Jennifer Ratner-Rosenhagen’s American Nietzsche is a 464-page footnote to Allan Bloom’s comment in The Closing of the American Mind that American readings of the German philosopher have produced “nihilism with a happy ending.” Her sense of Nietzsche is based heavily on the writings of the German-born Princeton scholar Walter Kaufmann, famed for softening the philospher of the übermensch’s writings. Like the apologists for jihad who portray it as an internal quest for purification, advocates for Nietzsche acrobatically rope off his praise for war and cruelty as matters of spiritual struggle.
I bring war. Not between people and people: no words are sufficient to express my loathing of the despicable interest politics pursued by modern European dynasties—politics which make the incitement to self-seeking arrogance among the peoples, setting them against one another, into a principle, and almost into a duty. Not war between classes, either—since there are no higher classes, and consequently no inferior ones… I bring a war which cuts across all the absurd coincidences of nation, class, race, status, level of education, constitution—a war like the conflict between rising and falling; between the will to live and the thirst for revenge against life, between upright honesty and treacherous lies.If we could do without wars, so much the better. I can think of many more profitable uses for the twelve billion spent every year to maintain the armed peace in Europe, and other means of gaining respect for physiology preferable to field hospitals.
Honestly, I’m just a no-account ne’er-do-well who happens to have a voracious love of reading, a particular appreciation for Nietzsche’s provocative style, and a very good memory. I find it difficult to feel charitable toward professional authors and critics who can’t be bothered to know what the fuck they’re talking about. This isn’t that difficult.