Reading Nietzsche

Then, as if by divine revelation, I was gripped by an irresistable urge to read Nietzsche. The genious madman was one of the first western philosophers I ever read. And I started reading very early. When I was young, and growing up in a part of the world where there was no electricity (hence no TV) and our home had a few books, for reasons that remain unknown to me until today, for about 2 months my father read a biography of Nietzsche. The reason I say this is that to the extent that I know my father, he is the opposite of Nietzsche -well, except for his scorn of religion. He is practical, and a self-made man. He has no patience for Nietzsche’s kind of philosophy. But then again the book was not about Nietzsche’s philosophy but his life. So I guess that explains it.

At any rate, I came upon the book at that age when a young and impressionable person with a voratious appetite for text and few other distractions does. And after I got tired of looking over and again at the books few illustrations (I still remember I loved Nietzsche’s over-controlling sister’s name -Elisabeth) I started reading it.

I was fascinated by his tragic end. Nietzsche’s death from Syphillis. His madness. It all seemed very enchanting and tragic to me, and I was fascinated. I was, maybe, 11 or 12 at the time.

Then for another decade or so I did not encounter Nietzsche. I was a student, and a serious and good one at that. I excelled at school and wanted to make my parents pround. Nietzsche was an alien object of fantasy. Until I took a class in existentialism some three years ago. This time, I read the prophet himself, and I was converted. His imperious, irreverential tone -yes, above all that imperious style of writing – and the cruelty of his undermining ideas – I was under a spell. When I read about the eternal recurrence of the same, I was not able to focus on anything else for the next week. It seemed such a foolproof and astounding thought – here lay the crux of the morality that for ages humanity had looked after and had not seen. Then I read Ecce Homo, and parts of Gay Science, and parts of Zarathustara, and finally, the geneology of morals -the book that probably proved the final blow in deconstructing all of my religious-moral assumptions.

Now I read Nietzsche as a way of avenging myself, of getting back at the world. I don’t know why- because nothing is particularly upset in my life. I lead a lazy, comfortable life with the usual worries. There is always the fact that reading Nietzsche is a literary experience too -so that may be the only and the simple reason I like reading him. But it is not only the style -as some have said. There is also the substance, and that subaltern substance is what I feel most drawn too. I guess reading Nietzsche in a way makes me feel like I am part of an esoteric circle – of people who are done with this world and its pettiness, and want to be above it, to overcome it. Not in a spiritual sense. Rather in a moral sense. The physical is important, no doubt. It is the most important. That is the way to overcome and to break the shackles.


~ by safrang on January 14, 2007.

One Response to “Reading Nietzsche”

  1. Two of the papers I wrote on Nietzsche and Existentialism (for the course mentioned in this post) are posted here:

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