Beyond Good and Evil
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Also sprach Zarathustra: Ein Buch für Alle und Keinen
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Thus Spoke Zarathustra: A Book for All and None (German: Also sprach Zarathustra: Ein Buch für Alle und Keinen, also translated as Thus Spake Zarathustra) is a philosophical novel by German philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche, composed in four parts between 1883 and 1885 and published between 1883 and 1891. Much of the work deals with ideas such as the "eternal recurrence of the same", the parable on the "death of God", and the "prophecy" of the Übermensch, which were first introduced in The Gay Science.
How to become more powerful thus spoke zarathustra friedrich nietzsche book review summary
Thus Spoke Zarathustra was conceived while Nietzsche was writing The Gay Science; he made a small note, reading "6,000 feet beyond man and time," as evidence of this. More specifically, this note related to the concept of the eternal recurrence, which is, by Nietzsche's admission, the central idea of Zarathustra; this idea occurred to him by a "pyramidal block of stone" on the shores of Lake Silvaplana in the Upper Engadine, a high alpine region whose valley floor is at 6,000 feet (1,800 m). Nietzsche planned to write the book in three parts over several years. He wrote that the ideas for Zarathustra first came to him while walking on two roads surrounding Rapallo, according to Elisabeth Förster-Nietzsche in the introduction of Thomas Common's early translation of the book.
Although Part Three was originally planned to be the end of the book, and ends with a strong climax, Nietzsche subsequently decided to write an additional three parts; ultimately, however, he composed only the fourth part, which is viewed to constitute an intermezzo.
Nietzsche commented in Ecce Homo that for the completion of each part: "Ten days sufficed; in no case, neither for the first nor for the third and last, did I require more" (trans. Kaufmann). The first three parts were first published separately, and were subsequently published in a single volume in 1887. The fourth part remained private after Nietzsche wrote it in 1885; a scant forty copies were all that were printed, apart from seven others that were distributed to Nietzsche's close friends. In March 1892, the four parts were finally reprinted as a single volume. Since then, the version most commonly produced has included all four parts.
The original text contains a great deal of word-play. An example of this is the use of words beginning über ("over" or "above") and unter ("down" or "below"), often paired to emphasise the contrast, which is not always possible to bring out in translation, except by coinages. An example is Untergang, literally "down-going" but used in German to mean "setting" (as of the sun), which Nietzsche pairs with its opposite Übergang (going over or across). Another example is Übermensch (overman or superman), discussed later in this article.
The book chronicles the fictitious travels and speeches of Zarathustra. Zarathustra's namesake was the founder of Zoroastrianism, usually known in English as Zoroaster (Avestan: Zaraϑuštra). Nietzsche is clearly portraying a "new" or "different" Zarathustra, one who turns traditional morality on its head. He goes on to characterize "what the name of Zarathustra means in my mouth, the mouth of the first immoralist:"
Zarathustra has a simple characterisation and plot, narrated sporadically throughout the text. It possesses a unique experimental style, one that is, for instance, evident in newly invented "dithyrambs" narrated or sung by Zarathustra. Likewise, the separate Dithyrambs of Dionysus was written in autumn 1888, and printed with the full volume in 1892, as the corollaries of Zarathustra's "abundance".
Some speculate that Nietzsche intended to write about final acts of creation and destruction brought about by Zarathustra. However, the book lacks a finale to match that description; its actual ending focuses more on Zarathustra recognizing that his legacy is beginning to perpetuate, and consequently choosing to leave the higher men to their own devices in carrying his legacy forth.
Zarathustra also contains the famous dictum "God is dead", which had appeared earlier in The Gay Science. In his autobiographical work Ecce Homo, Nietzsche states that the book's underlying concept is discussed within "the penultimate section of the fourth book" of 'The Gay Science' (Ecce Homo, Kaufmann). It is the eternal recurrence of the same events.
This concept first occurred to Nietzsche while he was walking in Switzerland through the woods along the lake of Silvaplana (close to Surlej); he was inspired by the sight of a gigantic, towering, pyramidal rock. Before Zarathustra, Nietzsche had mentioned the concept in the fourth book of The Gay Science (e.g., sect. 341); this was the first public proclamation of the notion by him. Apart from its salient presence in Zarathustra, it is also echoed throughout Nietzsche's work. At any rate, it is by Zarathustra's transfiguration that he embraces eternity, that he at last ascertains "the supreme will to power". This inspiration finds its expression with Zarathustra's roundelay, featured twice in the book, once near the story's close:
Another singular feature of Zarathustra, first presented in the prologue, is the designation of human beings as a transition between apes and the "Übermensch" (in English, either the "overman" or "superman"; or, superhuman or overhuman. English translators Thomas Common and R. J. Hollingdale use superman, while Kaufmann uses overman, and Parkes uses overhuman. Martin has opted to leave the nearly universally understood term as Übermensch in his new translation). The Übermensch is one of the many interconnecting, interdependent themes of the story, and is represented through several different metaphors. Examples include: the lightning that is portended by the silence and raindrops of a travelling storm cloud; or the sun's rise and culmination at its midday zenith; or a man traversing a rope stationed above an abyss, moving away from his uncultivated animality and towards the Übermensch.
The symbol of the Übermensch also alludes to Nietzsche's notions of "self-mastery", "self-cultivation", "self-direction", and "self-overcoming". Expounding these concepts, Zarathustra declares:
The book embodies a number of innovative poetical and rhetorical methods of expression. It serves as a parallel and supplement to the various philosophical ideas present in Nietzsche's body of work. He has, however, said that "among my writings my Zarathustra stands to my mind by itself" (Ecce Homo, Preface, sec. 4, Kaufmann). Emphasizing its centrality and its status as his magnum opus, Nietzsche stated that:
Since many of the book's ideas are also present in his other works, Zarathustra is seen to have served as a precursor to his later philosophical thought. With the book, Nietzsche embraced a distinct aesthetic assiduity. He later reformulated many of his ideas in Beyond Good and Evil and various other writings that he composed thereafter. He continued to emphasize his philosophical concerns; generally, his intention was to show an alternative to repressive moral codes and to avert "nihilism" in all of its varied forms.
Other aspects of Thus Spoke Zarathustra relate to Nietzsche's proposed "Transvaluation of All Values". This incomplete project began with The Antichrist.
While Nietzsche injects myriad ideas into the book, a few recurring themes stand out. The overman (Übermensch), a self-mastered individual who has achieved his full power, is an almost omnipresent idea in Thus Spoke Zarathustra. Man as a race is merely a bridge between animals and the overman. Nietzsche also makes a point that the overman is not an end result for a person, but more the journey toward self-mastery.
The eternal recurrence, found elsewhere in Nietzsche's writing, is also mentioned. "Eternal recurrence" is the possibility that all events in one's life will happen again and again, infinitely. The embrace of all of life's horrors and pleasures alike shows a deference and acceptance of fate, or Amor Fati. The love and acceptance of one's path in life is a defining characteristic of the overman. Faced with the knowledge that he would repeat every action that he has taken, an overman would be elated as he has no regrets and loves life. Opting to change any decision or event in one's life would indicate the presence of resentment or fear; contradistinctly the overman is characterized by courage and a Dionysian spirit.
The will to power is the fundamental component of the human identity. Everything we do is an expression of the will to power. The will to power is a psychological analysis of all human action and is accentuated by self-overcoming and self-enhancement. Contrasted with living for procreation, pleasure, or happiness, the will to power is the summary of all man's struggle against his surrounding environment as well as his reason for living in it.
Many criticisms of Christianity can be found in Thus Spoke Zarathustra, in particular Christian values of good and evil and its belief in an afterlife. The basis for his critique of Christianity lies in the perceived squandering of our earthly lives in pursuit of a perfect afterlife, of which there is no evidence. This empiricist view (denial of afterlife) is not fully examined in a rational argument in the text, but taken as a simple fact in Nietzsche's aphoristic writing style. Judeo-Christian values are more thoroughly examined in On the Genealogy of Morals as a product of what he calls "slave morality."
Noteworthy for its format, the book comprises a philosophical work of fiction whose style often lightheartedly imitates that of the New Testament and of the Platonic dialogues, at times resembling pre-Socratic works in tone and in its use of natural phenomena as rhetorical and explanatory devices. It also features frequent references to the Western literary and philosophical traditions, implicitly offering an interpretation of these traditions and of their problems. Nietzsche achieves all of this through the character of Zarathustra (referring to the traditional prophet of Zoroastrianism), who makes speeches on philosophic topics as he moves along a loose plotline marking his development and the reception of his ideas. This characteristic (following the genre of the Bildungsroman) can be seen as an inline commentary on Zarathustra's (and Nietzsche's) philosophy. All this, along with the book's ambiguity and paradoxical nature, has helped its eventual enthusiastic reception by the reading public, but has frustrated academic attempts at analysis (as Nietzsche may have intended). Thus Spoke Zarathustra remained unpopular as a topic for scholars (especially those in the Anglo-American analytic tradition) until the second half of the twentieth century brought widespread interest in Nietzsche and his unconventional style that does not distinguish between philosophy and literature. It offers formulations of eternal recurrence, and Nietzsche for the first time speaks of the Übermensch: themes that would dominate his books from this point onwards.
Critic Harold Bloom, writing in The Western Canon (1994), criticized Thus Spoke Zarathustra, calling the book "a gorgeous disaster" and "unreadable". Other commentators have suggested that Nietzsche's style is intentionally ironic for much of the book. This irony relates to an internal conflict of Nietzsche's: he hated religious leaders but perceived himself as at least somewhat akin to one.
The first English translation of Zarathustra was published in 1896 by Alexander Tille.
Thomas Common published a translation in 1909 which was based on Alexander Tille's earlier attempt. Common wrote in the style of Shakespeare or the King James Version of the Bible. Common's poetic interpretation of the text, which renders the title Thus Spake Zarathustra, received wide acclaim for its lambent portrayal. Common reasoned that because the original German was written in a pseudo-Luther-Biblical style, a pseudo-King-James-Biblical style would be fitting in the English translation.
The Common translation remained widely accepted until more critical translations, titled Thus Spoke Zarathustra, were published by Walter Kaufmann in 1966 and R.J. Hollingdale in 1973, which are considered to convey more accurately the German text than the Common version. Kaufmann's introduction to his own translation included a blistering critique of Common's version; he notes that in one instance, Common has taken the German "most evil" and rendered it "baddest", a particularly unfortunate error not merely for his having coined the term "baddest", but also because Nietzsche dedicated a third of The Genealogy of Morals to the difference between "bad" and "evil". This and other errors led Kaufmann to wonder whether Common "had little German and less English". The translations of Kaufmann and Hollingdale render the text in a far more familiar, less archaic, style of language, than that of Common.
Thomas Wayne, an English Professor at Edison State College in Fort Myers, Florida, published a translation in 2003. The introduction by Roger W. Phillips, Ph.D., says "Wayne's close reading of the original text has exposed the deficiencies of earlier translations, preeminent among them that of the highly esteemed Walter Kaufmann", and gives several reasons.
Clancy Martin's 2005 translation opens with criticism and praise for these three seminal translators, Common, Hollingdale, and Kaufmann. He notes that the German text available to Common was considerably flawed, and that the German text from which Hollingdale and Kaufmann worked was itself untrue to Nietzsche's own work in some ways. Martin criticizes Kaufmann for changing punctuation, altering literal and philosophical meanings, and dampening some of Nietzsche's more controversial metaphors. Kaufmann's version, which has become the most widely available, features a translator's note suggesting that Nietzsche's text would have benefited from an editor; Martin suggests that Kaufmann "took it upon himself to become his [Nietzsche's] editor".
Graham Parkes describes his own 2005 translation as trying "above all to convey the musicality of the text."
In 2006, Cambridge University Press published a translation by Adrian Del Caro, edited by Robert Pippin.
Musical and literary adaptations
The book inspired Richard Strauss to compose the tone poem Also sprach Zarathustra, which he designated "freely based on Friedrich Nietzsche".
Zarathustra's Roundelay is set as part of Gustav Mahler's Third Symphony (1895–6), originally under the title What Man Tells Me, or alternatively What the Night Tells Me (Of Man).
Frederick Delius based his major choral-orchestral work A Mass of Life (1904–5) on texts from Thus Spoke Zarathustra. The work ends with a setting of Zarathustra's roundelay which Delius had composed earlier, in 1898, as a separate work. Another setting of the roundelay is one of the songs of Lukas Foss's Time Cycle for soprano and orchestra (1959–60).
Carl Orff also composed a three-movement setting of part of Nietzsche's text as a teenager, but this work remains unpublished.
The short score of the third symphony by Arnold Bax originally began with a quotation from Thus Spoke Zarathustra: ‘My wisdom became pregnant on lonely mountains; upon barren stones she brought forth her young’.
Latin American writer Giannina Braschi wrote the philosophical novel United States of Banana based on Walter Kaufman's translation of Thus Spoke Zarathustra; in it, Zarathustra and Hamlet philosophize about the liberty of modern man in a capitalist society. Italian progressive rock band Museo Rosenbach released in 1973 the album Zarathustra, with lyrics referring to the book.