizet is much better than his German contemporary Wagner (at least we agree on something). All in all, to this twenty first century reader, the sheer negativity and extreme cynicism of Nietzche was at times unintentionally comical. But at the same time, I felt a sense of pity towards the writer: ironically pity was something which Nietzche particularly despised.

Some passages from the almost nonsensical Thus Spoke Zarathustra were reminiscent of William Shakespeare’s Poor Tom from King Lear; an elegant breed of rambling, accompanied by a quasi-religious attempt to create a character whose main objective is to convince the reader of his theory ‘will to power’ so that man – and yes ‘unmanly’ things are very bad in Nietzche World – can achieve some sort of crazy transcendence, thus becoming the Ubermensch: the ‘superman’. Oh! How even my sentences are becoming longer and longer until all meaning has vanished. Complete nonsense, but thought provoking all the same.

So I think it’s best to read dark philosophers with a heavy crate of salt and enjoy the superb writing. Nietzche – partly because you’d need to study this stuff at university for twenty years just to understand what he’s on about – is only enjoyable if you see him as a comic character. An egotistical clown, heavily aware of the sentence’s innate power, but displaying it solely to upset the status quo. Thought provoking yes, brilliant yes, but also a buffoon with a massive anger problem.

A truly original historical character.

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