Thus Spake Zarathustra

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Whether my brother would ever have written "Thus Spake Zarathustra" according to the first plan sketched in the summer of 1881, if he had not had the disappointments already referred to, is now an idle question; but perhaps where "Zarathustra" is concerned, we may also say with Master Eckhardt: "The fleetest beast to bear you to perfection is suffering."

My brother writes as follows about the origin of the first part of "Zarathustra":--"In the winter of 1882-83, I was living on the charming little Gulf of Rapallo, not far from Genoa, and between Chiavari and Cape Porto Fino. My health was not very good; the winter was cold and exceptionally rainy; and the small inn in which I lived was so close to the water that at night my sleep would be disturbed if the sea were high. These circumstances were surely the very reverse of favourable; and yet in spite of it all, and as if in demonstration of my belief that everything decisive comes to life in spite of every obstacle, it was precisely during this winter and in the midst of these unfavourable circumstances that my 'Zarathustra' originated. In the morning I used to start out in a southerly direction up the glorious road to Zoagli, which rises aloft through a forest of pines and gives one a view far out into the sea. In the afternoon, as often as my health permitted, I walked round the whole bay from Santa Margherita to beyond Porto Fino. This spot was all the more interesting to me, inasmuch as it was so dearly loved by the Emperor Frederick III. In the autumn of 1886 I chanced to be there again when he was revisiting this small, forgotten world of happiness for the last time. It was on these two roads that all 'Zarathustra' came to me, above all Zarathustra himself as a type;--I ought rather to say that it was on these walks that these ideas waylaid me."

The first part of "Zarathustra" was written in about ten days--that is to say, from the beginning to about the middle of February 1883. "The last lines were written precisely in the hallowed hour when Richard Wagner gave up the ghost in Venice."

With the exception of the ten days occupied in composing the first part of this book, my brother often referred to this winter as the hardest and sickliest he had ever experienced. He did not, however, mean thereby that his former disorders were troubling him, but that he was suffering from a severe attack of influenza which he had caught in Santa Margherita, and which tormented him for several weeks after his arrival in Genoa. As a matter of fact, however, what he complained of most was his spiritual condition--that indescribable forsakenness--to which he gives such heartrending expression in "Zarathustra". Even the reception which the first part met with at the hands of friends and acquaintances was extremely disheartening: for almost all those to whom he presented copies of the work misunderstood it. "I found no one ripe for many of my thoughts; the case of 'Zarathustra' proves that one can speak with the utmost clearness, and yet not be heard by any one." My brother was very much discouraged by the feebleness of the response he was given, and as he was striving just then to give up the practice of taking hydrate of chloral--a drug he had begun to take while ill with influenza,--the following spring, spent in Rome, was a somewhat gloomy one for him. He writes about it as follows:-- "I spent a melancholy spring in Rome, where I only just managed to live,-- and this was no easy matter. This city, which is absolutely unsuited to the poet-author of 'Zarathustra', and for the choice of which I was not responsible, made me inordinately miserable. I tried to leave it. I wanted to go to Aquila--the opposite of Rome in every respect, and actually founded in a spirit of enmity towards that city (just as I also shall found a city some day), as a memento of an atheist and genuine enemy of the Church--a person very closely related to me,--the great Hohenstaufen, the Emperor Frederick II. But Fate lay behind it all: I had to return again to Rome. In the end I was obliged to be satisfied with the Piazza Barberini, after I had exerted myself in vain to find an anti-Christian quarter. I fear that on one occasion, to avoid bad smells as much as possible, I actually inquired at the Palazzo del Quirinale whether they could not provide a quiet room for a philosopher. In a chamber high above the Piazza just mentioned, from which one obtained a general view of Rome and could hear the fountains plashing far below, the loneliest of all songs was composed--'The Night-Song'. About this time I was obsessed by an unspeakably sad melody, the refrain of which I recognised in the words, 'dead through immortality.'"

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