Happy Birthday, Herr Professor!

Here’s something that most people don’t know about Friedrich Nietzsche: he had a great sense of humor. This sense of humor is easily overlooked because it’s not so much Judd Apatow, as it is “Now on Sprockets we dance!”

Yesterday was Nietzsche’s birthday, and I figured I would celebrate by posting some of my favorite quotes. Of course, I’m well-aware that yanking Nietzsche quotes out of context is a mug’s game, so I’ll endeavor to stay away from all the well-known chestnuts, like “what doesn’t kill me, makes me stronger,” which should actually be translated as “what doesn’t destroy me, strengthens me.” (I know, I know I’m being pedantic here, but – hey – I’m a Nietzsche scholar: being pedantic is just how we roll!)

Nietzsche on Truth:

“O Voltaire! O humaneness! O hogwash!” (BGE II 35)

Here’s something else that not many people known about Friedrich Nietzsche: he was a tres grand Francophile. He owned all of Gérard Depardieu’s movies on Blu-ray (even Green Card); he was adamant that Zidane’s headbutt was an honorable way to respond to an insult about one’s sister (and – wow! – is it easy to insult Nietzsche’s sister!); he even dedicated Human, All-Too-Human to Voltaire.

(Pedant Note: the above quote is from a Marion Faber translation, the rest are from Walter Kaufmann translations.)

Nietzsche on Women:

“Holy Aristophanes!” (BGE VII 232)

OMG. When it came to women, Nietzsche was a tremendous dope! He said some things that would’ve made Dominique Strauss-Kahn uncomfortable. But what do you expect? There’s a good chance that the poor guy died a virgin. But hidden among all the embarrassing ranting and raving of a man who couldn’t get laid, there is also this jewel of advice: “Beware of all picturesque men!” (EH II 10)

Perkins waitress #1: This that Tiger Woods sitting over there? I should totally go talk to him!

Perkins waitress #2: Be careful, girl. You know what Nietzsche says about picturesque men!

Nietzsche on Ancient Greece:

“Oh, those Greeks! They knew how to live.” (NCW X 2)

Slavery, famine, filthy togas, Diogenes the Cynic having a go in public, no indoor plumbing, the Spartan Army always trying to invade you, dirty toenails, and Socrates constantly pestering you to allow him to babysit your young, impressionable male children: who wouldn’t want to have lived in Ancient Greece? If CBS could ever figure out how to do a Survivor All-Stars: Ancient Greece, Nietzsche would totally own it, Richard Hatch-style!

Nietzsche on Christianity:

“What appalling paganism!” (AC 41)

What Nietzsche despised about Christianity was that it put an end to his beloved Classical Era. And as if this wasn’t bad enough, it proceeded to plagiarize some of that era’s best myths. For example, according to Nietzsche, placed at the threshold of the Christian faith are both the myth of Heracles’ birth (Alcmene was impregnated by Zeus) and the act of human sacrifice. And not only did early Christians plagiarize such myths, they also insisted on tinkering with them. For example, in place of mythological gods, Christianity substituted a God that was meant for “pawing and nuzzling,” which resulted in “humility and self-importance cheek-by-jowl.” In one of his most hilarious passages on religion, Nietzsche finally blurts out: “how can one make such a fuss about one’s little lapses as these pious little men do! Who gives a damn? Certainly not God.” (GM III 22)

Nietzsche on life:

“From time to time, there is magic.”

This quote is the last meaningful sentence Nietzsche ever wrote. It concludes his “Madness Letter” to Jacob Burckhardt, which was written two days after his mental collapse in Turin on January 3rd, 1889. I’ve always thought that this quote is a pretty apt way to describe reading Nietzsche: he was a kooky woman-hating, Ancient Greece-loving fellow, but, from time to time, he wrote some magical things.


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