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Thus Spoke Zarathustra [Abridged, Audiobook] [Audio CD]

Friedrich Wilhelm Nietzsche , Ales Jennings
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Book Description

June 1 2005 Non-fiction
This was conceived and written by Friedrich Nietzsche during the years 1881-1885; the first three Parts were published in 1883 and 1884. The book formed part of his 'campaign against morality', in which Nietzsche explored the ethical consequences of the 'death of God'. Heavily critical not only of Christian values but also of their modern replacements, Thus spoke Zarathustra argues for a new value-system based around the prophecy of the Ubermensch, or Superman. Its appropriation by the National Socialist movement in Germany early in the twentieth century has tainted its reputation unjustly; but there are signs that the rehabilitation of Nietzsche, and of this his most incendiary work, is almost complete. Read by Alex Jennings, there are helpful introductions to every chapter.

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About the Author

Friedrich Nietzsche (1844–1900) was a German philosopher whose best-known works include Beyond Good and Evil and Thus Spoke Zarathustra.

British narrator John Lee has read audiobooks in almost every conceivable genre, from Charles Dickens to Patrick O'Brian. He has won numerous Audie Awards and AudioFile Earphones Awards, and he was named a Golden Voice by AudioFile in 2009.
--This text refers to an alternate Audio CD edition.

Excerpt. © Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.

From Kathleen M. Higgins and Robert C. Solomon’s Introduction to Thus Spoke Zarathustra

            Friedrich Nietzsche published the first part of his Also sprach Zarathustra (Thus Spoke Zarathustra) in 1883, and it became his best-known book. He considered it his most important work, and toward the end of his life he immodestly described it in Ecce Homo (1908) as “the greatest present” that had been made to humanity so far. In the same book, he no less outrageously proclaims that it is “not only the highest book there is . . . but it is also the deepest, born out of the innermost wealth of truth.” So we should not be surprised to find that Zarathustra is an extremely enigmatic and often pretentious work and by no means easy to understand or to classify. It is not clearly philosophy, or poetry, or prophecy, or satire. Sometimes it seems to be all of the above. It is also difficult because it is filled with learned allegories and allusions—to the Bible, Plato, Shakespeare, Goethe’s Faust, Ludwig Feuerbach, Arthur Schopenhauer, Nietzsche’s former friend Richard Wagner, and others—references that might not be readily recognizable by most contemporary readers. Zarathustra’s subtitle, “A Book for All and None,” also sounds like a challenge, if not a direct affront, suggesting that while anyone might pick it up and read it, no one can really understand it. In the then anxious world of modern Europe, already preparing for the calamities and traumas of the twentieth century, Zarathustra would find itself curiously at home.

The basic format of Zarathustra is familiar. It tells a story in biblical style. Zarathustra is an epic that resembles no other book so much as the New Testament, a work that Nietzsche, who had originally intended to enter the ministry (and whose father and grandfathers had all been ministers), knew very well. Like Jesus in the New Testament, the titular character of Nietzsche’s book goes into solitude at the age of thirty and returns to humanity with a mission—to share his wisdom with others, to challenge them to reform their lives. But like Jesus, Zarathustra is seriously misunderstood. The book thus chronicles the protagonist’s efforts and wanderings, his coming to understand who he is and what he stands for, by way of his interactions with the various and often odd characters he meets along the way.

Nevertheless, there are obvious and dramatic differences between Zarathustra and the Gospels. To begin with, unlike Jesus, who returns from solitude after forty days, Zarathustra enjoys solitude for ten years before beginning his mission. And while the story of Jesus is completed with his death and resurrection, Zarathustra’s story is never finished. Indeed, the book starts exactly as it begins, with Zarathustra’s leaving his mountain cave and descending once again to humanity. While Jesus is presented as enlightened throughout his teaching mission, Zarathustra matures only gradually. His whole story can be understood as an instance of the popular German genre of Bildungsroman—that is, a novel chronicling the education of its protagonist. Most important, the “gospel” that Zarathustra brings contrasts sharply with the teachings of Jesus. In Nietzsche’s version, Zarathustra utterly rejects the distinction between good and evil, and with it the basic premise of Judeo-Christian morality. He also denounces the “otherworldly” outlook of Christianity, its emphasis on a “better” life beyond this one. Zarathustra’s philosophy, summarized in a single phrase, is a celebration of what is “this-worldly.” It is a “yes-saying” to life, this life; for Zarathustra (like Nietzsche) thinks that there is no other. The combined allusions to and discrepancies from the New Testament in Zarathustra make it appropriate to think of it as a parody, although it should not be thought of just as satire, which ridicules its target. On the blasphemous side, however, Zarathustra is treated as a figure whose seriousness and importance are comparable to those of Jesus.

Many readers may not know that Nietzsche’s titular character is a very important historical religious figure. Zarathustra, also known as Zoroaster, probably lived in the seventh century b.c.e. (possibly from 628 to 551). He was a Persian who founded his own religion. Zoroastrianism, in turn, had a profound influence on both Judaism and Christianity. Zarathustra remained a fantasy figure in the West for many centuries, long before his writings were translated in the eighteenth century. Central to the teachings of the historical Zarathustra was the idea that the world is a stage on which cosmic moral forces, the power of good and the powers of evil, fight it out for dominance over humanity. This conflict between good and evil is central to both Judaism and Christianity, and given Nietzsche’s rejection of this dichotomy, it is highly significant as well as ironic that Nietzsche chose the supposed originator of that distinction as his central character and ostensibly as his spokesman. Nietzsche tells us in Ecce Homo that as the first to invent the opposition of good and evil, Zarathustra should be the first to recognize that it is a “calamitous error,” for he has more experience and is more truthful than any other thinker. Nietzsche’s Zarathustra is the historical religious leader updated, offering insight into the modern world, as the original Zarathustra addressed the circumstances of his era.

One could argue that Nietzsche used his fictional Zarathustra much as Plato used his teacher, Socrates (who never wrote down his teachings), to express his own views. And given that Nietzsche had a doctorate in classical philology and taught the classics for many years, we should not be surprised to find that Nietzsche’s book makes extensive references to Plato’s dialogues and their hero. Socrates, along with Jesus, remained one of the focal points of Nietzsche’s philosophy from his first book to his last. Socrates is a figure of profound importance to the Western tradition. In Nietzsche’s first book, Die Geburt der Tragödie (1872; The Birth of Tragedy), he called Socrates “the one vortex and turning-point” of Western culture. In one of his last books, Die Götzen-Dämmerung (1889; Twilight of the Idols), he devotes an entire chapter to “The Problem of Socrates,” which is nothing less than the problem of Western civilization as such. In his life, Socrates was a self-styled gadfly to his contemporaries, provoking them to question their basic beliefs, which for the most part they held just because others held them too. His unrelenting challenge to common morals and public authority ultimately led to his being convicted on trumped-up charges and executed. Nietzsche’s Zarathustra is similarly devoted to challenging both “common sense” and the authority of tradition, and he similarly arouses hatred in those committed to them.

--This text refers to the Paperback edition.

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Most helpful customer reviews
4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Outstanding Sept. 1 2003
By A Customer
Format:Paperback
Quality and clarity have always been the hallmarks of the Penguin series, and they extend to this one also. Unlike the other translations, dense with tedious bombast and medieval suffixes, the Hollingdale translation is focused and one couldnt ask for a more keen choice of words. With this superb translation I could at least concentrate on the philosophy, rather than trying to decipher the difficult language. While reading this, the words danced rather than gravitated, making reading this book all the more enjoyable.
As for the content and Nietszche's philosophy, it was intelligent and convincing. However one mustn't take this book literally. The transformation to Ubermensch is figuratively speaking, so is "dancing" and "laughter". In the context of this book one might interpret them as symbols of liberation and ascention. To best explain this one might take a scientist as an example. At first, the scientist burdens himself with study of the discoveries of his predecessors, in which he resembles a camel (1st transformation). After his vigorous study he must assert himself and his independence from others, in which he resembles a lion (2nd transformation). And thirdly, he must develop a distnctive personal style which will distinguish him from the others, in which he becomes like a child (3d transformation). In the 3d and final stage he is liberated from any signs of struggle, giving freedom to his spirit.
However engaging Nietzsche's philosophy is, it is at times vague and sadly laconic, e.g. his account on the battle of the virtues was not expanded enough and didn't explain what one might do when those battled for supremacy. Also, some might find his philosophy callous and ruthless, as it persuades leaving the helpless behind for the sake of the ascention of few.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Talk about translations! May 8 2003
By A Customer
Format:Paperback
I only want to say one thing here, and I say it primarily because I already love this work. This is the translation to buy. Everyone seems to adore Kaufmann, but the truth is he's much more obtuse and difficult to read (and I don't believe it's necessary, as some may say). Hollingdale gets it right. I'll defend myself with one example from a class I took, where Kaufmann's translation was the required text. I had read both translations (cover-to-cover), and sold my copy of Kaufmann's translation, keeping only my Hollingdale. So, needless to say, I wasn't about to buy Kaufmann again, and went to class with Hollingdale. Slowly, but surely, as the other students read bits of the translation I had, or heard when I spoke pieces aloud, they overwhelmingly agreed with me: Hollingdale is simply more clear, more beautiful, more powerful (less academic, shall we say, which is pure Nietzsche). Ok, over and out, enjoy.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Recommending not to begin with Zarathustra March 21 2002
Format:Paperback
I would like to advise new readers of Nietzsche to not read Zaruthustra until you have read a number of his other works. The book is cryptic, metaphoric, and employs heavy symbolism that will be easily misinterpreted by those who have not invested in Nietzsche's thinking.
Better to begin with Genealogy of Morals, or even Beyond Good and Evil (which recounts Zarathustra, but is more accessible), or Kaufmann's "Philosopher, Psychologist, Anti-Christ," or begin from the beginning with Birth of Tragedy and follow the chronology of his writings. A quick introduction to the style and nature of Nietzsche can be had through his Untimely Meditations, or the Gay Science.
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8 of 9 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The "New" Repulic. Oct. 18 2003
Format:Hardcover
The only other western philosophical text as importnat as this book is Plato's "Republic." We have once again arrived at the cross-roads of Heraclitus v/s Paramendides. I wouldn't recommended jumping into it without a good knowledge of the Western philosophical traditon and religious traditions. (Zarathutra himself calls learning ALL this backround information "the spirit of the camel" or first taking on the burden of knowledge before going about anything else. To not take on this "burden of knowledge" is the main flaw of most Nietzsche critics and mis-understanders.) Also, Nietzsche was an anti-systemic philosopher so it demands to be viewed/critiqued in a different way than traditional philosophy. To begin to grasp Nietzsche's "Zarathustra" I would to recommend first reading his earlier works starting with a couple of short essays. The first one is "Truth and Lie in a Non-Moral Sense" which is about human language, logic and the all-too-human need for these "lies." The other essay is "Homer's Contest" which reveals his legacy as starting from the early Greek tradition.
Some important things to know about this book to avoid the common misinterpretation that Nietzsche is just a Atheist/Nihilist with a superiority complex:
-pay very close attention to his critque of mind/body dualsism and what he proposes otherwise.
-The "Overman" is a conception that only looks toward the future. Later in the book Zarathustra supercedes the "Overman" idea with the cyclical concept of "Eternal Recourence." Even Zarathustra himself has a hard time confronting this view of life and existence. Also, don't make the mistake that eternal reccourence is just a "telos," it is not.
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Most recent customer reviews
3.0 out of 5 stars Abridged Version
For the purposes of understanding Nietzsche's philosophy from his texts and not interpretations or analyses, I've compared three different translations and found that Kaufman's... Read more
Published 2 months ago by David Khaskin
5.0 out of 5 stars Thoughts that come on doves' feet
Thus Spoke Zarathustra was first published in 1883. It is Nietzsche's poetic counterpoint to the Christian bible. Read more
Published on Dec 14 2010 by sean s.
5.0 out of 5 stars The perfect summary of Nietzsche's philosohy, and an enterteining read...
Hi there!

Despite being pretty hard to understand to newcomers, this is my favorite Nietzshe book so far. Read more
Published on Nov. 14 2010 by Osaka
2.0 out of 5 stars Confusing and not enjoyable.
I've always thought Fred was a horrible writer - this book proves it.

The good - the book is a classic and has caused lots of debate. Story has an interesting premise. Read more
Published on May 11 2009 by Andrew Kolbeck
3.0 out of 5 stars Worth Reading
Nietzsche has been said to be one of the greatest influances on modern philosophy, especially the existentialist movement and Zarathustra shows the reader just why he was a large... Read more
Published on April 18 2004 by "smalley6"
1.0 out of 5 stars sad
This man inspired such twentieth century visionaries as Hitler and Marilyn Manson! Oh, But I forgot, I have to be politically correct. Read more
Published on March 30 2004
5.0 out of 5 stars The ascension of the "overman"
What a wealth of ideas Nietzsche presents, from a man with a excessively intense mind. Philosophical, poetic, psychological, sociological, and social Darwinism all juxposized into... Read more
Published on Jan. 8 2004 by James P. Gibb
5.0 out of 5 stars Nietzsche�s audience is the 21st Century Reader
Nietzsche presents an argument against the will of the 'last man' so effectively, many scholars substitute his pure genius as mere hell-raising. Read more
Published on Sept. 28 2003 by "superflykai"
3.0 out of 5 stars For Ye of Little Faith...Watch out!
Walter Kaufmann is acclaimed as premier translator of many classics in German literature and poetry. His translation of Thus Spake Zarathustra warrants this renown. Read more
Published on April 18 2003 by Arthur F. McVarish
5.0 out of 5 stars This Book Will Change Your Life!
This book is transfinitly excellent! Even if you don't agree with Nietzsche's conclusions or points of view this is still an interesting and worthwhile read. Read more
Published on April 1 2003 by Kevin - Mathematician
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