Ecce Homo

Page 9 of 30


You may be wondering why I should actually have related all these trivial and, according to traditional accounts, insignificant details to you; such action can but tell against me, more particularly if[Pg 52] I am fated to figure in great causes. To this I reply that these trivial matters—diet, locality, climate, and one's mode of recreation, the whole casuistry of; self-love—are inconceivably more important than, all that which has hitherto been held in high esteem! It is precisely in this quarter that we must begin to learn afresh. All those things which mankind has valued with such earnestness heretofore are not even real; they are mere creations of fancy, or, more strictly speaking, lies born of the evil instincts of diseased and, in the deepest sense, noxious natures—all the concepts, "God," "soul," "virtue," "sin," "Beyond," "truth," "eternal life." ... But the greatness of human nature, its "divinity," was sought for in them.... All questions of politics, of social order, of education, have been falsified, root and branch, owing to the fact that the most noxious men have been taken for great men, and that people were taught to despise the small things, or rather the fundamental things, of life. If I now choose to compare myself with those creatures who have hitherto been honoured as the first among men, the difference becomes obvious. I do not reckon the so-called "first" men even as human beings—for me they are the excrements of mankind, the products of disease and of the instinct of revenge: they are so many monsters laden with rottenness, so many hopeless incurables, who avenge themselves on life.... I wish to be the opposite of these people: it is my privilege to have the very sharpest discernment for every sign of healthy instincts. There is no such thing as a morbid trait in me; even in times of serious illness I have never[Pg 53] grown morbid, and you might seek in vain for a trace of fanaticism in my nature. No one can point to any moment of my life in which I have assumed either an arrogant or a pathetic attitude. Pathetic attitudes are not in keeping with greatness; he who needs attitudes is false.... Beware of all picturesque men! Life was easy—in fact easiest—to me, in those periods when it exacted the heaviest duties from me. Whoever could have seen me during the seventy days of this autumn, when, without interruption, I did a host of things of the highest rank—things that no man can do nowadays—with a sense of responsibility for all the ages yet to come, would have noticed no sign of tension in my condition, but rather a state of overflowing freshness and good cheer. Never have I eaten with more pleasant sensations, never has my sleep been better. I know of no other manner of dealing with great tasks, than as play: this, as a sign of greatness, is an essential prerequisite. The slightest constraint, a sombre mien, any hard accent in the voice—all these things are objections to a man, but how much more to his work!... One must not have nerves.... Even to suffer from solitude is an objection—the only thing I have always suffered from is "multitude."[5][Pg 54] At an absurdly tender age, in fact when I was seven years old, I already knew that no human speech would ever reach me: did any one ever see me sad on that account? At present I still possess the same affability towards everybody, I am even full of consideration for the lowest: in all this there is not an atom of haughtiness or of secret contempt. He whom I despise soon guesses that he is despised by me: the very fact of my existence is enough to rouse indignation in all those who have polluted blood in their veins. My formula for greatness in man is! amor fati: the fact that a man wishes nothing to be different, either in front of him or behind him, or for all eternity. Not only must the necessary be borne, and on no account concealed,—all idealism is falsehood in the face of necessity,—but it must also be loved....

[1] Nietzsche, as is well known, devoted much time when a student at Leipzig to the study of three Greek philosophers, Theognis, Diogenes Laertius, and Democritus. This study first bore fruit in the case of a paper, Zur Geschichte der Theognideischen Spruchsammlung, which was subsequently published by the most influential journal of classical philology in Germany. Later, however, it enabled Nietzsche to enter for the prize offered by the University of Leipzig for an essay, De fontibus Diogenis Laertii. He was successful in gaining the prize, and the treatise was afterwards published in the Rheinisches Museum, and is still quoted as an authority. It is to this essay, written when he was twenty-three years of age, that he here refers.—TR.

[2] The favourite uniform of the German Emperor, William II.—TR.

[3] In the latter years of his life, Nietzsche practically made Italy his home.—TR.

[4] See note on page 37.

[5] The German words are, Einsamkeit and Vielsamkeit. The latter was coined by Nietzsche. The English word "multitude" should, therefore, be understood as signifying multifarious instincts and gifts, which in Nietzsche strove for ascendancy and caused him more suffering than any solitude. Complexity of this sort, held in check by a dominant instinct, as in Nietzsche's case, is of course the only possible basis of an artistic nature.—TR.

[Pg 55]



I am one thing, my creations are another. Here, before I speak of the books themselves, I shall touch upon the question of the understanding and misunderstanding with which they have met. I shall proceed to do this in as perfunctory a manner as the occasion demands; for the time has by no means come for this question. My time has not yet come either; some are born posthumously. One s day institutions will be needed in which men will live and teach, as I understand living and teaching; maybe, also, that by that time, chairs will be founded and endowed for the interpretation of Zarathustra. But I should regard it as a complete contradiction of myself, if I expected to find ears and eyes for my truths to-day: the fact that no one listens to me, that no one knows how to receive at my hands to-day, is not only comprehensible, it seems to me quite the proper thing. I do not wish to be mistaken for another—and to this end I must not mistake myself. To repeat what I have already said, I can point to but few instances of ill-will in my life: and as for literary ill-will, I could mention scarcely a single example of it. On the other hand, I have met with far too much pure foolery!... It seems to me that to take up one[Pg 56] of my books is one of the rarest honours that a man can pay himself—even supposing that he put his shoes from off his feet beforehand, not to mention boots.... When on one occasion Dr. Heinrich von Stein honestly complained that he could not understand a word of my Zarathustra, I said to him that this was just as it should be: to have understood six sentences in that book—that is to say, to have lived them—raises a man to a higher level among mortals than "modern" men can attain. With this feeling of distance how could I even wish to be read by the "moderns" whom I know! My triumph is just the opposite of what Schopenhauer's was—I say "Non legor, non legar."—Not that I should like to underestimate the pleasure I have derived from the innocence with which my works have frequently been contradicted. As late as last summer, at a time when I was attempting, perhaps by means of my weighty, all-too-weighty literature, to throw the rest of literature off its balance, a certain professor of Berlin University kindly gave me to understand that I ought really to make use of a different form: no one could read such stuff as I wrote.—Finally, it was not Germany, but Switzerland that presented me with the two most extreme cases. An essay on Beyond Good and Evil, by Dr. V. Widmann in the paper called the Bund, under the heading "Nietzsche's Dangerous Book," and a general account of all my works, from the pen of Herr Karl Spitteler, also in the Bund, constitute a maximum in my life—I shall not say of what.... The latter treated my Zarathustra, for instance as "advanced exercises in style," and expressed[Pg 57] the wish that later on I might try and attend to the question of substance as well; Dr. Widmann assured me of his respect for the courage I showed in endeavouring to abolish all decent feeling. Thanks to a little trick of destiny, every sentence in these criticisms seemed, with a consistency that I could but admire, to be an inverted truth. In fact it was most remarkable that all one had to do was to "transvalue all values," in order to hit the nail on the head with regard to me, instead of striking my head with the nail.... I am more particularly anxious therefore to discover an explanation. After all, no one can draw more out of things, books included, than he already knows. A man has no ears for that to which experience has given him no access. To take an extreme case, suppose a book contains simply incidents which lie quite outside the range of general or even rare experience—suppose it to be the first language to express a whole series of experiences. In this case nothing it contains will really be heard at all, and, thanks to an acoustic delusion, people will believe that where nothing is heard there is nothing to hear.... This, at least, has been my usual experience, and proves, if you will, the originality of my experience. He who thought he had understood something in my work, had as a rule adjusted something in it to his own image—not infrequently the very opposite of myself, an "idealist," for instance. He who understood nothing in my work, would deny that I was worth considering at all.—The word "Superman," which designates a type of man that would be one of nature's rarest and luckiest strokes,[Pg 58] as opposed to "modern" men, to "good" men, to Christians and other Nihilists,—a word which in the mouth of Zarathustra, the annihilator of morality, acquires a very profound meaning,—is understood almost everywhere, and with perfect innocence, in the light of those values to which a flat contradiction was made manifest in the figure of Zarathustra—that is to say, as an "ideal" type, a higher kind of man, half "saint" and half "genius." ... Other learned cattle have suspected me of Darwinism on account of this word: even the "hero cult" of that great unconscious and involuntary swindler, Carlyle,—a cult which I repudiated with such roguish malice,—was recognised in my doctrine. Once, when I whispered to a man that he would do better I to seek for the Superman in a Csar Borgia than in a Parsifal, he could not believe his ears. The fact that I am quite free from curiosity in regard to criticisms of my books, more particularly when they appear in newspapers, will have to be forgiven me. My friends and my publishers know this, and never speak to me of such things. In one particular case, I once saw all the sins that had been committed against a single book—it was Beyond Good and Evil; I could tell you a nice story about it. Is it possible that the National-Zeitung—a Prussian paper (this comment is for the sake of my foreign readers—for my own part, I beg to state, I read only Le Journal des Dbats)—really and seriously regarded the book as a "sign of the times," or a genuine and typical example of Tory philosophy,[1][Pg 59] for which the Kreuz-Zeitung had not sufficient courage?...

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