Excerpted from the prologue of Werner Ross’s Der ängstliche Adler
– Friedrich Nietzsches Leben (1980):
The two-volume work of Heidegger on Nietzsche begins with the lapidary phrase: “Nietzsche, the thinking man testifies to the content of his thought.” But in the following hundreds of pages he does not appear, only his philosophical activity.
Nietzsche had the misfortune to go down to posterity as a philosopher whereas he would have liked to do it as an apostle or officer of artillery; a lyric poet or composer; a revolutionary or reformer; ultimately, as a buffoon or a god.
Nietzsche argued against the claims of truthfulness of all doctrines, including his. He ardently sought for results: a reversal of all relations, the abolition of Christianity, the beginning of a new era. His aspiration was to divide the history of humanity with a single stroke into two halves. Instead, it has been classified with others; and in college textbooks his name appears next to Leibniz and Kant.
At the height of his self-consciousness, of his “delusions of grandeur,” Nietzsche came to think that the mere dissemination of his doctrine would cause the disintegration of the tablets of the law and of our civilization as the trumpets of the Israelites had caused the collapse of the walls of Jericho. But the earth did not shake nor the sun darkened when, in early January 1889, he went crazy.
Obviously, great works take time. Nietzsche indeed contributed to the destruction of something that, at the time, many wanted ardently: “the fundamental values.” He was convinced that his ideas were dynamite, but all blasting is, ultimately, a child’s play compared to the persistent action of erosion. And if no revolution took place after Nietzsche, at least he caused a radical change in the general climate.
Nietzsche became famous overnight the same year he was admitted to an asylum. But the person immediately disappeared behind the work, behind the exposed and fought doctrine. This work moved the spirits and divided them in twain; it also marked the beginning of a new era, which provided mottos and slogans. The literature on Nietzsche, for and against, increased greatly…
In the circle of collaborators responsible for the historical-critical edition of his complete works, whose first volume appeared in 1934, the project finally came to publish a full biography of Nietzsche. This was undertaken by Richard Blunck during the Second World War. The owner of the Archive [Nietzsche’s sister] had died in 1935; Hitler had already visited her before and had brought with him as a gift Nietzsche’s swab.
Blunck was unlucky: the whole edition of the first [biographical] volume, which was printed in early 1945, was destroyed during air raids. The volume did not appear until 1953. Blunck died in 1962, when he was working in the other volumes. Curt Paul Janz, a professional orchestra musician that had received a solid philological training at Basel, continued the work of Blunck. The result was the three-volume biography published in 1978-1979 by Hanser Verlag. This is a thorough study that collects all the facts and circumstances of the life of Nietzsche. My work has a lot to thank him.