Thus Spoke Zarathustra is a difficult book to read. In fact, literary critic like Harold Bloom called it “unreadable”! Why, then is it one of Nietzsche’s most famous works? Why is it reprinted generation after generation? What made it “the book of choice” (345) for German soldiers on the battlefield?
Zarathustra is the story of a man who leaves his contemplation to share his wisdom with the rest of humanity. The book contains eighty short chapters on various repetitive themes and ideas that have no logical order. This is not a carefully crafted philosophical argument—it is a collection of ideas thrown out to take root in people’s minds.
Three themes stand out above the rest:
- It was here that Nietzsche first claimed that God is dead.
- Humanity needs to evolve into the Superman (or Overman), a person beyond good and evil.
- The Superman embraces “eternal recurrence”(341) by taking ownership of everything that has happened and will happen again.
In Zarathustra, Nietzsche called on people to reject the moral claims of the religious and embrace the will to power. Nietzsche viewed Christianity as a religion of weakness (which, ironically, it is—God’s strength demonstrated in weakness).
Nietzsche’s desire to evolve beyond mere humanity to the Superman is a lonely task. In the end, Zarathustra leaves all his weak followers behind. There is no room for a community of Supermen—only a lone powermonger. Thus Spoke Zarathustra is no less than a manifesto for an anti-Christ.
Nietzsche, Friedrich. Thus Spoke Zarathustra: A Book for Everyone and for No One. Translated by Thomas Common. New York, NY: Barnes & Noble, 2012.