45 of 45 people found the following review helpful
on February 7, 2002
Hollingdale's biography/analysis of Nietzsche and his philosophy was an unexpected delight. I had already read Walter Kaufmann's translations of Nietzsche's major works when I came upon Hollingdale's volume; expecting little, I was amazed at the additional insights the author offered into Nietzsche's thought and world outlook. I would recommend this book to anyone who is new to Nietzsche - who would like to learn something of his philosophy, but who has held back because they feel Nietzsche, and perhaps, philosophy in general, is too remote or difficult.
Believe me, Hollingdale's volume will usher you, gently, into Nietzsche's world, and make you hungry for more. Nietzsche, himself, in "Thus Spake Zarathustra" had his protaganist announce, "I am the railing by the rushing torrent - grasp me if you can; your crutch I am not!" Like Nietzsche, Hollingdale does not seek disciples -- he explains the basic concepts of Nietzsche's philosophy with cool detachment, and offers them to the reader as a launchpad from which the reader can, if he/she wishes, soar, exploring Nietzsche's world for themselves, drawing their own conclusions. Nietzsche, the enemy of blind adherence, would have heartily approved such an approach. This is the man who said, "if you wish to strive after peace of soul and happiness, then believe; if you wish to be a disciple of truth, then inquire!" Enjoy the Journey!
30 of 30 people found the following review helpful
on January 4, 2001
Hollingdale worked side by side with the dean of all Nietzsche scholars, Walter Kaufmann, for many years. His biography of Nietzsche parallels Kaufmann's groundbreaking study "Nietzsche: Philosopher, Psychologist, Antichrist", a watershed in American Nietzsche scholarship. While Kaufmann's work has been eclipsed (see R. Schacht's "Nietzsche") in terms of philosophical sophistication, Holligdale's biography of Nietzsche remains the very best in detail, breadth, cogency, and intimacy. Its style is unobtrusive and flowing, making it easily accessible to both the everyday reader and the student of the history of ideas. It is indispensible to anyone with even the slightest interest in Nietzsche.
29 of 32 people found the following review helpful
on June 25, 1999
R.J. Hollingdale's seminal work continues to dazzle in this dumbed down age. Thank goodness it has been made available for a new generation, hungry for such intellectual gems. This work puts in the shadow Nietzche commentators before and since. If you are serious about learning, not only about Nietzche, but about Western thought in general, then this book is a must.
16 of 18 people found the following review helpful
on May 2, 2001
this book should prove useful for readers looking for a well-written, intelligent, and accessible introduction to this often very difficult and enigmatic thinker. hollingdale tackles head on many common misconceptions of nietzsche (i.e. that he was a nihilist, an anti-semite, a fascist) through the use of extensive quotes and poignant commentary. we see the development of his thought, from his youthful admiration of wagner and schopenhauer, through to his mature explications of the idea of life as will to power, and the theme of eternal recurrence. for the disciplined student this book proves to be of great value as well, offering insights into the personality of the man himself, through numerous letters and recollections from those who knew him most intimately. this is a great biography, respectful and humane, but also willing to acknowledge nietzsche's shortcomings and possible confusions as to his own state of mind and health.
19 of 23 people found the following review helpful
on November 26, 2001
Anyone interested in a lucid,fair,nonsense and distortion-free overview of Nietzsche's writings and life could do no better than to start here.Hollingdale avoids what the usual crowd of Nietzsche biographers and explainers and interpreters stumble over.Here you will not find the deconstructionist nonsense of Gilles Deleuze or the turning of Nietzsche into a contradictor of his own writings a la Heidegger.Perhaps no philosopher in history has had so many bad advocates and screeching and intentionally misleading and misinterpreting critics as Nietzsche.So much fetid,vapid and idiotic writing has enveloped Nietzsche that it threatens to destroy the philosopher altogheter.The future of Nietzsche scholarship needs many more individuals like R.J. Hollingdale if one of the most profound,original and critically important figures of the modern world is to be given proper justice.More importantly the public sorely needs to have the means to better understand why this philosopher is the axis on which all philosophy of the last century turns.Most of what Nietzsche wrote is still terribly misunderstood and reviled for no good reason.Hollingdale is one of the few,but hopefully the beginning of a flood of well thought out,accurate and sober scholars who will help integrate this most fascinating and courageous philosopher into our public discourse and common knowledge.
6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
on June 6, 2009
This book does exactly what its title suggests: it provides an excellent overview of Nietzsche's philosophy and how it relates to the events of Nietzsche's life. It does this so clearly and concisely that Hollingdale's voice and methods are almost as engaging as the subject matter he illuminates. Reading "Nietzsche: The Man and His Philosophy" is like being invited into the study of a first-class Nietzsche scholar for a rigorous and no-nonsense discussion of the master's thought. The book moves gracefully between the details of Nietzsche's day-to-day existence- his childhood, student years, time as a professor, life as an itinerant philosopher, and finally his breakdown and subsequent insanity- and his parallel philosophical output. As a result, the reader leaves Hollingdale's work with a much clearer sense of the general arc of Nietzsche's philosophical development- from a young philology professor under the spell of Wagner and Schopenhauer to a mature, fully-realized thinker whose philosophy represents one of the greatest examples of Western thought's transition to modernity.
In addition to providing a detailed account of Nietzsche's personal life, Hollingdale explains Nietzsche's most important thoughts (e.g. the will to power, the eternal recurrence, the revaluation of values, etc.) mostly by quoting Nietzsche himself. This is both illuminating and in stark contrast to many other Nietzsche commentaries (e.g. books by Heidegger, Derrida, Deleuze), which, although important in their own rite, use Nietzsche as a springboard for their authors' own ideas instead of attempting to clarify what Nietzsche actually said. For students who are looking for an exposition of Nietzsche's thought that is based closely on his actual texts, Hollingdale's work is the best one out there. In fact, it should be a prerequisite for reading Derrida's "Spurs," Heidegger's Nietzsche Lectures, or any of the other more speculative "post-structuralist" thinking Nietzsche's critique of western metaphysics inspired.
Another standout aspect of Hollingdale's work is his constant engagement with important questions about how Nietzsche has been received and how he is best to be studied today. First, Hollingdale clearly and convincingly shows that appropriations of Nietzsche's work by facists, anti-semites, racists, irrationalists, and other numbskulls are and have been completely unfounded. Second, he makes a convincing case for relegating Nietzsche's Nachlass (unpublished fragments currently available under the title "The Will to Power") to second-tier status and regarding only the published works as definitive of Nietzsche's true philosophy. This is an important point in that it questions entire strands of Nietzsche scholarship (most notably Heidegger's Nietzsche Lectures), which are founded mainly on texts taken from the Nachlass. Whether or not Hollingdale is correct in this assessment of the Nachlass is a complex and debatable question, but he makes an excellent case, which cannot be ignored.
All in all, Hollingdale's book is a delight to read and will reward the Nietzsche reader many times over regardless of his or her previous familiarity with Nietzsche's work. I can't recommend it enough.
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
on March 6, 2009
Format: PaperbackVerified Purchase
Amazon, prithee: how can it be that you price such a short paperback book by a deceased author so expensively? Can demand be really that slim, given the worldwide fascination with the the book's subject, that the only way you can make a turn is at such a price?
That said, if, dear reader, you have any interest in the life and work of Friedrich Wilhelm Nietzsche and it is the best you can do, $35.00 is still a price worth paying for this superb volume (though, bargain hunters note: a second-hand copy from Amazon.com might be a better bet).
Reg Hollingdale was, with Walter Kaufman, largely responsible for resurrecting of Nietzsche's literary reputation in the latter half of last century, the philosopher's mendacious sister having fair ruined it soon after his death in 1900. Hollingdale - no tenured academic; in fact, a university dropout who put himself through German classes and worked on and off as a journalist) has translated all of Nietzsche's major works, the majority of which translation are still available in Penguin classics, together with his (altogether more reasonably priced!) A Nietzsche Reader, so his insight into the life and work of this philosopher was inevitably going to be a valuable one.
Even if you struggle with catching Nietzsche's drift (and be assured, you wouldn't be alone) you can still rejoice and marvel at Hollingdale's rendering in English of this most stylish of German writers - Hollingdale's articulation of the famous "Madman" passage from The Gay Science (which, by comparison, I have seen elsewhere translated more clumsily as "Joyful Wisdom") is a good example:
"... The madman sprang into their midst and pierced them with his glances. 'Where has God gone?' he cried. 'I shall tell you. We have killed him - you and I. We are his murderers. But how have we done this? How were we able to drink up the sea? Who gave us the sponge to wipe away the entire horizon? What did we do when we unchained the earth from its sun? Whither is it moving now? Whither are we moving now? Away from all suns? Are we not perpetually falling? Backward, sideward, forward, in all directions? Is there any up or down left? Are we not straying as through an infinite nothing?"
In Nietzsche's celebrated difficulty lies the real beauty of Hollingdale's biography. This is a body of work which, 130 years later, is desperately in need of context. Hollingdale provides it. Each of Nietzsche's major works is addressed against the stage in his life at which it was written and is painstakingly extracted, analysed and interpreted to form a coherent picture of whole body of work. You get much of the content of the Nietzsche Reader within the pages of this work (a bargain at five times the price!)
Personally, I found this book a key which has unlocked the whole cabinet: Despite trying over many years, I'd never previously been able to assimilate the source material to my own satisfaction (with the possible exception of The Anti-Christ) and have only ever managed an impressionistic sense of Nietzsche's philosophy. His aphoristic style, while exhilarating, is not for the faint of heart: an expert guide such as Hollingdale's (or proper academic tuition) is pretty much obligatory. I feel fortified, now, to have another go.
Hollingdale's position, notwithstanding the many views to the contrary, is that while Nietzsche's philosophy evolved, matured and solidified as he grew older, it did not contradict itself or lack coherence, and any shifts in emphasis and content between his early works (such as Beyond Good and Evil ) and his later ones (up to, but probably excluding, Ecce Homo: How One Becomes What One is) are a function of his growing out of an infatuation with Richard Wagner, and overcoming the philosophical limitations of Schopenhauer, by which he had formerly been impressed. Hollingdale paints a coherent and convincing account of a philosophy based on three main tenets: the intrinsic struggle and conflict which is central to all life, out of which flows his insistence on the primacy of the Will to Power and his rejection of Christianity as an instinctive denial of this conflicted but vital life force; the eternal recurrence, being (I think) a logical extension of the rejection of a prime mover, and also a pragmatic substitute for a God-given morality (Nietzsche's outlook is almost entirely the inverse of Janis Joplin's: live your life as if you would have to repeat it, identically, infinitely) and out of all of that the superman - he who can overcome himself and sublimate the Will to Power.
That this was, with his sister's complicity, wilfully misconstrued by some of the least appealing individuals to have ever walked the planet is unfortunate (far from being a putative supporter of the Third Reich, Nietzsche is repeatedly on record as intensely disliking the Germans in general and anti-semites in particular!) but thanks in large part to the work of the late Reg Hollingdale, that damage has largely been undone.
In the mean time, if you have any real interest in one of the most fascinating philosophers of all, $35 is arguably cheap at the price for your ticket.
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on January 30, 2010
Format: PaperbackVerified Purchase
Hollingdale's biography of Nietzsche is an excellent introduction to the man and the philosopher. Well-written, objective, and comprehensible for lay-readers such as myself, it places the development of Nietzsche's philosophy within the context of the various stages of his life; and it also dispels common misconceptions about Nietzsche, such as his supposed anti-semitism and pro-Nazism. I found it particularly interesting that Nietzsche's concepts of the superman, the will to power, and the eternal recurrence parallel the Christian concepts of God, divine grace, and eternal life. Hollingdale notes that Nietzsche may have been unaware of these connections when he formulated these concepts; but I have to wonder whether, despite his exhortations of the virtues of godlessness and immorality and his vehement diatribes against Christianity, Nietzsche, the self-proclaimed "Anti-Christ," ever completely extricated himself from his roots in the Lutheran Church. I've always felt a certain antagonism toward Nietzsche and his philosophy, an antagonism born of ignorance; but after reading this biography and learning more about Nietzsche the man, I find myself more sympathetic to Nietzsche the philosopher.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on August 16, 2011
Format: PaperbackVerified Purchase
As a latecomer to Hollingdale's biography, I found it immediately superior to Kaufmann's, shorter and more to the point, with a superb blending of straightforward biographical narrative and keenly extracted sentences from Neitzsche's own works.
But I have three objections. Hollingdale is bent on setting forth a doctrine from Neitzsche rather than discerning Nietzsche's unparalleled honesty in questioning everything, even the existence of an ego. Second, he grossly overestimates Thus Spake Zarathustra, which in fact is a confused and rather silly book that hardly flatters Neitzsche as a philosopher; at the same time, he grossly undervalues The Will to Power as containing "rejected" material, when it is a gold mine of a writer's thoughts and notes--many of them much more plainspoken than the polished books Neitzsche published. Third, his obvious distaste for Schopenhauer causes him to badly underestimate one of the great thinkers of the 19th century--a mind as independent as Neitzsche's.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on October 19, 2014
Great book, bad edition.
Why: You are paying for the relative scarcity, the gross cost of reprinting, and the theoretical value of the 1999 Postscript, which you may read here.
In it, Hollingdale mentions the plethora of "Nietzsches" invented since original publication, and goes so far as to say that if he had read Derrida before writing the book, it would have come out differently.
I hope, for his sake, he was just exaggerating.
Any case - buy an older edition. Cheaper, without the "politically-correct" sucking up to feminists and the tribe.