Thus Spoke Zarathustra is one of the most extraordinary – and important – texts in Western philosophy. It was written by Friedrich Nietzsche between 1883 and 1885. He cast it in the form of a novel in the hope that his urgent message of the ‘death of God’ and the rise of the superman (Ubermensch) would have greater emotional as well as intellectual impact.
Though tarnished somewhat by inappropriate adoption by the Nazi movement in the mid-20th century, Zarathustra remains an immensely important and influential work, particularly as it exhorts the individual to question standard conventions of society in order to pursue a truly ethical and spiritual path.
After 10 years in solitude in the mountains, Zarathustra decides it is time to return to the world so that people can benefit from the fruits of his pondering: ‘I would like to bestow and distribute, until the wise have once more become joyous in their folly, and the poor happy in their riches.’
Thus Spoke Zarathustra is a challenging text, but once encountered and absorbed, it cannot be forgotten for both its content and style.
Translation: Thomas Common – revised and updated.