Nietzsche, a philosophical biography * Rüdiger Safranski (isbn 0393323803)

This is the third philosophers-biography from the hand of Safranski, but because Nietzsche lived between Schophauer and Heidegger, I read this book as the second of these three. The subtitle says: “a biography of his thinking” and this is absolutely what this book is. In contradiction to the Schopenhauer biography, Safranski doesn’t give a whole lot of details of the life of Nietzsche, but people who are interested will be delighted with the chronology of Nietzsches life at the end. Reading the book you will get to learn a young pessimistic man who starts to write at an early age. He studies philology (investigator of languages and cultures) and even becomes professor. Rebelling against his colleagues -especially after the discovery of the writings of Schopenhauer-, Nietzsche developes towards being philosopher. Writing different books at the same time, he especially developes his ideas of ‘power through will’. His famous idea of the death of god is only treated shortly when Safrasnki speaks about the “übermensch” (‘overman’). Reading further you will learn about Nietzsches ideas about everyday things and more ‘elevated matters’. The German philosopher is treated more or less chronological, but information comes from all kinds of books, letters, etc. all through eachother and lacking an index (!) this book isn’t much of a reference work.

Safranski writes all through to Nietzsches nervous-breakdown after which follows the long and final chapter about what happened after Nietzsches breakdown and his influence in later times. His sister brought out a strange and negative image of her brother and different people misused the philophy of Nietzsche.

“Nietzsche” is a more interesting book than the Schopenhauer biography. You will learn about what Nietzsche had to say more than about details of his life. Still, lacking an index and a structure of chapters by subject, this book is not one to have on your bookshell to use as Nietzsche reference book. Still Safranski writes understandable and his displays a great understanding of the man, his philosophy and philosophy in general. He doesn’t need about six years per book for nothing!

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