Thus Spake Zarathustra: A Book for All and None

Overview

Thus Spoke Zarathustra: A Book for All and None (German: Also sprach Zarathustra: Ein Buch für Alle und Keinen, also translated as Thus Spake Zarathustra) is a philosophical novel by German philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche, composed in four parts between 1883 and 1885. Much of the work deals with ideas such as the "eternal recurrence of the same", the parable on the "death of God", and the "prophecy" of the Übermensch, which were first introduced in The Gay Science.
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Thus Spake Zarathustra: A Book for All and None

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Overview

Thus Spoke Zarathustra: A Book for All and None (German: Also sprach Zarathustra: Ein Buch für Alle und Keinen, also translated as Thus Spake Zarathustra) is a philosophical novel by German philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche, composed in four parts between 1883 and 1885. Much of the work deals with ideas such as the "eternal recurrence of the same", the parable on the "death of God", and the "prophecy" of the Übermensch, which were first introduced in The Gay Science.
Thus Spoke Zarathustra was conceived while Nietzsche was writing The Gay Science; he made a small note, reading "6,000 feet beyond man and time," as evidence of this. More specifically, this note related to the concept of the eternal recurrence, which is, by Nietzsche's admission, the central idea of Zarathustra; this idea occurred to him by a "pyramidal block of stone" on the shores of Lake Silvaplana in the Upper Engadine, a high alpine region whose valley floor is at 6,000 ft. Nietzsche planned to write the book in three parts over several years. He wrote that the ideas for Zarathustra first came to him while walking on two roads surrounding Rapallo, according to Elisabeth Förster-Nietzsche in the introduction of Thomas Common's early translation of the book.

Although Part Three was originally planned to be the end of the book, and ends with a strong climax, Nietzsche subsequently decided to write an additional three parts; ultimately, however, he composed only the fourth part, which is viewed to constitute an intermezzo.

Nietzsche commented in Ecce Homo that for the completion of each part: "Ten days sufficed; in no case, neither for the first nor for the third and last, did I require more" (trans. Kaufmann). The first three parts were first published separately, and were subsequently published in a single volume in 1887. The fourth part remained private after Nietzsche wrote it in 1885; a scant forty copies were all that were printed, apart from seven others that were distributed to Nietzsche's close friends. In March 1892, the four parts were finally reprinted as a single volume. Since then, the version most commonly produced has included all four parts.

The original text contains a great deal of word-play. An example of this is the use of words beginning über ("over" or "above") and unter ("down" or "below"), often paired to emphasise the contrast, which is not always possible to bring out in translation, except by coinages. An example is Untergang, literally "down-going" but used in German to mean "setting" (as of the sun), which Nietzsche pairs with its opposite Übergang (going over or across). Another example is Übermensch (overman or superman), discussed later in this article.
Zarathustra has a simple characterisation and plot, narrated sporadically throughout the text. It possesses a unique experimental style, one that is, for instance, evident in newly invented "dithyrambs" narrated or sung by Zarathustra. Likewise, the separate Dithyrambs of Dionysus was written in autumn 1888, and printed with the full volume in 1892, as the corollaries of Zarathustra's "abundance".

Some speculate that Nietzsche intended to write about final acts of creation and destruction brought about by Zarathustra. However, the book lacks a finale to match that description; its actual ending focuses more on Zarathustra recognizing that his legacy is beginning to perpetuate, and consequently choosing to leave the higher men to their own devices in carrying his legacy forth.

Zarathustra also contains the famous dictum "God is dead", which had appeared earlier in The Gay Science. In his autobiographical work Ecce Homo, Nietzsche states that the book's underlying concept is discussed within "the penultimate section of the fourth book" of 'The Gay Science' (Ecce Homo, Kaufmann). It is the eternal recurrence of the same events.

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781146977401
  • Publisher: Nabu Press
  • Publication date: 3/28/2010
  • Pages: 492
  • Product dimensions: 7.44 (w) x 9.69 (h) x 0.99 (d)

Meet the Author

Thomas Common (1850-1919) was a translator and critic, who translated several books by Friedrich Nietzsche into English. There is little information about him biographically, though indications are that he was a very well-educated and literate scholar, who lived in the area of Corstorphine, Scotland.

In the mid-1890s, he joined a project led by Alexander Tille to produce a complete English edition of Nietzsche's work. Common translated several of them, including a version of Thus Spoke Zarathustra published in 1909.

In 1901 he published a book called Nietzsche as Critic, Philosopher, Poet and Prophet, which was extremely enthusiastic about its subject, and was recommended to the publisher by George Bernard Shaw. The book did not circulate widely as the publisher went bankrupt very soon after publication, but it was read by W. B. Yeats, who was strongly influenced by Nietzschean ideas, as can be seen in his poetry. From 1903 to 1916 Common produced a quarterly journal called Notes for Good Europeans (later titled The Good European Point of View), with the purpose of increasing public interest in Nietzsche.

Friedrich Wilhelm Nietzsche (15 October 1844 - 25 August 1900) was a German philologist, philosopher, cultural critic, poet and composer. He wrote several critical texts on religion, morality, contemporary culture, philosophy and science, displaying a fondness for metaphor, irony and aphorism.

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