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  • Kommentar zu Nietzsches “Unzeitgemässen Betrachtungen,” III. Schopenhauer als Erzieher; IV. Richard Wagner in Bayreuth by Barbara Neymeyr
  • Paul Bishop
Barbara Neymeyr, Kommentar zu Nietzsches “Unzeitgemässen Betrachtungen,” III. Schopenhauer als Erzieher; IV. Richard Wagner in Bayreuth [Historischer und kritischer Kommentar zu Friedrich Nietzsches Werken, vol. 1/4]
Berlin: De Gruyter, 2020. xxvi + 652 pp. ISBN: 978-3-11-067789-8. Hardcover, €69.95.

The decision to split the Historischer und kritischer Nietzsche-Kommentar of the Heidelberger Akademie der Wissenschaften on the four essays of the Unzeitgemässe Betrachtungen into two volumes, dealing with the first and second and with the third and fourth essays, respectively, points to the extent and depth of commentary required to gain access to these early, and sometimes overlooked, works by Nietzsche. One recalls that, originally, Nietzsche had planned not just four but thirteen essays (KSA 7:30[38], 744–45), although he never got beyond completing four and planning a fifth one, titled “We Philologists” (KSA 8:3[1]–5[200], 11–96)—a project that, at the suggestion of Heinrich Köselitz, he set aside for strategic reasons to finish work on the fourth Betrachtung, dedicated to the figure of Wagner. The ins and outs of the compositional background are succinctly summarized in the first section, “Entstehungs-und Textgeschichte,” in the Überblickskommentar that precedes the Stellenkommentar to each essay (published in 1874 and 1876, respectively), while the section “Selbstaussagen Nietzsches” reminds us that, far from turning his back on these works, he vigorously defended them in EH. Yet Nietzsche would not be Nietzsche if he had not presented them within a very particular perspective—namely, himself. [End Page 80]

“What I really wanted to do in these essays,” he wrote in 1888, “was something quite other than to pursue psychology—a problem of education without its like, a new concept of self-discipline, self-defence to the point of harshness, a way to greatness and to world-historical tasks demanded its first expression” (EH “Books: UM” 3, trans. R. J. Hollingdale [Harmondsworth: Penguin, 1992], 57). That they represent “a problem of education [ein Problem der Erziehung]” is clear, but their role in creating “a way to greatness and to world-historical tasks [ein Weg zur Grösse und zu welthistorischen Aufgaben]” seems to be something one can appreciate only in retrospect. Nietzsche inscribes his method—namely, “to take two famous and still altogether undetermined types by the forelock [. . .] in order to say something, in order to have a couple more formulas, signs, means of expression in my hands”—within the tradition of his great contrahent, Plato; for “it was in this way that Plato employed Socrates, as a semiotic [als einer Semiotik] for Plato.” So now, looking back on these Betrachtungen, they seem to Nietzsche to speak only of him—his “future” (in “Wagner in Bayreuth”), his “innermost history,” his “evolution,” his “solemn vow” (in “Schopenhauer as Educator”). (On the question of this “vow,” see his remark in his Nachlass for August–September 1885 [KSA 11:41(2), 670–71]. And is this “vow” echoed in Zarathustra’s later promise that he wants to marry Eternity?) As Barbara Neymeyr’s historischer und kritischer Kommentar on them shows, however, these two works do not just tell us about Nietzsche’s intellectual trajectory but reveal a huge amount about the intellectual and cultural context in which he was working, reflected not just in the reception of these works (judiciously reviewed in both cases), but in the enormous range of references and allusions within them—which requires over six hundred pages of critical apparatus in order for us, today, to be able to appreciate.

In this respect, as in the previous volume on the first and second Betrachtungen (and, indeed, in the other volumes in the Nietzsche-Kommentar project as a whole), the scholarship is exemplary—in terms of both general background and specific details. The comparison with Schopenhauer’s treatise, On University Philosophy, is insightful (20–29), as is the account of Nietzsche’s ambivalence toward Wagner as reflected in his notebooks of 1874 and in his correspondence (295–331). Then again, who today knows what a “tragelaph” is (UM III:2), even...


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