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NIETZSCHE, by Craine Brinton, Harvard Univ. Press, $2.50.


Most of the writers popular with the Nazis have little reputation outside Germany. Gobineau and H. S. Chamberlain are discredited; "Mein Kampf" and Dr. Goebbels' pamphlets are not read from any desire for truth or information. Nietzsche, however, is a part of our own cultural inheritance--he has had followers among the intelligentsia of France, England, and the United States. Till now there has been no adequate English biography of this philosopher-prophet, only a few commentaries by such authors as H. L. Mencken, whose book is more Mencken business than Nietzschean, and W. H. Wright, alias S. S. Van Dine, creator of Philo Vance.

In World War I the British and American propagandists made much of Nietzsche's wicked writings "The Antichrist," "Beyond Good and Evil", and "Thus Spake Zarathustra"--to prove that the Kaiser and his clique (none of them had probably ever read or even heard of the books) were leagued with the devil. Today the German rulers not only read but preach from Nietzschean texts. By careful excision the official Nazi philosophers have adapted Nietzche's works to buttress and lend a respectable philosophical aura to their case. Friedrich Nietzsche who despised his contemporary Germans, who was bitterly anti-anti-semitic, who wrote of himself as "a good European" has become the high priest of the new religion, dynamism. His books are being printed in Germany by the thousands in cheap popular editions; they are the Koran of Naziism. An understanding of Nietzsche is a prerequisite to an understanding of his modern disciples.

Professor Brinton's new biography of Nietzsche offers just that--an understanding of Nietzsche's life as it affected his thinking, a comprehension of the understandable portion of the Nietzschean philosophy, and lastly an orientation of Nietzsche's thought in the intellectual milieu of today. In a light style, humorous and ironic and aphoristic but not trifling, the book clearly explains Nietzsche's doctrines of the Superman, the Will to Power, and the Trans-valuation of all Values. Avoiding the jargon of the professional philosopher, historian Brinton has written a volume too current to be definitive, too intriguing to be limited only to scholarly perusal.

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