To anyone who met him in his prime, Friedrich Nietzsche looked like a genial old-style man of letters: a quiet, dapper, unworldly bachelor, kind to children and exceedingly polite. But those who kept up with his prodigious output of books – he wrote more than one a year once he hit his stride in the 1880s – knew that the mild manner concealed incandescent ambition. The gentle professor liked to think of himself as a wild beast on the rampage, an intellectual terrorist who was going to “divide history into two halves”. His mission: to destroy the last vestiges of Christianity by means of a free-spirited “philosophy of the future” – a brave new pagan philosophy heralding a brave new pagan world. “I am no man,” he said. “I am dynamite.”
via New Humanist.
When Zarathustra and Twilight first appeared, they attracted little interest and Nietzsche’s name remained obscure. During the 1890s, however, they caught the public imagination and Nietzsche became the celebrity of world literature he had always wanted to be. He was admired not as a venerable old philosopher in the high tradition of Plato or Kant, but an outrageous and irreconcilable enemy to religion and morality, especially when they deck themselves in the robes of philosophical reason. By that time, however, he was in no condition to savour his success: back in December 1888, at the age of 44, he had collapsed in a square in Turin, and the remaining twelve years of his life were to be passed in a state of serene insanity.
The calamity of madness did no harm to Nietzsche’s burgeoning reputation: he came to fame as the philosopher who denounced the demands of reason so effectively that at last he lost his own. Twilight could now be seen as foreshadowing the eclipse of an intellect of such power that no one could stand it, even himself, and Zarathustra became a record of insights too deep to be expressed in the ordinary discourse of reason...