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on July 16, 2004
This anthology of Nietzsche's writing is a marvelous work - Kaufmann's translations make the philosopher's unique style accessible and interesting to the English reader; it doesn't resort to false formality or dry academic prose as is often the case in translation of such material, but rather sets things in lively and dynamic tones, much as Nietzsche's own writing and tendency toward the dramatic was noted by his contemporaries.
Nietzsche's father was a Lutheran minister, but he died five years after Nietzsche's birth in 1844. Nietzsche was raised by his mother, grandmother and aunts; later in his life, his sister would become executor of his estate (after Nietzsche had become incapable of managing his own affairs) and reshape his philosophy and writings in her own idea - this becomes a running motif in later anthologies of Nietzsche; editors can quote and clip to fit their own agendas. In some ways, that is true of Kaufmann's text here, but in much less inappropriate ways than others, particularly Nietzsche's first editor, his sister.
Nietzsche was a star pupil from his earliest days at university in Bonn and Leipzig. His formal study was in classical philology, but his attentions turned in various directions quickly during his writing and professional life - he had an intense interest in drama and the arts, with Wagner's music and Greek drama in principal interest. His first book was devoted to these topics - 'The Birth of Tragedy'. It was not highly regarded at the time, but has since become much more appreciated as an anticipation of later developments in philosophy and aesthetics.
Nietzsche's life after this period was a very choppy one - he left the university, claiming illness, and while this developed later to be a true situation, at the time is was probably academic politics and difficulties fitting in with the establishment he was trying to break. He had a formal falling-out with Wagner, even writing later a piece entitled ' Nietzsche contra Wagner', finished just a few week prior to his going insane.
Kaufmann states in the introduction that Nietzsche's real career took off after his active life was over; under his sister's direction, many of the writings Nietzsche had managed to do and not get published, or which were published but forgotten, really took off in major directions. While his major works of Zarathustra, Ecce Homo, Will to Power and Genealogy of Morals were in various editions of disrepair (inded, the Will to Power was never more complete than a series of notes), Nietzsche had a knack for language that made him very quotable, and his influence continued to grow well into the first half of the twentieth century, influencing art, philosophy, history, and politics in dramatic ways, if not always the ways in which Nietzsche envisioned.
For example, Nietzsche was not particularly impressed with the 'typical' German anti-semitism, which later erupted into the Nazi movement. He considered it rather bourgeois, and while he undoubted had his own issues with Jews (Nietzsche had issues with almost everyone, particularly any group, Christians included, who had a religious connection), the Nazi use of Nietzsche's work owes more to Nietzsche's sister's influence than anyone else.
Kaufmann here presents a chronology of Nietzsche (his life and his publications after his death); a brief bibliography, excerpts from correspondence and essays, and major selections from 'Thus Spake Zarathustra', 'Twilight of the Idols', 'The Antichrist', and other major works. Almost all of the writings are presented in new translations by Kaufmann.
This is one of the best single-volumes of Nietzsche available, reprinted dozens of times since its original publication.