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47 2 Misinterpretation as the Author’s Responsibility (Nietzsche’s fascism, for instance) Berel Lang I am terrified by the thought of the sort of people who may one day invoke my authority. —Nietzsche, letter to Elisabeth Nietzsche, 1884 If . . . the only politics calling itself Nietzschean turned out to be a Nazi one, then this is necessarily significant. . . . One can’t falsify just anything. —Derrida, The Ear of the Other At first glance, it would seem incongruous, perhaps even unjust to impose the concepts of misinterpretation and responsibility on an author who spent much of his life and work at war with both of them. It seems to me necessary, however, to view Nietzsche through those concepts before judging the charges that link (more pointedly, inculpate) him with fascism, if only because his views on writing and interpretation directly affect the way we read (or mis-read) his politics (if, of course, he has any).1 Since, furthermore, Nietzsche himself created the genealogy as a genre of philosophical discourse, it is fitting on that ground as well to read genealogically what he himself wrote; that is, through the lineage—not the history, but the begetting—of his battle with the systematic concepts whose destruction he willed; that is, those concepts of which Nietzsche could well have said, in a gloss on the Greek, that it would have been better had they never been born. I shall be moving back and forth, then, between several questions in the theory and practice of interpretation and the specific interpretive matter of Nietzsche’s fascism. If, again, that’s what it is. A framework for my inquiry emerges from a number of questions that are first asked and answered briefly and unequivocally (well, almost unequivocally)— 48 䡲 berel lang the answers then to be elaborated, although also, I admit, to some extent hedged or hemmed. Question: Was Nietzsche a fascist or an advocate for fascism? Answer: No. Question: Has he been interpreted as a fascist? Answer: Yes—by both fascists and anti-fascists (but not by all of either group; some of the dissenters—again on both sides—consider him an antifascist, others as either so politically retrograde or advanced as to be neither pro- nor anti-). Question: Did Nietzsche anticipate being misinterpreted? Answer: Yes, often. Misinterpreted as a fascist? Also yes, that is, once we allow for the anachronism: if the doctrines of Mussolini’s “fascismo” became fully actual only in his so-called “March on Rome,” which was in 1922—twenty-two years after, not before, Nietzsche died. A second chronological datum makes the same point, albeit more eccentrically: Nietzsche’s madness seized him early in 1889—a useful mnemonic reference for recalling the year of Hitler’s birth. Understandably, the term “fascism” does not itself appear in Nietzsche’s writing, but this does not mean that the term could not be rightly (and so also wrongly) applied to his views. Or that he could not himself have anticipated the weight of that charge. Question: Did Nietzsche attempt in his writing to prevent the misinterpretations he foresaw? Answer: Yes; that is, to some extent. Question: Could he have done more than he did in those attempts? Answer: Yes, demonstrably. As I shall show. Question: Then is Nietzsche responsible for the misinterpretation? Answer: Yes, of course, on the standard judicial model by which we hold people accountable for sins of omission or for acting negligently. Question: If Nietzsche is responsible for, that is, contributed to such misinterpetation, and in some sense, then, chose to be misinterpreted as a fascist or advocate of fascism, would this imply that the charge is not a misinterpretation at all? Answer: Maybe. Go back to the first question and start over. Thus, to the sequence of argument underlying these responses as they revolve around the issues of whether, when, and how an author can be held responsible for his misinterpretation by others. To be sure, all the words in this phrase of my title beg certain current and well-known questions that I do not plan to “un-beg” here, offering instead only a author’s responsibility 䡲 49 brief apologia. So, “misinterpretation” implies that interpretation can go wrong—which in turn implies that it can also go right or at least righter than interpretations that don’t. And these together imply that the focus of interpretation (also of misinterpretation) is a point or circle, perhaps only a penumbra, that serves the text as a center...

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Additional Information

ISBN
9781400825332
Related ISBN
9780691007106
MARC Record
OCLC
355812233
Pages
344
Launched on MUSE
2015-01-01
Language
English
Open Access
No
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