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Nietzsche: Life as Literature Paperback – November 14, 1987

ISBN-13: 978-0674624269 ISBN-10: 0674624262

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 288 pages
  • Publisher: Harvard University Press (November 14, 1987)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0674624262
  • ISBN-13: 978-0674624269
  • Product Dimensions: 9.2 x 6.1 x 0.7 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 11.4 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 2.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (9 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #354,282 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Library Journal

Deriving inspiration from both continental and American scholarship, Nehamas penetratingly discusses Nietzsche's style and his views on truth, knowledge, the will to power, morality, and the self. The unifying theme is provided by two central features of Nietzsche's work: his perspectivism (the view that there are only interpretations) and his ``aestheticism'' (the tendency to view the world as a literary text and people, including himself, as literary characters). It is the illuminating treatment of this latter theme that constitutes the book's chief novelty. But there are many other provocative interpretative claims: for instance, the denial that the notorious doctrine of the eternal recurrence is a cosmological thesis. This is a brilliant book; no one interested in Nietzsche will want to miss it. Richard Hogan, Philosophy Dept., Southeastern Massachusetts Univ., N. Dartmouth
Copyright 1985 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

Review

This is the best and most important book on Nietzsche in English. Alexander Nehamas argues at a level of sophistication and provides a density of content which are very rare in this field. (Michael Tanner Times Literary Supplement)

Philosophers and anyone interested in philosophy ought...to welcome Alexander Nehamas's elegant and challenging interpretation of this most 'writerly of philosophers'...This unusually engaging book demands our attention. (Karsten Harries New York Times Book Review)

Anyone at all interested in Nietzsche will certainly want to read [this book]...Nehamas has applied his own theory of interpretation, and he has postulated an integrated, coherent 'Nietzsche' to whom no future reader of Nietzsche can remain indifferent. (David Hoy London Review of Books)

Nehamas evolves a wonderfully subtle and ingenious interpretation...[He has] produced something weighty, complex, distinctive--in its way, a work of art. (George Scialabba Village Voice Literary Supplement)

Marvelous...Nehamas has written perhaps the best book yet on Nietzsche's philosophy. (Robert C. Solomon Philadelphia Inquirer)

This new study is fascinating for its portrayal of Nietzsche's thought as 'literary' in a twofold sense: first, Nehamas argues that Nietzsche viewed the world as if it were a literary text; second, he claims that Nietzsche's goal as an author was to create a specific literary character...The case is argued forcefully (and even with a touch of drama)...The writing is rich and allusive in a manner that is unusual in contemporary works of philosophy. It is a valuable contribution to our understanding of Nietzsche, one that adds substance to the often facile citing of Nietzsche in contemporary literary studies. (Stephen N. Dunning Poetics Today)

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

26 of 31 people found the following review helpful By TheIrrationalMan on April 23, 2001
Format: Paperback
Nietzsche's "aestheticist" turn, in Alexander Nehamas's ingenious exposition, is twofold. First, he interpreted the entire world as an enormous literary text. Secondly, he was preoccupied by creating, through the medium of his texts, a specific personality, which as Nehamas contends, was Nietzsche himself. He argues that Nietzsche's key ideas, such as the will to power, nihilism, his view of truth, his ideas on cruelty, the overman and the dreadful doctrine of the eternal recurrence (which Nehamas interprets as a psychological, as opposed to cosmological, conception) were all fused into Nietzsche's aestheticist model of "self-creation". In a move of apocalyptic boldness, Nehamas claims that the figure of the overman which Nietzsche held in such high regard, was actually Nietzsche himself as he fashioned himself through his texts, a unique individual who affirmed the sum-total of life, which includes, of course, the suffering entailed in living. The literary analogues that Nehamas uses to illustrate Nietzsche's fundamental concepts are highly illuminating. Above all, Nehamas implies that theoretical knowledge is empty compared to the radical philosophy pursued by Nietzsche, which resulted in a synthetic merging of life with art. This philosophy, combining self-reference with self-creation was why Nietzsche was, and is, "the first Modernist as well as the last Romantic." Along with Walter Kaufmann's "Nietzsche: Philosopher, Psychologist, Anti-Christ", this book is possibly the best book on Nietzsche available in English.
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15 of 18 people found the following review helpful By Steiner VINE VOICE on April 20, 2009
Format: Paperback
Granted, Nehamas' reading of Nietzsche's corpus as a literary 'text,' yields a number of interesting results, particularly in his analysis of Nietzsche's conception of 'How to Become What One Is.' But I wonder just how interested in literature Nehamas really is here-he spends the bulk of this volume discussing Nietzsche's perspectivism (which is an unusually elegant and clear explication) and his distrust of traditional conceptualizations of truth. Yet he wavers on key positions, such as the eternal return and will to power. Nehamas fails to push the perspective of Zarathustra as a literary creation far enough. Nietzsche's positive reevaluation of all values lies in the possibility of artistic creation as an overcoming of nihilism. His analysis degenerates into uninteresting snobbery in the section on Beyond Good and Evil where he describes Nietzsche as a 'monstrosity,' and 'vague.' This is simply the inability on Nehamas' part to unify the thoughts of a thinker whose work so consistently resists unification.
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14 of 24 people found the following review helpful By U Z. Eliserio on December 3, 2001
Format: Paperback
While Michael Tanner's criticism of this book in his Nietzsche is valid (Nehamas does quote way too much from The Will to Power), it is by far the only book on Nietzsche that I own that actually suggests how to use Nietzsche's philosophy in life. Who cares that the world is the will to power is a fact? This book suggests that perspectivism, will to power and surviving the thought of eternal recurrence are ways of thinking in which we can enhance our lives.
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10 of 20 people found the following review helpful By FABRICIO M. R. Silva on September 5, 2000
Format: Paperback
I am not a philosopher by training, but have read some of the classics in the field by sheer enjoyment, some Plato, some Aristotle, others also. But none impressed me more than Nietzsche, from whose opera I have savored many books: Genealogy of Morals (fantastic), Zarathustra (enigmatic), Antichrist (outraging), Twilight of the Idols, Ecce Homo, Birth of Tragedy, Beyond Good and Evil (don't die without reading this; if you don't read German, try Walter Kaufman's translations), and some parts of Dawn, Gay Science and Human-all-too-Human. I also read a couple of biographies. FN was a profound thinker, one of the most brilliant of all time, IMHO. And he was also a sad, lonely and pathetic man, a kind of Van Gogh in Philosophy. And this turns him also into an exceedingly interesting character. The central thesis of Nehamas book is that FN tried to build a character out of himself through his multi-style books. This character, a "free spirit", a "philosopher" in a very particular sense, or the übermensch if you will, is the common voice behind the many different literary styles he used, from the academic to the poetic to the prophetic. Nehamas wrote a very interesting book. I enjoyed it a lot and I thank him for giving me a new and surprising perspective on one of my preferred authors. And his prose does not lack a touch of drama, which is adequate to his subject, but is also unexpected in a technical book about modern philosophy. I recommend Nehamas strongly to anyone interested in Nietzsche.
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45 of 81 people found the following review helpful By Thomas Dineen on January 3, 2005
Format: Paperback
Can anyone who concludes a scholarly work about Nietzsche by dismissing him as a "miserable little man" really be trusted to give a balanced assessment of the great philosopher? No, Alexander Nehamas can't.

To him, Nietzsche was "[c]ruel and heartless, neither protective nor respectful of the sensibilities of others." The pathetic curmudgeon was "[d]isdainful and contemptuous of the values and lives of most people....[and] has offended and hurt many and will doubtless continue to do so in the future." (Speaking of contempt, in a 1998 interview Nehamas struck another low blow against Nietzsche by deriding him as a "philosopher of adolescence.") In the last, schoolmarmish pages of this book, he continues to chide Nietzsche for his "cruelty, his attacks on many of our ideas and values, on our habits and sensibilities."

To whom is Nehamas referring when he pompously invokes this royal "our"? Did Nietzsche really hold all of his readers' ideas, values, habits, and sensibilities in contempt...or just those of certain readers like Nehamas and other sissified academic leftists of his ilk, whom he despised in his own day as careerists or worse?

Poor Prof. Nehamas. He apparently expects Nietzsche to have maintained a tone of measured politesse while single-handedly changing the course of moral philosophy and profoundly affecting the aesthetic milieu of the 20th century and beyond. I guess it wasn't easy for Nietzsche to remain sensitive to everyone's feelings when he was philosophizing with a hammer.

Nietzsche would no doubt be gratified that such whining--clear evidence of slave morality--comes from no less an eminence than the Edmund N. Carpenter II Class of 1943 Professor in the Humanities at Princeton. This in itself proves Nietzsche's prescience.
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