Friedrich Nietzsche is one of the most widely read authors in the world, from the time of his death to the present—as well as one of the most controversial. He has been celebrated as a theorist of individual creativity and self-care but also condemned as an advocate of antimodern politics and hierarchical communalism. Rather than treating these approaches as mutually exclusive, Jeremy Fortier contends that we ought instead to understand Nietzsche’s complex legacy as the consequence of a self-conscious and artful tension woven into the fabric of his books.
The Challenge of Nietzsche uses Nietzsche as a guide to Nietzsche, highlighting the fact that Nietzsche equipped his writings with retrospective self-commentaries and an autobiographical apparatus that clarify how he understood his development as an author, thinker, and human being. Fortier shows that Nietzsche used his writings to establish two major character types, the Free Spirit and Zarathustra, who represent two different approaches to the conduct and understanding of life: one that strives to be as independent and critical of the world as possible, and one that engages with, cares for, and aims to change the world. Nietzsche developed these characters at different moments of his life, in order to confront from contrasting perspectives such elemental experiences as the drive to independence, the feeling of love, and the assessment of one’s overall health or well-being. Understanding the tension between the Free Spirit and Zarathustra takes readers to the heart of what Nietzsche identified as the tensions central to his life, and to all human life.
Jeremy Fortier teaches in the Department of Political Science at the City College of New York.
“Fortier has produced an important and illuminating work.
The Challenge of Nietzsche makes a truly valuable contribution to the understanding of Nietzsche and of Nietzsche’s great themes.”
— Laurence Cooper, Carleton College
The Challenge of Nietzsche provides a rubric for understanding the evolution of Nietzsche’s thought that takes seriously Nietzsche’s own self-presentation and his identification of two character ideals that concern the proper relation between the individual and the community. Fortier’s exegesis and argumentation are clear and free of jargon so, in addition to offering specialists a new and illuminating organization of Nietzsche’s works, the book also works well as a guide for the uninitiated.”
— Shalini Satkunanandan, University of California, Davis