Sunday, June 19, 2011

Review: Thus Spoke Zarathustra

Thus Spoke Zarathustra: A Book for All and None is Fredrich Nietzsche's only fictional work. The protagonist is Zarathustra, named after the Persian prophet who preached the struggle between good and evil, Zoroaster. Nietzsche's Zarathustra disposes of this morality, though the style of the book ironically reflects that of the New Testament.

Thus Spoke Zarathustra by Friedrich Nietzsche bookRead more reviews on AmazonA central theme in Zarathustra is the death of God—a cultural, not metaphysical, event. Zarathustra witnesses his countrymen's fading belief in God, but the belief is not being replaced by anything that motivates action. His countrymen are becoming the last man, Nietzsche's conception of a completely tame human who avoids all risk and just seeks to exist in comfort. To counter this, Zarathustra preaches the overman, the antithesis of the last man and new purpose for humanity. He declares, "The overman is the meaning of the earth. Let your will say: the overman shall be the meaning of the earth!"

It's true that Nietzsche's vision of the overman can quickly conjure connections to the Nazi eugenics program and their notion of a master race. Zarathustra himself could be interpreted as an ill-tempered proto-Hitler who "brandishes his stick" at those who annoy him.

But in my view the overman can't be a racial concept at all, and also not an agent of nationalism, German or otherwise. Though Nietzsche has said the overman must be bred, he never displayed an understanding of evolution or genetics. Rather, it seems likely that by bred he meant cultivated in an environment free of the heavy weight of moral dogmas and absolutes. Perhaps it is in this sense that Nietzsche hoped his work would pave the way for the overman—the strong-willed, creative, yet lighthearted individual. To catch a glimpse of this ideal human is how Thus Spoke Zarathustra could be a book for all. That such an ideal is unreachable is how it's a book for none.

1 comment:

  1. Please support my kickstarter campaign to record an audio book for Thus Spoke Zarathustra: