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The Nietzsche We Thought We Knew


At the Bookforum website, Maria Dimitrova reviews I Am Dynamite!: A Life of Nietzsche by Sue Prideaux, which manages to provide a fresh perspective on a thinker whose life, work, and politics have been written about ad nauseum. As Dimitrova notes, I Am Dynamite! focuses on the private and sensual Nietzsche, giving extensive coverage to his physical insecurities and ailments, and also highlighting the role of the body in the philosopher’s work. Here’s an excerpt from the review:

Prideaux shares a temperament with Nietzsche and a belief in the importance of style—“the physiognomy of the mind,” as Schopenhauer writes. Unlike most of her predecessors, she does not announce herself in relation to the material, avoids polemic, and doesn’t mistake familiarity for intimacy. While there are better primers on Nietzsche’s philosophy out there—Julian Young’s Friedrich Nietzsche: A Philosophical Biography , for example—Prideaux’s book is the most seamless in its treatment of the material. Her sensory awareness reflects Nietzsche’s own development as an intensely subjective philosopher. Nietzsche grew to be especially concerned with incorporating the physical reality of his body into his thinking. He praised the pre-Christian superficiality of the Greeks and saw it not as a negation but a reflection of their profundity. By the time he wrote Ecce Homo , his quasi-satirical auto-eulogistic last book, he had woven in references to his preferred diet, climate and geography as central to his philosophy. He complicated the notion of living well , not in the contemporary sense of utilitarian minimization of discomfort and or controlled mental withdrawal, i.e mindfulness, but in the sense of accepting one’s fate—physical, social, historical—and living so that the prospect of the eternal return (the endless repetition of days as you’ve known them) would inspire not fear but happy affirmation.

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