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196 9 A Question of Responsibility: Nietzsche with Hölderlin at War, 1914–1946 Stanley Corngold and Geoffrey Waite Nietzsche, Zeppelins, and poisoned-gas go ill together. But Great Indra! One may envy Nietzsche a little; think of being so illusive, so mercurial, as to be first swallowed whole, then coughed up, and still remain a mystery! —Hart Crane, 1918 What to do with someone who says Hölderlin, and means Himmler? —Hans Magnus Enzensberger, 1960 1. For every person who reads Friedrich Nietzsche as “the step-grandfather of fascism” (Leo Strauss)1 or German National Socialism’s “indirect apologist” (Georg Lukács),2 at least two others embrace him as a man of the Left: whether allegedly for having “made himself fascist in order better to fight fascism” (François Laruelle)3 or for his deconstruction and rejection of the moral and conceptual preconditions of fascism or, of a different thing, national socialism. The theoretical question of Nietzsche’s “responsibility” for this apparently contradictory range of opinions subtends every possible historical question about his “influence ” on, or “responsibility” for, all or any imaginable states of affairs that were or are to come, including Italian Fascism or German National Socialism inter alia inter pares. No local application of “what Nietzsche means” (George Morgan)4 should ignore this point, which turns on Nietzsche’s hidden but programmatic interest in producing such variability . His program may be something we will always be in the dark about; nevertheless, it is clear that the range of opinions that he produces cannot be structured as a contradiction—e.g., Left versus Right. It presents itself as a single unacknowledged consensus founded on the readiness to avoid the question of Nietzsche’s responsibility for this gen- nietzsche with hölderlin 䡲 197 eral misreading. He appears to have anticipated it, programming it into his illocutions to have surreptitious perlocutionary effect in whatever historical conjuncture it might reemerge. But to what specific end? As a post- or pre-Enlightenment thinker, Nietzsche designed the imagined “free” and “plural” range of opinions about his work so that deeper, never explicitly stated, esoteric doctrines would be incorporated by readers sub rosa, beneath the faculties of reason ever to perceive or to know them. It is likely that these are then marked out by the more or less exoteric categories such as “will to power” (Wille zur Macht) and intellectual and social “order of rank” (Rangordnung) yet in a sense so drastic as to elude understanding by the current hegemony of pluralist ideology and humanism. This very impossibility is partly an effect of Nietzsche’s commitment to a rhetorical and stylistic esotericism. On the one hand, he wrote openly that the exoteric-esoteric distinction has existed in every historical society grounded (to his mind, very properly so) on order of rank. Esotericism, he continued, is well known to virtually all major philosophers globally, giving the following as examples: “Indians as well as Greeks, Persians, and Muslims, in short, wherever one believed in an order of rank, not in equality and equal rights.”5 On the other hand, what he never said was how he intended to implement “order of rank” esoterically, with his own German prose. In his programmatic but unpublished early essay “The Greek State” (1872), he explicitly promoted not merely the modern version of what he called “slavery” (Sklaverei) but the necessity for its “conscious or unconscious ” acceptance by “slaves” or “workers” in their expropriated “surplus labor” (Mehrarbeit). At the same time, he recognized the necessity for an “esoteric writing” appropriate to “the esoteric doctrine of the relation between the State and genius [Geheimlehre vom Zusammenhang zwischen Staat und Genius].”6 And by “State” he had any state in his sights. Nietzsche’s deep tripartite knowledge—of classical rhetoric, Schopenhauer ’s doctrine of unconscious Will, and Wagner’s translation of that doctrine into music and cultural politics—was never merely thematic. He meant to put this knowledge to work as an effect of style with delayed effect, his actio in distans. Like Machiavelli, Nietzsche was “a captain without an army,” who had to “recruit it only by means of books.”7 This means he wrote not for his own times but only to have maximum possible and subcutaneous effect in the future, under the sign, as he put it, “sub specie trecentorum annorum.”8 “To be ignited in 300 years—that is my desire for fame.”9 He also spoke (in quasi-Darwinian terms) of millennia, producing his...


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