The Making of Friedrich Nietzsche

9781107134867Tom Stern at Literary Review:

Which famous philosopher wrote, ‘I have experienced so much, happy and sad, enlivening and dispiriting, but God has led me safely through it all as does a father his weak little child’? The words are taken from the autobiography of the profoundly religious thirteen-year-old Friedrich Nietzsche. Nietzsche was given to writing autobiographies. The most famous of these, Ecce Homo, was penned in 1888, shortly before, or perhaps during, his descent into madness. You might have heard of that one because it contains chapters such as ‘Why I am So Clever’ and ‘Why I Write Such Good Books’. From 1858 to the end of the 1860s, Nietzsche wrote at least six autobiographies. These take centre stage in Daniel Blue’s new book on Nietzsche, covering the years 1844–69. We might be tempted to think of this as ‘Nietzsche: The Early Years’, but that would have misleading connotations. ‘Early Nietzsche’ customarily refers to the period 1868–76, when he was overtly under the influence of Arthur Schopenhauer’s philosophy and Richard Wagner’s personality. In Blue’s 320 page account, Nietzsche buys Schopenhauer’s The World as Will and Representation on page 216 and meets Wagner on page 300. This is ‘Nietzsche: Before the Early Years’. Eight years old on page 58, eighteen halfway through, we leave him aged twenty-four, arriving in Basel to take up his first university position in philology: employed, financially independent and no longer asking his mother to do his washing.

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