R. J. Hollingdale — Nietzsche Biographer, Translator and Apologist

R. J. Hollingdale was an unusual man. A beacon to anyone who seeks more than one route to a destination. His destination, it turned out, was to be, with Walter Kaufmann, a most astute interpreter of Nietzsche in an era when the poison spread by his surviving sister, a Nazi sympathizer and antisemite, confirmed his worst fears about being misinterpreted.

Hollingdale was not an academic. He left school in his teens and paid to learn German. He became a distinguished and widely published author of works by Goethe and Schopenhauer and others, as well as Nietzsche’s biographer, translator and apologist.

Click here for the Guardian obit for Hollingdale published in 2001, the year he died at age 70. And here for a Wikipedia entry which contains a list of his major works.

My intent is to use Hollingdale’s Nietzsche Reader (1977) as the basic text for a series on Nietzsche which I hope will be an original and salient interpretation of his work.

Among the issues I will discuss:

1. The tension between Nietzsche’s stated values and his implicit values in relation to what is clearly his life effort — the achievement of a revaluation of values, and

2. The conflict between his sense of Jesus and his understanding of Christianity as a disease and impediment in world history.

I do not read German and defer to scholars. In HA (Human All Too Human) N. writes in section 25:

“Since belief has ceased that a God broadly directs the destinies of the world and that, all the apparent twists and turns in its path not withstanding, is leading mankind gloriously upward, man has t set himself ecumenical goals embracing the whole earth.”

This sentence and the entire section suggests that Nietzsche was hardly averse to moving his philosophy in the direction of propounding values for a world lived within the immanent frame, a world where such transcendence as we experience is inevitably the product of our perspective, a world which makes it possible to speak of a sort agnostic ecumenicity, a world where Jesus, Mohammed or a Buddha can be reappropriated not as the creedal avatars but as bearers of values which we must in turn parse and revalue in our own time.


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