Friedrich Nietzsche, The Wanderer and His Shadow (Der Wanderer und sein Schatten).

The Wanderer and his Shadow, the second supplement to Human, All Too Human, first published in 1880.


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European Books.  In reading Montaigne, La Rochefoucauld, La Bruyere, Fontenelle (especially the Dialogues des Marts), Vauvenargues, and Chamfort we are nearer to antiquity than in any group of six authors of other nations.  Through these six the spirit of the last centuries before Christ has once more come into being, and they collectively form an important link in the great and still continuous chain of the Renaissance.  Their books are raised above all changes of national taste and philosophical nuances from which as a rule every book takes and must take its hue in order to become famous.  They contain more real ideas than all the books of German philosophers put together: ideas of the sort that breed ideas I am at a loss how to define to the end: enough to say that they appear to me writers who wrote neither for children nor for visionaries, neither for virgins nor for Christians, neither for Germans nor for I am again at a loss how to finish my list.  To praise them in plain terms, I may say that had they been written in Greek, they would have been understood by Greeks.  How much, on the other hand, would even a Plato have understood of the writings of our best German thinkers — Goethe and Schopenhauer, for instance — to say nothing of the repugnance that he would have felt to their style, particularly to its obscure, exaggerated, and occasionally dry as dust elements?  And these are defects from which these two among German thinkers suffer least and yet far too much (Goethe as thinker was fonder than he should have been of embracing the cloud, and Schopenhauer almost constantly wanders, not with impunity, among symbols of objects rather than among the objects themselves).  On the other hand, what clearness and graceful precision there is in these Frenchmen!  The Greeks, whose ears were most refined, could not but have approved of this art, and one quality they would even have admired and reverenced — the French verbal wit: they were extremely fond of this quality, without being particularly strong in it themselves.  

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