It is commonplace for authors to say something kind about those who helped them compose their book while saying something like, “Any remaining shortcomings are solely my responsibility.” This evening I was reading Friedrich Nietzsche’s Prologue to his On the Genealogy of Morals when I read this line that both made me chuckle and reminded me of what a jerk Nietzsche was:
If this text strikes anyone as unintelligible and far from easy listening, the blame, as I see it, does not necessarily rest with me. The text is clear enough, assuming in the first place, as I do, that one has put some effort into reading my earlier writings: for these do, in fact, present difficulties. 
So, there you have it! If I don’t understand the book I’m the idiot. Good to know!
 Nietzsche, Friedrich; Douglas Smith (1997-01-23). On the Genealogy of Morals: A Polemic. By way of clarification and supplement to my last book Beyond Good and Evil (Oxford World’s Classics) (p. 9). Oxford University Press. Kindle Edition.
While a student of Nietzsche, Adolf Schlatter was not found of him as well.
Hilarious. I bet Nietzsche was a barrel of monkeys at parties and book clubs.
… and book launches – and signings. Something like: “For Ludwig, Up yours, Fred.”
I can totally relate to what Nietzsche said.
I can’t imagine why he died insane and probably very, very alone! (Also sarcasm)
“The text is clear enough, assuming in the first place, as I do, that one has put some effort into reading my earlier writings: for these do, in fact, present difficulties.” I agree 100% with Nietzsche here.
In retrospect, I think it may be fair to say Nietzsche was “right” ….but, this seems to be the sort of thing you’d want someone else to say about your works later, not something even the most accomplished writer might say if they have an ounce of humility.
Wow. Light reading over Christmas?
While I certainly don’t imagine that Nietzsche was humble, the prologue seems a worthwhile disclaimer. Nietzsche is warning the reader that On the Genealogy of Morals is not an introductory text. If I were reading the book for the first time, I would consider that helpful information.
@Andrew: Someone told me that I might benefit from reading this book because of the insights he provides regarding historiography and human memory. Have you read it?
@Michael: I would agree that it is a worthwhile disclaimer. Its not what he says, per se, but how he says it. I can imagine a modern author of multiple volumes warning a reader that the present book might be difficult to understand without reading the previous volumes, but I’d be a bit surprised to see someone say it as Nietzsche says it.
Yes, I’m quite familiar with Nietzsche and also Kierkegaard’s disdain for Nietzsche’s conclusions (about ethics). Kierkegaard saw what Nietzsche saw, the diminishment of the human spirit as the cause of violence in ethics, but while Nietzsche blamed religion, Kierkegaard instead called for its radical reformation.
I found sitting down to read Nietzsche not to be ‘light reading’. It’s true he articulates himself clearly, nevertheless I found his disillusionment with societal norms and other nihilistic views ‘dense’ (meaning requiring much thought), so tough reading.
Hence the question ….
Regarding your motivation for mining Nietzsche for his view of historiography and human memory, its not clear the best place to start is ‘On the Genealogy of Morals’. I’d instead recommend ‘On the Uses and Disadvantages of History for Life’ (Untimely Meditations II 1, KSA 1. p. 249-250) where Nietzsche directly articulates the problem as he sees, then and enumerates what he sees to be abuses and misuses of History . Likewise, in Zarathustra he ties anxiety about the past directly to defeat of the will (the past is beyond the reach of the will).
However, Nietzsche’s concerns with the past ultimately motivated him to find a satisfactory solution to the problem of history (eternal return solved the problem of history since by willing eternal return (eternal recurrence), Nietzsche saw the will was able to redeem the past). So, it would be unfair (or incomplete) to simply defer to Nietzsche’s problem with the past without also mentioning his solution, and of course you’d have to be more a Buddhist than a Christian to accept Nietzsche’s problem with the past, is in fact a problem, just as you’d have to be one to accept his solution …
Ah, I see why you’re looking at Genealogy now: That’s where Nietzsche suggests the rather ridiculous notion that memory is artificial, a constructed capacity imposed upon the natural state of animalistic forgetfulness by ages of training out of brutal punishment.
I’m not sure there’s anyone who takes this view of human memory seriously, or I’d be surprised if there was. Even so, it’d be an easy notion to refute, if no one’s already done that …
I saw a copy of the book you recommended in a store here in San Francisco last night, but it was a little pricey, so I decided I’d wait on it, but thank you for the recommendation. The person who recommended On the Genealogy of Morals couldn’t quite remember where he had read some of the statements by Nietzsche that challenged his own thinking, but he thought it was this book. Maybe it was a combination of works, so I’ll try to get my hands on a copy of the one you recommended as well.
Your budget may have a limit, but don’t allow that limit to dictate what you read or don’t. I’ve already shared a most efficient way of finding books cheaply
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