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Thursday, December 09, 2004
Nietzsche v. Wagner

I have only two nits to pick with this excellent article. First nit:
Liébert struggles to make the case that Nietzsche was Wagner’s spiritual inferior: critical rather than creative, brilliant only in fragments, incapable of sustained flights of thought. Liébert fails to see how Nietzsche’s philosophic career was of a piece, how potent his own mythmaking capacity was, how his darting aphoristic style cohered with his conception of existence, in which the most honest theoretical man knows that the search for truth and not its supposed possession is the thing of supreme value. Nietzsche was a richer thinker than Wagner, and as fine an artist. No other post-Christian myth pierces the soul so profoundly as that of the eternal recurrence, and every other aspect of Nietzsche’s thought radiates from it. Like Wagner, Nietzsche was capable of callow monstrosity in his thought and rhetoric, and certain of his epigones were as loathsome as Wagner’s; indeed, the same Nazis who loved one usually loved the other. But of the two men there is no question who the superior was.
Eternal recurrence is the dullest possible form of immortality. It does not "pierce[] the soul". It bludgeons it.

Nit the second:
Tristan and Isolde could not understand how their moment of nonpareil bliss, which Wagner renders in the most sensually rapturous music ever written, might sustain a lifetime’s happiness in the everyday world. After peerless union such as theirs, death seems to offer the sole noble alternative to a gradual deterioration of their love. Tolstoy understood something essential that Wagner and Nietzsche did not: that the greatest part of love can survive and surpass even the most intense passion, and that what modern man most needs is not sublime myth but living truth.
I agree that Nietzsche never got it. But every time I hear the vorspiel to Parsifal, I'm convinced that Wagner did.

Still an excellent review of two books I'll probably never read. Via Arts and Letters Daily.

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