81. NOTES ON "THUS SPAKE ZARATHUSTRA" BY ANTHONY M. LUDOVICI.
I have had some opportunities of studying the conditions under which
Nietzsche is read in Germany, France, and England, and I have found that,
in each of these countries, students of his philosophy, as if actuated by
precisely similar motives and desires, and misled by the same mistaken
tactics on the part of most publishers, all proceed in the same happy-go-lucky
style when "taking him up." They have had it said to them that he
wrote without any system, and they very naturally conclude that it does not
matter in the least whether they begin with his first, third, or last book,
provided they can obtain a few vague ideas as to what his leading and most
sensational principles were.
Now, it is clear that the book with the most mysterious, startling, or
suggestive title, will always stand the best chance of being purchased by
those who have no other criteria to guide them in their choice than the
aspect of a title-page; and this explains why "Thus Spake Zarathustra" is
almost always the first and often the only one of Nietzsche's books that
falls into the hands of the uninitiated.
The title suggests all kinds of mysteries; a glance at the chapter-headings
quickly confirms the suspicions already aroused, and the sub-title: "A
Book for All and None", generally succeeds in dissipating the last doubts
the prospective purchaser may entertain concerning his fitness for the book
or its fitness for him. And what happens?
"Thus Spake Zarathustra" is taken home; the reader, who perchance may know
no more concerning Nietzsche than a magazine article has told him, tries to
read it and, understanding less than half he reads, probably never gets
further than the second or third part,--and then only to feel convinced
that Nietzsche himself was "rather hazy" as to what he was talking about.
Such chapters as "The Child with the Mirror", "In the Happy Isles", "The
Grave-Song," "Immaculate Perception," "The Stillest Hour", "The Seven
Seals", and many others, are almost utterly devoid of meaning to all those
who do not know something of Nietzsche's life, his aims and his