Nietzsche's Letters | 1884© The Nietzsche Channel

Nietzsche's Letters


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Erwin Rohde.
As an older man.
Colorized image ©The Nietzsche Channel.

Nice, February 22, 1884:
Letter to Erwin Rohde.

My dear old friend

I don't know how it happened: but when I read your last letter1 and especially when I saw the charming picture of your children,2 it was to me as if you squeezed my hand while giving me a melancholy look: mournfully, as if you were about to say "How is it simply possible that we have so little in common now and how do we now live in such different worlds! Yet at one time — —"3

And that's how it is, my friend, with all the people I care about: it's all over, in the past, forbearance; we still see each other, we talk so as not to be silent — we still write letters, so as not to be silent. But the truth is expressed in their eyes: and it says to me (I hear it well enough!) "Nietzsche, my friend, now you are all alone!"

I've now actually come to this point. —

Meanwhile, I continue on my way, in fact it's a voyage, a sea voyage — and not in vain have I lived for years in the city of Columbus.4 — —

My "Zarathustra" is finished, in three acts: you have the first, I hope to be able to send you the other two in 4-6 weeks. It is a kind of abyss of the future, something hair-raising,5 especially in its rapture. Everything in it is me alone, without prototype, parallel, or precursor; whoever has once lived in it returns to the world with a different vision.6

But one should not speak about it. From you, as a homo litteratus, I will not hold back a confession: — I fancy that, with this Z[arathustra], I have brought the German language to its perfection. After Luther and Goethe there was still a third step to take —; see for yourself, old bosom friend, if power, suppleness, and euphony have ever been together like this before in our language. After reading a page of my book, read Goethe — and you will feel that the "undulatory" Goethe adhered to as a draftsman did not remain foreign to the shaper of language as well. I have the advantage of a stronger, manlier line than him, but without turning boorish like Luther. My style is a dance, a play of symmetries of all kinds and a leaping over and mockery of these symmetries. That goes as far as the choice of vowels. —

Forgive me! I will be careful not to confess this to anyone else, but you did once — I think you are the only one — express delight in my language. —

By the way, I have remained a poet within every limit of this term, despite having already browbeat myself thoroughly with the antithesis of all poetry. Ah friend, what a crazy, secluded life I live! So alone, alone! So without "children"!

Remain good to me, as I am truly yours!

F. N.

1. In his 12-22-1883 letter, Rohde gives a critique of Thus Spoke Zarathustra, and states "Der persische Weise bist zwar Du, aber es ist eine ganz andre Sache, ob man höchst persönliche Meinungen direct als solche ausspricht oder sich ein Idealwesen erschafft, damit dieses sie als seine Meinungen vortrage [....] Gewiß darum schuf sich Plato seinen Sokrates, und so Du nun Deinen Zarathustra." (The Persian sage is, to be sure, yourself, but it is quite a different thing to express highly personal opinions in such a direct way or to create an ideal character for this who lectures with his opinions [....] Surely that's why Plato created his Socrates and you your Zarathustra.)
2. Bertha and Franz Rohde. In his December letter, Rohde pours salt on Nietzsche's wounds in regard to his loneliness by affirming the putative wisdom that "In der That, meine Kinder sind mein und meiner guten kleinen Frau alleiniges Gut und Glück auf der Welt und ich weiß kein höheres." (In fact, my children and my good little wife are the only good thing and my sole happiness in the world and I know no higher.)
3. Rohde thought Nietzsche should have remained a classical philologist.
4. Genoa, Italy.
5. Schauerliches.
6. Gesichte.

Nietzsche's Letters | 1884© The Nietzsche Channel

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