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The Ritual of the Übermensch: A day with Friedrich Nietzsche


The Übermensch, the theory of the eternal return, the inextricable crossroads between the Dionysian and the Apollonian, actually resemble chapters from this great philosopher’s everyday life.

Among the most important philosophers of the 19th century, Nietzsche stands out not just because of the originality of his thought, but also because of the mass diffusion his work has had, and which has been equaled by his tormented biography.

Raised in a religious environment (from Protestant father and grandfathers), Nietzsche first studies philology, and then, after teaching for a brief period, isolates himself to work on his theories, leaving behind academicism and virtually all his social relations.

Curtis Cate made an exhaustiveresearch of the life of this German genius, especially concerning the years he spent in his Sils-Maria’s home in Switzerland. Weakened by disease, the philosopher followed a work routine which, although admirable, few probably envy (not to mention that very few would even endure):

Cate writes:

With a Spartan rigour which never ceased to amaze his landlord-grocer, Nietzsche would get up every morning when the faintly dawning sky was still grey, and, after washing himself with cold water from the pitcher and china basin in his bedroom and drinking some warm milk, he would, when not felled by headaches and vomiting, work uninterruptedly until eleven in the morning. He then went for a brisk, two-hour walk through the nearby forest or along the edge of Lake Silvaplana (to the north-east) or of Lake Sils (to the south-west), stopping every now and then to jot down his latest thoughts in the notebook he always carried with him. Returning for a late luncheon at the Hôtel Alpenrose, Nietzsche, who detested promiscuity, avoided the midday crush of the table d’hôte in the large dining-room and ate a more or less ‘private’ lunch, usually consisting of a beefsteak and an ‘unbelievable’ quantity of fruit, which was, the hotel manager was persuaded, the chief cause of his frequent stomach upsets. After luncheon, usually dressed in a long and somewhat threadbare brown jacket, and armed as usual with notebook, pencil, and a large grey-green parasol to shade his eyes, he would stride off again on an even longer walk, which sometimes took him up the Fextal as far as its majestic glacier. Returning ‘home’ between four and five o’clock, he would immediately get back to work, sustaining himself on biscuits, peasant bread, honey (sent from Naumburg), fruit and pots of tea he brewed for himself in the little upstairs ‘dining-room’ next to his bedroom, until, worn out, he snuffed out the candle and went to bed around 11 p.m.

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