This action might not be possible to undo. Are you sure you want to continue?
NIETZSCHE IN FRANCE 1890–1914
By the end of 1888, having abandoned the hopes of ever having a German audience, Nietzsche began to entertain the idea of having his work translated into French. Encouraged in a few letters by the philosopher Hippolyte Taine, he contacted Jean Bourdeau from the Journal des Débats about the project. In a ﬁt of enthusiasm he wrote to his friend Peter Gast about “the wonderfully nice letter” he had received from Taine and that, ﬁnally, “the Panama Canal to France has been opened.”1 He was, at the time, entirely unknown there. In 1877, Marie Baumgartner had translated and published “Richard Wagner in Bayreuth” in Switzerland; the book, however, had only circulated among Swiss Wagnerians and gone largely unnoticed in France. In the decade following his letter to Bourdeau, Nietzsche was widely read and appropriated by French writers and thinkers to such an extent that by 1900 they could claim him as not German but “French.” Many attributed this zealous reception to a latent “pre-nietzscheism” that had prepared Nietzsche’s ﬁrst French readers for his work. They found echoes of their own ideas in the work of the German philosopher, like the writer Romain Rolland who claimed: “We were all nietzscheans before ever having heard of Nietzsche.” Or André Gide, who could write: “I was waiting for [Nietzsche] before knowing who he was.”2 This was partly reinforced by Nietzsche’s own vindications of French culture and his virulent attacks on Germany, particularly in his later works. By contrast, his ﬁrst book, The Birth of Tragedy, had contained a number of criticisms of France, particularly in section 23 where the young German philologist had observed “with horror” the identity of civilization and culture in France. “On the contrary,” in Germany he had found concealed “beneath this restlessly palpitating cultural life
Friedrich Nietzsche, Selected Letters of Friedrich Nietzsche, ed. Oscar Levy (New York: Doubleday, 1921) 259. In “Nietzsche,” written in 1899 and reprinted in Prétextes (Paris: Mercure de France, 1963) 85.
to be sure. The Birth of Tragedy and The Case of Wagner. .ALI NEMATOLLAHY and convulsion [.] a glorious. The individual is the social cell. he showed that the German victory had not led to the triumph of German culture. but a subordinated energy. His letters bear witness to his zeal for the German cause. Walter Kaufmann (New York. In the ﬁrst essay of Untimely Meditations. who in his essay on Baudelaire in Essais de psychologie contemporaine formulated the “theory of decadence”: By the word decadence. intrinsically healthy. “in Germany there no longer exists any clear conception of what culture is. If so they may recognize an external preparation and encouragement in the victorious fortitude and bloody glory of the last war. it is divided into smaller organisms.”3 “It is from this abyss that the German Reformation came forth. Nietzsche was increasingly preoccupied with the idea of decadence and found it mirrored among French writers who. a feeling that was of short duration and soon gave way to a serious apprehension about the rise of Prussian militarism in his country.” The section ends with the ambiguous: “Some may suppose that this [German] spirit must begin its ﬁght with the elimination of everything Romanic. 17). written in 1873. had already developed a complex theory of the concept.” and from which will stem the “rebirth of the German myth. in which he participated as a medical orderly. Nietzsche ascribed the zealous rejection of the Latin element of “this questionable book” to the “time it was written [.” whereas France “actually [possesses] a real and productive culture” that the Germans have tried to copy with “little skill” and on which they continue to depend. The key ﬁgure at the time was Paul Bourget. But it is safe to assume that the Franco-Prussian War. and for these smaller organisms to function with energy. For the total organism to function with energy. which are themselves divided into a federation of cells. . moreover. . trans. it is necessary that the smaller organisms function with energy. A society can be viewed as an organism. 1967) 136. we designate the state of a society that produces too few individuals capable of performing the work necessary for life. Vintage. if anything.” In the Attempt at Self-Criticism written in 1886 as a preface to the later editions of The Birth of Tragedy.”4 We may safely add to this Wagner’s inﬂuence on the young philosopher during the period: The composer of Tannhäuser never forgave the debacle following the performance of his opera in Paris in 1861 and subsequently kept a permanent grudge against France. it is necessary that their composite cells function 3 4 Friedrich Nietzsche. I follow Kaufmann’s translation of the passage (p. though the word “exciting” has a neutral value in German. stirs vigorously only at intervals in stupendous moments. and then continues to dream of a future awakening. primordial power that. . His decisive encounter with France did not occur until 1883. Indeed.] the exciting time of the Franco-Prussian War of 1870/71. like an organism. 170 . awakened an enthusiastic patriotism in Nietzsche.
“equal rights for all” [. Maupassant. 1999). a few years later. Mazzino Montinari. 137–48. Nietzsche. Taine and even conservative critics such as Ferdinand Brunetière and Jules Lemaître. and where the page is disintegrated and yields to the independence of the sentence. and Jacques Le Rider. his opposite vision of a humanity in the midst of a moral decadence and ever further regressing towards animality—as Nietzsche interpreted them—preﬁgure ‘postmodern’ consciousness in a striking manner. or heroism as Benjamin saw it. 171 .”8 5 6 7 8 Paul Bourget.6 Mazzino Montinari and Jacques Le Rider have documented Nietzsche’s subsequent study of French writers.—What is the sign of every literary decadence? That life no longer dwells in the whole. language.5 Nietzsche discovered Bourget’s book shortly after its publication in 1883 and was immediately enthralled by his theory. The word becomes sovereign and leaps out of the sentence. 15. Anatole France. “The Baudelairean demystiﬁcation of the modernist myth of progress of civilizations. Gyp. Nietzsche en France. 1883) 19–20.7 The encounter with Baudelaire was particularly decisive: His conception of time. as well as Renan. disgregation of the will. Baudelaire. . Essais de psychologie contemporaine (Paris: Plon. Le Rider. artiﬁcial. 170. “Aufgabe der Nietzsche-Forschung heute: Nietzsches Auseinan-dersetzung mit der französischen Literatur des 19. and artifact. the Goncourts brothers. history. the page gains life at the expense of the whole—the whole is no longer a whole.” to use moral terms—expanded into a political theory. the sentence reaches out and obscures the meaning of the page. It enters into decadence when individual life becomes autonomous under the inﬂuence of an acquired well-being and heredity. and progress conﬁrmed many of Nietzsche’s own conceptions. Nietzsche en France. In the words of Jacques Le Rider. But this is the simile of every style of decadence: every time. the organisms that compose the total organism cease accordingly to subordinate their energy to the total energy. particularly if we interpret the Baudelairean contempt for the idea of progress as his premonition of the ‘end of history’ which leaves nothing outside of the instant and eternity uniﬁed in the work of art. and the anarchy that would then ensue constitutes the decadence of the whole. A similar law governs the development and decadence of this other organism. “freedom of the individual. Flaubert. but a subordinated energy. Birth of Tragedy.NIETZSCHE IN FRANCE with energy. the Comte de Gobineau. Jahrhunderts. The social organism is not exempt to this law.” Nietzsche Studien (1988). .] The whole no longer lives at all: it is composite. De la ﬁn du XIXe siècle au temps présent (Paris: PUF. in whose works he plunged searching for sources and documents on the theory of decadence: Théophile Gautier. the anarchy of atoms. and where the sentence is disintegrated to yield to the independence of the word. He made a note of the passage quoted above and reproduced it. A style of decadence is where the unity of the book is disintegrated and yields to the independence of the page. Sainte-Beuve. If the energy of the cells becomes independent. almost exactly in The Case of Wagner: For the present I merely dwell on the question of style. calculated.
not only in the development of Nietszche’s psychology and work. As I mentioned above. perhaps carried 9 10 11 12 See Claude Digeon. the arrival and reception of Nietzsche in France had a distinctive signiﬁcance and ﬂavor that placed the “French Nietzsche” on an entirely different register compared to the interpretation of his work in other countries. 1996) 38.ALI NEMATOLLAHY Ernst Bertram later wrote of the “Latin element” that invaded Nietzsche’s work in this period. and particularly the 1890s. many commentators in France reclaimed the author of The Case of Wagner as one of their own. because “we have to recognize that Nietzsche’s thought is of a purely French inspiration and brings us back to ourselves. Essai de mythologie (Paris: Félin. 172 . “Nietzsche et la pensée française. Whichever the case. La Crise allemande de la pensée française (1870–1914) (Paris: PUF.”11 Alarmed at ﬁnding foreign inﬂuences gaining ground among French youth. Jules de Gaultier. Marie Baumgartner’s translation of Wagner in Bayreuth in 1877 had gone unnoticed in France. French politics and culture during the three decades that followed the war. 1990). Nietzsche. and Mediterranean literary traditions. an antiGerman spirit invaded the cultural and political ﬁelds that were to culminate in the Boulangist period. 1872–1972 (Oxford: Oxford UP. recommended reading the work of the author of Thus spoke Zarathustra instead. Henri Albert.9 There was a general attempt at a national regeneration through the reform of institutions and particularly the educational establishments. author of Le Bovarysme. In his monograph. This was the same Bourdeau to whom he had been referred by Taine. Douglas Smith. the philosopher Jules de Gaultier. Nietzsche’s translator Henri Albert wrote of him: “After 1883. His connections to Germany were almost entirely severed. but in the history of his reception in France. Frédéric Nietzsche (Paris: Bibliothèque Internationale d’Édition. The Franco-Prussian War had a decisive importance. The philosophy departments in the university were rearranged along secular lines and adopted neo-Kantianism and its stress on duty and responsibility as their ofﬁcial creed. with its campaign of revanche and the demand for the restoration of Alsace and Lorraine. In the same letter quoted above. Latin. A nationalist wave in literature demanded to purge Germanic and “nordic” elements and return to purely Gallic.” Mercure de France 8 (1904): 585. The ﬁrst article on his work was written by Jean Bourdeau in 1888 in Le Journal des Débats. Transvaluations: Nietzsche in France. were largely determined by the humiliating defeat of France in that war. and Ernst Bertram. 1903) 14. While the university with its ofﬁcial neo-Kantianism remained mostly indifferent to the arrival of Nietzsche’s work west of the Rhine. the literary establishment largely appropriated Nietzsche as a “good German” who had rejected his own country in favor of France. Nietzsche.10 Meanwhile. Les Célébrités d’aujourd’hui. Nietzsche wrote for France.”12 Another reason for this enthusiastic appropriation may be the unusual circumstances of the diffusion of Nietzsche’s work in France. and conversely. 1959).
had to wait until 1892 before making its ﬁrst appearance in France. one of the leading and most inﬂuential ﬁgures of France [. It is difﬁcult to identify with certainty any common lines of approach among his ﬁrst French readers. Ferdinand Gregh. other than a few excerpts in journals. however. Christopher E. for the journal had an extremely limited impact at the time of its publication. which is generally exaggerated in retrospect due to the participation of the young Marcel Proust and Daniel Halévy. it was not before 1898 that Henri Albert began the systematic translation of Nietzsche’s complete works. wrote of “Monsieur Bourdeau.] [who] ought to undertake to make me known there. In his recent study. Lauterbach in 1893. 173 . extraits de tous ses ouvrages translated by P.14 There is virtually no echo to the articles written by Halévy. with the publication of The Case of Wagner which was translated by Daniel Halévy and Robert Dreyfus. is quite doubtful. and pamphlets began to appear on the work of the German philosopher. a large number of critical studies had appeared that gave the public a foretaste of Nietzsche’s thought and paved the way for an enthusiastic reception. Besides the dubious A Travers l’oeuvre de Nietzsche. Zarathustra in Paris. Next came articles by Eugène de Roberty in the Revue Internationale de Sociologie (1890). . articles. In her seminal study on the French Nietzsche. Bourdeau’s article presented him as the author of a “perverse philosophy” that advocates the rule of brutal force and cynical cruelty. who were unknown at the time. or Robert Dreyfus on Nietzsche in the other journals of the period. before the publication and translation of his works in France.NIETZSCHE IN FRANCE away by a premature exhilaration caused by Taine’s letter. Forth examines the work of the journal from the retrospective point of view of the Dreyfus Affair. Forth. The short-lived journal was the work of young graduates from the lycée Condorcet who were trying to free themselves from the symbolist inﬂuence of their school years (Mallarmé was their English professor). 2001) 23. however. however. We can thus assume that the impression of acquaintance that the ﬁrst readers of Nietzsche experienced in France was partly due to this work of preparation and familiarization carried out by critics and writers. The Nietzsche Vogue in France. which presented a haphazard selection of quotations and aphorisms. Geneviève Bianquis was more correct to see his ﬁrst admirers as the conservatives who had grouped 13 14 Bertram. and Jean de Néthy in La Revue Blanche (1892). 1891–1918 (DeKalb: Northern Illinois University Press. a project that was completed 10 years later in 1908. As can be seen. Christopher Forth maintains that the publications by the group of young writers in the journal Le Banquet were the most responsible for launching the Nietzsche vogue among “avant-garde” circles in the 1890s. Nietzsche’s own work.”13 Far from appreciating Nietzsche’s work. Forth’s claim about its inﬂuence. Teodor de Wyzrewa in La Revue Bleue (1891). Nietzsche. after which a plethora of books. .
received Nietzsche’s work with much consternation: They had barely begun propagating the work of the master in the pages of the Revue Wagnérienne to a largely unreceptive public in whom memories of the defeat in the Franco-Prussian War were still current. and a resentful disciple of Wagner who had broken with him due to his inability to accept the superiority and success of the prophet of Bayreuth. It should be recalled that the terms “symbolist” and “decadent” were used interchangeably at the time. Nietzsche en France. 1966] 314) that the ﬁrst period of activity. For Pierre Lasserre. denounced him as an anarchist destroyer of values. They formed many different groups and only shared different kinds of nationalism and an intense preoccupation with the problem of decadence. Pierre Lasserre. L’Inﬂuence de Nietzsche sur la pensée française (Paris: Félix Alcan. especially after 1886. particularly by the opponents of the movement.16 Moreover.” “symbolism” would then refer to the second period. one of the movement’s philosophers. the French Wagnerians. the then dominant school in literature and art. Alfred Fouillé and others chided Nietzsche. a great number of symbolist writers found inspiration in Nietzsche’s work. 174 . Nietzsche offered the possibility of a modern critique of modernity and democracy. For the Action Française. a revolutionary critique of revolution which could free the party from its dusty image associated with the traditional traditionalism of the Right. when Nietzsche’s critique of Wagner made its appearance in France. On the other hand and paradoxically. from 1884 to the later 80s was called “décadence. who were allied to the symbolists. Edouard Schuré.”17 He was particularly struck by the contrast between the conservative. during which the movement developed a theoretical doctrine for the “instinctive” poetry of the earlier stage.15 They were of a generally conservative persuasion. his approbation of French Classicism. passionate 15 16 17 Geneviève Bianquis. and the symbolist journal La Revue Blanche and the more moderate Mercure de France (whose founder Alfred Vallette was one of the ﬁrst supporters of the symbolist movement) were the chief organs that helped translate and disseminate the work of the author of Beyond Good and Evil. though they came from different factions and were only united by their preoccupation with the problem of decadence. traditional and classical content of Nietzsche’s work and the violent. Most historians of the movement accept Guy Michaud’s claim in his authoritative study (Message poétique du symbolisme [Paris: Nizet. La Morale de Nietzsche (Paris: Mercure de France. They responded with great hostility and one can even discern a united front attacking Nietzsche in the pages of la Revue des Deux Mondes. and his opposition of Latin and German principles at the expense of the latter. Teodor de Wyzewa. 1902) 11. 1929) 12. Nietzsche represented a “conservative who speaks like a revolutionary. and connoted the same writers and tendencies in literature and art. a nihilist who was driven to a deserved madness.ALI NEMATOLLAHY together against the symbolist movement. The critics of symbolism found a useful weapon in Nietzsche’s critique of decadence.
humanitarianism. Besides several articles on Nietzsche. 109. I have shown the differences that separated Rebell from the writers of the Action Française in an upcoming article in Romanic Review. de Gaultier retained a disdain for Christianity. his analysis of Nietzsche was. This is inaccurate. however. its application to politics dismayed him and pushed him to disavow his earlier admiration of the German philosopher. Nietzsche et la réforme philosophique (Paris: Mercure de France. a good deal more subtle. . In his interview with Le Cardonnel and Vellay in 1905 he retracted his earlier enthusiasm: “Nietzsche was only an incidental support for me [. 1900).” Nietzsche (Paris: Éditions du Siècle. Jules de Gaultier—another philosopher associated with the Royalist party—though more loosely—held a position not far from Lasserre’s. Reino Virtanen takes this quote as a proof of the later disavowal of Nietzsche by the adherents of the Action Française. By 1905.” both possible interpretations that depend on the reader. de Gaultier wrote the following books on the subject: De Kant à Nietzsche (Paris: Mercure de France. and socialism. “Hugues Rebell and Charles Maurras before l’Action Française. He identiﬁed two poles in Nietzsche’s work.19 From Nietzsche.NIETZSCHE IN FRANCE form it took. His interest in Nietzsche was from the outset literary rather than political. His was a pessimistic vision of a society in a state of perpetual civil war.” Le Cardonnel and Vellay. who were eager to dissociate themselves and their party from any kind of German inﬂuence. “nihilism and authority.21 Throughout the early 90s. Though his interpretation of Nietzsche was not far from de Gaultier’s.20 Hugues Rebell has often been mistakenly seen in the company of the two previous philosophers. at the moment of the creation of Action Française and in the midst of the Dreyfus Affair. The original title of his book had been Nietzsche against Anarchism. which was one of Lasserre’s obsessions in the 1890s during the heyday of the anarchist movement. in the collection “Les Maîtres de la pensée anti-chrétienne. revolution. .] I never took him for a teacher. In his interview with Georges Le Cardonnel and Charles Vellay’s La Littérature Contemporaine: Opinions des Écrivains de ce Temps (Paris: Mercure de France. La Littérature Contemporaine. he was a fellow traveler of Maurras and other writers who later founded the Action Française. 175 . 1904). In his “Nietzsche and the Action Française” (Journal of the History of Ideas 11:2 : 196).18 He believed anarchism and decadence to be one and the same thing and saw the remedy in the cult of authority and patriotism. at which point he quietly distanced himself from them. and. for which he found inspiration in Nietzsche’s work. 1905) 250. he protested against the uses of 18 19 20 21 22 The essays comprising the book were written in the late 90s and we can assume that after the decline of the anarchist movement Lasserre decided to change the title. Rebell had broken all ties with Maurras and his party. where the victors can never come to rest and have to live in continuous struggle for supremacy against each other. he advocated a hierarchic society that demanded a heroic asceticism from the individual who would have no other reward for his formidable efforts (besides his membership in the elite) than struggle-for-struggle’s sake.”22 In an article he wrote on Nietzsche in 1899. 1926).
”23 The origins of the history of the Action Française’s engagement with Nietzsche can be traced to the formative period of the young Maurras around 1890. 1929) 90. provoked a reaction in the provinces and particularly in the south that had as its primary points of reference the concepts of “Latin genius. Madame de Staël had suggested the distinction in her De la Littérature considérée dans ses rapports avec les institutions sociales (1800) and De l’Allemagne (1810). They depend on those who use them.” Le Culte des idoles (Paris: Jacques Bernard. Les Serviteurs. was at this time trying to ally himself with Mistral and his school of félibrige. were struck by the Nietzschean aspects of the story. “The most Maurrassian” of his early works according to Ivan 23 24 25 Hugues Rebell.” Against the cosmopolitanism of Paris and symbolism.” as Reino Virtanen put it. but her idea found no echoes until Nietzsche. The readers of one of his earliest works.25 And this was not limited to the idea of the opposition of northern and southern cultures. and explain the role that the “Barbarian” Nietzsche had played in the development of his thought and the doctrine of the Action Française. Ibsen. the period where he was still a literary critic and primarily concerned with aesthetic and literary questions. It was Nietzsche. by then. They accused symbolism of being of foreign origin (most its adherents were indeed Belgians) and its major sources—Wagner. “Le Nietzschisme. Schopenhauer—from “Nordic” and Germanic traditions that were artiﬁcially transplanted on French soil. The success of symbolism had. Imagine the egoism and conceit of certain imbeciles. who was from Provence.ALI NEMATOLLAHY “Nietzscheism” by the party of Maurras: “In themselves. ironically. they dreamt of a littérature du terroir and a return to the joyful culture of the south.” the Mediterranean sun and culture and rejection of all things “Nordic. appropriated by a political party. and you can see how Nietzscheism. an ephemeral literary movement that was launched in 1891 by the poet Jean Moréas. The young critic was then formulating the doctrine of l’école romane. but the author of Mireille gently rebuffed his attempts at giving his literary movement overt political and patriotic tones. The opposition of the concepts of “Latin” and “Germanic” had by 1890 become a staple idea among the conservative groups on the Right. Maurras. l’école romane. egoism and conceit are neither good nor bad. Tolstoy. Its manifesto claimed a return to a purely Gallic and Greco-Latin canon of Letters and the rejection of foreign inﬂuences. who was the ﬁrst in the nineteenth century to forcefully articulate the opposition of “Latin” and “Nordic” civilizations in Europe. He then turned to Jean Moréas and the formulation of the doctrine of the new school. Virtanen. 176 . “Nietzsche.24 For many years Maurras found over and over again that he had to account for the “contributions for his traditionalism from a source outside tradition. as opposed to the “sad” and “foggy” literature that had invaded the country from the north.” 206. becomes ridiculous.
Maurras once again recalled the circumstances of the publication of Les Serviteurs and concluded: “Without sympathizing with Nietzsche.] This half-Slavic German would be welcome in the sacred fort of the ancient French School. Le Chemin de Paradis (Paris: Flammarion.”29 In 1903. 1928) 213. “Could it be possible that you don’t know Nietzsche?” he reported being asked. ) 193. 1961) 66. L’Ésthétique littéraire de Charles Maurras (Paris/Geneva: Droz. he inserted Les Serviteurs in his book Le Chemin de paradis. Ibid: 114.NIETZSCHE IN FRANCE Barko. curious afﬁnities between his philosophy of art and the aesthetic theories that I myself had put forth in 1891 at the time of the foundation of the école romane. Ibid. A “Hebrew Christ” has arrived and has ennobled the slaves and promised to set them on the throne of the strong. In turn.d. but if they want to bring him here as a doctor. we could see that this Barbarian was all right [. . Charles Maurras. . n. it’s best for his advocates to remember exactly what is ours and what is his. weaklings and invalids are joining its ranks.] And now. Some years later they in turn join him and inform him that Athens has fallen to the Barbarians. to notice in The Case of Wagner published in 1888 but only translated here in 1893. ﬁnd life impossible without their master. its temples demolished. Charles Maurras. that the same thesis found in my work is professed by a strange writer of Slavic race in Germany who is called Nietzsche. still in Athens. On the occasion of the appearance of her seminal study of Nietzsche in 26 27 28 29 30 Ivan Barko.26 It tells the story of the Athenian Criteon. however. in 1895. Les Serviteurs was written in 1891 and published in the Revue Bleue the following April. ﬁnds that his wisdom and power are of no consequence without his servants. In a note added to the end of the volume he recounted being questioned about the obvious Nietzschean elements in his story. . The master and his slaves. they tell me. When.28 “But that was the ﬁrst time I ever heard that name [. who had underlined Nietzsche’s importance for the Royalist cause and the Action Française. . . I have barely skimmed what I’ve seen of his work.”30 The controversy was not to end there but was to haunt Maurras for a long time yet. reviewing Pierre Lasserre’s La Morale de Nietzsche. He has awakened a desire which. 177 . . his slaves. “instead of exalting Beauty. Maurras felt it necessary to defend himself against any taint of “Germanic” or “Barbarian” thought. I remember. its poets dead. who.] Fools. can take comfort in the fact that they have once again found one another and applaud the union that gives their existence meaning and coherence. once descended to the kingdom of the dead. however. Quand les Français ne s’aimaient pas (Versailles: Bibliothèque des Oeuvres Politiques. praises ugly. deformed and humiliated things [.”27 The new doctrine has spread rapidly and is gaining new adherents every day.
who translated Human. see R. were as follows: Les Précurseurs de Nietzsche (1920). In France as in Germany. published a book on Max Stirner and Nietzsche in 1904. Charles Andler was the most brilliant exegete of Nietzsche among socialists. and Geneviève Bianquis. sa philosophie à l’époque wagnérienne (1921). Albert Lévy.: Open Court. a number of socialist writers attempted to integrate Nietzsche’s philosophy into their program. published by Bossard. another socialist. The original volumes.32 Andler began his studies at the École Normale Supérieure in philosophy.ALI NEMATOLLAHY France in 1928. especially 7–47. One of his students. was one of the leaders of the Socialist Party. later reprinted as Nietzsche. The lectures have not survived. interpreted Nietzsche’s seemingly antidemocratic and antirevolutionary statements in the manner of Ibsen’s enemy of the people: His harshness is rather an excess of pity. a socialist and a member of Jean Allemane’s Socialist Workers’ Revolutionary Party. and he was teaching a course on Nietzsche at the Sorbonne as early as 1903. A. but switched to German when he realized that he could not follow his interests in the neo-Kantian atmosphere of the philosophy departments of the Third Republic. The thinkers of the Right were not the only readers of Nietzsche in France.31 One of the ﬁrst translators of Nietzsche. was another of his students and disciples. In his Les Maîtres de la pensée contemporaine. where the father of socialism in France had purportedly declared that the overman of Nietzsche is none other than the proletariat. 1983). and La Dernière philosophie de Nietzsche (le renouvellement de toutes les valeurs) (1931). His ﬁrst interest in Nietzsche dates from 1889. but were recounted by many present at the event. Desrousseaux. All too Human in 1899. He was a Dreyfusard. La Jeunesse de Nietzsche (jusqu’à la rupture avec Bayreuth) (1921). one of which is translated in this volume. the author of Nietzsche en France. Andler published several essays on Nietzsche before the War. Geneviève Bianquis once again brought attention to the history of the Action Française in its infancy and the debt they owed to Nietzsche. 1890–1918 (La Salle. Nietzsche et le transformisme intellectualiste. Le Pessimisme esthétique de Nietzsche. Jean Bourdeau described two lectures by Jean Jaurès in Geneva on Nietzsche. his vicious attacks nothing other than the revolutionary longing to erase actual society in favor of the one to come. The editors of the journal of the party retorted once again with charges of barbarianism and the debate on the “Germanic” roots of the Action Française was launched again. La Maturié de Nietzsche (jusqu’à sa mort) (1928). M. Nietzsche in German Politics and Society. Eugène de Roberty. Hinton Thomas. La Philosophie de sa période française (1922). sa vie et sa pensée by Gallimard in 1958. In his early articles he maintained that Nietzsche’s work is 31 32 Although the German efforts seem to have been more extensive. his lifelong work on Nietzsche culminated in the publication of his magisterial six volume work. 178 . Ill. They are the necessary vituperations against the old society that needs to be swept aside by the revolutionary force of the future overmen.
Transvaluations.NIETZSCHE IN FRANCE perfectly congruent with democratic and revolutionary politics. he was forced in his later work to acknowledge that Nietzsche’s use of metaphor disturbs the ideas expressed through metonymic means. Ibid. Williams. see also W. 66. . already lay the foundations of his later argument. and revolution and class war their means. The masters of Nietzsche are thus transformed into revolutionary heroes drawn from the ranks of the workers and the people.”34 In the last analysis. D. Andler insisted on the systematic coherence of Nietzsche’s work—a perspective that Nietzscheans have subsequently found a drawback that weakens his analysis—and sought to harmonize this system with socialism. Besides his treatment on Nietzsche in Les Constructeurs (Paris: Crès. it “actually allows [him] a crucial move [. From his earliest writings on the subject. they awaken a sense of heroism and a taste for self-sacriﬁce in the individual. La Roue (1919). If Nietzsche’s thought is essentially contradictory. George Palante attempted to integrate Nietzsche’s conception of the individual with a revolutionary individualism that brings him close to the anar- 33 34 35 36 Smith. for they shatter reiﬁed forms and liberate new forces. For Faure. for it is the acts of heroism that are the goals of this new humanity of overmen. Faure pursued the ideas in his subsequent books: La Conquête (1917).35 Mention must also be made of Élie Faure’s lyrical appropriation of Nietzsche for the socialist cause. civilization is not a moral but a “lyrical phenomenon. and Napoléon (1921).”33 Far from being disturbed by the admission of the contradiction in Nietzsche’s work. The spilled blood that is their price is of no consequence compared to the liberation of human energies that they can bring about.] in favour of a politically progressive retrieval of Nietzsche from Nationalist propaganda.” Class war and revolution are the heroic material of the human drama that allow the liberation of energies and are so many occasions for the afﬁrmation of the individual. and hence Nietzsche’s writing is “effectively written in two languages at once. His early essays. . Faure is not so much concerned with the shape of the societies that they may produce. Nietzsche and the French: A Study of the Inﬂuence of Nietzsche’s French Reading on His Thought and Writing (Oxford: Basil Blackwell. it may be possible to suggest that Nietzsche’s attitude to democracy is not in fact one of unequivocal hostility but one of qualiﬁed approval. And the third volume of his study still remains the major reference on Nietzsche’s study of French authors and the inﬂuence they exerted on his thought. But as Douglas Smith has shown.36 Finally. prior to the publication of his book. 1904). 179 . Class war and revolutions are desirable. Andler’s stress of Nietzsche’s critique of actual society and his vision of the society to come are ﬁrmer grounds on which he could reconcile Nietzsche’s thought with socialism. On this subject. 1952). their heroism and sacriﬁce become ends in themselves.
More recently. It would be impossible to include all the French writers of the period who found a source of inspiration in Nietzsche’s work and attempted to appropriate and integrate it in their own thought. Alain Boyer et al. commentaries.”39 This volume presents a selection of the works of the writers of that period with the hope of completing this picture. Nietzsche’s commentators in France tended to forget their earlier assimilation of the author of Untimely Meditations into the Gallic tradition and began instead to stress his imperialistic aspects and his savage calls to war and conquest. studies have begun to appear on the ﬁrst “moment. 180 .” in the works of Georges Bataille. in the works of Christopher Forth and Douglas Smith mentioned above. With the approach of World War I and the intensiﬁcation of hostilities between France and Germany. The period between the two Wars witnessed a renewal of the interest in Nietzsche. Michel Foucault. but his relation to the anarchists was unclear. (Paris: Grasset. 1989) presents him as an anarchist. or those who sought to refute and challenge his work. “Le Moment français de Nietzsche. Palante attempted to construct a sociology based on the Nietzschean critique of morals. what Vincent Descombes has called the “second French moment of Nietzsche. City University of New York 37 38 39 Michel Onfray’s Georges Palante.ALI NEMATOLLAHY chists. Essai sur un nietzschéen de gauche (Paris: La Folle Avoine. Roger Caillois and the writers of the Collège de Sociologie.37 In his book Précis de sociologie published in 1901. and histories that are available in English. Vincent Descombes. The English speaking public has long been familiar with the ﬁrst two through the many translations.” Pourquoi nous ne sommes pas nietzschéens. Baruch College. In his articles “Two types of Immoralism” and “Social Dilettantism and the Philosophy of the Overman” he demonstrated the role played by morality in subordinating the individual to social dogmas and saw in the philosophy of the overman a justiﬁcation and theory of a revolutionary individualism.38 A third moment was the period of 1960s and the work of Gilles Deleuze. Namely. ed. 1991) 101. and Jacques Derrida.
This action might not be possible to undo. Are you sure you want to continue?
We've moved you to where you read on your other device.
Get the full title to continue reading from where you left off, or restart the preview.