Nietzsche and Wagner

Joachim Köhler; Translated by Ronald Taylor

View Inside Price: $21.00


January 1, 1999
192 pages, 5 1/2 x 8 1/2
14 b/w illus.
ISBN: 9780300181647
Paper

Also Available in:
Cloth

This book presents an absorbing account of the bizarre and fluctuating relationship between the philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche, the composer Richard Wagner, and his wife Cosima. Nietzsche was 25 when he first met Wagner and his 32-year-old mistress Cosima (daughter of Franz Liszt and at that time wife of the conductor Hans von Bülow) in May 1869. The relationship survived on a combination of mutual intellectual admiration—dominated by the bullying Wagner—and erotic jealousy until the composer’s death in 1883 and the philosopher’s own descent into madness six years later.
The book, first published in German in 1996, brings this turbulent relationship vividly to life. Joachim Köhler shows for the first time how their traumatized childhoods bound Nietzsche and Cosima in submission to the demonic, aging Wagner, how Nietzsche was enticed into the Bayreuth labyrinth, entrapped in its culture wars and used as a tool in its sectarianism and antisemitism. The book sheds new light on Nietzsche’s early writings, revealing them subverted by Wagner to parade his own ideas of German superiority, of the domination of the masses by a few chosen geniuses, and of the supremacy of art and aesthetics over morals and humanity. The sources of Nietzsche’s “Superman” and “Will to Power” are traced to the pre-fascist ideology of Richard and Cosima Wagner, an ideology later uncomprehendingly idolized by Hitler’s Reich.

Joachim Köhler is a writer and publisher. Ronald Taylor is the author of Berlin and Its Culture, published by Yale University Press.

"First published in German in 1996, this book studies the complex relationship among Friedrich Nietzche, Richard Wagner, and Wagner’s wife, Cosima. Kohler . . . demonstrates a parallel between the interaction of the three principal characters and the myth of Dionysus and Ariadne, a story that obsessed Nietzche throughout most of his adult life and that serves as the theme for the entire narrative. . . . Recommended for public and academic libraries."—Library Journal

“[This] story has all the turgid ingredients of a good 19th-century novel: art, revolution, philosophy, erotic jealousy, infidelity, insanity, and a cast of real characters the equal of any in classical literature. . . . Truth can be as fascinating as fiction.”—Library Journal




“[An] engaging and vivid book, in a fluid translation by Ronald Taylor.”—Alan Ryan, New York Times Book Review


“This book is fascinating.”—David Johnson, Times Higher Education Supplement

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