Zarathustra’s Secret

The Interior Life of Friedrich Nietzsche

Joachim Köhler; Translated by Ronald Taylor

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More than a century after his death in 1900, Nietzsche remains a seminal figure in the history of European intellectual life. Celebrated as a liberator by some, maligned as a pernicious influence by others, he was the subject of controversy during his lifetime, pursuing a hedonistic individualism and espousing concepts such as the Superman and the Will to Power until he died after a decade of institutionalized insanity.

In this groundbreaking biography, Joachim Köhler seeks for the first time to understand Nietzsche’s philosophy through a reconstruction of his inner life. In a revealing reinterpretation of his letters, diaries, and writings, Köhler shows that Nietzsche’s suppressed homosexuality, generating a hatred of Christianity and conventional morality, was a central influence on his work. Further, Köhler argues, his philosophical position was fundamentally compromised by the concealment of his forbidden sexual desire. Throughout his life, the unhappy genius was also plagued by horrible nightmares, stemming from his much-loved father’s death, which led to a profoundly disturbed conscience and an intense loathing of metaphysics.

Seeking to disguise the truth of his innermost torments, Nietzsche contrived the persona of Zarathustra. The story of the great Persian philosopher, contends Köhler, reveals Nietzsche’s own suppression and dionysiac liberation, and presents the culmination of his secret yearnings in the new myth of the Superman who, in his naked beauty, resembled the gods of classical Greece.

Joachim Köhler is a leading German writer, journalist, and former publisher. His previous books on Nietzsche have been translated into eleven languages. Ronald Taylor is the author of Berlin and Its Culture, published by Yale University Press.

“[This book] forces a serious rethinking of Nietzsche and his project.”—Allan Megill, Journal of Modern History 

“Köhler’s biography, briskly written, almost a philosophical detective story, is a gripping and fascinating read, even for the uninitiated.”—Volksblatt 

“With unabashed frankness, Köhler has written a very engaging psychosexual investigation into the tragic personal life of iconoclastic philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche. . . . This important and boldly unique book supplements all those strictly philosophical studies of Friedrich Nietzsche that have excluded his sexuality. Highly recommended for academic and public libraries.”—Library Journal

“Mr. Kohler’s book may be seen as an attempt not to diminish Nietzsche but to restore him to daylight and perspective, showing that beneath his posturing and prophecy, Nietzsche was, to use one of his own phrases, ‘human, all too human.’”—Edward Rothstein, New York Times

"Köhler’s book is well documented and makes convincing sense."—Frederic Raphael, Literary Review

"Revealing."—Geoff Dyer, The Independent on Sunday

"[Kohler] is at his best in offering interpretations of marginalized aspects of the oeuvre, notably Nietzsche’s poetry. Here he proves himself to be a bold and imaginative interpreter, displaying a genuine literary intelligence, and well equal to the tasks of deciphering the secrets of Nietzsche’s inner-most thinking."—Keith Ansell Pearson, The London Magazine
ISBN: 9780300219074
Publication Date: August 1, 2015
336 pages, 6 x 9 1/2
43 b/w illus.
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