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Nietzsche (Friedrich Nietzsche in seinen Werken) (review)

From: The Journal of Nietzsche Studies
Issue 33, Spring 2007
pp. 88-91 | 10.1353/nie.2007.0008

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The offspring of Lou Andreas-Salomé's brief but close companionship with the philosopher, Nietzsche aims to bring to fruition a penetrating exposition of Nietzsche's philosophy by the application of his own motto, that every philosophy is an unconscious reflection of the personality of its author. To make this plan clear from the outset, in the opening page Salomé quotes Human, All Too Human, that regardless of one flattering oneself as having objective knowledge, what one finally "comes away with [is] nothing more than his own biography" (1, Mandel's translation; see HH 513). Also, in place of a preface Nietzsche's letter is printed, showing his delight at Salomé's project of approaching philosophy through the character and life experiences of individual philosophers (3). This letter of September 1882 preceded their October meeting, when she says she "thoroughly discussed" with Nietzsche her "projected sketch" of him (4). Similarly, on the first chapter's opening page Salomé quotes Beyond Good and Evil, that "every great philosophy" is a "personal confession," an "involuntary and unperceived memoir" (6, Mandel's translation; see BGE 6).

The plan of work therefore places the writer in a privileged position to explain the undercurrents of a philosophy whose author she purports to have known inside out. By turning the table on Nietzsche himself, Salomé begins with a firsthand account of his psyche and persona. Her main contention is that Nietzsche's personality was dualistic and that this in turn permeates a dualistic philosophy. This dual personality, furthermore, was occasioned by a tension between a fabricated, pretended outer shell and a genuine, forbidden inner element—the tension in which the artificial migrant was in a perpetual struggle to suppress and hide the restive native. The reader is therefore led to surmise that, sometime in the course of his life, Nietzsche had become painfully aware of a trait so gruesome to his ideal self-image that he was impelled to manufacture an opposite element to mask it—but not for too long, for, as a permanently engraved quality, this trait must have been bound to surface itself, only to be suppressed and concealed until the next time around, and so on. As such, it is conceivable that in each interval, the feuding parties must have uncontrollably brought the battle into open and made their concurrency noticeable to the curious and insightful observer! Moreover, the perpetuity of this inner turmoil gave an impression of excessive self-control, secrecy, and dishonesty—the peculiarities that had admittedly made Salomé tense, uncomfortable, and distrustful in Nietzsche's company.

In her criticism, she is relentless, for instance, "[H]e fell back upon himself, instead of an outer life force! And so, he achieved precisely the opposite of his goal: not a higher unity of his own being but its innermost division, not the fusion of all stirrings and drives (into an individuum) but a split and divided self (a dividuum). And yet, health was gained by means of sickness; true worship by means of illusion; and self-assertion and uplifting by means of self-wounding" (24). Interestingly, these words appeared fourteen years before the publication of Ecce Homo, in which Nietzsche writes similar words about his experience with sickness and notion of illusion (e.g., "Wise" 1, "HH" 4, "Destiny" 2).

Then, in the midst of these dark and gloomy remarks, the reader's image of Nietzsche's bony, rugged features and Prussian military mustache is suddenly shattered by Salomé's description of a timid and terribly insecure person with a soft and clear voice, revealing hands, and feminine mildness (9–10). More specifically on this last characteristic, she writes: "Usually, he displayed great courtesy, almost feminine mildness" (24). Strangely enough, Nietzsche himself considered politeness as a feminine quality and notes its opposite, "rudeness," as its masculine antidote. For example, in Ecce Homo, he states, "You see, I do not want rudeness to be underestimated: it is by far the most human form of contradiction and, in the midst of effeminacy, one of our greatest virtues" ("Wise" 5). In addition, Salomé says, "In Nietzsche's spiritual nature was something—in heightened dimension—that was feminine" (29–30; see also 49, 54). Understandably...



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