Nietzsche's Words to Readers
Studying Nietzsche is no simple task, a
fact that Nietzsche himself recognized. He makes these and other
warnings to his readers, which we authors of the hypertext pass
on to you as a student of Nietzsche.
An aphorism, properly stamped and molded,
has not been "deciphered" when it has simply been read;
rather, one has then to begin its exegesis, for which
is required an art of exegesis.... To be sure, one thing is necessary
above all if one is to practice reading as an art in this
way, something that has been unlearned most thoroughly nowadays
-- and therefore it will be some time before my writings are
"readable" -- something for which one has almost to
be a cow and in any case not a "modern man": rumination.
Preface to On the Genealogy
of Morals (Kaufmann 23).
The worst readers.--
The worst readers are those who proceed like plundering soldiers:
they pick up a few things they can use, soil and confuse the
rest, and blaspheme the whole.
Aphorism 137 from Mixed Opinions
and Maxims (1879) (Kaufmann 175).
Nietzsche's worst readers have probably
been Germany's Nazi party. Where Nietzsche attacked Judeo-Christian
morality, Nazi readers twisted Nietzsche's words and attacked
specific people groups. Two examples may help separate Nietzsche's
words from Nietzsche's interpreters.
The Nazis took to heart Nietzsche's image of the "blond beast," but neglected
to read his detailed explanation of the characteristics
of that very image. Nietzsche introduces the "blond beast"
image in Essay I, Section 11:
One cannot fail to see at the bottom of all
these noble races the beast of prey, the splendid blond beast
prowling about avidly in search of spoil and victory; this hidden
core needs to erupt from time to time, the animal has to get
out again and go back to the wilderness: the Roman, Arabian,
Germanic, Japanese nobility, the Homeric heroes, the Scandinavian
Vikings--they all shared this need (Kaufmann 40-41).
Nietzsche considered this blond beast to
be as much Roman or Arabian as Aryan, yet Nazis failed to understand
Other readers have accused Nietzsche of
anti-Semitism. Yet Nietzsche himself harshly rebuked the German
anti-Semites and their preying on Germany's stagnant spirit.
He writes in Essay III, Section 27:
...and I also do not like these latest speculators
in idealism, the anti-Semites, who today roll their eyes in a
Christian-Aryan-bourgeois manner and exhaust one's patience by
trying to rouse up all the horned-beast elements in the people
by a brazen abuse of the cheapest of all agitator's tricks, moral
As authors of this hypertext, it is our
hope that we can help instill in readers a ruminative habit,
"an art of exegesis,"
while steering ourselves clear of the ruinous fate that has befallen
the worst of Nietzsche's readers.