5 Unexpected Facts about Friedrich Nietzsche

Friedrich Nietzsche

A strange friendship, an unusual hobby, syphilis and the tragic fate of the philosopher’s writings.

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Friedrich Nietzsche (1844 – 1900) was a thinker by birth. The criteria of his conception challenged the basic principles of morality, religion and culture, and his key work “Ecce Homo. How One Becomes What One Is” is quoted even by those who know of him only by hearsay. He managed to create a distinctive philosophical movement of the 19th century, which became widely known even outside the scientific and philosophical community. The ideas he put forward are quite controversial, but it was able to bring to philosophy what it lacked so much – freedom of thought.

There are two ways to put you out of your misery – a quick death and a lasting love.
-Friedrich Nietzsche

Unlike Friedrich Nietzsche’s books, the biography of the philosopher cannot be called bright and unusual, but there were still a few unexpected facts in it.

#1 Became a professor at the age of 24 and retired at 36

In 1862, the young philosopher enrolled at the University of Bonn, but student life disappointed him. He did not find satisfaction in science, but he surprised many scientists with his talent. In 24 years Friedrich Nietzsche became a professor of classical philology at the University of Basel. For the European education system it was a unique case.

However, he could not establish relations with his peers. Surrounding people considered him a crank and rarely invited him to their companies. As for romantic relationships with women, here Friedrich Nietzsche was grotesquely incompetent. In addition, his epic mustache frightened young women of the time.

#2 Thanks to his sister, he became one of the main philosophers of Nazism

In short, the intersections between Nietzsche’s philosophy and the ideology of Nazism are very weak. Hitler and his henchmen took the basic concepts of Nietzscheanism and reinterpreted them in their own way. Thus, the “superman”, which according to the philosopher’s plan should have been the pinnacle of creation, an intellectual and moral ideal, the Nazis turned into an obsessed man with a gun and a club, to whom everything is allowed.

Such were the circumstances thanks to the thinker’s sister Elisabeth Förster-Nietzsche, who is often called the philosopher’s literary executor. The wife of an anti-Semitic propagandist, she herself preached the corresponding views. After her brother’s death, Elizabeth published his books only in her own edition. In the 1930s, she joined the Nazi Party and made sure that the Friedrich Nietzsche Museum was personally visited by Hitler.

#3 The original text of Friedrich Nietzsche’s writings was not published until 1967

Since Elisabeth mercilessly rewrote everything she did not like in her brother’s works, we still do not really know what in Nietzsche’s later writings is true and what is the editorializing of her sister. It was she who prepared the 20-volume collection of the philosopher’s works, which for many decades was the standard. It was only in 1967 that Italian scholars published several works without distortion.

#4 Nietzsche was sick most of his life

Unfortunately, his health began to fail him early on. The headaches he had suffered from since the age of 18, syphilis and insomnia led to tragic consequences.

“…at the age of thirty-six I had sunk to the lowest limit of my vitality – I was still living, but I could not see three steps ahead of me. At that time – it was 1879 – I left the professorship at Basel, lived the summer as a shadow in St. Moritz, and spent the following winter, the sun-poor winter of my life, as a shadow in Naumburg. This was my minimum: ‘The Wanderer and his Shadow’ had arisen in the meantime.”

Retirement due to illness and blindness, however, marked a new and most fruitful phase in the philosopher’s work.

#5 Friedrich Nietzsche wrote music to a poem by Alexander Pushkin

It turns out that Friedrich Nietzsche was not a bad composer. He began to study music at the age of 6, and at the age of 10 he already tried to compose small pieces. Among his works are the symphonic poem “Ermanarich”, accompaniment for poems by Sh. Petőfi, F. Rückert, K. Groth and other poets. The peak of Nietzsche’s musical activity is considered to be 1862-1865, at which time he wrote, among other things, a melody for Pushkin’s poem “Spell”.

The philosopher stopped composing after criticism of the German pianist and teacher Hans von Bülow, who negatively commented on his piano duet “Manfred. Meditation”.

The Best Nietzsche books to start with

Thus Spake Zarathustra one of Friedrich Nietzsche’s major philosophical novels, first published in 1883. The book is a partly poetic, partly philosophical treatise that reveals Nietzsche’s own position on man’s place among the society around him, how he understands his life, how he travels, how he cognizes himself and the world around him.

The Birth of Tragedy, Or Hellenism and Pessimism, Nietzsche’s first book, was published in 1872, when he was 28 years old and a professor of classical philology at Basel. The book had its defenders but, in general, provoked a hostile reception in the academic community and affected Nietzsche’s academic career for the worse. As the opening section (added in 1886) makes clear, Nietzsche himself later had some important reservations about the book. However, since that time the work has exerted an important influence on the history of Western thought, particularly on the interpretations of Greek culture. In later editions part of the title of the work was changed from “Out of the Spirit of Music” to “Hellenism and Pessimism,” but the former phrase has remained more common.

The manuscript of On the Other Side of Good and Evil was finished in the winter of 1885-1886. Nietzsche published the book at his own expense at the Leipzig publishing house of C. G. Naumann, as other publishers refused to print it. As a result, only 114 copies of the book were sold within ten months of its publication.

Each of Friedrich Nietzsche’s works became a new milestone in the history of philosophy and culture. But the scandalous fame of the philosopher, epathizing society and rejecting established mores and customs, begins precisely with the work Human, All Too Human (1878), bearing the subtitle “A Book for Free Minds”, which is offered to the attention of readers in this edition.