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Thread: Advice on reading Nietzsche and Proust

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    Registered User Desolation's Avatar
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    Advice on reading Nietzsche and Proust

    I've decided to spend the next few weeks devoted to these two writers. I've read one book from each, Swann's Way from Proust, and Thus Spoke Zarathustra from Nietzsche, both of which are in my top favorite books. But despite how much I loved them, I'm not sure that I really appreciated them as well as I should have.

    So, I'd like advice on how best to read these two notoriously complex writers, and manage to get the absolute most out of them(without actually reading books about reading them). And along with that, I'd like to know whether it's best to read In Search of Lost Time in one stretch, or to read it it in pieces.

    Thank you.

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    Asa Nisi Masa mayneverhave's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Desolation View Post
    I've decided to spend the next few weeks devoted to these two writers. I've read one book from each, Swann's Way from Proust, and Thus Spoke Zarathustra from Nietzsche, both of which are in my top favorite books. But despite how much I loved them, I'm not sure that I really appreciated them as well as I should have.

    So, I'd like advice on how best to read these two notoriously complex writers, and manage to get the absolute most out of them(without actually reading books about reading them). And along with that, I'd like to know whether it's best to read In Search of Lost Time in one stretch, or to read it it in pieces.

    Thank you.
    I'm currently nearing the end of Swann's Way, and the reading hasn't necessitated the use of extraneous material in order to understand the novel - though I'm sure it wouldn't hurt.

    Most would probably tell you to read all of In Search of Lost Time at once - in fact, I would probably tell you to as well, though I'm reading it in pieces, simply because I have so many other things to read this summer, I cannot be bogged down reading 7 very long volumes at one time.

    As for Nietzsche, his notoriously difficult reputation precedes him. I have not, as of yet, read Zarathustra, but I have read On the Genealogy of Morality. My edition (tr. Walter Kaufmann) featured an introduction by the translator and very numerous, lengthy footnotes - which aid in the reading.

    With the help of footnotes, and perhaps some extraneous criticism, understanding Nietzsche (provided you have some wits about you) shouldn't prove too difficult.

  3. #3

    as far as Nietzsche goes

    Quote Originally Posted by mayneverhave View Post
    With the help of footnotes, and perhaps some extraneous criticism, understanding Nietzsche (provided you have some wits about you) shouldn't prove too difficult.
    That's a good point--all the books by Nietzsche that I bought had great introductions. (I read translations by both Kaufmann and Hollingdale).

    Here's like the next four I'd recommend, in no particular order:

    Beyond Good and Evil is pretty inspiring. Lots of short chapters, so I never got too wrapped up in an area that wasn't interesting to me, and I could flip around, and re-read stuff I particularly liked. Written right after Zarathustra.

    Twilight of the Idols was intended as an introduction to his thought when he wrote it, but I didn't know that until just now, when I looked at the wikipedia page to spark my memory. Might be good for that reason, but otherwise go with something else next.

    The Gay Science (it has nothing to do with homosexuality, but man was I uncomfortable when the cashier turned out to be maybe the hottest girl at the university bookstore. Please don't think I'm homophobic, it was just an inconvenient translation of the title for me at the time. It even had a kind of rainbow color scheme on the cover ) is sort of like a jumble of short essays, like flipping through a notebook, I thought. Lots of interesting passages. Simlar structure to Beyond Good and Evil, but comes before Zarathustra.

    Ecce Homo (I was proud of my mature, fearless behavior at the register with this one, can't even recall the cashier) is his last real book, and has some of his greatest stuff (in my opinion), but it'd be best to wait until reading maybe a couple more or so, I'd say. Bluntly (humorously?) egotistical, him celebrating himself. You're really getting to know him in this one.

    I'm no expert, of course, there'll hopefully be more opinions and input, maybe just reading the back covers in the bookstore or flipping through them will help you decide better than anything. It's been a looonng time since I read them, too. I really enjoyed them, though, so it was fun to look back and research/remember them a bit for you.

    So, in case you don't get enough to go on elsewhere, that's my prescription.
    Last edited by billl; 05-28-2009 at 12:50 AM. Reason: had forgotten about Hollingdale

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    Registered User Desolation's Avatar
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    I'm currently reading a book called 'The Essential Writings of Nietzsche', and it has the complete texts of The Birth of Tragedy, Beyond Good and Evil, The Genealogy of Morals, The Case of Wagner, and Ecce Homo, along with snippets from other works, all translated by Kaufmann. I skipped most of 'Tragedy' as Kaufmann recommends, and I'm planning on reading Twilight of the Idols & the Anti-Christ(which I have together in another book, unfortunately not translated by Kaufmann, but I read that it's done by an equally competent translator) between 'Wagner' and "Ecce Homo'.

    Thank you for the advice and short descriptions.

  5. #5
    Beyond Good and Evil is a wonderful read. The fact that morality is relative is really all you need to accept before reading this one.
    The salvation of the world is in man's suffering. - Faulkner

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    Asa Nisi Masa mayneverhave's Avatar
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    Yes, Nietzsche's best work is primarily in ethics, in which On the Genealogy of Morality is considered his best.

    His theories on ressentiment, the development of morality, his praising of Napoleon, and his outrageous anti-semitism make it an interesting read.

  7. #7
    Obviously read both authors very carefully and slowly. Make sure you understand the fundamental works of the philosophers and philosophies Nietzsche criticizes (or praises).
    I AM THE BOY
    THAT CAN ENJOY
    INVISIBILITY.

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    Registered User Bastable's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by mayneverhave View Post
    His theories on ressentiment, the development of morality, his praising of Napoleon, and his outrageous anti-semitism make it an interesting read.
    Nietzsche wasn't an anti-semite.

  9. #9
    Well, at the very least, he at one point lamented at length that the Germans were worse.

  10. #10
    Quote Originally Posted by Bastable View Post
    Nietzsche wasn't an anti-semite.
    He made several anti-semitic remarks and several anti-anti-semitic remarks as well. His attidude was very inconsistent and he changed it impulsively, maybe due to his mental disease. But finally it were not single antisemitic or racist remaks which made Nietzsche one of the predecessors of nazi ideology but the aggressive elitism of his late writings as a whole.
    Last edited by amarna; 05-29-2009 at 10:41 AM.

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    Registered User Desolation's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by amarna View Post
    He made several anti-semitic remarks and several anti-anti-semitic remarks as well. His attidude was very inconsistent and he changed it impulsively, maybe due to his mental disease. But finally it were not single antisemitic or racist remaks which made Nietzsche one of the predecessors of nazi ideology but the aggressive elitism of his late writings as a whole.
    Actually, his influence on Nazis was largely based on misinterpretation, and his anti-semitic sister ****ing with his works to make them more Aryan-race acceptable. Nietzsche, despite thinking that some men were better than others, ultimately wanted everyone to rise above the herd and their slavery mindsets. It is unlikely that he would have had any feeling but loathing for a man who wanted to suppress every single individual in Europe and subject them to herd mentality.

    I watched a Nietzsche documentary last night

  12. #12
    Quote Originally Posted by Desolation View Post
    Actually, his influence on Nazis was largely based on misinterpretation, and his anti-semitic sister ****ing with his works to make them more Aryan-race acceptable. Nietzsche, despite thinking that some men were better than others, ultimately wanted everyone to rise above the herd and their slavery mindsets. It is unlikely that he would have had any feeling but loathing for a man who wanted to suppress every single individual in Europe and subject them to herd mentality.

    I watched a Nietzsche documentary last night
    I don't really believe the misinterpretation myth. Foerster-Nietzsche never edited something her brother hadn't written, so the reception history is suggested by Nietzsche's writings themselves, not by his sister.
    Maybe his ideas are so attractive because they appeal to secret narcisstic needs almost anyone has (I read a book about narcissm last week ), even his efforts to generalize his longing for grandiosity and superiority seem to me being narcisstic.

  13. #13
    Wow! I would have said that the advice given here was great - especially about reading Beyond Good & Evil. (By the way, the edition you have is a fantastic place to start. Many great texts all in one volume!)

    However, the complete misrepresentation of Nietzsche as an anti-semite causes me to second-guess any recommendations by those posters. He most definitely was not - as far as anyone can tell without knowing him personally. Yes, he was a poster-child of the Nazis. However, that has been widely refuted. His sister was primarily responsible for destroying his legacy. Her husband was a proto-nazi. After Nietzsche went mad, she wheeled him around in a wheelchair and used him for fame. She reordered and rearranged his aphorisms to serve her purposes. The main work that she presented of her brother was not completed or finalized by him. Judging from the meticulous notes Nietzsche had, the constant revisions and changes, I would think that using his notes would not be that authoritative. Never mind the fact that Nietzsche's writing style is hardly easy or straightforward to begin with. It's very easy to see how an ironic phrase taken out of context could seem like something else.

    Further complicating this mess is Nietzsche's argument of the Jewish slave revolt. However, the Jews are implicated as much as the Christians - in fact the Christians are the tool used to make the revolt succeed. So, if he's anti-Semitic, it's only in the same way that he's anti-christian, and, presumably, anti-muslim.

    I hope all of that helps...

  14. #14
    Quote Originally Posted by Ueberzensch View Post
    However, the complete misrepresentation of Nietzsche...
    "The weak and unsuccessful shall perish: Main principle of our philanthropy. And one has to aid them with perishing." (Antichrist, 2nd chapter).

    Is there anything to misrepresent?
    Last edited by amarna; 05-30-2009 at 12:08 PM.

  15. #15
    Quote Originally Posted by amarna View Post
    "The weak and unsuccessful shall perish: Main principle of our philanthropy. And one has to help them with that." (Antichrist, 2nd chapter).

    Is there anything to misrepresent?
    Where is the anti-semitism?

    I don't have the text in front of me right now, so I'll assume there is something surrounding this text that is anti-semitic?

    Unless, of course, you are referring to the weak and unsuccessful perishing. However, if the Jews are included in that group because of their slave mentality/morality, that does not make N an anti-semite. You have to remember that he would also include Christians in that group.

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