The Birth of Tragedy and the Case of Wagnerby Friedrich Nietzsche
The Birth of Tragedy (1872) was Nietzsche's first book. Its youthful faults were exposed by Nietzsche in the brilliant "Attempt at a Self-Criticism" which he added to the new edition of 1886. But the book, whatever its excesses, remains one of the most relevant statements on tragedy ever penned. It exploded the conception of Greek culture that was… See more details below
The Birth of Tragedy (1872) was Nietzsche's first book. Its youthful faults were exposed by Nietzsche in the brilliant "Attempt at a Self-Criticism" which he added to the new edition of 1886. But the book, whatever its excesses, remains one of the most relevant statements on tragedy ever penned. It exploded the conception of Greek culture that was prevalent down through the Victorian era, and it sounded themes developed in the twentieth century by classicists, existentialists, psychoanalysts, and others.
The Case of Wagner (1888) was one Nietzsche's last books, and his wittiest. In attitude and style it is diametrically opposed to The Birth of Tragedy. Both works transcend their ostensible subjects and deal with art and culture, as well as the problems of the modern age generally.
Each book in itself gives us an inadequate idea of its author; together, they furnish a striking image of Nietzsche's thought. The distinguished new translations by Walter Kaufmann superbly reflect in English Nietzsche's idiom and the vitality of his style. Professor Kaufmann has also furnished running footnote commentaries, relevant passages from Nietzsche's correspondence, a bibliography, and, for the first time in any edition, an extensive index to each book.
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When I first picked up a copy of Nietzsche's The Birth of Tragedy I really did not have an idea as to what the book is about. I had never read Nietzsche before and had some of the same misconceptions about his work as most people do. The Birth of Tragedy, Nietzsche's first book, is a fascinating analysis of the origins of Greek tragedy. There are lots of references to the plays of Aeschylus, Sophocles, and Euripides, but one does not need to be schooled in Greek drama to undertand the book. Actually, Nietzsche has a tendency in this book to over-explain things which is where this book may fall short and lose some readers. Nietzsche himself acknowledges his faults in the 'Attempt at Self-criticism' he added years after the book was released. The two underlying themes in The Birth of Tragedy are the two elements of art; The Dionysian and the Appolinian. Nietzsche is very poetic in his writing and that alone makes this an interesting book. I highly recommend it.