The Twilight of the Idols


This work of not quite one hundred and fifty pages, with its cheerful and fateful tone, like a laughing demon, the work of so few days that I hesitate to give their number - is altogether an exception among books: there is no work more rich in substance, more independent, more subversive, more wicked. Should any one care to get a brief idea of how everything, before my time, was standing on its head, he might begin by reading this book. What is called "Idols" on the title page is quite simply everything that has hitherto been called truth. The Twilight of the Idols - in plain English, the old truth is nearing its end.


There is no reality, no "ideality," that has not been touched upon in this book (touched! what a cautious euphemism!). Not merely those idols which are eternal, but those that are most recent and consequently, most senile: modern ideas, for instance. A strong wind blows among the trees and everywhere fruit - truths - fall to earth. There is a surplus as of an overfruitful autumn here: you trip over truths; you even crush some to death, there are too many of them. But those things that you grasp are no longer questionable; they have the stamp of decisiveness. I alone possess a yardstick for "truths"; I am the sole arbiter. It would seem as if a second consciousness had arisen in me, as if the "will" in me had cast a light upon the downward path along which it has been running for ages. The downward path - that was what they called the road to "Truth." All dark impulses - "obscurest aspiration" - is at an end; the "good man" is precisely he who is least aware of the "true way." I And , speaking quite seriously, no one before me knew the true way, the way upwards: only after my time could men once again find hope's, life - tasks - and paths leading to culture - of which I am the joyful herald. It is on this account that I am also a fatality.


Immediately after completing this work, and without losing a single day, I attacked the formidable task of the Transvaluation with a supreme feeling of pride which nothing could equal; and, sure at every moment of my immortality, I engraved sign after sign upon brass tablets with the certainty of Fate. The Preface was born on September 3, i888. When, after finishing it, I emerged into the morning air, I was greeted by the most beautiful day the Upper Engadine had ever disclosed to me - clear, glowing with color, and including all the contrasts and all the intermediary gradations between ice and the south. Owing to a delay caused by floods, I did not leave Sils-Maria until the 2oth of September, so that I was finally the only visitor in this wonderful spot, on which my gratitude bestows the gift of an immortal name. After a journey full of incident, including one narrow escape from death in the waters of Lake Como, which was flooded when I reached it in the dead of night, - I arrived at Turin on the Afternoon of the 2ist. Turin, the only suitable place for me, and from that time on, my home. I took the same lodgings I had occupied in the spring, Via Carlo Alberto 6, III, opposite the mighty Palazzo Carignano, in which Vittorio Emanuele was born; I had a view of the Piazza Carlo Alberto and of the hill-country beyond it. Without hesitating, without letting myself be diverted for a moment, I returned to my work; only the last quarter still remained to be written. On the 3oth of September, a great triumph; the seventh day; divine idleness on the banks of the Po. The same day, I wrote the Preface to The Twilight of the Idols, the correction of the proofs of which was a recreation for me during the month of September. I never experienced such an autumn; nor ever imagined that such things could be possible - a Claude Lorrain extended to infinity, every day of an equal unlimited perfection.

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