Reading Nietzsche: On Fires, Literal and Figurative

Coming Soon: A Vast Desert

In June of 1871, Nietzsche wrote a letter to his friend Carl von Gersdorff, in which he mentions the Paris Commune (still no direct mention of Marx, though, frustratingly). He appears torn, if only temporarily, between the horror he experienced upon learning that the revolutionaries burned or otherwise damaged several historic buildings (including the Louvre) in their “fight against culture,” and the resigned acceptance that, in the final analysis, the communists were following the advice that would come to dominate Nietzsche’s own principles: the re-valuation of all values—the breaking of moral convention (“He who creates must by definition destroy,” to paraphrase lazily).

He writes:

I know what it means, the fight against culture. When I heard of the fires in Paris, I felt for several days annihilated and was overwhelmed by fears and doubts; the entire scholarly, scientific, philosophical, and artistic existence seemed an absurdity, if a single day could…

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