TECHNICALLY SPEAKING, NIETZSCHE'S NACHLASS or literary remains is comprised of all of his work, excluding his letters, that remained unpublished when his mental collapse ended his productive life in January 1889. This would include: (1) texts that he had prepared for publication but which he was unable to see through to publication, namely The Anti-Christ (Der Antichrist), Nietzsche Contra Wagner, Dithyrambs of Dionysos (Dionysos-Dithyramben), and Ecce Homo; (2) his early, unpublished essays and lectures, many of which could be considered complete, albeit never published, works; and (3) his notes, as well as drafts and variants of his published works. The size of Nietzsche's Nachlass is considerable: in the thirteen volumes of Nietzsche's writings that comprise the Kritische Studienausgabe, edited by Giorgio Colli and Mazzino Montinari, Nietzsche's unpublished notes and notebooks make up 4,869 of the total 7,945 pages.
Beyond the sheer quantity of material that comprises Nietzsche's Nachlass, there are also interesting questions to be asked concerning its philological and philosophical significance, its status as part of Nietzsche's philosophy, and its reception and influence. These questions become particularly important with respect to the unpublished notebooks that followed the completion of Thus Spoke Zarathustra (Also sprach Zarathustra). For these notes from 1885 to 1888 occupy a special place in Nietzsche's Nachlass, insofar as they have been associated, whether rightly or wrongly, with Nietzsche's supposed intention to produce a magnum opus under the title The Will to Power (Der Wille zur Macht).
I teach you the Übermensch. Man is something that shall be overcome. What have you done to overcome him?Nietzsche, Thus Spoke Zarathustra
In truth, what is the Übermensch? We do not know and, properly speaking, Nietzsche does not know. We know only that the thought of the Übermensch signifies: man disappears; an affirmation that is pushed furthest when it doubles into a question: does man disappear?Maurice Blanchot, The Infinite Conversation
As Foucault would say, the Übermensch is much less than the disappearance of living men, and much more than a change of concept: it is the advent of a new form that is neither God nor man and which, it is hoped, will not prove worse than its two previous forms.Gilles Deleuze, Foucault
The subject has been experiencing something of a comeback, philosophically speaking, in the past decade or so. After being banished by the structuralists in the 1960s to the dustbin of history, one now sees frequent references, even within the most current Continental literature, to the need to recuperate a workable and meaningful notion of the subject. The subject's rise and fall is not unrelated to the position Nietzsche occupies within this Continental literature; and so it is somewhat ironic that the Übermensch, which is generally regarded to be Nietzsche's positive notion of a subject, has fallen on hard times in the recent Nietzsche literature.
In Memoriam: Sarah Kofman 1934-1994
What charity and delicate precision those Frenchmen possess! Even the most acute-eared of the Greeks must have approved of this art, and one thing they would even have admired and adored, the French wittiness of expression. . .” (The Wanderer and His Shadow, 214)
The moment Germany rises as a great power, France gains a new importance as a cultural power. A great deal of current spiritual seriousness and passion has already emigrated to Paris; the question of pessimism, for instance, the Wagner question, virtually every psychological and artistic question, is speculated on with incomparably more subtlety and thoroughness there than in Germany . . .” (Twilight of the Idols, “What the Germans Lack,”)
As an artist one has no home in Europe, except Paris . . .” (Ecce Homo, “Why I Am So Clever”)
That we find, approximately a century after his productivity ended, commentators referring to French “Nietzscheanism” is a development that we can imagine would have pleased Friedrich Nietzsche. On several occasions, Nietzsche remarked that he felt more at home with the French, their culture and their language, than with Germans. More than once, he regretted having to write in German rather than in a more fluid, playful, musical language like French. And more than once, he felt his spiritual kin to reside west of the Rhine, preferring the philosophical companionship of Montaigne, Voltaire, and La Rochefoucauld to that of Leibniz, Kant, or Hegel.
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