Friedrich Nietzsche, The Gay Science.  Die fröhliche Wissenschaft.

First published in 1882.

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At the Sight of a Learned Book.

We do not belong to those who only get their thoughts from books, or at the prompting of books, it is our custom to think in the open air, walking, leaping, climbing, or dancing on lonesome mountains by preference, or close to the sea, where even the paths become thoughtful.  Our first question concerning the value of a book, a man, or a piece of music is: Can it walk?  or still better: Can it dance?  We seldom read; we do not read the worse for that oh, how quickly we divine how a person has arrived at his thoughts: if it is by sitting before an ink-bottle with compressed belly and head bent over the paper: oh, how quickly we are then done with his book!  The constipated bowels betray themselves, one may wager on it, just as the atmosphere of the room, the ceiling of the room, the smallness of the room, betray themselves.  These were my feelings when closing a very decent, scholarly book - gratefully, very gratefully - but also with a sense of relief.  In the book of a learned man there is almost always something oppressive and oppressed: the "specialist" comes to light somewhere, his ardour, his seriousness, his wrath, his over-estimation of the nook in which he sits and spins, his hump every specialist has his hump.  A learned book also always mirrors a distorted soul: every trade distorts.  Look at our friends again with whom we have spent our youth, after they have taken possession of their science: alas!  how the reverse has always taken place!  Alas!  How they themselves are now for ever occupied and possessed by their science!  Grown into their nook, crumpled into unrecognisability, constrained, deprived of their equilibrium, emaciated and angular everywhere, perfectly round only in one place, we are moved and silent when we find them so.  Every handicraft, granting even that it has a golden floor, has also a leaden ceiling above it, which presses and presses on the soul, till it is pressed into a strange and distorted shape.  There is nothing to alter here.  We need not think that it is at all possible to obviate this disfigurement by any educational artifice whatever.  Every kind of perfection is purchased at a high price on earth, where everything is perhaps purchased too dear; one is an expert in one's department at the price of being also a victim of one's department.  But you want to have it otherwise "more reasonable” above all more convenient is it not so, my dear contemporaries?  Very well!  But then you will also immediately get something different: instead of the craftsman and expert, you will get the literary man, the versatile, "many-sided" litterateur, who to be sure lacks the hump not taking account of the hump or bow which he makes before you as the shopman of the intellect and the "porter" of culture, the litterateur, who is really nothing, but "represents" almost everything: he plays and "represents" the expert, he also takes it upon himself in all modesty to see that he is paid, honoured and celebrated in this position.  No, my learned friends!  I bless you even on account of your humps!  And also because like me you despise the litterateurs and parasites of culture!  And because you do not know how to make merchandise of your intellect!  And have so many opinions which cannot be ex pressed in money value!  And because you do not represent anything which you are not!  Because your sole desire is to become masters of your craft; because you reverence every kind of mastership and ability, and repudiate with the most relentless scorn everything of a make-believe, half-genuine, dressed-up, virtuoso, demagogic, histrionic nature in litteris et artibus all that which does not convince you by its absolute genuineness of discipline and preparatory training, or cannot stand your test!  Even genius does not help a person to get over such a defect, however well it may be able to deceive with regard to it: one understands this if one has once looked closely at our most gifted painters and musicians, who almost without exception, can artificially and supplementarily appropriate to themselves (by means of artful inventions of style, makeshifts, and even principles), the appearance of that genuineness, that solidity of training and culture; to be sure, without thereby deceiving themselves, without thereby imposing perpetual silence on their bad consciences.  For you know of course that all great modern artists suffer from bad consciences?  

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