Jul. 31st, 2010

felis_ultharus: The Pardoner from the Canterbury Tales (Default)
I've made a noticeable dent in my to-read pile, which is good. Yuletide tends to mean lots of books, and I really want to finish off a third of it by then.

I'm currently reading a book I knew was going to be awful - Thus Spake Zarathrustra by the German philosopher Nietzsche. And it is awful, but mostly in its content and not its execution. It's quite readable, verging on the poetic. A good translation helps.

I'll do a complete review later, but I have to say it's weird. Very weird. Fantasy writers and fantasy roleplaying gamemasters always struggle with what a "religion of unabashed evil" would look like. Well, Thus Spake Zarathrustra is good inspiration for any writer working on that. It's like a litany for the Dark Side of the Force, a prayerbook for Takhisis, a theological treatise for the Old Ones of Earthsea. It's the celebration of evil in poetry.

It's no accident that every Hollywood villain trying to take over the world quotes Nietzsche, consciously or unconsciously.

And it's been influential. For about ninety years after it was published in the mid-1880s, it was standard reading for university students across the West, and for a lot of other people as well. This book inspired Mussolini and the Italian fascists, and Nietzsche's ideas were one of the driving forces behind the Nazis. Ayn Rand also drew on his stuff. So, yeah. Evil.

Oddly, it's also responsible for the invention of superhero comics. Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster invented Superman - the usual English translation of Nietzsche's ├╝bermensch - after Siegel's readings of Nietzsche. Interestingly, their first Superman was actually a villain who looked like Lex Luthor. And after Superman came all the other imitators.

So yeah, odd mix of legacies. Also, without this book, 2001: A Space Odyssey would be without a soundtrack.


felis_ultharus: The Pardoner from the Canterbury Tales (Default)

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